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Trip Report Glover´s ongoing report - 2 months in Colombia

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As retired folk, we´ve taken to doing a big winter trip each year - a couple months away from DC´s sometimes cold and sometimes just blah and dreary winter. We´ve now made many trips to Mexico, 3 to Costa Rica, 2 to Panama, and one to Peru/Ecuador. Then last year we branched out and went to SE Asia. They were all wonderful trips in different ways. This year we started out with idea of Buenos Aires - but then ultimately husband got Colombia in his head (a wonderful spot for birding - which is something we like to do some of when we travel.) Loose itinerary is:Bogota, Villa de Leyva, Barichara,
Bucamaronga, Medellin, 3 birding reserves around Medellin, cafetera (coffee) region,
Medellin, Cartegena, some points north from there and Bogota again.,

I´ll try to do this as an ongoing trip report. We´ve just completed a little more than a week. Flew direct from DC to Bogota on Avianca - a nice easy flight - about $500 RT - good price too! We did all the planning ourselves, via a few guidebooks and tripadvisor and lonely planet forums. Not much here on Fodors yet re Colombia. . . . Though we´´ve much enjoyed the round South America blog planetkapow - with lots of good Colombia info. We debated whether to stay in the classy north of Bogota or the perhaps slowly gentrifying colonial La Candelaria area. We opted for La Candelaria. Stayed 5 nights at the smallish B and B Chorro de Quevedo. An interesting, funky lodging on a dodgy looking street just off the Plaza Chorro de Quevedo. The old rehabbed building has a high spiral staircase in the center and 4 or so rooms on 2 levels going up, a small kitchen-bar-seating area on first floor. We opted for their top floor <´suite< two floors with a glass ceiling. It was nice to have a lot of space and light. And glass ceiling was great for a view of Bogota´s Montseratte and fireworks on NYE over the city. Water pressure was weak - they have an electric shower. Included breakfasts were sufficient and it was a friendly place- a couple of very nice women who speak only Spanish.
We only met the acclaimed Italian owner once for 15 mins so didn´t get the advantage of his Bogota knowledge.

Most of Bogota was shut tight on NYE and NY Day (we arrived on Dec. 30). And we´d heard that taking a cab north might strand us there, since it would be difficult to get a cab back. So we had a sandwich and a couple beers from the nearby convenience store and watched the fireworks from our <´loft¨ We saw very very few Norte Americanos in Bogota. But degrees of separation being what they are, the few that we did run into turned out to be from DC or have some more surprising connnection to the two of us.
Mostly we lucked out with the weather. Not the rain Colombia had been having. Sunny days, though coolish when sun went in. We really enjoyed the Bogota time. Walked to the top of Monseratte on New Years Day with hordes of local families and singles. Took the teleferico down. Took us almost 2 hours to summit. But a glorious day and buen
ejercicio. The Gold Museum in Bogota is fabulous. 60,000 pieces! And we happened to get there just before they were doing a tour in English. We only did a single floor in an hour but had a really knowledgeable and articulate guide, Carlos, wonderful. We learned a lot. We also enjoyed the Botero Museum, the colonial museum, and the
Casa de la Moneda. And, as I was reading the book Killing Pablo (about getting Pablo Escobar - Colombia´s big drug kingpin, we felt compelled to visit the Police Museum, where there is one room dedicated to the hunt for Pablo. We had a nice guide there and
some honcho came by to greet us and thank ¨¨us¨ (the US) for our help - presumably in the drug war . . . . yeah, if only our country wasn´t the prime consumer. . . In any case, this guy had been with the police for 56 years - now that´s a career!

It was fun and convenient staying in La Candelaria. Some nice architecture, but a little gritty and frequented by beer guzzling local students. We walked around Plaza Bolivar where they were setting up for the inauguration of the new mayor. Enjoyed a simple dinner at the Gato Gris on the Chorro Plaza. On our last day we finally got out of the neighborhood and walk from about Calle 12 to 36 and far west. Mostly what we saw along the way was commercial area and major road construction. We dropped by the office of Pro Aves, with whom wé´d be travelling later. Took a cab to the Botanical Gardens and walked around. Not all that large, but nice. . . Then a cab to Usaquen to see how the other half lived. Had a wonderful meal at a restaurant there called ¨¨Abasto¨ that I read of one chowhound.com.

Took a bus from Bogota to Villa de Leyva - maybe a total of 5 hours or so. Bus was comfortable, fine, cheap. Lovely scenery on way. V de L is a gorgeous colonial tourist town. As it is still the Christmas holidays here, the town was very busy. Lots of traffic and noise on those small streets. Great weather continued. A little warmer than Bogota. Stayed one night at the charming Hotel Antonio Narino. Holiday prices boosted this small hotel to $80 per night. Rooms were small but spotless and around a nice courtyard. Owner Marlene was SUPER nice to us. Like everyone else there (mostly Bogotans on holiday) we walked around town eating and shopping. But we can´t do that for very long, so moved to a pretty hostel a mile outside town, Renecer/Colombian Highlands where it was easy to arrange other activities. We did a
4 hour tour of El Fossil (giant sea dinosaur fossil found there), a beautiful old monastery, and a Stonehenge like astro-clock. Also saw what may be the largest ceramic in the world - a cool new exhibit house built just of clay. . . A great day with another excellent guide - Enrique, a Spanish speaker, so our less than mediocre Spanish got a rigorous workout. Very little English spoken in Colombia, so a good place to practice. . Also did a hike to Iguaque Park - beautiful mountainous area with 8 lakes. We did only a half day hike looking for birds (saw a few) but that was plenty and just gorgeous.

Then it was on to the even more beautiful colonial town of Barichara. Left the hostel at 10 and finally arrived in Barichara at 5:30. 2 or 3 changes of buses. One large bus and a couple of those vans that one hopes will survive the trip on the mountainous roads. The scenery from the bus on this trip was really wonderful, high mountains and valleys, green pastures and fields, tile roofed houses.

Barichara is also very busy with Colombians on vacation. . . Still it´s quieter here than V de L and more pristinely colonial. A big shady plaza where we spent the morning on a bench just taking in the scene - families on the way to mass at the beautiful Roman sandstone cathedral, or just out walking etc. We did some bench birdwatching in the trees and saw a few new birds. We then became an item of curiosity for at least one local family who came over to chat. The 5 or 6 kids hung with us about an hour. Seemed like they´d not seen the likes of us before, so wanted to practice a little English,
ask about the binoculars, ask questions about the U.S. etc. They were just great kids so it was really fun for all of us. We practiced our Spanish as well. Grilled them with simple English qs. . .. Weather is very warm here in Barichara today, glorious blue sky and sun and probably 80. . . . perfect. We´ll walk the town the rest of today and then tomorrow walk the camino real to the small town of Guane nearby. Maybe try to get up earlyish and go to a nearby mirador to look for a bird a local vendor told us about.

