After a full 24 hours of travel and 3 different layovers, we FINALLY arrived from Buenos Aires to Bogotá! (It was the cheapest flight by hundreds of dollars but made NO sense if you are geography savvy… We went from: Buenos Aires, Argentina-> Panama City, Panama -> Quito, Ecuador (overnight layover) -> Bogota, Colombia
We arrived safely to our 6th country together!!!
Our friend Nicolás is the best, and told us he would pick us up at the airport and drive us to his home. We met Nicolás back in the first two weeks of our trip. Our Aussie friend, Michael introduced us and the 4 of us traveled a bit together and got along great!
Nicolas continued (as all South Americans have so far!) to treat Alli and I like queens. He invited us to his home and gave us everything we could have asked for. We were pretty exhausted, so the first day he let us properly rest, but took us to an incredible lunch at Andrés Carne de Res. (A popular spot outside of Bogota). It was good to have the chance to catch up after 4 months of being apart!
Nicolás and his sister, Andrea, were wonderful hosts. They took us to the “centro” of Bogotá one day, and led us to amazing food spots, markets, empanadas, and ice cream! (We took a break from lent for certain “cultural experiences”). It was fascinating to be able to ask them questions about Colombian history, the military, police power, the problem of poverty, of machismo and young girls getting pregnant in their teens, and new political changes that are hot topics in Colombia. Nicolás was a wealth of information for us! We learned SO much that would later be useful for our time in Colombia.
After seeing the centro, Alli, Nicolás and I made our way up to Montserrat, a church on a hill overlooking the entire city of Bogota.
We got onto the teleférico, when suddenly Alli screams (terrifyingly), points over my shoulder, covers her mouth, and I assume the worst… Someone is being murdered right behind me!!!!
I turned around, but didn’t see anyone being murdered, thank God! (Nicolas only took us to very safest areas in Bogotá, but my mind just likes to overreact.) What are the chances that we had run into Nolan Grady in Colombia! Nolan is one of Alli’s good friends from college, and we had no idea he was even traveling in Colombia! We also previously camped with him in Antofagasta, in northern Chile. It was truly divine providence for us to run into eachother!!
We had a happy reunion and the four of us went up Montserrat and enjoyed a gorgeous sunset over Bogotá together. We ended up hanging out with Nolan all that night and all the next day!
The next day Nicolás led us to the Salt Cathedral outside of town. Alli and I had no idea what to expect, but it turned out to exceed our expectations! It is a salt mine in the side of a mountain, in which the miners built a cathedral and the 14 stations of the cross. The four of us enjoyed the tour together, then made our way back to Bogota for “Gringo Tuesday” in one of the discotecas. Going out in Bogota was an amazing experience, complete with shots of Colombia’s typical alcohol “aguardiente”.
Alli and I booked a flight to Medellin that left early the next morning. We were off again on our own! We enjoyed seeing a different city in Colombia, ate our fill of cheap street food, bought some cheap clothes off the street, and rode in the cable cars that take you above the city.
Another day we spent doing a day trip to an outside pueblo, Guatapé, and had one of the best days ever, start to finish! Our tour made its first stop in Maranilla, a small pueblo. While Alli and I were walking around for our 20 minutes free time, two older gentlemen invited us to have tea with them. We accepted, and the four of us were soon chatting in Spanish about the history of Colombia, of Pablo Escobar and his nearby houses and farm, and how tourism is increasing, despite the many problems that Colombia has. They were delighted to hear that we love Colombia in the short time that we’ve been here, and that EVERY Colombian we’ve met has been nothing but friendly and inviting. Although it was a short meeting, those two cuties made a lasting impression on Alli and I!
We enjoyed our multicultural tour to Guatapé, complete with climbing the massive rock (peñol de Guatapé), a boat ride, and a walk through my absolute favorite pueblo I’ve ever seen in my life! If you want to live in Guatapé, you are obliged to have your house/business painted bright colors and/or paintings at the bottom edges of the building. It is the most colorful and quaint pueblo I’ve had the pleasure of seeing! We both agreed that our mothers would have also loved it!
We were dropped off in Medellin on Friday night to Poblado park, full of young people chillin and drinking together. Alli and I decided to hang out in the fun atmosphere and chat together. As we suspected may happen, we were soon approached by Juan Pablo and Santiago, two Colombian chicos. We learned so much from chatting with them about the history of Colombia, drugs, cocaine, poverty in Colombia, not wanting to be a lawyer/have a “real” job yet, traveling, and their common passion for downhill skateboarding. The both of them were so kind and open, Alli and I had so much fun being able to share that time with them. We felt (as often happens traveling) that we knew them for a much longer time than just a few hours!
We also were blessed to run into ANOTHER friend we hadn’t seen in 4 months, Derek!! (A friend of both Aussie Michael and our friend Nicolás). We had just an hour to catch up with him and meet his girlfriend (who had also come down from NY, USA). It was a sweet reunion, and he had tons of advice on what to see and do thru Colombia!
We were off again early the next morning to head to Santa Marta. Our first stop was to go to a small pueblo in the mountains, Minca, and spend the night. We had a beautiful night overlooking the valley from a hammock, and even woke up to see the sunrise the next morning. We had to hike down from our hostel back into Minca the next day. On our way, Alli and I ran into two unexpected surprises that turned into quite the adventure…
We found two small puppies, so malnourished that they were just skin and bones. They could barely even walk! We attempted to give them water and crackers… But as we know from our experience of force-feeding babies in Bolivia… When you’re at a certain point of malnutrition, you don’t even want to eat anymore. The puppies were pathetically thin and all alone (we searched for a mother/more puppies with no result). We felt we had no choice… So we each carried one of the pups down the mountain back into Minca (we hoped to leave them a better chance for survival where there were more people around).
