Colombia is hardly anything like the movie ‘Blow’ would lead us to believe…for the most part. But try telling that to your mom.
Here are 6 ways to tell your mom you’re going to Colombia.
1) You’re not going to get kidnapped, but you might fall in love
Kidnappings, especially of tourists, are a thing of the past. Besides, the last time a high profile foreigner got kidnapped in Colombia, she was Colombian (Colombian-French, that is) and had rubbed the people in the president’s office the wrong way. So unless you’re planning on heaving your butt over here for a political throw-down with the dudes in the Big House, chances are you’ll blend in just fine.
Do be wary of the Colombian vixens – once they get a hold of you, there’s no turning back!
2) The only export beginning with C that’s worth sampling is Coffee
Colombia’s reputation as the world’s cocaine kitchen is one that brings shame to the face of anyone you talk to. And to be honest, if it’s the cheap coke you’re coming for, put 20 seconds of thought into how much money you’re planning to spend on the plane ticket to get here. Not only does the cocaine trade destroy the fabric of morality and respect throughout the communities through which it moves, it also destroys the environment and the livelihood of the coca farmers by forcing them to supply raw material for an illegal market.
Despite producing some of the world’s sexiest coffee, the stuff you’ll find in the average Colombian’s daily cup, known as tinto, tastes like the wrong side of a shoe: That’s because most of the good stuff is exported. There is a growing number of businesses and aficionados set on swinging that trend and believe me, the perpetual caffeine induced panic attack is worth every drop of quality Colombian coffee. Check out jesusmartin.com or email@example.com for enough coffee porn to make you wet.
3) You’re going to get educated‘FLORES LIBRES DEL MANGLAR BY GUACHE’ BogotaStreetArt.com
The arts are alive in Bogotá. Street art is everywhere and it’s about as raw as you can get to brutal Colombian pride and humor (local artists feature renowned university professors). Community projects are springing up in major cities to educate and support kids from poorer barrios, like bogotagrafiti’s co-operation to provide creative outlets for communities around the capital, and Gerardo Nieto’s contribution to Cartagena’s international Film Festival by providing training for disadvantaged in media production.
To top it all off, museums are open for free on the last Sunday for every month, in the capital, and you kick it with the best of the philharmonic symphony on Friday nights for as little as 17,000 pesos, or $8.50.
4) You’re going to get fit and start that detox
Colombia’s landscapes and terrains offer more action and adventure than you can poke a hiking pole at. It’ll set you back less than $5 to get the bus out of Bogotá for a day hike, rock climbing or a relaxing day in several surrounding hot springs. Fork out a little more if you can endure the 10 hour bus ride to San Gil and have a crack at white-water rafting, abseiling or paragliding. Just to the east lies the Sierra Nevada de Cucuy, one of the wildest and rawest 5-day hikes you can do in the country.
To boot, Bogotá is home to the largest bike circuit in South America, and every Sunday more than 140kms of central city roads are closed between 7 and 1 for cyclists, joggers, walkers, adventurous grannies, dogs and street mimes. Normal people are not permitted.
If you’re more of a night-owl, then get your booty on and take salsa classes. Nobody wiggles like a Colombian wiggles, and salsa is to Colombia what Vegemite is to Aussies. If your mom gets around to asking you about the price of alcohol, you might want to change the subject and reassure her that you promise not to accept drinks from strangers. Don’t bring her home a bottle of aguardiente, though I suspect that once you’ve had one or two big nights out on the stuff, not buying that extra bottle to take home as a reminder won’t be such a tough decision – and if anyone offers you a local drink known as chicha, run. Run far, far away and don’t look back.
5) You’ve definitely packed your toothbrush
Colombian food has its ups and downs, but nothing beats the fruit. Vendors line the streets of most cities selling copitas of various fruit for as little as 50 cents. Traditional dulces such as obleas (wafer sandwiches filled with arequipe, candied milk and coconut), and cocadas (toasted coconut mixed with sugary, pasty nom-noms: that’s Spanish for feed me more) are never more than a stone’s throw away.
Fruit to be included on your to-eat list must include grenadilla (what you get if you cross passionfruit with pomegranate), guanabana (what you would get if you could milk a durian, without the foul smell), lulo (what you get when you make apple juice taste exciting) and of course the tropical fallbacks, mango, papaya and pineapple…you’ll never taste anything like it.
But with all that sugar running in your system to cleverly counteract the caffeine high you’ve been on for the last 8 days, a quality toothbrush is the least you can bring.
6) You’re going to make friendsvia TravelAdventures.org
Any attempt to speak a little Spanish and try your hand at the occasional salsa moves will go down as a treat for your hosts, though you will most likely find that you’re being pawned as a source of English practice – a skill which can open doors of which the significance is hard to gauge for people from westernised countries.
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