Week 35 & 36. Salento, Medellin, Cartagena and Minca. Colombia.

Salento is Colombia’s famous  coffee region. I stayed in the stunning hostel serrena, a 20 minute walk outside the town with the most amazing views. I  visited a local coffee farm. It was lovely but a little commercial.

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Freshly picked coffee beans in Salento
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Traditional weaved baskets in Salento
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Traditional coffee machinery
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Salento’s transport system

Dinner that night was grilled trout which is famous in Salento . The town is really pretty and there was horse racing going on between the locals. Amazing to watch. The following morning I made my way to the Cocora valley, famous for having the tallest palm trees in the world. This place is stunning and you can do a 6 hour loop to enjoy all of the scenery. I somehow got horribly lost. Everyone I asked for directions to the palm trees looked at me blankly? After hours of trekking I got back on the route and eventually found the bloody trees. Midway through I had a pit stop at a bird sanctuary where I sampled the local delicacy of  hot chocolate with a lump of cheese. Hot chocolate and cheese were perfectly fine separately. Together….. minging

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The Cocora Valley from a far
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World’s tallest palm trees
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Me in Salento
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Cocora Valley

I had the best surprise phone call a few weeks earlier when 3 of my great friends from home decided to surprise me with a 2 week visit to Colombia ; Orla, Meg and Holly. Subsequently we had two new recruits to the group Meabh and Corinne who were going to be travelling at the same time. I made the exciting journey  back to Medellin to meet the girls for  round two of Colombia. I was so excited to meet friends from home for the first time in 9 months and delighted to be going back to one of the coolest cities Medellin.

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A throwback to  the last time seeing O

Holly did the honors and booked us into a  penthouse apartment on top of the trendy Selina hostel. Poor Meabh and Corinne were slumming it in the 20 bed dorm (my usual stomping ground!). We spent 5 days in Medellin hitting up the usual sites. The girls came seriously equipped. Not mentioning any names but someone had brought 10 pairs of bikinis for 1 day at the beach. I’m currently living off 1/2 a bikini for the past couple of months. Smuidiu, curlers, hair straighteners and buckets of clothes were produced. I forgot how rough I have actually been living.

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Meabh and Meg in Communa 13
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Making my first Colombian TV appearance
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Graffiti Tour, Medellin
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The gang at Communa 13, Medellin
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Me, Holly, Meg and O at Guatalupe
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Making mates in Guatape

So menu del dia is  every backpackers best friend . A soup, main course, juice and postre. It’s cheap and cheerful albeit a little rustic. You get good bang for your buck because your stuffed for the day (Dom you would lap it up). On our way back from the walking tour we were starving so with a few objections everyone was eventually convinced to sit down for their first menu del dia. It was one of the best I’ve had in Colombia and the cheapest. Happy days. Not everyone agreed  and it was the first and last of the menu del dia for the foreseeable.

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Holly lapping up menu del dia

For some reason the girls didn’t want to get the 21 hour bus to Medellin so we treated our selves to the 40 minute flight. I insisted we all take a trip to the local Bazurto market wanting to show the girls some of the more rustic Colombian culture. This was a short and not so sweet visit. Myself, Meabh and Coco were doing the food shopping for dinner that night while Orla, Meg and Holly made a swift exit once they entered the fish and meat quarters. The used condom beside the meat was the straw that broke the camels back (fair). I absolutely love this place and was so happy to be back. The more chaotic the better.

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Hygiene is taken very importantly in this market (especially by this chap)

That night was more salsa and this time we were paying a visit to Cartagena’s famous Cafe Havana renowned for its amazing dancing and live music. It didn’t disappoint. The Colombians take salsa very seriously and Coco was hands down the star of the night and could have easily been mistaken for a local salsa dancer. I on the other hand not so much….. Mid way through I got the nibbles so we all ventured out to taste the local arepas. A simple pleasure turned into a nightmare as I was nibbling away at my pineapple arepa when arepa woman pushed Meabh over and grabbed 20,0000 out of her hand ( my change!) saying we didn’t pay enough. Things escalated and a fight almost broke out. We found our afterwards that arepa woman is dangerous and is constantly involved in dodgy dealings. We were told to steer very clear. So it was one of my most expensive Colombian meals I’ve had. I’m sad to say it was a shriveled up arepa. Anyway all relieved to have survived angry arepa woman we made it back to the club to boogie the night away.

