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Cam & Suz’s Travel Diary

Monday, 04 Apr 2005

Location: Bogota, Colombia

MapThe Lonely Planet guidebook describes Colombia well.. ´Colombia is unknown territory to most travellers - a land of myths, cocaine barrons, guerillas, emeralds and the mysterious El Dorado´. It is the country that has endured the longest and largest guerilla insurgency on the continent.
With those phrases ringing loud in our ears we left Merida (Venezuela) bound for Colombia with a little trepidation. On a stinking hot day, 6 crappy buses and dealing with one particularly nasty man on the Venezuelan border (another story) we arrived at Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast. After drinking one of the famous Colomiban fruit smoothies served in a bucket (yes a bucket) we were ready for action. We headed straight for the jungle for a 3 day hike. This particular hike became famous in 2003 when 14 foreigners were kidnapped by guerillas and held for ransome. It was a great hike with the highlight being a 4am walk to a real ´cocaine factory´in the middle of the thick, dense jungle. It was owned by an old man who showed us the whole process and was more than happy to tell us that he sold the cocaine to the paramilitary and for how much. It certainly isnt what you would expect and definately not an exact science! The production of cocaine is the largest industry in Colombia. We also went past numerous coca fields which were being harvested (all by hand) and ate some coca leaves which were positively disgusting! It was a very interesting hike, not something that many people would get to do.
After gorging ourselves silly on fruit smoothies and making some good friends (Lori and Mark, thank you again), we headed to one of Colombias finest national parks - Tayrona. We spent Easter there camping right on the Caribbean beach with water as you would see in the brochures. We then headed for the most beautiful city in Colombia and certainly the most beautiful city we have ever seen - Cartegena. It was marked in the Lonely Planet guide as one of the 6 or 7 highlights for all of South America. The world heritage listed city was in perfect order. The colonial buildings were so colourful and the city was built inside two huge stone walls for protection in the 1600-1700s. It is set overlooking the caribbean coast. The people are incredibly friendly and you feel like you are in Europe, the first place that we actually thought we could live in for a while. After a few days exploring the town and replacing some clothes that Cam had stolen, we headed to a very remote beach out of town - Playa Blanca, another typical white Caribbean beach.
We have now just survived a 27 hour bus ride and are in Bogota (the capital of Colombia). Very much looking forward to exploring this famous (notorious) city of 8 million people. Colombia so far has hit the #1 country for both of us... definately a country we´d highly recommend to any adventurous traveller.