Meanwhile we continue to follow news elsewhere in Colombia - the killing of another
big paramilitary guy and the retaliation of his allies. So, while Colombia is fabulous -
¨¨Colombia - un mundo en solo pais¨¨ ¨Colombia-el unico riesgo es no salir (well, mas o menos) ' and it is now open for tourist business, problems continue in places, so we´re keeping abreast of the situation and being careful. The people are just great everywhere!

To be continued

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    This is great to read! We are leaving for Colombia on Feb 6, but only have 17 days there. (My husband is retired, unfortunately, I am not.) We are starting in Cartagena, then going on to Santa Marta, then Villa de Leyva and finally Bogota. I had also looked into the same B&B in Bogota, but ended up booking Hotel Casa Deco instead.

    I'm looking forward to the rest of your reports.

    Are you on Tripadvisor? If you are, I'm SBJEinToronto - I'd like to keep in touch if you don't.

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    Hi Susan, I think you'll like Casa Deco in Bogota. We passed it several times. Didn{t go inside, but it looked nice on the outside and it is convenient to stay in Candalaria. That street isn{t quite as gritty as ours was. . . But we certainly felt comfortable walking all around Candelaria during the day at the very least . . .. Think you{ll love Villa de L - there will be many fewer people there in Feb than we saw last week. Where are you staying?

    We're in Barichara now, which is even more spectacularly gorgeous than Villa de L. I{ll write more later. . .

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    We are going to stay at the Posada Casa Novoarte in Villa de Leyva. We had also looked at the Antonio Narino and it looks great, but prices are higher, so I booked the less expensive choice.

    I read about Barichara - it sounded wonderful. Sounds like 17 days isn't enough time for us!

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    I thought about Novoarte too. We passed it. It's on a nice quiet street and looked lovely from the outside. In V de L you could easily hire a taxi I think to drive you to some of the sites outside town, the lovely convent, el fossil, etc. But as I said we really liked our guide from the Colombian Highlands group. Their office is on a corner in town. Phillipe who runs the office is great and speaks perfect English, sinc emost of the year he lives in Florida. They could hook you up with anything you wned to do.....

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    Fantastic read! Thank you for posting and keeping us up to speed on your Colombian adventure.

    As my mother is Colombian, my family and I have taken to a newfound love and passion for the country, its people and the culture overall. In fact, we have recently opened two upscale boutique hotels for the adventurous adult traveler.

    As I'm sure you're aware, Colombia is home to some of the most spectacular wildlife, and internationally renowned for its biodiversity (particularly for birds!). If you (or anyone else) is interested in taking a closer look, our family hotel on the outskirts of Bogotá was designed for foreigners looking to experience this first hand. Find more info here: http://www.fincagualiva.com/

    If on the market for something more tropical yet not overwhelmingly touristy, Santa Marta is for you. Our boutique hotel in the old city is ideal for adult travelers and younger couples: www.casaverdesantamarta.com

    Safe travels to all! I hope you all help spread the love and new reality of this great country.

    Andres

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    We took a small van like bus from the bus station in Villa de Leyva to the larger town of Tunja, where we waited for a larger more comfortable bus for the longer trip to the town of San Gil.  
    From San Gil we got another van bus to Barichara.   This trip, with waits in between etc took most of the day,  10 to 6 Mas o menos and cost us about 20 bucks each.   Bus travel in Colombia is cheap.  Beautiful scenery along the way, mountains and green valleys, pasture land, etc.   Bus arrived just by the main plaza in Barichara, which at about 7 was buzzing with 
    Colombian travelers on holiday.   We looked for a taxi, but discovered they have only a few 3 wheeled moto taxis, so finally just walked the 3 blocks to pur hotel, La Casa de Marques.  I was a little concerned about this hotel because I'd just booked it with the help of the wonderful Marlene from our V de L hotel.  Neither of us knew much about it.  All those Touted on the Internet were booked.   And I was worried more when they ushered us into the first room behind the reception.  But it was actually very quiet there and lovely.   Holiday prices, about $80 per night including tax and a nice breakfast.   We had a big colonial room with a fabulous new bathroom.  Huge shower included both a rain shower and another on the other side with more jets, an overhead, and a handheld.  Great water pressure and hot water too.   Just the kind
    You want to luxuriate in if the sign on the door didn't beg you to use only minimal
    Water.   Bed was comfy firm.   Blanca at the desk was very responsive and accommodating.   No English spoken here.   They did about a week's worth of laundry for us for $10.

    As advertised, Barichara is just beautiful.   Flat stone streets with raised sidewalks.  Easier walking than V de L, which has cobblestones and no sidewalks.   Barichara is hilly, where v de L is flatter and this adds to it's charm.  It's also smaller, less busy, and a little more upscale.
    After a nice breakfast at our hotel (juice, scrambled eggs, fruit, coffee,and arepas)' we wondered down to the plaza and sat down on a bench.   We had our binoculars, so naturally started looking at interesting birds in the plaza. 's many trees.   This made us even more of a curiosity to the locals, so ultimately a whole family of curious kids came over and befriended us.
    They were full of questions about the binoculars, the US, us, etc.   A few wanted to practice some English words.  We tortured them with our Spanish.   We all took pictures.   They were great kids, so we had a blast.   Bought some small craft items from a vendor in the plaza.  Had a nice chat with him too.   He told us we should go to the nearby mirador at 7 or 8 in the am to see a spectacular bird with a long tail.  He called it a hoopo or sometthing like that.   We were intrigued so posted up there next am. (a beautiful spot with fountains, sculpture, and crotons.
    Long tailed bird flew in about 7:45 as promised.   Turned out to be a pair of beautiful mot mots.
    We've seen many elsewhere in tropics, but always nice to see again as they're quite spectacular.   

    Spent the rest of our first day walking around town.   Cruised a few shops, found them to be all selling more or less same items - woven purses, wood items, jewelry.  Visited the beautiful old cathedral.   Had a nice dinner of average paella at the Spanish restaurant in town, where the only other customers turned out to be 3 guys, also from Dc, whom we. 'd met in Bogota and followed ever since.   Had Another great chat with them.  Turned out they were staying in the b and b next to ours, of course.   

    Next day we saw the mot mots in the early am, had breakfast and then set off on the hike to the small town of Guane that is mentioned in all the guide books.   This was a really ferric hike.  It's about 6 miles from Barichara to Guane on what they call el camino real- an old road/path, mostly rocks.   It goes up and down a little at ends, but is pretty flat for a long distance in the middle.   We saw about a dozen people during our 3 hour walk (we stopped often and looked at bird).  Many butterflies along the way.   Great views of mountains and pasture land, woods.
    A stray dog walked with us the entire way.   So cute.   He walked calmly along behind us until we stopped to watch birds.  The he would curl up in a shady space until we started out again.  He would wait for us to pass and then fall in just behind us again.   Wheee there was water, he'd go for it and then catch up.   He was absolutely loyal, never distracted from his mission by other bikers going either way.   Not sure exactly where he turned off in Guane and so sorry we didn't get a photo.   Never even patted his head, since I wasn't totally sure of his temperament.

