So, my vacation to Colombia is over and I feel the need to recap, or sum up, or write something to put it all in perspective. I am home and already looking forward to my next vacation.
The country is beautiful. It has mountains, beaches, old cities, new cities, public artworks, churches, cafes, bars, murals, trees, and anything else you can imagine. It is beautiful to look at and be enveloped in.
The people are friendly and funny. My interactions always left a smile on my face. The service level is not up to Japan standards–but few places are. Despite warnings, I was never charged “tourist prices” and nobody tried to cheat me. There were a lot of touts and aggressive sales people in major tourist areas, but there were also helpful people. The overall English level is not like Costa Rica, but the onus is on the traveler to learn a little Spanish before they go.
The prices are still wonderful and make traveling there very very affordable. Even taking a cab ride (when you feel the need for safety or don’t want to walk) is incredibly cheap.
There is a lot to see that is worth seeing, from museums, to natural sights.
There are lots of available activities including; rafting, surfing, zip-lining, tubing, kayaking, hiking, paragliding, climbing, off-roading, and others.
My day rafting was quite fun and reminds me yet again that I should do more rafting trips. I should probably do the Grand Canyon.
The food options exist for vegetarians–though this is not always as clear as it should be.
The second tour, or add-on to my tour (the Lost City Trek) was well organized and well run. I am not sure it redeemed the first part or not, but it gave me something to think about.
The activities that I chose rather than the group ones were awesome. This included meeting my students, taking a city bike tour, visiting bookshops, paragliding, and museums. I should always trust my instincts.
Thanks to illness and the physical nature of the trip, I lost ten pounds. This might be an “every cloud has a silver lining” kind of thing, but I will take it.
It was great to choose a place that was outside my comfort zone. It was also good, despite my complaining and worry, to take on a tough physical challenge. I am not sure I will ever do an intense hike again, but never say never.
The first part of the tour was billed as multi-sport, but really only included one unimpressive hike and one day rafting. I don’t really consider this multi-sport and felt kind of let down. This tour is obviously new and really needs some refinement. The country is vast and there are lots of things that could be done instead of the things that were chosen for us.
The tour was also badly run because there were no contingencies in place and our guide was not given any power to affect the decisions.
The guide gave many city tours that focused on places to eat and drink. I know that the guide eats for free if they bring a group of people. That’s an acceptable way to do business, but it starts to feel old after some time.
Managing a group takes skill and organization. This trip lacked that kind of leadership and as a result really amped up the pressure and bad feelings. Half way through the trip, I was convinced that I would never take another G Adventure. I envisioned getting home and throwing out the brochure that I just got.
I am pretty sure it is time to stop traveling the world with a group of strangers and travel with the people who are important to me.
After conflicts with my roommate (some of which were caused by the odd arrangement of the room (in one hotel the bathroom lit up the entire room, making it hard for him to ignore my bathroom needs during my illness), I think having my own room is a must.
They seem to be building more camps, or enlarging the camps on the Lost City trek. This might mean better comfort, or it might mean more people on the trek. The greater commercialization of the route is also bound to happen. If this is something you want to see, do it before it becomes crowded like Machu Picchu.
Colombia is good value for money now. It isn’t going to shoot up overnight, but they are doing a lot to increase tourism. This is a destination you should plan on visiting in the near future.
The food was generally good. I would say they prepare chicken better than beef, but this is only a generalization and you should make up your own mind.
Take the Bogota Bike Tour. It was awesome. It was more than a bike tour. It was food, coffee, culture, history and politics. I wish I could do it again.
Visit the Botero museum. If you don’t know what I am talking about, do some Googling and you might discover something quirky and interesting.
The craft or artisanal beer market has broken wide open there and there are some good brews on offer.