Tag Archives: Colombia

Desierto de la Tatacoa

Well, I had already seen the coasts, the forests, the rivers and the meadows full of sky-high palms, so why not see what the Colombian desert had to offer? This was essentially my reasoning when I decided to head down to Desierto de la Tatacoa on my way to Ecuador. It was a short, hot, dry, dusty trip, but the sunset and sunrise over the red desert lands alone were worth it.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

While traveling in Tierra Dentro I had met a swiss couple and they had spoken very highly of Desierto de la Tatacoa, so when I noticed it was en route towards the southern boarder I thought it would make a good pit-stop. I took a Magdalena night bus from Medellin to Neiva, leaving the city around 7pm and pulling in to the desert-like region around 6am. I caught a struck of luck as I walked through the station and found a van “camioneta” filling up outside of the station. I was the last seat, and for 15,000 pesos I loaded my bags into the back and sat down next to two other female travelers, one from Spain, the other from France.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

“Where did you two meet?” I asked. They both looked at me and laughed. They had only just met. We were all solo female travelers, embarking into the great unknown of the harsh, hot, desert. The 40kms flew by as the French traveler shelled out details on places to go in Ecuador, my next destination.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

Our Cootrana van driver stopped at a convenience store, where he told us it was a good idea to buy supplies, especially water because we couldn’t drink it in the desert. I hadn’t heard this, but it didn’t surprise me. The French girl had recently had her debit card stolen while on a bus, so she was short on cash and she opted out of buying water, but I took his word and bought a few big bottles. This turned out to be a lie. The water is available and absolutely drinkable in the desert.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

As we arrived to Desierto de la Tatacoa I caught my first glimpse of the red rainbow ridges of dry, crumbling earth which make up the labyrinth-like desert. It was so beautiful it gave me goosebumps. There was a flurry of excitement in the van. We were here!

Desierto de la Tatacoa

The driver took us to a place called Hostal Noches de Saturno, which he proudly told us “had a swimming pool”. The owner was kind, and after trying to charge us triple what we were willing to pay, he reduced his prices to 10,000 pesos each for a tent, and 6,000 pesos for me with my personal hammock. I ended up sleeping slung up under a roof nearby all the goats and pigs and whatever other animals were there. The food was not great, but it was not bad, and it was reasonably priced, considering we were in the middle of nowhere. We paid 5,000 pesos for a breakfast of eggs, arepa, coffee, hot chocolate and bread.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

After eating, the five of us from the van set off to explore the desert. We embarked on what we thought was the trail into the red desert, but it wasn’t the correct trail, and we ended up getting extremely lost, walking through a field full of cows and cattle, and asking a farmer for directions back to civilization. The two girls who did the talking started to lead us, but immediately they diverted from his directions. Being as Spanish isn’t my native language, and the other two were fluent, I figured maybe I had heard wrong, but I was nearly 100% sure the farmer had told us to stay left after crossing the stream, and that if we went right we were goners. When I voiced my opinion the girls shrugged it off. I decided it was better to stick together than to separate. Two hours later we were still doing circles in nasty desert brush, full of cactus spikes and thorny plants.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

The only saving grace was that the sun wasn’t fully out. As we finally saw the beacon Observatory glimmering in the distance I again started to enjoy the walk, knowing that we were kind of close to where we needed to be. The landscape was indeed beautiful, full of pink blooms on small round cactus plants, and we even startled two wolf-like creatures, black, gray and white, with bushy tails that reminded me of a raccoon.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

Walking in the desert is intense. I was happy I had both a hat and sunglasses, and I smothered on 30spf before taking off, so thankfully I was not burned. I used my hiking sandals, and because we went off the beaten path I had to be extra careful for thorns and debris. For anyone embarking on this hike I would recommend close-toed shoes with a thick sole. One of the girls stepped on a cactus spine and it lodged right through her shoe and into her heel. As you can imagine it was not pleasant.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

When we emerged onto the road, we came out through a very simple restaurant and hostel called El Tigre, and they kindly filled our water bottles before we continued. We had emerged about a 30 minute walk up the road from Saturno, and we ended up stopping at another hostel El Cabrito to refill our bottles again. The owner was making sweet arrequipe balls, and offered us one each to try. This place was totally chill,  with plants and birds and a hammock for each private room.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

When we came back to Saturno, we all crashed. I slept so hard that when a dust storm brutally blew through I could barely be bothered to lift my head. After a solid afternoon nap, I woke up to take a blissfully cold shower, and got dressed to set out for sunset.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

