Women traveling alone seems to be the hot topic in the travel world. At 25, a recent Uni graduate and ready to start a career, I announced that I was about to leave for Latin America. I wanted to do something completely different, and had decided to travel in Cuba and then volunteer with a non-profit organization in Colombia. An independent Scandinavian girl, living in international, gender-equal and open-minded Europe, I still got more than enough of rolling eyes and perplexed (read: annoying) questions: “Shouldn’t you be settling down and doing something serious?” “Alone, don’t you have a boyfriend or friends to travel with?” and “To Colombia! That’s way too dangerous for a girl!”
Sure, I could have found a job and started a responsible adult life, but I didn't. Also, I like a lot traveling with my friends, don't get me wrong, but this time I wanted to really challenge myself and experience it on my own. And it was great. However, to truly understand how it is to choose a different path, and despite a general disapproval become a vibrant, cosmopolite woman traveler, I would like you to meet my friend Aida. She is a not-so-typical 30-something Bolivian, with a big heart and big dreams. Embark the adventure and discover what she has to share with other solo woman travelers, and those who aspire to be like us.
That is the small and idyllic fishermen's village Rincon del Mar, perfectly located on a white-sand beach and next to the sublime San Bernando islands, one of Colombia's treasures. In the department of Sucre, a short bus and moto-taxi ride south from the magical city of Cartagena, awaits Rincon and the staff of hostel Mamallena, who will welcome you with open arms to stay with them for a couple of relaxing days (or longer if you feel so...). Wake up with the sun rising over the Caribbean Sea. Take a day-trip to a nearby island. Go kayaking, snorkelling or paddle-boarding in the turquoise water. Spend a lazy afternoon tanning and reading a book in a hammock. Be sportive and go horseback riding around the town with a local guide. Admire the sunset on the terrace with your new Mamallena friends. Enjoy a romantic dinner on the beach, and fill your stomach with delicious and affordable shrimps, lobster and coconut rice. And then, just have a good night of sleep. Sounds tempting? It does, I know.
Salsa, Reggeaton, Champeta, Bachata... Thanks to D's zumba classes, traveling to Cali, and going out in Bazurto Social Club, I have done a lot of dancing these past 5 months. I had already started very well with Dance Hall in Jamaica (thanks J and Kingston dancers for teaching me!) and some Salsa in Cuba and it was great to be able to dance more in Colombia and make it part of my weekly program. Dance Hall music I will leave to J but here comes a list of songs that I heard all the time in Colombia, and that will always remind me of not only dancing but in general about my happy times spent there. When the autumn comes and its cold, dark and rainy, turn on these latino rhythms and melodies and I'll promise they will get you in a better mood.
Colombia, a country that never ceases to amaze me, has the highest level of biodiversity per square meter in the world. In addition to the huge amount of exotic flora and fauna, there is also a great variety of environs and climates. It was cold in Bogota, and hot and humid almost everywhere on the coast. I've hiked up mountains, seen rain forests and sublime white sand beaches, and swam in crystal clear turquoise water. After all this, it was time to go to... a desert! La Guajira is a department in northern Colombia, almost deserted and full of contrasts between sea, sand, coal, salt, cactus, and small green oasis. The region is characterised by the Wayuu culture, an indigenous people known for their craftwork of hammocks, bags and clothing.
First time hiking in my life, here I am, alive and feeling relatively good. Now it is time to write a short report about the Ciudad Perdida trek, that could also be described as a survival camp, boot camp, physical and mental detox, fight against the mosquitos... and a wonderful experience!
Day 182, Tayrona: Don't miss this Colombian treasure, it is so awesome that even Shakira sings about in her new hit.
As sings Shakira in her new song Bicicleta "Que si a Pique algún día le muestras el Tayrona, después no querrá irse pa Barcelona", when you are in Tayrona, you are in heaven and don't want to leave.
Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona is Colombia's treasure, one of the country's most popular national parks. In a jungle, by the mountains and the sea, the park covers some 12,000 hectares of land and 3000 hectares of sea. The scenery varies from lovely sandy beaches to rainforest and hills, at an altitude of 900 m at the highest point. The area was once the home of the Tayrona tribes and is now an important touristic attraction. The gorgeous beaches are bays surrounded by mountains and coconut palms. However, due to strong currents it is not safe to swim on all of them, and please take the warnings seriously. The prettiest, safest and most popular beach is called Cabo san Juan de la Guía, and that is where me, H and V headed as well for our Tayrona trip.
Hola! I am back from my travels, happy but exhausted. I'm taking some time to post everything, as I warned you. Also, since I'm leaving Cartagena in only a week, I surprisingly have other priorities than writing my blog... However, the sun is shining and I'm writing this post by the swimming pool so things could be worse. I'm keeping a 15 min writing, 15 min swimming/tanning rhythm, we'll see how it goes. I'm doing my best and instead of writing long stories will let you enjoy a great collection of pictures from all over the Caribbean Coast of Colombia. Now let's start with Minca, one of my absolute favourite places in Colombia, and well in the world.
Well I haven't yet seen that many others but I definitely understand why Guatapé makes it to almost every "Top places to visit in Colombia" - list, that I could find on the internet. Ever since I spent three wonderful days in Trinidad, Cuba, in January, and fell in love with its beauty, atmosphere and friendliness of people, I compare every small town I go to with Trinidad. And it's hard to beat, I don't know if any other cute little village ever will. However, Guatapé came close and even if its a lot smaller, in many ways it reminded me of Trinidad. So I couldn't have felt happier spending a day there.
Day 174, Medellin: Learning about Pablo Escobar, and more - my top 4 things to do in the city of eternal spring.
Medellín is Colombia's second largest city and the capital of the Antioquia region. It is located in a valley and surrounded by the Andes mountains. Medellín is called the "city of Eternal Spring", since the weather is very pleasant all year long (average temperature 22°C). Some 20 years ago Medellin was ranked the most dangerous city in the world, but has gone trough an impressive transformation since, being now one of the safest big cities in South America. It is an industrial and commercial centre for the region, a modern city that in 2013 won the title of the world's most innovative city (WSJ ranking). I had heard a lot about Medellín and was very excited about traveling here. When people ask me if I would like to live permanently in Colombia I used to say that no, I don't think so, but if I did I would live in Medellín. And this without ever having visited the city.
My first impressions are mixed: yes I like it, but I don't really understand what all that buzz is about. I have changed my mind. If I wanted to live in Colombia, I would live in... Cartagena! However, I spent a nice few days there, strolling around and discovering some of the most popular touristic spots. Medellín has its charms and is definitely a place worth seeing when in Colombia.
I am on holidays now, and it feels great even if I already miss work, La Boquilla and the La Vecina kids. Time really flies by, I have only one month left in Colombia and I intend to make the most of it. Only one month left by the Caribbean Sea also means that I just have to spend as much time as possible on the beach and in the waves. Thus, on Friday we decided with my friend K to hop on a bus and go explore a nearby town called Manzanillo del Mar, where our friend A lives. Manzanillo is a very small town and there is not much to do - other than spend time at the beach. But that worked perfectly for us. Then on Saturday I finally made the trip I had planned for a long time, I stayed one night at the beautiful beach of Playa Blanca, a 1-hour bus ride outside Cartagena. For some reason I had slept really bad the whole week and really needed to take a rest. Also, the last days at work were emotionally very hard and I really wanted to get out from Cartagena, be alone, clear my head and stop crying about having to leave La Vecina and my little loved ones. Sunbathing, sea breeze, crystal-clear water and walks along the beach did the job: I slept well and didn't think of anything. Now I have regained some energy and am ready to travel to Medellin tomorrow!
I'm Emilia, Finnish-Parisian, a recent Master's graduate. I'm currently traveling around the Caribbean and on a volunteering mission in Colombia. I'm passionate about writing, music and different kinds of sports. I can't wait to discover new places and cultures - and share my adventures with you!