Caribbean Coast, Coffee Culture Carnival!
We ended ‘Part 1‘ in the lovely Colombian villages of Barichara and Guane after we had hiked along the ancient Camino Real Trail. But our journey through Colombia did not finish here. From cities in the clouds to tropical beaches, we still had much more of Colombia to discover including the long awaited ‘Carnival‘.
We were really pleased that our itinerary allowed us just over a month exploring what has become one of our favourite South American countries. Here we continue our round-up of ‘Sector 3’ with Ithaca clocking up the miles as we made it to our next destination, northern Colombia…
Watching the sun go down. This is camping at its best.
Heading north meant more long drives through the mountains and Colombia’s coffee growing regions to reach the Caribbean Coast and National Park area of Tayrona. But it was worth it as at nearby‘Casa Grande Surf’ we camped right on the beach for a couple of days and enjoyed our own little piece of paradise.
Beautiful Caribbean Coast. Tayrona National Park.
With no time to waste it was on to the city of Barranquilla in time for ‘Carnaval’, something we had been looking forward to since booking the trip way back in September 2012! The ‘Carnaval de Barranquilla’ in Colombia is South America’s second largest carnival after Rio, Brazil, and we were able to spend 3 whole days enjoying the festivities!
All dressed up and ready for ‘Carnaval’!
Fabulous traditional costumes at ‘Carnaval’!
The Colombians certainly know how to party! Think bright colours, big feathers, flowers and frills. The costumes were amazing, and the party atmosphere electric. With a wonderful cross between laid back Caribbean island and fast-paced chaotic Latin American, a blur of parades, music, dancing, food, foam, flour and chaos engulfed us all.
Joining in with the locals! ‘Carnaval’ Day 3.
Luckily, we were able to recover from carnival fever in the laid back colourful city of Cartagena. With a Caribbean feel, it is one of Colombia’s colonial gems. We spent our time wandering around the streets of the old historic centre and had a day relaxing at the tropical beach of Playa Blanca with its white sands and turquoise waters. Simply beautiful!
Colourful Cartagena with its Caribbean feel.
Beautiful turquoise waters of Playa Blanca.
We also enjoyed some more fried chicken goodness, finding the cheapest combo meal yet, complete with a whole chicken, potatoes and drinks for two, which only cost us 18,000 Colombian pesos! (Around £6 GBP).
The perfect hangover cure after too many caipirinhas!
From Cartagena we found ourselves stopping overnight at the best bushcamp spot by far! In fact it was actually a hotel complete with swimming pool and Wi-Fi as the road to Medellin was deemed unsafe to bushcamp. It was a pleasant surprise and suited us just fine! We headed straight to the pool and made full use of the facilities.
Our best bushcamp!
Next on the agenda was Medellin, the home town of artist Fernando Botero and another of Colombia’s bustling cities. We spent the day wandering around the plazas taking snap shots of Botero’s many sculptures and drinking coffee from our favourite Colombian coffee shop ‘Juan Valdez’.
Sculpture by Fernando Botero.
Botero’s work celebrates all things ‘chubby’!
A typical Juan Valdez coffee shop in Colombia.
Wayne enjoying a cup of freshly ground Colombian coffee.
From Medellin it was back to the countryside with a lovely few days in the upmarket town of Guatape, located on the shores of freshwater lakes. With its pretty cobbled streets and colourful reliefs painted along the bottom of each building, this Colombian town has a real unique touch.
El Penon Rock reflected in the freshwater lake at Guatape.
The area is dominated by the famous El Penon Rock which towers 2,100m above sea level. We reached the top by foot after climbing the 725 steps that zig zag their way up the side of the rock.
The zig zag steps up the side of El Penon Rock.
Heading to the top of the rock…
Reaching the top! Step 725… With added Odyssey photo bombers!
Next, we headed to our favourite place in Colombia, Salento, the little town in the clouds. Popular with local visitors as well as foreign tourists, Salento gives you a real feel for Colombia and what makes this country so special.
Visiting a coffee plantation, hiking through a cloud forest and playing tejo with the locals (the Colombian national sport which involves gunpowder and beer) are just three fantastic activities that we enjoyed here!