The same group from the morning set off towards the Observatory, and this time we found the “Cusco Loop” as it is called, which was located by an apparently nameless restaurant on the side of the road, with plentiful outdoor seating and a “parqueador”. This is the true path through the exquisite red desert. We sat above it all, soaking in the view and letting the warm desert breeze caress our skin.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

The sunset was magnificent, playing with shadows and light on the already diverse shades of red which stretched out before us. The dark blue shadows of mountains floated in the distance, and the silhouettes of cactus speckled the skyline.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

For dinner, we ate at the lone white restaurant across from the Observatory. Your options were chicken (pollo), beef (res) or vegetarian (vegetariano), and it came with salad, rice, fried potatoes, fried yuca, and juice. It was delicious, and cost 12,000 pesos with meat, or 8,000 pesos without. There was ice cold beer for 3,000 and it was a treat to be savored.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

We heard the Observatory was absolutely worth a visit, if the sky was clear, but unfortunately it was mostly cloudy. After dinner we spread out and marveled at the stars we could see, until the clouds swallowed them up. I did, however, happen to turn my head just at right time to catch an amazing shooting star as it soared across the sky. I’ll let you know how the wish turns out.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

We called it an early night, and as I settled into my hammock I was hot, but was so tired I fell asleep instantly. The next morning I woke with the noises of the animals, before the sun, around 5am.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

I decided to get up and considered walking to the “Gray Desert” which was located 8km in the opposite direction of the “Red Desert” which we had seen the night before. A small group from Saturno was planning to go there by motorbike, a 30,000 peso tour offered by the hostel, but in the end I decided to go back to the beautiful red desert on my own. Two skinny dogs accompanied me, and were playful companions throughout my morning sunrise walk.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

The Cusco Loop was absolutely beautiful and I was happy I was able to experience it. I took my time, exploring off the beaten path, but always coming back to it, as I had learned the day before that I have zero sense of direction in the lands of the desert.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

On my way back to Saturno’s I decided to have breakfast at a hostel called El Posada del Sol Verano or Doña Lilia’s place. It was delicious, and the place was gorgeous. I would definitely recommend staying there. Doña Lilia was a sweetheart.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

When I finally walked back up to Saturno’s I arrived at the same time as two police officers on 4-wheelers. They were rolling up to take a police report. The Spanish girl had taken a morning walk to the Gray Desert and had been robbed at knifepoint by a young kid on a motorcycle. He had stolen her money and her cell phone. I was instantly grateful for my four legged companions who had stayed by my side the whole morning, barking at every motorcycle or bicycle or car that approached us. Apparently robberies are not common, but you just never know.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

All in all, I was happy to visit Desierto de la Taticoa as it was beautiful, and the one-day, one-night time frame was just right. If you have visited Arizona, New Mexico or Utah in the United States you have had the opportunity to see some spectacular red deserts, but if you have never experienced a desert, or if you love the hot, dry, deserted landscape that comes with a desert, then a trip to Desierto de la Tatacoa is recommended.

Desierto de la Tatacoa

19 Surprising Things About Colombia Which You Probably Didn’t Know…Until Now

Before I came to Colombia, I didn’t know too much about this incredible country. In the nearly two months I spent traveling around, I was constantly exposed to something new, whether it be an interesting phrase, a fact about a new place, or simply something I considered odd, but was really common place in the day-to-day life of Colombians. I wanted to share some surprising things about Colombia which I learned along the way, to give you a heads up for when you visit this amazing place!

1. “Don’t Give Papaya” is an expression Colombians use to say don’t make yourself an easy target. “Close your purse! Don’t give papaya!”

2. “Monas” and “Monos” are people with lighter colored hair.

3. Toilet paper is usually found outside the bathroom stalls, and typically there are no toilet seats.

4. “Chivas” are open-sided colorful school-bus shaped busses which are packed with either people or cargo.
Chiva bus in Colombia

5. In the 90s, Medellin was known as the “Murder Capital of the World”, and in 2012 it was voted “Most Innovative City in the World”. It is inspirational to see how far the people and the city have come. Age of Terror Colombia

6. “A la orden” is a saying you will hear over and over as you walk past or enter shops. It essentially means that they are there to serve you.

7. Yogurt is so liquidy that it’s always drinkable, and there is something similar to yogurt called “kumi” which is worth a try.

8. You will see signs all over the place for “minutos” and there will be telephones with chains attached to a cart, or a person wearing a vest. Colombian payphones

9. “Cuántos cuotas?” is something you will be asked if you pay with credit card. They are asking over what period of time you would like to pay off the bill.

