Hola! I am back from a brief hiatus. I was in Colombia. Traveling. On my last sweet vacation after a year of solid “vacation.” (Year-off blog to come) And lucky for me, I chose one of the most beautiful, natural, colorful, rich and friendly countries I have ever visited. Colombia. The next few blogs are dedicated to my experiences there.

Colombian girl in Salento

Colombian girl in Salento

In a country raped by years of guerrilla warfare and narco territory battles, Colombia finally seems to be finding a much-deserved peace. And they appreciate it. In fact, they appreciate visitors to their land so much that they go above and beyond any standard of “nice” behaviour toward foreigners to make sure tourists have an amazing, safe and memorable time in their country. I have never felt so welcomed and special.

Bienvenida a Colombia! Salud!

Bienvenida a Colombia! Salud!

Traveling with a girlfriend from Europe, we arrived to find our host friend waiting for us at the airport, her family ready with hot, delicious, freshly-cooked meals every morning, bringing us to all the sites around Bogota without permitting us to spend even a centavo. Even friends of friends, those distant contacts that one might just call on in an emergency, happily met us and took us out to a fabulous dinner. When we set-off on our own, we found we were really not alone at all, from the hostel in Salento saving us a lovely room and providing more than sufficient info on where to eat and how to tour the countryside, to small hole-in-the-wall hotel managers arranging incredibly friendly, responsible taxi drivers for us to visit the Aguas Termales.

The culmination was a morning when we went to a gas station to catch a bus that was scheduled to stop and pick us up in a small town in the Eje Cafetero … and we found a little group of people waiting there to meet the two foreigners, just wanting to meet us, say hello and offer us a hot cup of tinto (Colombian cafe americano)!  And the friendly attitude persisted even to the coast, where we encountered the sweetest old couple running a little shack of a place kept as neat and organized as one can find on a beach with no running water, electricity or bathrooms! Very sweet.

Gringas con cups of tinto

Gringas con cups of tinto

Our trip really was made all the more enjoyable from the incredibly kind-hearted people we met and interacted with – from the mountains to the beaches. I am still not sure if their extreme friendliness comes from the deprivation and guilt-complex derived from being from a country deemed so dangerous that hardly a backpacker ventured there in years, or if it is just a natural characteristic of the culture in Colombia, a mix of many different native groups and Spanish conquistadores, including South America’s great liberator, Simon Bolivar  (who shares my birthday). Perhaps it doesn’t really matter. I just hope that the impending increase in tourism doesn’t spoil the honest, happy-go-lucky, friendly attitude shared by so many Colombians toward us foreigners.

In the meantime, get your butt to Colombia! You won’t regret it.  (And apparently all the narcotraficantes have relocated to Mexico, making it “no longer safe to travel to” … so why not head a bit further South and visit the beautiful, friendly land now safe from drug wars!)

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