I'm back now from my gap-month, four weeks of finding myself in Colombia.
I was with Charlotte for the first two weeks, and then all alone for the second two. It worked out a bit like this:
We flew there with Iberia, via Madrid. A pretty painless flight except for the films: 500 Days of Summer, He's Just Not That Into You and Moulin Rouge.
We started in Bogota. It's pretty high up - about 2500 metres - so you get tired walking ten yards. This is La Puerta Falsa, the best place (says the Lonely Planet) to catch your breath with a nice Chocolate Santafereño - hot chocolate with cheese melted into it. Which is pretty much as you'd imagine: like an ovaltine with a dairylea dropped in.
Then we went on to Medellin, Colombia's second city. It's loved by all but we didn't really give it that much of a chance because we wanted to rush up to the coast for the weekend. Plus someone pulled a knife on me in the famously safe Zona Rosa. Luckily I managed to stumble and stutter out unscathed, but still.
So we headed up to Cartagena. By all accounts the jewel in Colombia's crown - the whole of the old town and it's crumbling colonial splendour is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was the weekend of a big independence day festival (they must really love that film) which is somewhere in between Rio Carnival and Brighton Pride in terms of scale and glamour.
Next we went to Playa Blanca, whatever that means. It's a beach that looks like a postcard feels like an island and is actually a peninsula.
The only thing I made up is the friends.
We ended up staying there for four days - this is how long it takes for the idea of a shower to become more appealing than waking up in a hammock metres from clear blue sea.
To the west a few hours is Tayrona National Park: 150 km² of jungle hanging over the Caribbean sea, like the set of Where the Wild Things Are (the book).
It was really relaxing. And we were lucky to go in low-season: we saw more monkeys and lizards than people.
And then we had to go back to Cartagena, because Charlotte was flying home from there. Leaving me in Colombia all alone for two more weeks, with no idea what to do.
More out of a need for a fixed new gang who couldn't escape me for a couple of days than out of a passion for archaeology, I booked on to a five day jungle trek to find Ciudad Perdida: The Lost City. It's a city way up in the mountains dating back to 800AD that went completely undiscovered until the 1970s.
On the way some of us took a tour of a cocaine factory hidden in the jungle and were taken step by step through the production process. It's basically leaves+gasoline+acid=delicious drugs. So now you know.
Poker Face (jungle version)
And then finally back to civilisation in Santa Marta. If you call mullet haircuts civilised, that is.
All that time on the Caribbean coast eventually got to me. It was just too hot. So I went back to Medellin to give it a second chance. It really is pretty nice. This is one of the main squares in the middle of Medellin, full of about 15 sculptures by Botero: the only artist ever to come out of Colombia, it would seem.
Next I went to Salento, a pretty little place in the Coffee Region and back to Bogota. By this point I was sick of drawing.
...and then home.
Here are some actual photos, to prove it's all true. Trekking to Ciudad Perdida, drinking bag water and sunrise over our home on Playa Blanca.
So that was nice. And how have you been?