    Guane is a very tiny dusty little village, a church, a small plaza, a museum, a few tiendas and not much more.   We had lunch in a patio restuarant.   Simple but relaxing.   Some official yellow taxis were around but they all turned out to be tourists from elsewhere, not in biz of driving to Barichara.   We found a local guy on the plaza who was offering himself up as a taxi.  
    So we paid his requested price of $10 for the ride back toB.    He had a clapped out old Toyota or some such, but was a good driver on the curvy mountainous road.   Our Dc friends had walked the path both directions, but we feared 12 miles in one day might turn a nice memory into a death march.   A highly recommended walk.   Wear your hiking shoes, mostly rocks.  Ditto walking aroundV de L.   Not so necessary in barichara where streets are flat stone.

    We did some more evening plaza sitting - just taking in the scene.  Perfect weather and a full moon over Barichara to beat.  On this trip we have a perfect record of not finding recommended restaurants.   They're closed for the moment, forever, not known by anyone in town, not at the given address etc.   So having failed to find one or another we were looking for, we stumbled upon the tiny Pleniluna and were quite happy there.  So much so that we went back the next night when another we were seeking turned out to be, you guessed it, closed.   Pleniluna just serves a few pastas, crepes, and salads - a great salad though and very nice ravioli.   Salad contained a new fruit (uvuta?)' wonderfully sweet yellow cherry tomato size.

    The next day was a travel day.  Checked out, hauled luggage 3 blocks to plaza.   Caught bus in 20 minutes to San Gil.  Made mistake of buying ticket to Bucaramanga at first window we questioned- Reina.   This required a 2 hour wait in bus station.   The the bus was an hour late, while we watched several nicer Copetran buses arrive and leave for bmanga.   When bus finally arrived it was full except for the two worst seats- the two next to the bathroom on the row of 3  in the back.  Taking these meant the young woman next to us had to hold her 4 yeR old daughter in her lap for 3 hours.   And my husband became the bathroom guardian, holding the door open while folks squeezed through the tiny space allowed.......

    The road from San Gil to Bucaramanga is basically non stop switch backs.   Spectacular mountains.  But for better or worse we couldn't see much from our back seats because the many windows have dark curtains half blocking views.   May have been a good thing as the two lane road was filled with big trucks and buses for the most part, often passing.   Not for the faint hearted.

    Took a taxi into the downtown area of buca to a hotel chosen from lonely planet- Hotel Principe.  Every city has a hotel like this, it put us in mind of one in DC, the Hotel Harrington.   An old place in the downtown that's managed to stay in business for decades.   Perhaps once elegant, but now a budget hotel for tourists and business people without big expense accounts.   Lots of plastic flowers and Naugahyde furniture.  A little dark.   Restaurant and front desk accounts handwritten with carbons and date stamped.   Low hard as rock beds.   Pros were good service from desk staff and nice hot water shower.  This hotel is about three blocks from the cathedral.  Like many downtown areas, it caters only to day biz, so nothing around there to do at night.  We ate in the hotel restaurant, vintage 1950.

    Slept well on the rock hard bed and took a taxi to the airport next day for flight on Easy Fly to Medellin.
    Our 10:30 flight was maybe an hour late, but we didn't take it!   I had suffered a little traveler's distress that am for the first time on this trip and as we were standing in line waiting to board, fainted dead away.   Probably dehydration.   Several folks in line helped my husband grab me going down.   Medic was there in an instant.  They wheeled me over to a small doctor's office several yards away.   There I was treated by the lovely Dr. Sanchez, who asked all the right questions, took blood pressure several times, and gave me dehydrating fluid.   She offered an iv but I declined.   Meanwhile our flight took off and we changed to a 4 pm one.   Husband and I had a delightful chat with Dr Sanchez -in English- for at least an hour as I recovered.  
    Then of course we had hours to kill at the airport.  Fortunately, it's a nice little airport with wi fi and food concessions with an outside seating area.   Made friends with one of the easy Fly baggage handlers who wanted to practice his English.

    At last we got on our also late flight.  Less than an hour flight to Medellin.   Took a taxi to our B and By
    Su Casa Colombia in the Estadio neighborhood.   Taxi driver asked for directions 4 times.   The Casa is run by a very accommodating young American couple.  It's the former home of the wife's grandparents.   We had read many glowing reviews on trip advisor, 

    Not exaggerated!   Owner Noah took us on a short walk in the neighborhood to a very lively street full of restaurants.   He left us at his favorite with a good map and instructions about how to get back.   After a nice dinner we walked back, lots of people out, and slept really well in our magnificent king very comfy bed with great linens.   Noah and  Marcela fixed us a great breakfast in the am which we ate on the nice upstairs patio.  
    Today we'll do a few errands in Medellin and then be picked up tomorrow to go to several birding reserves around the Medellin area.     

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    I'm really enjoying reading this. So sorry about your 'traveller's distress'! That really puts a crimp in one's plans. We each spent a day lying in bed in a B&B in San Cristobal de las Casas. Although we didn't enjoy being laid up, we were so glad it wasn't the following day when we were due to take the bus to Palenque.

    Thanks for posting.

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    After a leisurely breakfast on the patio of Su Casa Colombia, we were picked up by a driver working for Ecoturs.   He drove us 3 hours to a restaurant in the town of Puerto Boyacan, where we joined up with 5 lovely people from the UK with whom we'd share transportation to the. 3 birding reserves run by the group Pro Aves.  They were accompanied by an excellent bird guide (Colombian resident, but actually Irish).   

    We all switched to a nice comfortable van and then drove most of the day to the El Pajuil reserve, known for the blue corrosow bird that frequents the area.     The final 3 hours of this drive were on a bumpy dirt road.   Oh joy.   But the best was yet to come!  We got to the last little village, if you could call it that, before the reserve and stopped.   Guide announced that this was as far as we could go in this vehicle.   So we all piled out of our nice van and into a beat up truck with cab and covered back with bench seats.   (we're talking here about 5 "mature" passengers, aged 62 to 81!). Lucky me, as last ready, I got the passenger seat in the cab.
    But a mixed blessing, more comfortable yes, but able to see the way down!   Those crushing each other in the back were spAred knowing.     The way down was 3 kilometers straight down, occasionally steering on two cement tracks, but mostly just up down and Round big chunks of clay.   It's now pitch dark by the way.   The large sweaty driver, acquired in the village, is Assisted by two young men hanging onto the cab at each door shining more light on the road ahead, etc.   Fortunately we All arrived in one piece, Mas o menos.