10. Hot dogs are very popular, and often they are eaten sliced and out of a pop-top tin can.

11. Cigarettes are available for individual purchase in many corner stores. Cigarettes for sale

12. Hot chocolate is a popular morning drink, and is served in a bowl which you drink out of.

13. A special treat is to have hot chocolate, or “agua panela” with a piece of queso (cheese) in it, which you eat with your spoon as it starts to melt.

14. Arepas, round cornflower tortilla-but-thicker things, are a staple part of the meals. They are typically eaten with eggs (huevos pericos = eggs with diced up tomato and onion) or cheese for breakfast, and sometimes come with soup. Arepa con queso

15. Soup is included as part of your meal with a typical lunch or dinner, and comes before the main plate.

16. There is a famous artist from Medellin, Fernando Botero, who makes all his figures chubby, but he preferred to call them “voluptuous”. Fernando Botero

17. Valle de Cocora is the only place in the world where you can find the towering wax palm trees, Colombia’s National Tree.
Valle de Cocora

18. Colombia is known as a “world in one country” because they have access to both the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans, and you can find nearly any type of weather and landscape here, from mountains, to deserts, to beaches and rivers and waterfalls. It is phenomenal!

19. Colombia’s slogan for tourism is that the “only risk is that you won’t want to leave'”… And it’s true. Colombia is amazing! What are you waiting for? Come check it out now :) Santa Barbara Colombia

 

Minca Colombia is a Must See for Nature Lovers

Just 45 minutes outside of Santa Marta, Minca is an experience not to be missed. With the rolling tree covered hillsides, plentiful flora and fauna, and refreshing rivers and waterfalls, Minca is a nature lover’s paradise.

World's Largest Hammock Casa Elemento

 After spending nearly a week in the colorful coastal town of Cartagena, hiking along the beautiful beaches in Tayrona National Park and exploring the historical city of Santa Marta, I needed a break from the heat. I set out towards Calle 11 where I caught a 4 person “collectivo” group jeep taxi for $7000 pesos each.
The 45 minute ride out of Santa Marta and up into the mountains of Minca flew by as I shared travel tips and stories with some “travel brahs” from England and an Australian girl. The Brits were going to Casa Elemento and I decided to go to Casa Loma with the Aussie. It was a steep 20 minute hike up a path behind the town’s church, to the right. I had brought all my belongings, so I was loaded down. When I finally got to the top, I dropped my bag, and gratefully accepted the glass of water that was handed to me. Then I turned around and reveled in the breathtaking view that stretched out before me.

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 My first night in Minca consisted of one of the oddest gatherings I have ever attended, but my next two days were just what I was looking for.

Carpa Roja

 As I came down for coffee the next morning, I selected an open seat next to a guy studying Spanish. I had intended to do some work of my own, but soon we were talking, and I came to find out he was from Iran and his mom owned a flower shop and taught floral design classes there. That certainly caught my attention! Then I found out he had been traveling South America for the past two years, and he was chock full of advice on places to see and explore. How cool! I tell you, when you’re traveling, everything and nothing happens by chance.

Minca

 My new Iranian friend had already hiked to one waterfall that morning, and was setting off for another in a few minutes with a French couple. I liked his energy, and happily accepted his offer to join them. The next two days were full of exploration in nature, swimming in rivers, eating fruit from alongside the road, hiking to miradors and checking out all sorts of unique hammocks and coffee plantations along the way.

Colombian Flowers

 If you have two days in Minca, and like to hike, check out these two options. If you get tired along the way you can always cut a hike short or hail a motorbike or taxi in the road- nearly all will be open to driving you to where you need to go for 20,000 pesos or less.

Pozo Azul

 Day 1– Set off for Pozo Azul and spend the day hiking up the river, stopping to sun yourself on the rocks and swim along the way.

Pozo Azul

 All locals can point you in the direction of Pozo Azul, and it’s probably a 30-45 minute walk up the road from the central area in town where all the colectivos and motorbikes wait. The trail is off the main road, and when you reach a restaurant on the side of the road there will be a sign. Pozo Azul is free to enter, and many locals go there to picnic and jump off the rocks on weekends.

Pozo Azul

 We hiked up the river, past the jumping point, and kept going and going until we hit one final, powerful, gorgeous waterfall. With each step we took there were less people and the scenery got even better. It was an awesome way to spend the day, watching birds and butterflies and the wind in the trees, swimming when we got hot, and absorbing the heat from the rocks when we got cold. Make sure to bring food and water so you don’t have to leave due to hunger setting in.

