Por que (Why) Colombia?

Naturally Colombia was on my list for this trip, you ask what trip, I presume. My second trip to South America of course. Well, I officially had left South America to live in Panama, but Colombia is right next door. Any who one of my objectives this round in South America was Colombia…and Brazil in case you were wondering what else was originally on the list. HA

Besides being on the list because I had heard so much about its hidden treasures, people, culture, and the outdoors I had settled on Colombia long before people told me about it. My first interest came from art actually. While the second came from a search engine while looking for most beautiful rivers. These are the two reasons I was truly intrigued to head to Colombia. It was not the over touristy Cartagena, nor the sexy women…or some sexy men, nor the friendly people, nor the drugs, nor mountains, or what ever else people generally go there to see/do.

Art, my first interest came from college while studying Spanish…I later made it a degree minor. Maybe my first semester or maybe it was the second class of college Spanish that I had to do a project and presentation about something culturally Spanish. Way back in 2002 or 2003. We were guided with choices. I stumbled upon an artist in Colombia named Fernando Botero. A painter and sculptor from Medellín (He now lives in Europe, Spain most likely). I literally knew nothing about him but soon grew to love his different form of paintings.

The second interest came from a River found on the internet. Really, who selects vacations based on random internet photo searches. Well this river let me tell you was called the river of seven colors, Woah! Instant hit in my book. Plus it was unknown to most (not as much the case today, I mean 400 mainly Colombian people a weekend, still not much, right) because it lies in FARC territory…a hem…drug war, political unrest! Well that was until 3 years ago when the governments army regained the territory. I have known about this secret gem for maybe 7 years…since about 2007.

Well I finally made it to see both! Botero was great. Seeing all I had previously known and much more I was over joyed. While getting to the river was a complete adventure.

So let me tell you more about this artist. He paints and sculpts everything in obesity form. Yet his models are far from what turns out on canvas or in bronze. He just has a different perspective on things and likes volume…give him a break he is Latin. As he says ¨Lo que digo es que no son gordas, sino voluminosas¨ ¨esta la deformación para exaltar el volumen¨ (basically VolumE). I went to two museums, one in Bogotá and one in Medellín. Bogotá´s is free and is well worth a look as it has other famous artists. Plus the collection of Botero is quite large. The museum is called…here we go ¨The Botero Museum¨ and is located in the Centro in La Candelaria across from the new library…just up the road from the Cathedral (one of the largest in South America fyi…3rd). Visit the museum if you are there! Then in Medellín Botero donated a ton of huge bronze sculptures and historical paintings…in the Museo de Antioquia (not free, and we tried to get in as locals, I am gringa….did not work… $5 worth it, get the 2pm guide) and outside of it in the Plaza de Esculpturas. It is perfectly safe to snap pictures here in the plaza…outside of it, NO. In Bogotá it is not safe in Candelaría or in the centro to snap fotos…maybe in a group or with few people around.

His paintings were entertaining to view as they depicted history and culture of both Colombia, Medellín, and Spain. Plus it explained his life, for example his youngest son died in Europe in an auto accident (like decapitated)…it was so tragic that him and his wife divorced and then she committed suicide….Sad :(. Plus all paintings were large form and with random peepers or mosquitos (to occupy space or to tell the viewer there was something strange about the person or people within). Also to note, his sculptures can be found around the world, and I have always notoriously searched for them, I remember seeing them at least in Santiago, Chile recently and Lisboa, Portugal before that…maybe more but…they also are often on world tours.

Finally the adventure. Let me tell you it is safe first. Also so you know, the FARC still exist but many are chilling in Cuba and have moved from this lovely spot. Likely the most secure town I have ever seen, military roam at night, there is curfew on the river at 5pm, lots of military movement and protection. No lights on the street, all alone…no problem..dude at the corner is neither drunk nor homeless sleeping…it is the military trying to scare you by not moving while carrying big guns!!! Only places secured by military can be visited, there are other parts I wanted to see that I saw on my way but we could not visit.

So this river is called Caños Cristales in Spanish, It lies in La Meta in the town of La Macarena. To get there you travel by road or plane from Bogotá. Best time to go is June to late October. I went early November and it was the last weekend because the river was drying up…basically this is a river fed solely by rain…it had been 15 days since the last rain…it rained the full day that I was leaving. The easiest way to get there is by plane. Many come on package deals…but you save more 100s of pesos going solo. I went solo. Either way you need to get to Villavicencio, Colombia. I bused there. If you do that it is Terminal 2 in Bogotá and once in Villavicencio you need to go to the airport by taxi…it is like 12 pesos…maybe cheaper on the street but I never tried since none seemed to be passing. There are a few flights from Bogotá now on Sartena and maybe Air Colombia. I would recommend getting the hotel in advance if your going on the weekend (number to one below), they seriously sell out! I did not have luck at all…well I did..ha…I turned it down…dumb! Guides are needed but you can get them there by joining a group in the am or telling the tourist office at the airport. I joined in the morning because I arrived on Thursday…most fly on Friday…arriving before 9 Am. If you get there after 9:30AM it will be harder to find guides. Guides cost 100 pesos, but in groups should cost no more than 30 pesos.