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Me and O at Cafe Havana, Cartagena
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Coco, Meg, Meabh, Me, Holly and O in Cafe Havana
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Cuba libres go leor

The following morning a very hung over bunch of girls were bundled into a sauna of a bus en route to a local volcano where you can go swimming in mud. Midday through we considered abandoning ship about to pass out with the heat. We eventually survived the journey and made it. It was the most bizarre yet hilarious experience I’ve ever had. We were all practically naked getting bathed in this mud by local Colombian men. As per usual I went overboard and dunked my head in and spent the next week trying to remove mud from my ears. I still can’t decide if I found it relaxing or just weird. Really handy gig for the Colombian men who spend their day massaging women in mud.

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An alternative hangover cure
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O in the height of it
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Holly clearly enjoying herself
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Delira

Next stop was a visit to Isla Grande. We made the last boat by the skin of our teeth. This was slightly more luxurious than my last visit here. This time I had a bed as opposed to sleeping on the pier getting beaten by waves. We spent our time eating delicious seafood, drinking beer and swimming in the Caribbean sea.

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Isle Grande
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Enjoying Caribbean life
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Beautiful Isla Grande

The last time I was here myself and Nils adopted the most legendary dogs who stayed with us for 3 days. This time I came equipped with chorizo and dog food dying to reunite with the stray dogs, Jonathan and Lorraine! I was chatting with a few locals who said that Jonathan hadn’t been seen in 5  days. They were well-known on Isla Grande. I did a deal with one of the locals who didn’t care about the dogs and only wanted to sell snorkeling tours. The agreement was the girls would do a snorkeling trip with him in exchange for finding Jonathan (not dodgy at all!). Jonathan was eventually located on a private beach on the other side of the Island with his mother Lorraine. I got a boat to meet them and spent the rest of the day feeding them. They escorted me back to the pier later that evening where we went swimming together.

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1 year old Jonathan waiting for his chorizo
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Me and Jonathan chilling on our own private beach
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Love
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Going for dip with Jonathan

Our last night in Cartagena was a gorgeous one where we splurged and  went for a lovely dinner.The restuarant we picked is where all the local politicians eat. Food and setting were divine. I got lost en route back from the loo and ended up in the kitchens where I got a little tour. This place was the real macoy especially the sea food. But the star of the show was a stunning warm coconut pie. Thanks Una for the special treat. Also thanks O for the guna I clearly don’t own anything that fancy.

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Back with my main slice

En route to the bus station to Santa Martha  I realised I had lost my laptop and camera in the air B and B.  Luckily I had planned to return to Cartagena a few days later to catch a boat to Panama so was able to organise their pick up. Once again blessed with the amazing Colombian people. When we arrived in Santa Martha  I realised I left my food bag in the taxi. Miraculously we had exchanged numbers with the taxi man so he contacted me and returned the goods. I was so so lucky as it was laden down with loads of chocolate from home, a thing I have been desperately craving (Thanks Ann for the delicious present). I am progressively becoming more and more of a mess at loosing things.

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Sampling Cartagena’s coffee scene

Next stop was Minca one of my favourite places in Colombia. Myself, Coco and Meabh on a budget decided to do the 3 hour trek up to Casa Ellemento. This was a stunning walk and we stopped off for a much-needed  dip to some gorgeous waterfalls.  Later that night we met up with the rest of the girls who  had gotten motorbikes to the top.

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Local waterfalls in Minca
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Bird watching in Minca
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The best of mates. These parrots hung out in our gorgeous hostel in Minca

After dinner and a dance one by one each of the girls started vomiting and getting really sick. Everyone was in ribbons except for me (surprisingly). I think at this stage my stomach is made of stone after my 6 week vomiting stint in Argentina. It was horrible and I felt so bad for the girls as it was there second last day of the holiday. The next day I piled them all into a jeep to bring them to a nicer quiet hotel. This place was an idyllic paradise that no one could enjoy unfortunately. The owner Grace acted the Mammy and looked after everyone making us all chicken soup and lemon teas. Orla was late joining the sick brigade but did so in style later that evening. I wasn’t escaping either and was the last to join but by the end of the night we were all dying. So the last day of the trip wasn’t exactly as planned but es la vida. Meabh perfectly described our room as a naked infirmary. I would say the owner was over the moon to see the back of us all.

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Me and Meg in Minca
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Pre sickness in Minca

Having friends from home was amazing and completely un expected. The best surprise I could have asked for. Girls thanks so much for coming and all the goodies you brought. Memories to cherish. Through sickness and in health. I couldn’t have asked for a better bunch to be puking my ring up with!! 9 months in and I am most definitely nackered so spending time with some of my closest was just what the doctor ordered.  I think the buses, backpack and stresses of travel have caught up on me. Holidays and backpacking are definitely a different kettle of fish. Anyway the show must go on and I am looking forward for some Panama adventures.

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Hasta luego chicas

 

 

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