Letter to friends and family, two-and-a-half months into my South America trip; written from Quito, Ecuador, October 7th, 2013.
“It’s been just about 6 weeks since I left Venezuela. I flew to Colombia with just a little trouble from the airline in Caracas…I didn’t have an onward or return ticket as I was planning to head over land to Ecuador, but was able to talk my way onto the flight anyway, promising I wouldn’t overstay my welcome in Colombia since I had to be in Peru by a certain date, etc. I’m getting better at this.
“I flew into Cartagena, a lovely colonial city on the Caribbean, to find my friend Allison from Berkeley. We got lucky and met some other really cool people in our respective hostels and ended up traveling as a group of 5 for the majority of my time in Colombia. We spent 2 weeks on the coast, visiting the amazingly beautiful Tayrona National park and a few other little towns with gorgeous beaches.
From the coast, we bussed to Medellin, a beautiful city in a deep valley of the Northern Andes. The bus journey was even colder than I could have ever imagined…worse than any bus I experienced in Venezuela. The bus drivers claim they have no control over the air conditioning. And of course they had a never-ending supply of horribly violent movies to show on the way. These are the common themes of South American buses as far as I can tell. The journey was worth it though, we loved Medellin and found it very difficult to leave. We went there not knowing what to expect and ended up staying for nearly 2 weeks. Great coffee, museums, parks, nightlife, amazing weather (it is known as ‘the city of eternal spring’)…Medellin has it all. It was easily my favorite city in Colombia.
“After Medellin, we relaxed for a few days in Salento, a cute town in the coffee-growing region further south. I went on a tour of a small family-owned coffee farm and learned a little about the production process from an adorable old man named Elias. Allison was the first to leave the group from Salento, heading back north to catch a boat to the San Blas islands of Panama on her way back to the states. Another group member went south to Cali, Colombia’s salsa capital, and me and the other 2 headed to Bogotá to stay with our Colombian friend Silvia, whom we met in Santa Marta on the coast.
“Staying with Silvia’s family in Bogota was amazing. They were so welcoming and friendly, and genuinely interested in learning about us, where we come from and our experiences. They put us up for 4 days over the weekend and Silvia showed us some great parts of the city.
“The last two in the group I had been traveling with, a pair of twins that coincidentally grew up in Berkeley, headed back to the states after Bogota. I hopped on a bus to Cali for a few nights on my way to Ecuador. I took a salsa class at the hostel, then headed to a nearby salsa club to be thrown around by a few guys who were much better dancers than me. It was a good laugh anyway.
“I think this email is already unreasonably long so I’ll save the rest for the next one! I’m currently in Ecuador and enjoying it a lot more than I expected, in part because I’ve run into a bunch of people I met in Colombia, including my travel buddy Katie.”