Written by Mia:
We took our own sweet time getting from Willemstad, Curaçao to arrive in Santa Marta, Colombia. This marks the first visit to South America for any of us. What does this mean for you? There will be lots of blogs ahead, because Colombia is amazing and we have a lot to say about it and I might as well warn you now, there will be lots of superlatives, this place deserves lots of crazy adjectives.
Our first taste of Columbia was an anchorage at Cabo de la Vela located at the northwestern tip of the country. It is the first place Europeans set foot in South America and an area that indigenous tribes call home. We really wanted to go ashore and check out the dusty village and the lookout point, but the wind was high and we were not checked in so we just admired it from deck and enjoyed a swim in the crystal blue water before heading to Santa Marta.
Stay tuned for blog posts about living in the marina in Santa Marta, a trip to historic Cartagena, impressions from Medellin and at least a couple from our road trip, mostly because we have lots of photos to share. Jon and I are both armed with cameras and both have burned through batteries already three days into our trip…
But just in case you have missed us, here come a few first impressions of Colombia:
The cities are big and busy busy, lots of people, lots of traffic and so many things to see and hear. And there still seems time to wish us foreigners welcome. There are 48 million people living here at last official count in 2005 and everyone is going somewhere and doing something all the time.
The countryside is beautiful and the towns in it very colorful. The people seem proud of their homes and painstakingly paint them all the colors under the sun.
The Wild West is alive and well in Jerico and Jardin.
People work hard, at whatever they do, wherever they are doing it. We just bought coffee from a woman walking the queue of the construction site traffic jam.
It takes a lot longer to get from point A to point B, because you twist up up up and then twist down down down but there is so much fun, beautiful, incredible stuff to see on the way. Jon did the math and on our trip we covered 800 kilometers in eight days and averaged only 28kph.
This country has more shades of green than Ireland and an incredible diversity of landscape.
People are so, so, SO friendly and proud of their country and happy to have visitors. We get lots of smiles from people we meet and we hear “bienvenido” (welcome) and “con mucho gusto” (with much pleasure) all the time. Teo is very popular with his blonde hair, and older grandmas cannot gush over him enough and just today 15 girls in school uniforms all wanted his attention, practicing their English and giggling when he talked to them.
Lucky for us, a little Spanish goes a long way.
There is SO much to see and do and it is painful to have to choose what to do with our time. Colombia has had a complicated past and we have our fingers and toes crossed for a very bright future!
Here is very short history of Colombia. All the way back to the beginning Vizzini! Colombia was named after Christoffer Columbus even though he never set foot in the country. The indigenous people were covered in gold adornments and early European visitors kept searching for the source and this strongly influenced the Legend of El Dorado. The first major settlement was founded in Santa Marta in1525 and followed shortly thereafter by Cartagena in 1533 with its substantial city walls and impressive fortress. At this point it was still being ruled by Spain; enter Simon Bolivar, known as “el Liberatador” because his battles across northern South America eventually lead to the liberation of Venezuela, Colombia, Panama and Ecuador. These countries later formed “Gran Colombia” which is remembered as a period of peace and economic boom, especially in the coffee industry. The coffee boom that was born in the early 20th century is alive and strong in Colombia today although there seems to be a strong desire to catch up with the coffee house barista movement we know and love. I am going to leave the Colombians to argue over their own politics and religion and bow out now.
And since this is being written mostly during a traffic jam, I’ll leave you with a list of missed photo ops:
Pimped up vintage trucks from Dodge, Mac, and Volvo decorated with Mary and Jesus and of course painted bright colors.
Street signs warning about road kill animal crossings including their Latin names. Our favorites were ant eaters, iguanas and armadillos.
Old men using ancient Singer sewing machines to create original leather Jerico saddle bags and shops selling bags of grain.
Kids on bikes holding on to the back of semi trucks.
Fifteen school girls in uniform practicing their English on Teo.
And the best one was a cowboy with a straw hat riding a horse up the road checking his smart phone.