Ladies and gentleman, Alli Slamkowski, who dislikes seeing or touching all animals, carried a puppy down the mountain! She sacrificed her own disgust for the poor cute puppy. South America has taught her a lot folks!!! We got some stares from Colombians as we carried puppies just the size of our hands (couldn’t have been more than 4-6 weeks), to look for a better life for them. Despite asking the animal shelter for help, the woman working there was cold hearted and insisted they could do nothing to help the helpless pups. She basically said “good luck” and sent us away with the sad pups in hand. We asked probably every Colombian in town, and nobody seemed to want to add two pups to their already full house of 2-3 dogs. Thus… a hostel close to the center of town has accepted (albeit unknowingly) these two adorable puppies as their new pets! Alli and I grew rather attached to these cuties in our 1.5 hour walk down the mountain with them… We believed them to be symbolic of our own journey together… Dying. (Alli was leaving South America in just 6 days when we found them). We decided to be a bit narcissistic and name them Buns and Bert. (Each puppy’s personality resembled us in a way). We hope that they are able to survive longer than our trip…
Please pray that Buns and Bert found a new home!
Our next stop was a last minute major change of plans to do a trek to the “Lost City”. Instead of spending her last days camping on a beach, my Colorado gal wanted to finish with a bang and a huge 4-day hike thru the jungle!
We had a blast, and both of us agree that it was the best possible way to spend our last 4 days together in South America.
We had an amazing group of people from all over including Australia, England, Wales, Italy, France, Spain, and USA! Alli and I met some of our favorite French men ever on this trek!
We were guided by an indigenous guide named Abél, of the Wiwa tribe. As Spanish was his second language (and he only started learning 2 years ago), he was next to impossible to understand. As many of the group didn’t speak Spanish, I attempted to help with translation… But even asking him questions for clarification turned out to be more confusing for all of us. Abèl was as sweet and patient as can be… But he didn’t say a whole lot that made sense… Or a whole lot period. Nevertheless we had a blast.
It was one of the most interesting treks Alli and I have done, as at nearly every break there was crystal clear river water to jump into! The hike was dusty, wet, and very humid, so we took advantage of jumping into every body of water that we could! The water was amazingly clear and perfectly refreshing, complete with multiple spots to jump from rocks into the water below. We also loved that they offered us fresh fruit at every break- keeping us hydrated and replenished!
One of the worst things about this trek was that nearly our entire group got food poisoning (NOT okay when you’re charging as much as they did…) Our ascent on day 3 to the Lost City was interrupted by one of our group members suddenly blowing chunks of his breakfast all over the trail. The rest of the group looks at each other nervously, wondering who will be the next victim. (Some already were up early with the “runs”.) Like a trooper, the poor chap continued up 1200 steps and we all made it to the top!
At the top, I attempt to understand Abél’s senseless explanations of the Lost City and translate them to the rest of the group. We take pictures, and eventually head back down to our next lunch spot.
There also seem to be lax protection of child labor in Colombia, as our server for the entire trip was an 8-year old adorable child…. We played and had a good time with him though!
The last day, more of the group fell ill to diarrhea… I had the luck of feeling completely fine, so I finished at least 4 different people’s breakfast… Some were astounded at how much I eat and were calling me a “black hole”. Of 16 people, I think only about 4 of us remained symptom free.
We all finally make it down the steep mountain to where we started the trek. We eat there, reminisce on some memories together, and say our goodbyes. Alli and I drive back with all our favorite people from the trek and were dropped off first at Costeño Beach. Our group is all jealous because it’s a picture perfect Caribbean paradise!
Alli and I hike past a hostel… Crossing our fingers that our dream to camp on the beach our last night together will come true. We hike a safe distance away from the hostel, and relax and go for a swim in the Caribbean ocean! This beach is perfectly beautiful and absolutely secluded from the rest of civilization. We swim, lay in the sun (a well deserved rest after walking up and downhill over 26 miles of jungle).
We hide our bags behind a palm tree (there is literally nobody else on this beach except for the hostel down the way) and we walk down to the hostel to eat dinner. We’re both a bit nervous that our plan to camp will be discovered, so we don’t set up camp until after dark. But all went according to plan and we weren’t bothered!
We we’re blessed with a clear night of astoundingly gorgeous stars! We also went for a quick dip after dinner in the ocean. We even saw beautiful luminescent plankton in the waves! It was the perfect last night in South America together. We woke up to the sun shining on our faces and waves crashing and breaking in the distance.
In the morning we left for Cartagena, where Alli would take a flight back to Bogota, and then later she had another flight back to the US. I can hardly believe these words as I write them. She is now home!
I couldn’t not have asked for a better travel buddy if I had written out the exact qualities I wanted. We have been perfect together… And now I’m riding sola. But more on that later…
To show you all what a “team” Alli and I were and how much fun we had together…
On the Lost City trek, we had three different people at three distinct times tell Alli and I that we needed to stop traveling, go to NYC, and try out for SNL (Saturday Night Live- comedy show in the US). We didn’t always realize when others were listening in on our banter… (And we can get quite silly!) But the entire group insisted that the two of us have a chemistry and an “act” that can’t be beat! Alli and I were a bit surprised, but realized that after 4 months of traveling together… Were able to finish one another sentences, we have the stupidest jokes together, and look at each other and know what the other is thinking. I’ve never had anything quite like that with anyone. Quite literally we were able to read one another’s thoughts! We didn’t realize how noticeable it was to other people! I’m sad to lose my partner in crime, and have felt her absence distinctly… However, were both hopeful for this next period of life and anticipating our next reunion together. (Perhaps in NYC at the next SNL tryouts!)
Next up: Alli and I will each share our post trip thoughts!