    We arrive at the reserve and are shown our rooms.   Luggage is delivered later (brought in another truck).  Husband and I and the single UK traveler get the two rooms worth a/c.   But the cost for that luxury in this very, very hot place (90 plus and very humid) is a neck breaker walk up a long flight of bamboo stairs (not bad when dry, but deadly slippery when wet).   These rooms are wood cabins with reasonably comfortable beds, fine clean bathrrooms with cold shower, and mosquito nets.   

    After a nice dinner in the simple outdoor gazebo area, we crash to prepare for our 5:30 or so wake up.   That is, we crash after husband does the manly thing - traps and sets free out the door a flying cockroach the size of a Buick - well at least the size of a small songbird.  Not squeamish about insects and creepy crawly things generally, but couldn't imagine sleeping with this one dive bombing around the room.   Sleep reasonably well.

    Next am creep cautiously down bamboo stairs to breakfast.   Set off on reserve trails and hour later.   Followed the same routin both days we were there.   Trails into great rainforest,  up and down,  a very good workout.   Much impressed by the agility and endurance of those older than we.   They are more experienced birders than we and a group of old friends who have been traveling all over the world together for decades, mainly focusing on birds.  Their guide and the local guy who manages the reserve help us spot many, many species of birds.   We lunch and rest a bit in the heat of mid day and go out again in late afternoon.   In addition to birds, we see 3 species of monkeys, a few owls, some interesting toads and frogs.   The terrain before the reserve and forest was unlike anything we'd ever seen.   Like continuous high sand dunes covered with grass - grazing fields.   A wonderfully, beautiful area. But definitely not easy to get to.

    On day 3, we get up for 5 am breakfast.   Reserve employees (mostly one whole family) help us all and our luggage down a slippery muddy bank to a large canoe!   In the dark.   A terrifying experience to watch others and then experience self, but staff is very adept and very helpful.  Good job preventing 7 broken hips!  Forgot to say there was a fairly long and loud thunderstorm in the very early am, just letting up in time for our departure to reserve 2, Arrierte.

    Fortunately canoe had a motor, so we had a lovely breezy ride down river maybe a half hour or so to our van "in town". Much better than the terrifying truck ride.

    Food at Pajuil was delicious.  Inventive use of simple local ingredients.   Great soups and light flan like desserts.   

    We left Pajuil at 6 or so and arrived at Arrierte at 7:30.   The longest, hardest drive I'll ever need to experience.   Remember the 3 hour drive in on a bumpy dirt road?   Well that meant three hours back that road.   But we stopped to look at birds along the way.  Fabulous blue and yellow macaws flying and perching in the trees.  Many others as well.   Folks on horseback coming down road.   Horses grazing.   Just beautiful.  

    Stopped for lunch in Puerto Boyaca again and elsewhere in town to pick up reserve supplies of various sorts.  A very, very long drive.   Beautiful scenery though, high mountains, beautiful valleys.   The last couple hours were killers as we ascended to about 5000 feet,  nonstop switchbacks along good but narrow and high roAd.   We kept the same driver all the wAy, a very good one with nerves of steel.   One of our group lost his afternoon coffee mid way thru the hairpin turns, though he wS fine thereafter.

    At last we arrived at Arrierte.   Lodging area is smaller, more compact here.   We're all in a line of motel like rooms one next to another.   Cooler here (springlike) thank god.   Comfortable beds with blankets and ye old electric shower (hot wAter dispensed at a dribble) .   Have dinner of great squash soup followed by chicken and rice and Wine bought in town.   Sleep like the dead under cozy blanket.

    Up next day at 5:15.   Hit the trail at 6 or so.   Up, up, up through forest and along high ridge.
    Pretty quiet today, but do spot a desired endemic species or so for those who care.   Back for lunch where we watch a handful of hummingbird species buzz the 10 feeders belong the dining porch.  Also some beautiful tanagers visit bananas on another feeder.   A little cloudy and cool now as I sit on the back patio behind our room.  We'll go back out soon to wallk the road and look for more birds.   More of the same tomorrow I suspect.

    After 2 great days at Arrierito, we left early next am for another all day drive to our third reserve, Las Tangaras. Another long and arduous drive, the end nonstop switchbacks, but the most spectacular scenery we've yet to see. Again very high mountains and deep green valleys, but this time the mountains are lined with coffee trees. Our van stopped at the last "town" and we climbed into two jeeps to do the last few kms. Some interesting road there, landslides from excessive rain had narrowed the already narrow roads further. (did I mention that we had fabulous skilled drivers with nerves of steel?) Las Tangaras has brand new lodging this year on the reserve.
    6 or so rooms in a line, large with cement floors, good beds, and, at last hot water with pressure.

    There's the usual outdoor palapa for dining, a small kitchen building and a small house for the resident forest guard and his family, who were just lovely. GuArds at all reserves came on hikes with us and
    all were excellent at spotting birds. Our little group was joined on pur 3rd night there by 6 us women accompanied by a guide from cornell u and a young Italian man traveling on his own. Food here was quite delicious, great soups, salad slaw, chiken, meat, fish and always great juices.

    Today we all slept in, had a 9am breakfast, and left at 10 for more travel. Too bad because it was just gorgeous there this am, sunny clear beautiful clouds, and green, green, green. But we were off to our next stop, the small town of Jardin. We stopped along the way next to a river to look for, but not find, a particular bird on the list of the serious birders. Then had the best lunch yet at a palapa restaurant called Mayoria del San Juan. Just inside the town of JArdin, we stopped and walked to the end of a street and straight down toward the river. This was to peak in at the coq of the rock (very special bird)
    Lek on private property. We were lucky enough to get a very nice view of the bird sitting on a branch in the open. Jardin is very lively today because it's Sunday, everyone is out! Lovely plaza full of people. We're looking forward to checking it out tomorrow. Then we figure out how to get where we need to go to meet Noah and Marcela from medellin in order to spend a couple days at their finca a few hours away.......... More as it develops

    (an aside here for birders inrerested. Staff at Las Tangaras spotted a coq of the roc on the propeety yesterday. And the forest guard discovered a lek on the reserve. He was very excited. So viewing them at Las Tangaras now looks possible)












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    Rather than take a 6am bus from Jardin to Puente Igelesias to meet Noah and Marcela we left later and hired a taxi to take us directly there for$50. We were early so had some time just to have coffee and enjoy the quiet scene at this country crossroads. Talked to the policeman stationed there. Walked on nearby iron bridge. Just a few tiendas and single restaurant there.

    Eventually Noah arrived in his Suv with two other US couples, and we were off to the finca. We arrived after another 45 minutes. This finca was recently built. Just beautiful. Gorgeous setting on hill with spectacular views of mountains in all directions. Beautiful landscaping, a nice pond for swimming,
    A half dozen horses for local trail rides, a super nice resident couple to attend to guests needs. Great typico food. We had 3 lovely days at the finca just enjoying the beautiful place, the good company, swimming, riding, walking, looking at birds, and swinging in the hammocks in the lovely outdoor common area reading or snoozing. Perfect. Highly recommended. Google sucasacolombia for info on Medellin b and b and related finca.

