If you asked a random stranger what they associate with Colombia, motifs like coffee, salsa music, and drug trafficking might come up. But I'd like to use the photos I've taken over the course of the last week to argue for a different calling card: the great outdoors. On the way from the coffee growing region of Salento to the tranquilo streets of San Agustin (with a pitstop in the decidedly urban Cali), hiking and biking through Southern Colombia was a feat for the eyes.
Instead of listing off facts and dates, our tour guide Pablo made the city come alive with enchanting stories of how the Paisas, the people of Medellin and the surrounding area, developed their prideful attitudes. Spanning back as far as the original European settlers of the land, Pablo explained how the area was geographically isolated, the political history of the notorious Colombian conflict, why "your parents are scared you're traveling in Colombia", and the triumphant tale of the country today, a place that is surely on the rise both socially and economically.
The definitive northern point of the South American backpacker trail, Santa Marta is a juxtaposition of contradictions. At the popular "Dreamer Hostel” where most travelers stay, one can check in, drop their heavy bags in one of the dormitories, grab a beer and lounge poolside for days at a time. With its English-speaking staff and Western food, the Dreamer is an oasis of comfort and relaxation in an otherwise hot, dirty, and developing town
Last Friday I boarded a flight to South America, starting the next leg of my journey in Cartagena, Columbia. Having survived an endless summer in Southeast Asia and August heatwaves in Washington, D.C. I thought I could handle anything went it comes to heat. But as soon I stepped off the air-conditioned plane and onto the tarmac in Cartagena, I realized how ignorant I was to the prospect of Columbian heat. Immediately, it felt as though I had stepped straight into an oven and the sweltering heat began to permeate directly through my skin.