Pozo Azul

 There is a trail along one side of the river, which we took to speed up our walk back. If you would prefer to take that right from the start, it is to the right of the river as you approach it, and it says “Minca Aqueduct”. Technically you’re not supposed to go there…but some rules are meant to be broken. 😉

Pozo Azul

 Day 2– Wake up with the sun and set off hiking for Mirador de Los Pinos, a beautiful lookout point at the top of the mountains. To get there, walk past the church along the same road you would take to get to “the waterfall”. It’s a beautiful walk, with lots of bird sitings and trees providing shade the whole way. There are also dozens of fruit trees lining the road, and we indulged in mangos, jocotes, guava, mandarins, and some other pod-like fruit during the climb.

Colombian fruit

 About 45 minutes after leaving the center of Minca you will come to “the waterfall” or “la cascada”. There’s a 3000 peso cover if someone is attending the entrance, and the waterfall is tall, beautiful and refreshing, but there isn’t much of a swimming hole. We were short on time, so kept hiking, but if you love waterfalls and have the time it’s worth a stop to cool off before continuing on with your hike.

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 After approximately 2 hours, if you’re taking it slow, you will start to see signs for “Casa Elemento“, which means you’re almost there. When you get to Casa Elemento, pause and relax in the World’s Largest Hammock. Maybe have some breakfast or a cup of coffee, and ask them if they’ll draw you a map to Los Pinos and La Victoria. If you’re feeling too exhausted to continue, you can always have them call you a motorcycle as well.

World's Largest Hammock

 If you’re fit to go on, Los Pinos is another 15 minutes up the hill, always keeping to the left, and walking through a coffee plantation. If you’re lucky, and the season is right, you will encounter delicious “mora” or black berries along the way.

Mora

 When you finally get to Los Pinos you will feel so accomplished! It’s a spectacular view, and the tall pine trees at the top provide shade and add a freshness to the air that, when mixed with the breeze, is pure bliss.

Mirador Los Pinos

 If you want to turn this walk into a loop, rather than retracing your steps, continue on down the road for another hour or so until you come to La Victoria, on the right hand side. Stop here to learn the history of the oldest operating coffee plantation in Colombia. We didn’t take the tour, but we had the most delicious sandwich ever, and ended up talking to the German property owner, Mickey, who told us about how he came to negotiate with the Guerrilla back in the 80s to get this property back after they took it over from his parents, who bought it in the 50s.

Minca

The coffee is free, the food is phenomenal, and the Nevada Cerveceria is there, brewing its “Happy Jaguar” and “Happy Toucan” in the old chapel on site. Despite being tucked away in the mountains, over 24,000 tourists have been registered here in the two short years that they have been keeping track of their visitors. It is such a cool place to visit.

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After walking the property, you could grab a bite and a beer and recharge at the La Victoria restaurant, or you could even take it with you to eat later as you make your way back to the road to continue on down the hill. You will actually run in to Poza Azul before getting to Minca, so if you didn’t walk up the river, as previously suggested, you have another chance to indulge in a spectacular nature hike. Whatever you do, if you’re a nature lover and a river lover, don’t miss the chance to hike Pozo Azul!

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When the time comes that you must leave the paradise of Minca, there are always jeeps and rickety cars waiting to bring you back to Santa Marta or wherever you must go. If you’re in a rush, you can pay the whole taxi fare, ~28000 pesos, or wait until the car is full, at ~7000 pesos a person.

Minca Colombia

In my time in Minca, I stayed at Casa Loma, which was a steep 15-20 minute hike up the hill and to the right behind the Church, and I had the pleasure of visiting Casa Elemento while I hiked up to the Mirador Los Pinos lookout point.

Casa Elemento

There are quite a few hostels and guesthouses all throughout Minca, especially en route to Casa Loma, and most have either the option of either private or shared rooms, or a hammock. Casa Loma is close to the village, serves food, and had a stream of tourists pumping through when I was there. Casa Elemento was much more removed from Minca, being a whole motorcycle ride up the hill, but it had an epic view, a massive hammock, a swimming pool, and on-site food, plus tons of fruit trees all around.

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As you can see, Minca is absolutely amazing. A trip here, whether it’s a day, a week, or a month will leave you feeling naturally refreshed by re-establishing a connection with the great outdoors. Take a break from the city and take a trip to the paradise that awaits you in Minca, Colombia, a must see for nature lovers. 

