Come closer my friend, for I have something to share with you that we don’t necessarily want the rest of the world to know…
Colombia is I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E.
The best kept secret of South America.
Where to start?! The gasp-worthy countryside? The wicked rumbas (parties)? The “ambiente caliente”? The masses of photo-worthy faces? The daunting size of the avocados and mangos? The smells wafting from the bakeries? The alleys full of flowers tumbling over amazing architecture? The breed of backpacker? The sweaty salsa discoteques? And the people! The people! The people!
Let me give you two of a dozen examples…
— I walk into a hotel in Popayan and inquire as to if a room is available. The young woman smiles and informs me that the entire town is booked because of a conference. The first drops of the afternoon monsoon start to splatter in the garden in the center plaza of the hotel. “Ni una cama?” (Not one bed?) I plead. The smile never leaves the face of the girl as she replies, “No problem. You can sleep in the bed of mi papi. He’s out of town for the weekend. Okay? Follow me.”
— I wander out of the rain and into a building in Cali and ask the receptionist where I can find a map of the city. She shakes her head and tells me she hasn’t any idea. A young girl approaches me and says, “Come with me. I’ll drive you to the tourist office. And here’s my card. Call me tonight and I’ll show you around all of Cali, okay?!”
I have never, in all my travels, met such a warm and welcoming people as the Colombians.
The backpackers too are of a whole other breed; Uniquely united in a dare to challenge the rumor of danger, they’ve each surrendered their security at the border in exchange for a romp where only those that take their life less seriously can wander. In the last two nights, I was the only American at tables with representatives from Serbia, Slovenia, Denmark, Czech Republic, Israel, Colombia, Thailand, Holland, Norway, Australia, France, England, Belgium and Zimbabwe. And not a pair of zip-off pants in the whole bunch.
And Colombia is easy on the backpacker budget as well — although the value of dollar has dropped dramatically in the last week (ranging from 3000 to 2000 pesos in exchange for US1$). My taxi driver informs me that the drop is due to the US presidential elections. He then tells me that he should be able to vote for my president because, “…what happens in your country probably actually affects me more than it does you.” I nod my head in absolute agreement.
And the cities!!! There aren’t enough pretty adjectives in the dictionary so I’ll just let you see for yourself…