    Yesterday with deep regrets we all said goodbye tothe finca. Noah dropped the two of us in the nearby town of La Pintada and returned with the others to Medellin. We two jumped immediately on a collectivo kind of bus and for $10 each rode the 3 hours south to Manizales in the coffee area. It was a fairly comfortable drive since the bus wasn't full. A lot of road constructiongoing on now because of heavy rains over the last several months. Many washouts under repair.

    From the very large and modern bus station in Manizales we took a taxi to our hotel. Estelar Recinto de Pensamiento. This is a corporate kind of venture of the coffee federation, new with convention areas,
    Nature trails, restaurant, little zoo, butterly house,etc. Brand new rooms with king beds, fancy bathrroms etc. It'sthe weekend but there are 3 times more employees than guests. We relaxed yesterday, walked the 3 km nature trail, did internet, and slept well in pur great king size bed. Luxuriated too in our hot water high pressure shower. Ate lunch and dinner in austere dining room totally alone. Decent food. Lots of choice. Got up at 5:30 this am for early walk on natureath with resident nature guide. A beautiful am, saw 35 species of birds. Most we'd seen before but some were new. Already, a few hours later, it looks like rain. The pattern here is sunny ams and rainy afternoons. Today we'll get a cab into town andlook around, have lunch, and collect more info. We're interested in a trip to Los Nevados, mts much much higher up.

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    We reupped for a couple more days at our nice hotel so that we could go to both Los Nevados and a nearby reserve callex Rio Blanco, managed by the water commission and allegedly one of the three best places in the world to see birds.

    Our Los Nevados day trip was. Long but interesting day. Husband had wanted to go all the way up and spend one night in the cabins at El Cisne, but it seemed from the info that we were able to get that it would be very expensive, so we opted for the day trip, for which we pId a still rather expensive sum of $60 each. We were picked up at pur hotel about 7:30 by full mid sized tour bus with SpAnish speaking guide. Another long hairy mountain drive with spectacular scenery, with delays Long the way for the ubiquitous "obras en la via". Road work. A stop for a typical breakfast (included). Few stops after we reached the fascinating moonscape like paramo area at about 15,000 feet. We did a short steep hike up to stand in snow. Needless to say all the other colombian tourists were more excited by snow than we. But it was amazing up there. On the way back we stopped for a nice typical lunch ( included)
    A nice couple on our bus from Medellin befriended us, so we worked our Spanish at lunch. They also were kind enough to show us the ropes at the final in luded stop at Termales de Otono near Manizales.
    Natural hot springs swimming pools. We enjpyed taking in that whole scene. Our friends bought us a beer. But we were too wimpy to do as the locals did, get out of the hot pools, take a cold shower, and get back in. After an hour at the pools we got back in the bus and zoomed down the dark hairpin turn road back to down. We were dropped at pur hotel at about 7:30. Poopes the next day, a Monday, we hung T the hotel, did internet, and walked the nature trail on the grounds again, where we always saw something interesting, if only the reisdent mot mots and fabulous hummingbirds. On rhe last day we saw two gorgeous green toucanets in close trees on the path.

    Tuesday we took a 7am taxi to the Rio blanco reserve. (you must call and get permission first to go and must hire one of their guides). Indeed this is beautiful forest! Our guide was a nice guy, but not a very ambitious or particularly knowledgeable bird guide, so we probably saw less than possible. Still we found a quetzal and a trogon on our own and eventually other new birds S well. We were up there a out 4 hours and the guide did work hard listing the birds we'd seen for us. We ran into a group of birdwatchers from US on tour with guide.

    The following day we left el recinto with regret. Bid goodbye to our desk clerk friend Orlando who had been super helpful to us. Taxi ti the Manizales bus station. Then 8 $ bus ride of 2 and a half hours to
    Armenia to hop a small collectivo to this lovely little mountain town of Salento. Here we are at the charming and rustic Hostal Ciudad del Segorbe, basic small room with comfortable bed and tiny bath with great shower for under $40. Very helpful nice owners here. Town wakes up early, so we won't be sleeping late here. Walked the steep steps to thw town mirador yesterday at sunset. Another spectaculat valley view- looking toward the famous valle de cocora near here. Tomorrow we will do the popular hike to that valley to see the famous wax palm trees, the protected national tree of Colombia.

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    Susan, well maybe we will run into you then! We'll be the woman with the short white hair and the bald guy with beard, probably exhibiting a number of what I've just read are fodors travel fashion faux pas-
    Zip off pants, though our socks with sandals look won't be needed in Cartegena, ha ha.

    Rivet! Hello! Wish i could say my Spanish is showing vast improvement, but alas . . .
    We're moving around too much to take any classes really. And the thing is, I've learned the grammar 100 times over the years. Practice is what i continue to need. And I am getting that. I think my speaking may be improving a little, but I'm disappointed in my comprehension. If these people would just cooperate and speak at a snails pace,I'd be fine. Increasing vocabulary is difficult too because I find that i forget new words. And, for some reason. I am often unsure of first and third person verb endings in past tense. Despite having learned them 100 times. Maybe I'm getting senile.

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    Glover, I'll be the short woman with probably very curly hair and red skin (I don't look my best in heat and high humidity!) and the bald guy without a beard. I still have to pack - that's my plan for tomorrow.

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    Well Glover it would be wonderful to just hear the Columbian accents all day!

    I know what you mean about learning and relearning the verb tenses, grammar etc. I recall hearing that people have to listen to a word 16 times before it is committed to memory. That seems about right, for me anyway. I have been having some success with a purchased program called Buenos Entonces. It's kind of cheeky, and perhaps targeted for a younger crowd, but I am still enjoying it.

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    We closed out our fairly lazy stay at the cushy coffee hotel in Manizales with two big day trips.
    Took a bus trip up, up, up to 15,000 feet to the moonscape like paramo area.   Hiked up a little to the snow line (colombians were more excited about snow than we, needless to say.  
    Really interesting desert, moonlike terrain up there.  Stopped at thermal natural hot springools on the way back down.  Lots of these on Colombia.  Quite a scene.   A colombian couple who befriended us at the 
    Lunch stop showed us the ropes at the pools.   Required changing into bathing suit in mucky floored changing room not big enough to turn around in.  Rather a chore when you're changing from hiking boots, socks, long pants, amd two shirts.   But we got it done, soaked in the hot pool, enjoyed the beer our new friends bought us, but refused to comply with the local custom of getting out of the pool, taking a cold shower, and then getting back in.   No way were we doing that.   