In Villavicencio´s airport you need to charter a plane unless you reserved one. There are several companies, I used T&A (tia) and it was cheapest, I checked the others, and it was more frequent. There are two options, a cargo plane and a Cesna…maybe one other a bit larger. The cargos fly Friday (7AM) and Saturday only, I think they return on Sunday (2 or 3 pm) from La Macarena! All planes cost RT 390,000 pesos (all other amounts add the zeros…forgot… multiples are 1000s in Bolivian pesos ….2k was 1 dollar when I was there). Also at the airport there is a restaurant with cheap food…no ATM….get money before this trip….I think 800 thousand pesos plus is safe including flight. Hotel was 30 and up, food 10 or less, guide 30 a day, extra for transit and entrance (5k for entry 1x, 15 car x #days x 20 x #days) and gifts (not many there), misc. Then again bring extra as you never know when one needs the hospital…yep checked that out too (there is one there, be happy)…efficient for Latin’s and useful….I received one of their common 1x a week injuries.

Erase una vez, a girl named Tarae went to Colombia to see the hidden, far away, Caños Cristales. She took the above info and made it there by bus then plane. Her plane was a ___(1)____ (cargo plane, small comercial flight, cesna). It was her first time, she was ____(2)_____ (excited, scared, nervous). All turned out well. In fact it was her most enjoyable flight. She loved being so close to the earth, it felt like her first flight ever! She even saw a ___(3)____ (bird, monkey, rainbow). She spotted the tiny airport ahead and landed with ease as the ___(4)_____ (han
dsome man, ugly man, man, woman, soldier, horse) picked up her luggage. Off to her reserved hotel room and the stated only left of a massive amount of __(5)_ (100, 60, 25, 35) pesos centrally located, she looked and declined. Returning in 10 minutes in disbelief that the others were sold out or ridiculously priced she was again shocked to know it too was now OCCUPIED! No problem, 30 minutes later with the help of someone from the airline who had a __(6)__ (funny, dull, boring, crazy, enthusiastic) personality, she found a room at a lower price ;). With no one in town and nothing to do she went to the ___(7)_ (tree, plaza, river, restaurant, hill) for sunset and was instantly hit on by a ___(8)____(woman, drunk, soldier, bird, handsome fellow). Day one down she ___(9)___ (went to the only club, to bed, danced in the street, drank a beer, met a nice local)! The next day she found a guide and headed first by boat, then 4×4, then walking to Caños Cristales. It was very pretty, she took many photos, explored solo, swam in warm water, saw many colors of plants, got tan, and took calendar photos by the waterfalls. Yeah! Night concluded with the same ___(10)____ (went to the only club, to bed, danced in the street, drank a beer plus, met a nice local) options. Day two we did the same transit and activities but we went to the top of the river….well as far as we could. The hospital visit was created this day :(. What did she do? Did she __(11)___ (break something, heat stroke, open wound, almost break something, drank too much alcohol, faint, other)? Either way she survived and had a great time….though paying more than she would have for a visit in Perú, it was nothing compared to the US without insurance….ooops. Her last day was spent ___(12)___ (at the hospital, on a canoe, inside from the rain, at the airport, walking around town, having a last meal with her new local friend 😉 To return to Villavicencio she took another type of transport which was __(14)__ (cargo plane, boat, bus, comercial flight, cesna). This was also a great experience for her, and to top it off she smuggled herself into the ride of the package people to get to Bogotá and arrived much closer to her friends house there.

Hope you enjoyed my reasoning and adventure in Colombia. There is more to come soon regarding the other portion of the trip. Below is more info about Botero and of course the answers to above!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fernando_B otero

1) cesna (avioneta)
2) excited
3) rainbow (arcoiris)
4) horse (caballo)
5) 35
6) dull
7) river (rio)
8) soldier
9) to bed (la cama)
10) drank a beer plus (while at the only club way too early for it to be a club)
11) almost break something – What do you think…I think it was a TOE (dedo de pie)
12) inside from the rain, at the airport, walking around town (little of all three)
14) cargo plane (yes, I skipped 13 on purpose because 14 is my favorite number)

Casa Hotel: 3132929925; 3142792764
Kiosko Hotel…walk straight from the airport, past the hospital on the right, a block later on the right is this hotel, it is new and I did not get the phone number. It was 30 a night. (pesos)

T&A Planes: 6648644-Villavicencio; 3142194671 (cell); transportesinternosaereos@hotmail.com

More about this trip here.

Other explorations in Colombia.

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