Take Your Time and Enjoy Tayrona National Park

The gentle rustling of palm leaves mixed with the crash of the ocean waves. A smell of salt in the air.  A deliciously refreshing breeze washing over me as I walked the soft, sandy path which separated the jungle from the aquamarine waters of the Caribbean. I reflected on the three days I had spent in the Tayrona National Park, and I couldn’t help but be filled with gratitude for the opportunity to explore this marvelous place.

Tayrona National Park

As I travel the world, I make it a priority to explore National Parks. I am at my happiest when I am able to be one with nature. Tayrona National Park, however, is a great mix for people who need some “modern amenities” but who still want to get lost in the pure beauty of nature.

Cabo San Juan

 Getting to Tayrona is easy, which probably aids the number of tourists who come here. From Santa Marta, it takes about 45minutes to an hour to arrive, depending on whether you take a public bus (~5000 pesos) or a mini-tourist bus (~10,000 pesos). Upon arrival to the park, you must first watch a welcome video which explains about the ecosystem of the park, and also touches on “Dos” and “Don’ts” while in Tayrona. After watching the video, which plays in Spanish but has English subtitles, you will be given a ticket which then allows you to get in line to buy your entrance ticket. If you’re 26 or under, with a valid student ID and a passport your entrance will be 8000 pesos, but if you’re older, or you don’t have an actual passport and student ID then your entrance fee will be 39,500 pesos.  *Note that you need an actual passport or photo copy- a picture on your phone will not qualify because they must make a photo copy of the passport. Being the “viejita” (little old lady) that I am, at 27 years old, my student card didn’t make the cut, but my 19 year old friend didn’t ‘get the discount either because he only had his passport picture on his phone… Be prepared, and reap the benefits of a discount.

Tayrona National Park

 After purchasing your entrance ticket, you can either walk 5km along a road to get to the point where the trails actually start, or you can pay 3000 pesos for a mini-bus and save your energy for walking in the park. We opted for the bus, and it was money well spent.

Tayrona National Park

Once in the park, the trails are well maintained, with wooden walkways and handrails leading up and down steep areas. If you have hiking sandals, use them. Even though the path is soft, you will be happier if you have shoes which are stronger than flip flops, especially if you decide to hike up to the ancient indigenous town of Pueblito.

Pueblito, Tayrona National Park

 After about an hour of hiking you will come to the first set of accommodations in an area called Arrecifes. There you can find inexpensive lodging with a tent or hammock at half the price of Cabo San Juan. This area has a total chill vibe, but you can’t swim in the ocean here- you must walk up the trail approximately 15-20 minutes to find a swimmable beach.

Tayrona National Park

En route from Arrecifes to Cabo San Juan, you will encounter Restaurant Lilli which is right on the beach, and Panaderia Vere, a bakery, which serves the most delicious chocolate, arrequipe, or guava-queso bread you could ever dream of. At 3000 pesos a loaf they cannot be missed. Do yourself a favor and stop here, take a load off, and sit in the shade of the trees, looking out on the little lake behind the house…you might even happen to see a cayman floating about!

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The beach after the Panaderia Vere is swimmable, and also has food options of arepas stuffed with eggs, vegetables, chicken or meat, and cost between 3000-5000 pesos depending on your selection. You can also refresh yourself with fresh squeezed orange juice, or a cup of ceviche, also costing around 5000 pesos. Stick along the coast, and you will sneak up on “La Piscina”, a picture-perfect swimming area with big boulders that you can climb on for fun. Kick back and relax here, or continue on through the jungle trail for another 20-30 minutes to reach Cabo San Juan.

Tayrona National Park

 The second accommodation area of Cabo San Juan is breathtakingly beautiful, but is more “resort like” than the laid-back area of Arrecifes. If you arrive in the afternoon, be prepared to wait up to an hour in line to reserve your lodging, and by then the hammocks might be sold out. Tents start at around 25,000 pesos a person for a single, and a hammock will run around 20,000 pesos. If you arrive early enough, ask if you can get a spot at the little hut on the beach. There are only about 12 hammocks there, and two little sleeping areas up top, but the breeze is phenomenal, and the view of sunset or sunrise is worth the extra cost.

Cabo San Juan

 The ancient village of Pueblito lies a steep 1.5 hour hike up the mountain from Cabo San Juan. The path is naturally formed by boulders, and at times you must grab on to a rope in order to climb up and over the gigantic rocks in the path. This is where you will be happy you have more than just your flip flops. I wore my hiking sandals, and more than one person commented that they were jealous.