    On our last day in Manizales we took a taxi to yet another nature reserve, this one owned by the local water commission.   A sign said it was the third best place to see birds in the world.  
    And indeed we ran into a vanfull of serious US bird folk there as part of a tour.   Naturally they saw more birds than we did because they had a more knowledgeable guide.   Ours was just the local guy who was included in our admission.  Nevertheless we saw some nice birds and got another good workout.

    Kind of hated to leave our cushy hotel the next day, and our good friend Orlando the desk clerk who had been enormously helpful to us.   But we got on another bus to a city farther south, Armenia, and from there jumped on a little buseta to the charming small mountain town of Salento, where we spent 5 more nights.  Buildings inSalento are almost all one or two story white stucco or frame, some with color detailing, and all with red tile roofs.   We stayed in this great little cheap hostel there.  Two super nice guys, one Colombian and the other a Spaniard,
    Rehabbed a 100 year old house.  Has 11 or so rooms on two levels looking onto a small open patio/bar for breakfast use.   They were great hosts.   Really enjoyed our time there and met some fun other travelers.   Besides the charm of the town itself, the other draw of Salento is 
    Its proximity to a big stash of Colombia's national tree, the wax palm.   These grow to a height of 60 metres.   Hence tourists gather in the plaza each am to hop jeeps for the trailhead for the hike to see the trees.   Jeeps don't leave until they're full- 3 people in front, at least 4 pn the benches in back, and 4 or so locals standing on the tailgate on back.   A half hour ride gets you to the trailhead.   Then you walk for quite some time ina gorgeous valley ina cowpath essentially.  Then the trails heads up,, up, and up thoguh a beautiful cloud forest to a farm on top of the mountain.   (crossing several hairy foot bridges along the way).   After that you head back down along a dirt road for the most spectacular view of the valley of the wax palms.   Stunning!  Saw a small deer running down a rocky stream.  Lots of good birds too.  Salento was full of little restaurants, lots of cheap ones serrving the typical colombian meal - starch, followed by starch, culminating in starch.  Actually really good simple soup, wonderful fruit juice, a little meat/chicken/fish, french fries, rice, and patacones(smashed plantains fried into a patty)
    They might even add a tortilla like arepa in case you haven't had your fill of starch.   For this reason we've added to our "best things about Colombia" list. (fantastic scenery, great birds, nice people). -  great Italian food.   These are the places where you might actually score a salad, and lots of good pasta.   Hope we're hiking off the extra calories. . . .   

    Our other nice hike from Salento was just a walk out of the town toward the many, many coffee farms of the area.   We spent almost 5 hours just doing the easy walk along the dirt road admiring the scenery and looking at birds.    Also stopped to watch a group play a fun colombian game- tejo- kind of like cornhole, but they toss a heavy rock like thing toward a mud bankboard with a center goal.   The center goal is mined so that if you acutally ever hit it, it explodes.   A really nice day.   Here we saw the most spectacular bird (and this is saying a lot)-
    a green jay.   Really you must google it- bright green back, yellow belly, and dark blue and black face, amazing.

    We had been trying to get more information about another nature reserve not too far from Salento because we had a day or two to burn before we needed to be back in Medellin.   The website was defunct, telephone numbers we had didn't work.  Then we happened to be walking in some woods just below the spectacular mirador in Salento (looks out on this magnificent valley) and got to talking to a young local couple.   Turned out he was a dung beetle specialist 
    And had studied at this very reserve. So he kindly called his friend the administrator who then emailed us all the info we needed.   

    So we tore ourselves away from Salento, took a bus to a city slightly north called Pereirra
    Where we were met by a jeep and a few folks from this reserve.   Realizing that there would be neither beer nor wine nor TOWELS at his reserve bunkhouse, we asked them to stop to procure.  We may not have the nerve to use our 6$ towels though as the showers are only cold.
    So in an open jeep belching fumes all the way we left Pereirra and headed up to coffee fields again.   Up, up, and up on bumpy dirt road.   After about an hour we went up a short steep cement track.   Here it developed that we would walk the last 20 minutes to the reserve.  (some imprtant details are often misunderstood/ lost in translation).  Fortunately (well for us anyway)'
    Our assigned guide Mauricio, about 5'8 and 135 pounds hoisted my 17 pound small suitcase onto his shoulder and carried husband's similar sized one in his other hand.   And along with Maria, the resident caretaker, cook, etc, we ambled down another trail, even through a piece of cloudforest.   Mauricio seemed none the worse for wear on our 4 hour hike the next am.
    So here we are today at La Nona reserve.   We are the only guests here ( not too surprising you may no doubt be thinking, given the extensive wine list, fine shower opportunities, fine dining, and comfy beds). NOT.    We immediately saw a pair of our favorite green jays.  Ate a simple dinner on the bunkhouse porch cooked by Maria.  Of course: good soup, rice, shoeleathr meat, potatoes- and actual cucumber.   Practiced our Spanish with Maria and Mauricio.
    Maria lives fulll time in the little house next to the bunkhouse with her reserve caretaker husband, yet to be seen, her 4 children, and her ancient grandmother.   At 7am or so 3 of the 4 children hike out the gate and down the rainforest path to school.   What a life.   The bunkhouse is 5 or 6 rooms, each with 2 bunkbeds with a 2 inch mattress on slats.   Two bathrooms around the corner via the porch.   A beautiful open yard in front.   Cloudforest behind.    We slept fairly well all things considered and hiked in the cloudforest for 4 hours this am with Mauricio.  A nice fello, working hard to learn the birds.  Good company.   Another beautiful forest and a nice trail.  Didn't see a lot of birds though.   Now back on the porch after a lunch of - wait for it-
    Soup, shoe leather beef, rice, patacones, and slaw,  and fruit juice.   Soon we'll go back out with 
    M and walk the road a little.   Then we'll come back for another starch dinner on the porch. 
    But its turned into a beautiful day, so it's really rather idyllic here. . . 

    Tomorrow we'll get up early, run down the cloudforest path to our jeep, bump along to thr Pererra airport, where we'll take a short flight back to civilization- Medellin for a few more days 
    at Noah and Marcela's b and b.   

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    I think birders are a different group - I am amazed at how active you are! We arrived in Cartagena 2 days ago and my feet are hurting already. Mind you, my left knee (the so called bad one) gave me grief on the flight down, so I put a sleeve on it and next thing I knew, my foot and ankle were swollen to twice their normal size. So I aM being somewhat cautious.

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    Our beautiful afternoon ar La Nona reserve near Pereirra was followed by a gorgeous clear evening with a full moon. We stood in the yard and looked at the moon and stars for quite some time before a good sleep on our hard bunks. We awoke just before light to the sound of pouring rain. Oh no! Worst case scenario. Couldn't imagine how we'd make it along a slick wet path for 20 mins in the pouring rain. Fortunately ot stopped by 7:30 when we needed to leave. And just before we'd seen the kids go out with just umbrellas and rubber boots to go to school.

