Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Choosing Colombia

Recently realizing that i had some cash and some time - but not a lot of either - i decided to go somewhere. Having only 10 days from Vancouver rules out a lot of places, like Africa. There just isn't enough time. And right now i'm not keen to go to Europe. It's all starting to feel similar and my sense of wonder has faded, so it's time to take a break. So i decided to look south.  I had good luck with a quick jaunt to Ecuador a few years ago, so i thought why not go to Colombia?

I don't really know why i picked it, except that I had done some reading on Colombia a while ago, exploring it as a possible destination. (The fact that i recently watched Romancing the Stone is probably just a coincidence.) I've never known much about Colombia aside from the usual: coffee, jungles, cocaine, FARC, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Botero. Not knowing a lot about a country is always a good reason to visit: you're guaranteed to learn something and unlikely to be disappointed. Colombia looks awesome with everything from beaches to mountains, picturesque rural areas and modern cities. Only having a limited amount of time, i decided on Bogota and Cartagena. Typical, i know, but there must be reasons that people flock to these cities. They both look dynamic and lively, and filled with history, architecture, music, and markets, and of course, Cartagena also has tropical beaches with hammocks - perfect for lazy cigar smoking.

The thing that most people seem to associate with Colombia, aside from coffee and cocaine, seems to be violence. It is not a reputation that is undeserved, but apparently the levels of murder and kidnapping have been in decline. I'm not concerned about this at all, but everyone around me seems to be, telling me that i'm sure to be a victim of violent crime. (Thanks, well-wishers!) I keep reading that one must keep their wits about them, avoid certain areas at night, and keep an eye on their wallet, etc. But isn't that true everywhere? I don't know of a place where it would be advisable to wander drunk on a desolate street in a bad neighborhood, leaving your wallet slightly protruding from your back pocket. When i was in Ecuador, everyone told me Quito was dangerous, but i wandered after dark by myself without issue. Bogota may have some legitimate safety concerns, but i'll see what it's like when i arrive and i'll behave accordingly. My favorite piece of travel advice i've read so far is "keep your shirt untucked and over your fanny pack". Really? The assumption that the readers of this particular travel book wear fanny packs is a strong sign i'm reading the wrong book. Anyway, like i said, i'm not concerned and i look forward to reporting in a few weeks that everyone's concerns were unnecessary. Either that or i'll be kidnapped or mugged and then all of my friends can have a good "i told you so" laugh at my expense.

But I'm focussed not on muggers, but on mangos, architecture, late night salsa bars, coffee, hammocks, colorful squares, smoking indoors, bustling & filthy markets, and crowded boats & buses to new destinations. I'm sure it will be amazing and i can't wait.

1 comment:

Betty-Lou said...

I am looking forward to hearing about this trip. It sounds wonderful. Keep in touch when you can. BLou