Pueblito Tayrona National Park

 Once up in Pueblito, take a seat, eat a snack, drink some water, and imagine what this village was like thousands of years ago when it was bustling with activity. There are still indigenous people living in the village, and you can see them and their hut houses as you pass by a local stand selling cold drinks. Rather than hiking the boulder path again, take a softer trail back which takes you through the jungle and pops you out on the beaches. It is still about 1-1.5 hours hiking, but it is different and worth checking out. Both routes can be seen on the park’s maps which they give you at the entrance.

Pueblito Tayrona National Park

 During my stay I spent both nights in Cabo San Juan, but if I could go back and do it again I would spend one night in Arrecifes and one night in Cabo San Juan, to experience the different vibes of both places. Cabo is always bustling with people and activity, and each night everyone comes together to eat in the dining hall, which can be nice if you’re looking to meet people. The meals are a bit pricey in comparison to normal (25,000 pesos for a fish dinner, 10,000 pesos for an egg and arepa breakfast) but it makes sense because you’re in the middle of no where. You can always bring your own food to keep your costs down, and definitely bring a lot of water (at least 3 liters), because although they do sell it in the park, it’s 3000 pesos for a small bottle. Indulge in the freshly squeezed juice at least one time during your stay.

Tayrona National Park

When it comes time to leave, you can either retrace your steps and exit the park through the same entrance you came from, or you can take a path out to the road from Pueblito, which you can see on the map. I had a few friends who only spent one night in the park, and they opted to hike out from Cabo San Juan via Pueblito to the road, which allows them to “see it all” in just two days and one night.

Tayrona National Park

 I walked back out the same way I came in, stopping to relax and swim along the way. As you leave the park, take it slow. Enjoy it. Make sure to soak in the salty ocean breeze, and to let the sound of the waves and the rustling palm leaves engrain themselves in your memory. Tayrona National Park is exquisite.

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The Period Party

Woooooofff. I had just walked at least 500 steps up a mountain with my overstuffed bags and set them down with pleasure. The hostel hostess quickly brought us water, and we sat there, drinking it down and drinking in the view that stretched out before us: rolling, tree covered hillsides as far at the eye could see. The city of Santa Marta sprawled out in the distance, now over an hour away. 

I started to take note of my immediate surroundings, and noticed that there were many women in the entry room, and more continued to huff and puff their way up into view as they climbed the steps. As conversation began to unfold, I came to understand that they were all gathering here in the woodsy setting of the hostel to have a “women’s meeting” and that I was more than welcome to join. I always love meeting strong women who are active in the community so I was elated at the offer. I set up my hammock, took a quick shower, and joined the women for their early evening gathering. 

There were many red sheets strung up between the trees, creating a sort of red tent, and women were entering one at a time. Outside the tent, one woman was wafting the smoke of a bundle of burning rosemary around each woman who was awaiting entry, and once she had been “cleansed” the tent would open, and a woman dressed in all red placed a red flower “bindi” on the forehead of the woman entering, welcoming her to the tent. 

The whole procession reminded me of the best parts of India, with the smoky scents hanging in the air, and the bindis. As I waited outside the tent, the women were so kind, saying they were happy I had come, and I was happy to be there. I had no idea what I was in for. 

I was welcomed in to the tent, the same way as the others, and I took a seat on the red carpet that covered the earth. There were some other foreigners from the hostel, or transplants to the town of Minca, and we chatted amongst ourselves as we awaited the beginning of the meeting. Spread before us were a variety of delicious treats, and finger-painting like pictures hung above an area with a book, a flower, and a glass of water. Incense was lit and its aroma drifted around us all. 

  

Eventually the last person entered the tent, and the woman in red began to address us all. Everything was in Spanish, as I imagined it would be, and she started explaining to us about the “Tienda Roja” book, which was the basis for this meeting- a meeting intended for women to honor themselves and learn to love their menstrual cycle. 

The leader of the meeting started by telling us a bit of the history of where the idea for the “Carpa Roja” group came from. Historically in some cultures when women were menstruating, they would put up a red tent, and the women would go inside, separate themselves from the world and reflect during that seven day cycle. She went on to describe how each week of our cycle was like a season: spring, summer, fall or winter, and how we should pay attention to the feelings we have during these seasons. She even encouraged that perhaps we make art during our menstrual cycle, and then she gestured up to the “finger paintings” that were hanging in the tent and told us she had made them using her own beautiful blood. I tried to keep an open mind. 