    We bid goodbye to our guide Mauricio at the "town" end of the path. Tipped him well for guiding us and carrying bags. Then husband and I piled in front seat of willy jeep with the driver and Maria and her youngest got in back, having erranda in Pereirra. We bounced along spewing fumes to the airport.
    Arrived early for our flight to Medellin. Had some great coffee and did internet. Started to pour rain again. Stopped in time for our 10:50 flight on Lan. Taxi to Noah and Marcela's place in Medellin.

    Had a lovely couple days in Medellin, this time actually seeing the city. So impressed by the progressive things they've done. Excellent on ground metro system that connects to two wonderful cable car lines. We rode them all. They afford fantastic views of the city. One cable car line crosses
    Forest for some distance before reqching a peak where they're still workong to develop and expand a park. We reluctantly skipped doing park trails there, since we'd had many hiking experiences already. We wanted to get lunch and visit botanical gardens. Did stop and get off to look at one of the Bibliotecas (libraries) the city had built recently. Great modern building.

    Had a nice lunch at lovely outside cafe at gardens. Small, but very pretty place. Lots of university students relaxing, studying on th grounds. Saw a few interesting birds. Stopped by the fantastic structur built for orchid display. People everywhere setting up for an event. A nice chat with a cop standing near informed us that Colombian President Santos would be speaking ther the next day....
    Everywhere we've been in Colombia locals have been anxious to know how we like Colombia. And theyre really pleased when we effuse. They are obviously anxious to turn the image around and ensure that visitors get to see andknow the real Colombia.

    Ate 3 meals at a nice outdoor pizza/italian joint in our Estadio nabe. Were we lazy or what? But food was great and it was a great corner for people watching. Finally on our last eve we took a cab to the more upscale nab of Poblado. Had a drink at one of many bars ther and then foumd the well known Carmen restaurant there. They seated us on the quiet inner patio area complete with bubbling brook
    And tropical plants. Great service and delicious food. A very eclectic menu. Chef/owners are a US/Colombian. Most expensive meal yet- $113 for two included a. Ouple rounds of drinks, salads,
    Entrees, and a shared dessert and tip.

    Spent our second day in Medellin downtown in centro. Lots of walking. Lots of people down there ona Friday. Very intense. Enjoyed the Museo del Antioquia- A beautiful art deco building itself. Entire 3 rd floor is Botero paintings and sculpture. Botero was born in Medellin. Alos many of his sculptures in the plaza facing the museum. Earlier we had stopped by another large plaza where his bird sculpture stands that was damaged(and many people killed) in a bombing a decade ago. Botero agreed to do a second sculpture next to it, but only if the damaged one would remain as a reminder of that day's violence.

    Actaully managed to find a onderful and cheap hole in the wall restaurant recommended by Noah.
    Mango Madura (or something similar). Delicious set menu for about $7 for both of us.

    On our last am in Medellin I went off to have a $20 french manicure and pedicure and husband went off in search of a Colombian bike jersey. Both wer successful. Then it was off to Cartegena.

    We flew out of international airport, since we went Avianca and that's where they leave from. Though domestic airport is close in, this one is about an hour's drive from the city, about as long as the flight.

    Now we're here in beautiful but hot Cartagena for 5 nights. Happy to say that Susan in Toronto managed to spot us in town and we two and our husbands had a delightful long lunch yesterday, exchanging travel stories. We're very happy with our no name secret b and b located inside the walls.
    A beautiful plant filled courtyard and great breakfasts. A balcony area that allows us to do a little over the roof tiles birdwatching. Have so far circled the town, sat in plazas, watched the sun set into the sea
    From the cafe del mar bar on the city walls. Walked to and explored with decent English speaking guide the San Felipe fortress. Had a terrific steak last night at the Patagonia restaurant (Argentine steak house). And mor to come. . . .

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    Managed to fill our 4 days in Cartagena simply walking around enjoying the town, sitting in the plazas taking in the scene.   Had a great dinner at La Vitrola, well known restaurant with nice nightly combo playing Cuban music and also at Salou, another lovely spot where we had a nice cht with the chef and some delicious ceviche.   

    Thought of taking the bus to our next destination, Santa Marta, but our B and B owner suggested shared van door to door transport instead.   At $60 for both  this was considerably more expensive, but also eazier since the bus station is 45 min to hour from the old city anyway.  

    So next am we were picked up at 10 by a nice van.   We stopped at another hotel and picked up 4 others and we were off.   Cartagena to SM, about a 3 1/2 hour drive on a great toll road, was a pretty and interesting drive, quite alot of it with sea views.   Driver pointed out vendors selling iguana eggs along the way, which he of course said were delicious.

    Our driver dropped us at a hostel in tje heart of Santa Marta, where we had arranged to meet a taxi driver willing to drive us the 30 minutes on bad road to Minca, a very small town above Santa Marta.   Hostel admin was  nice enough to let us in off the street, use the bano and wait in shade inside.  It was fun for us to see the inside of this very busy hostel, as we'd never been a part of that scene when younger.  Our taxi driver and Minca resident Luis arrived as scheduled and we drove up and up, bouncing along to Minca.
    Minca is just a handful of simple houses, church, school, a couple lodgings, and a few small tiendas and restaurants along a narrow river.  It's become a jumpimg off point for several outdoor mountain actvities.   The center of "town" hosts a few pool halls.   As husband remarked, apparently locals are unable to shoot pool without blasting nonstop music.   We were dropped at Hotel Minca up a driveway from center.   This former convent, hacienda is now owned by the ProAves organization in Colombia, and hence frequented by many birders, as well as other general tourists.   Rooms are rustic but comfortable, new big baths, some issues with hot water.  Paid about $60 a night.    Big porch on the back that overlooks valley with view of mountains in distance, hummingbird feeders on porch draw 7 species of hummers.    Breakfast is included, but simple lunches and dinners are also available for $10.  We spent 5 nights here.   Walked twice a few miles up a dirt road to a local swimming hole, great and beautiful road, saw lots of good birds.   Another day we walked in the opposite direction a few miles to a waterfall.  Also a nice walk. Minca is on a small narrow river.  We enjoyed walking along the river on Sunday, where there were many families out swimming and rleaxing around the little restaurants and bars along the river.   Lots of people around the next day as well as loclas seemed to have a few holidays for Carnaval pre ash wednesday.   In Minca We met some folks from Barranquilla who were escaping carnaval in their town.  Met others later who talked about how much fun they always have.  We didn't bother trying to go as we heard lodging in B was ridiculously expensive during carnaval.    

