Colombian Reflections

Tonight is my last evening in Colombia if all goes according to plan tomorrow and we cross into Ecuador so in 24 days I have managed to get Nelson released from his container ,and driven him across a good portion of this lovely country, survived one pretty big crash, and picked up Errol my first passenger of the trip.

So we are exactly on the plan I concocted in front of my computer in the comfort of my study in Edinburgh but in the detail with a lot of variations as we listened to tips and tricks from local people and other travellers as we went along. So here are a few of my top observations from the trip so far.

  1. We are moving fast and so having to make choices about what to see and what to leave out, cities that could be enjoyed in a few days wandering, are dispatched in a day, and some of the driving days are long to keep to the plan, we could easily take twice as long or longer and still not be bored. However this is a necessary reality of my situation as I am taking time out from a family and life at home to do this trip, and it already will have me away for six months.
  2. So far the diversity of Colombia is its biggest surprise, the massive differences in altitude drive incredible differences in weather from steaming hot jungle in the lower areas, to cool alpine lakes and passes in the heights of the mountains. Today our last day we went from 2000m to 500m and back up to 3000m in the course of a six hour drive so from coffee growing cloud forest to hot jungle and up to alpine cool lakes, all in the course of the one drive.
  3. The development of the towns and cities is moving at a fast pace, all over the country you can see new roads and buildings coming on, when you talk to the people they feel a part of a country which is on the up and up, there is still a good deal of poverty in places, and the displaced refugees from Venezuela are common, but the overall impression is of a country determinedly moving forward and embracing the future after a very difficult past.
  4. I have not felt in any way particularly unsafe even in some difficult conditions (when I caused a traffic accident for instance), the police and army have been very professional and even looked out for me specifically when I was getting the car fixed. The people I have met have all been friendly and interested in our trip, and a great deal of good humour and joy in life are to be found from the salsa music everywhere to the daily interactions with folks across the country.
  5. I wish I had studied my Spanish even more than I did before I came (and I did try quite hard) As it is the Spanish I do have is used nearly every time I stop and was a great investment, step by step I am becoming more confident, but I need to keep studying as I travel to get the most out of the interactions with the universally friendly people very few of whom speak any english.
  6. In the UK we are used to mountains which have been glaciated, so smoothed and rounded by the passage of millions of tons of ice, here the mountains are everywhere and are dramatically steep and unstable with erosion, landslides and even earthquakes scarring the landscape and making it much more dramatic than I am used to.
  7. Finally I wish I had a car with air conditioning, in the highlands we are fine and the fans help, but it would be really a blessing to have aircon in the coastal areas were temperatures are around 32oC and the humidity is stifling.
  8. The kindness of strangers to travellers is confirmed once again here in Colombia, from my friend Ivan who helped me with my accident and took me into his beautiful home in an hour of need, to the Land Rover crazy Legion in Bogota who treated me to a Salsa party at a car show. I have been amazed and inspired by the open and friendly attitude of the people of this great country.

So from the beaches of the Caribbean to the alpine lakes of the highlands and the mural coated walls of the city this is a great country to visit with fantastic diversity in climate, scenery and weather and most friendly warm and interesting people, a top recommendation from me for Colombia. My top tip – learn Spanish and salsa before you come here!

I captured below some of my favourite images of the trip so far

A green tree of hope in the tatacoa desert
Cowboys chatting in the mist of the cloud forest
Free market and a dark past in Medellin
Making friends fixing Nelson after the crash
New friends from adversity
lots and lots of brilliant roads
and days of stunning views
cool alpine lakes
to steamy beaches, all in one day

I wish I had more time in Colombia, but I don’t, but it has been a great start to the tour and everything I could have hoped for, lovely people, real adventure and incredible diversity.

A lot for Ecuador to live up to……….

About Gerry Mulligan

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