I had heard there would be meditation during the meeting which is part of what drew me in, and there was, but it wasn’t at all as I was expecting. During this meditation we closed out eyes and were told to go back in time, to the day we first received our periods. We were to talk to our past selves and process the thoughts and emotions that arose. Afterwards we were asked to share how we felt about all this. 

At one point, a woman came in to the circle, late and with her young son. When it came time to sit in a circle, hand to uterus with the person next to you, the little boy asked, “What’s a uterus? I can’t feel mine. Where should I put my hands?” This provided some comic relief, and the leader told him to put his hands to his heart. 

During another portion of the meeting all women stood, and a red string was passed from person to person, connecting us all. We then went around and in turn we said who we were. For example, I am Holly, daughter of Lori, grand daughter of Edith, and mother of all my dreams and projects. For each of these things we wrapped the string around our wrists, paying homage to all the uteri before us, and all the uteri that would follow. 

As a closing project, we were given a piece of paper with a chrysalis on one half, where we were supposed to write things we wanted to overcome, and on the other half we were supposed to draw a butterfly, signifying what we would become. Then we left the tent, stood around a bonfire, tore the paper in two and burned the pieces, saying what we wanted to overcome and what we want to become. 

We closed this multiple hour meeting with songs around a fire. This was possibly the most enjoyable part for me, except I was so hungry I could barely concentrate, and the leader kept wanting to sing another and another and another song. After some truly lovely songs about being a beautiful woman who is one with the earth we went back to the tent where we all passed around the treats and reflected upon this unique Carpa Roja group and what we got out of the meeting. It was a long meeting, much longer than I was anticipating, and the whole experience was definitely a surprise to me. I don’t think I was the only one who went in to the meeting blind, I think some others had no idea they were about to join a 3.5 hour long “period party”, but it was an experience to remember, to say the least.

Apparently this is a global group, with meetings in multiple countries, so if you’re actually interested in getting involved, seek it out. In English the book is called The Red Tent and the groups are called The Red Carpet. 

Getting Started with Diving in Taganga Colombia

Travel. In short, it’s all about exploring new worlds and developing yourself along the way. When I left Medellin and set off for Northern Colombia, I had no idea that I was going to put this statement into overdrive, and that I would soon be overcoming my fears of claustrophobia and the deep ocean waters, and exploring a whole new magical world under the sea. One week later I would be a certified PADI open water diver.

Scuba Diving in Tayrona National Park with Octopus Dive Center

 “Holly, the only regret I have is that I didn’t do it sooner.” These words of a trusted friend ran through my mind as I flipped through the pages of my Lonely Planet guide to South America. I had come upon Taganga, Colombia, and was learning that this formerly small coastal fishing town had become one of the best and most inexpensive places to learn how to scuba dive. I figured now was my chance. I might as well go for it.

Scuba Diving in Tayrona National Park with Octopus Dive Center

 Upon arrival in Taganga, I was shocked. The dry and dusty town looked absolutely run down and mostly deserted. I immediately wanted to abort my plan, and head back to Santa Marta and the Dreamer Hostel, where I had just left my friendly new travel acquaintances. But, as always, I stuck it out. I didn’t let my doubts get the best of me. I had a kind Couch Surfing host lined up for 4 days in this town, and the least I could do was meet him and take a walk around Taganga.

Taganga Colombia

 It turned out that my host also had a hostel, Casa Tara, and with that he had dozens of connections all around town. Shortly after I set down my massive backpack, we set off to explore Taganga. That’s when I heard the first explosion, a loud crack in the sky that made me duck down for cover. I looked around with panic in my eyes, and my face clearly asked the question that was running through my mind: What’s going on??
“Let me explain,” said my host. As we walked down the dirt roads towards the Main Street we heard half a dozen more “fireworks” being released into the sky. Apparently I had come on a holiday weekend. It was Friday, and Monday was the day of Saint Carmen, the important saint who helps and protects the people and fisherman of Taganga. It was going to be a weekend of celebration.

Taganga Colombia

 After popping in to a handful of dive centers which lined the streets of Taganga I decided to go with Octopus Dive Center. My Couch Surfing host had formed a relationship with them years before, and when I really couldn’t tell a difference between one place or another I decided a first hand recommendation was my best option. Plus, the woman at the front desk had the name Ada, which is the name of my home town, and she made me feel at ease from the moment I entered the office. I ended up getting started that same day, watching 4 hours of PADI preparation videos to familiarize myself with everything I needed to know about scuba diving before I took to the water.
The next morning I woke up, did a bit of yoga and meditation, and set off for Octopus. At 8am, the office was bustling with clients. I met my dive instructor, Chopper, and he set me up with a wetsuit and shoes, and we hopped into the boat, where he started explaining to me about my oxygen tank and how to set it up.  Around 8:30 we hit the sea. There were approximately 20 people in the boat, a mix of experienced divers, beginners, and instructors, and we all braced ourselves against the splash of the waves as we set off for the waters of Tayrona National Park.