    After 5 nights in Minca we were transported by 4 wheel drive truck to our last pro aves reserve El Dorado  up another 2 and 1/2 hour drive on impossible road.   This is the nicest of all the 4 visited.  New lodging with nice beds, new baths, and hot water showers with pressure.  A two nice two story lodge common area.  Good wi fi there.  A big patio in front.   Hummingbird feeders.  2 or 3 fairly easy well maintained paths.   One leads to a great mirador with beautiful mountain a nd sea views.  They are trying to attract condors to the area, none seen yet though.   We walked those paths one day with a local guide.  Today (my birthday) we hiked up the road in front of the lodge (1900 meters altitude) to 2700 meters, walking from 7am to 4:30pm, taking our time looking at birds, stopping for a picnic lunch at a small lagoon with beautiful views.   A great day and not a bad effort for a woman of my advanced years. . . .

    Lots of activity around the lodge the last two nights (where we've been among maybe a dozen guests at most.   BBC Animal Planet people arrived to film a segment on Colombian wildlife.  Trailing them are two Chinese guys doing a documentary in the making of the Tv segment.    Tomorrow we'll recover from today's walk!

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    It was a lot of fun to run into you, Judie! We got home very late last night (actually early this morning) and it's raining and windy here - winter storm, so I'm glad I'm not going anywhere today. Back to work on Monday, so I may work on my trip report.

    Looking forward to reading the rest of your report.

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    Back home now, so will wrap up my report of the last week or so of our fabulous two month trip.

    I spent some time dithering over where to spend some last unplanned days of our itinerary before we needed to be back in Bogota for our return flight to the States. Husband was interested in perhaps going to the Los Llanos area - between Bogota and Venezuela - for a look at different terrain (plains area). I was interested in a little relaxing beach time. We considered different ways we might stay in or visit Tayrona National Park or go further toward Guajira peninsula. Found it difficult to locate overnight options in Tayrona in between ridiculously expensive (the Eco-Habs) or simple hammocks (thinking we're too old for that). A recommended spot in Guajira was full for the time we wanted.
    Locals we talked to discouraged us from beach at Santa Marta or Rodadero - saying the beach wasn't that great and there were hassling vendors. Though some did seem to think the Irotama resort - with its own nicer beach- would be worth a stay. When I contacted them, available rooms were going to run more than $300 a night. So, in spite of reports that characterized Taganga as a ratty backpacker haven, we signed on for 3 nights at a little b and b up the hill a bit from the Taganga waterfront. Turned out to be a good choice.

    So our transport arranged by the ProAves org bumped us down from our last bird reserve. Stopped briefly on the way down to the coast at Minca to drop off one of the ProAves guides. And then we were off to Taganga, a bit of a fishing village just over a mountain from Santa Marta. We got a breathtaking view of the Taganga Bay as we rounded the mountain and came into the village. Have to say that this was definitely the nicest part of the drive, as the road from SM to Taganga is marred by alot of trash (as are many side streets in Taganga itself). In fact, if we'd not known what awaited us at our b and B Casa Los Cerros, we might have turned around. A fair number of vacant buildings in Taganga too. . BUT behind a garage door/fence painted with "perros bravos" is the most delightful lodging. Here a charming Frenchman and his lovely Colombian wife have their home, a small pool with cabana and two separate ensuite rooms for lodgers (each with outdoor space and hammock in front). From this distance any way Taganga looks great. From the pool, cabana, and rooms, we had a beautiful view looking beyond the rundown side streets directly to the bay. We enjoyed a couple nice days of just relaxing, swimming in the pool, hanging in the cool cabana, and eating breakfasts and a few great dinners cooked by our excellent host Jean-Luc- great food at reasonable prices. Ana arranged a day trip for us to Playa Crystal beach in Tayrona. We decided we'd done enough hiking for the trip, so rather than bus to the Tayrona entrance and do the long beach walk, we joined a bus trip to the Neguange entrance from which we took a 15 minute boat trip to Playa Crystal, a nice swimming beach with gorgeous blue water. Had a decent simple fish lunch on the beach - offered by a single purveyor during the week. Nice time swimming and sunning, though, like Cartagena, Taganga, and Santa Marta at this time, it was VERY windy.

    Our congenial host drove us to the Santa Marta airport next day, and we took an easy flight to Bogota. Rather than stay in Candelaria again as we had earlier in the trip, this time we opted to stay in the more upscale north of the city, since we'd explored the other end. Hotels I looked into in the far north were quite expensive, so we settle on Boutique Alma Hotel in the Chapinero area a little further south (Calle 57 or so). Nice enough area near a university. Rather charming older building. Efficient young staff, many of whom spoke English. Fabulous shower (you can see how I missed a good shower). We had two full days left to enjoy Bogota. Day 1 we just walked, and walked, and walked. All the way to Parque 93 from our hotel. An afternoon rainshower sent us into Juan Valdez on the park, where we waited for rain to let up and just people watched. . . Later that eve we had a great dinner at Oyster 69 about a 10 block walk from our hotel.

    We spent our last Bogota day with a former English student of mine with whom I'd been corresponding during the trip. She and her amiable husband picked us up at our hotel at 9:30 and drove us all around the Bogota outskirts for the day. We visited the famous salt mine and several small pueblos around.
    The countryside surrounding Bogota is beautiful. We had great views of the city as we returned. Had a drink at friends apt in the north before they delivered us back to our hotel after 7. It was a great way to end our trip - even if my brain was fried from speaking and listening to Spanish the entire day . . (guess we'll need several more trips to Latin America to see if there's any hope at all for my comprehension)

    Flew back to DC the following day. What an easy 5 hour, direct, no time change flight!!

    Highly recommend Colombia. If I get motivated I might write another summary report with more subjectivity to encourage more people to go now before the hoardes. Because clearly if the country can continue to improve safety - or at least keep a lid on problems - many, many more tourists will be coming.

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    It sounds like the rest of your trip was terrific! I'm glad you enjoyed 69 Oyster Bar - my dinner there was probably my favourite dinner of the whole trip. I also highly recommend Colombia.

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    great report! Thanks for taking the time to write it. we're thinking about Columbia this winter for our escape from DC...although I gather from reports that this past winter we didn't need to escape it was so mild.

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    Thank you for your detailed report!

    I'm just beginning to plan a trip to Colombia in October. Could I convince you to name your secret B&B in Cartagena? It would be appreicated!

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    Glover: I just had the opportunity to read and enjoy this really interesting Trip Report. It is rich with various activities and meals, and oh those birds.

    Thank you so much for posting. Columbia is definitely, now, on our list.

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    Glad you enjoyed, Marnie. Hope you'll go to Colombia, it's really beautiful and people are super nice. I understand from yestravel that plans are afoot for DC GTG, maybe we'll meet there. We're off to Argentina this winter, so have been reading lots of your advice here and elsewhere.

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    I look forward to meeting you at that October GTG in Alexandria, VA. Yestravel and I will be coming together, with her DH - mine is not much on GTGs. Until then, Hasta Luego.

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