Wayne showing off his gunpowder hit!
Posing with the lovely owner of ‘Los Amigos Tejo Hall’.
Enjoying a beer with the locals!!!
We were sorry to say goodbye to Salento after such a short time, but it was time to move on to Colombia’s party capital Cali. We resisted partying however (for once) as we needed to catch up with some mandatory tasks such as laundry and internet. But we did make time to have a wander through the nearby park where we found some great cat statues in various colours, shapes and sizes.
Not just a love of salsa, we also found a love of cats in Cali.
‘Hellraiser’ – More cats in the park in Cali.
My favourite cat with fabulous eye lashes!
Most popularly known for its salsa bars and thrumming nightlife, Cali inspired us to book a salsa lesson at our next destination, Popayan.
Having fun learning the basic moves.
Salsa, definitely the perfect work-out!
After brief 2 night stays in both Cali and Popayan it was finally time to bid a fond farewell to Colombia. What an exciting and exhilarating 35 days we had experienced there, made even more special by the wonderful, welcoming Colombians we had met along the way.
A friendly Colombian who made us feel at home.
Crossing the border at Ipiales, we made our way from Colombia back into Ecuador, this time heading straight for the capital city Quito. As most of the Odyssey group then jetted off to the Galapagos Islands, we settled ourselves into a hotel for 7 nights taking a break from life on the road, enjoying a mini-holiday within a holiday!
At the top of the Basilica del Voto Nacional, Quito.
View of La Virgen de Quito from the top of the Basilica.
From standing on the equator to hiking around the rim of a volcano we enjoyed a jam-packed week in Quito (which sadly came to a close with Wayne’s camera being stolen on a public bus, boo hoo!)
Wayne taking a ride up the Teleferiqo in Quito.
Hiking around the rim of Laguna Quilotoa, a volcanic crater.
Not letting such an unfortunate incident ruin our trip, we bounced back in the Ecuadorian town of Banos. (Not to be confused with the Spanish word for toilet!) We visited the ‘El Pailon del Diablo’, Ecuador’s largest waterfalls and fished for rainbow trout at a nearby trout farm. Blink and you could have missed it, we both literally hooked a fish in seconds!
Wayne walking over the swing bridge to see the view of the waterfall.
Stood at the side of the powerful ‘El Pailon del Diablo’.
From pond to plate. Wayne catches his own rainbow trout for lunch.
Perfectly fresh! Honestly the best fish we have ever tasted.
From the ‘Toilet town’ of Banos our last stop in Ecuador was Cuenca, a market town famous for the Panama hat which has its origins here. (Strange as it seems!) The night before we were due to leave however, a huge earthquake hit the coast of Chile which meant a tsunami warning for the whole Peruvian coast, our next destination. So once again, erring on the side of caution, plans had to be changed and we stayed in Cuenca for an extra night. Ah the joys of overlanding!
Not ‘panama’hats! Felt hats that Ecuadorians wear as part of their traditional dress.
At the local market. Wayne eyes up a very large pumpkin!
Traditional Ecuadorian dress. (A lunch stop in the town of Alausi.)
Exploring Cuenca. Just one of the many plazas.
Wayne stood in a corridor of binary code in the Modern Art Museum.
Continuing with the theme of our love of food, staying in Cuenca meant we could return to our favourite foodie haunts! And this time it did not involve fried chicken!
The most delicious chocolate ice cream!
No rival to Wayne’s pizzas, but we did find some tasty calzones.
All Summed Up!
And there you have it! If you’ve read both Part 1 and Part 2 of our latest round up ’60 Days Overland In Peru, Ecuador & Colombia’ you’ll know we’ve experienced lots of memorable moments along the way. At the beginning, a 27-week overland tour of South America seemed like such a long time. But 143 days on, having explored 6 countries so far and covered just over 30,000 kilometres, time is ever rushing on by!
We are about to embark on the final sector of our trip. Not saving the best until last, we are soon to be heading to the Inca city of Machu Picchu. Next stop… Peru!
If you’ve not done so already, come and follow us as we begin the final chapter of our South American adventure!