Octopus Dive Center

 Once we arrived, everyone started splashing into the water. Chopper went over the list of activities we would need to perform that day: I would practice putting the regulator breathing device in and out of my mouth, I would practice sharing the “octopus arm” extra breathing regulator, I would fill my mask with water and clear it, and I would take off my mask completely and breath for an entire minute without it, and he would also simulate what it was like to not have air by closing the valve of my oxygen tank.
As soon as I put my face mask on I felt nervous and claustrophobic, and by the time I hit the water I was considering backing out, but before I knew it, I had strapped myself into the equipment and Chopper was in the water with me, signaling for me to deflate my BCD (buoyancy control device) and to let myself sink below the water. It wasn’t so bad at first. I was breathing under water. But then we immediately started going into the exercises. I panicked and kicked up to the surface, starting to hyperventilate. Chopper emerged right after me.

Scuba Diving with Octopus Dive Center

“What happened?” he asked, with a kind of coach-like jostling.
“I panicked!” I said, as I started to tremble. I was seriously thinking to myself, Screw this, I will just snorkel for the rest of my life. Chopper could tell I was really scared, so he swam me to the shallow area, and let me calm down, then we tried again. This time I didn’t have a problem. Taking my mouthpiece in and out, using the coordinating hand signals, even clearing my mask of water were all ok tasks, but when it came time to take off my mask and breath for an entire minute under water without it I freaked out. Chopper quickly plugged my nose for me, and then I regained my sensibility that I could indeed breath through my regulator, and that I wasn’t doomed just because I didn’t have my mask on.
My next task was to shut off the air and experience what it felt like to be out of air. I again became unreasonably scared. Until that day, I had no idea I was capable of crying under water, but apparently I am. Chopper swam me around, showed me some fish, and after a few minutes I was ready to do it…and it wasn’t even that bad. All these tasks are vital to experience if you’re going to be a diver, I just needed to warm myself up to them.

Scuba Diving in Tayrona National Park with Octopus Dive Center

  By the end of our first diving session, I was so grateful to be done and out of the water. Everyone was taken to a nearby beach for a snack break, and it was there I met a girl from Costa Rica who spoke highly of diving at a place which had always called my attention: Isla del Caño. This made me realize that there was so much I could continue to explore if I became certified as an open water diver. The rest of the day I did my swimming tests, and when we got back to mainland around 1pm, I started to study the exam material.
I spent the late afternoon doing yoga on the Taganga beach, where I met a wonderful local woman who invited me to do a sort of acroyoga using cloths and hanging from the sky. This had always intrigued yet intimidated me, but I figured why not accept her invitation and give it a try. In a matter of minutes I was climbing the sheets like a pro. This helped remind me that you will never learn a new skill if you don’t give it a try. By sunset, I was feeling really good. I was happy for overcoming two sets of fears in the same day, and I was excited to approach scuba diving again the next morning, determined to overcome my fears. I watched the sun sink in the sky as the boats came in for the evening to unload and sell their catch of the day. The massive fish were impressive, and I was excited to see them alive and in their natural environment the coming day.

Taganga Colombia

 Day two was more fun right from the start. We went deeper, practiced using our own breaths to float in place, and we practiced sharing air as well as navigating with a compass. I was very lucky that I started at a time where I happened to have my instructor all to myself. Chopper was encouraging and attentive, and literally held my hand as I overcame my fears of being deep underwater. I was in awe as we swam over yellow sea worms, through schools of fish, and between coral mounds, admiring the world under the sea.

Scuba Diving in Tayrona National Park with Octopus Dive Center

After our scuba sessions that day, I decided to take the exam. That way the next day I could dive at peace, and enjoy the festival for Saint Carmen with the rest of the Octopus crew. I ended up scoring 100%, and left the office with pats on the back from all the instructors.
Day three of diving was full of excitement and exploration. I went on a “fun dive” with a large family group, as Chopper had two new beginner students. We found lobsters, eels, an octopus and hundreds of colorful fish ranging from the size of my pinky finger to the length of my torso. My second dive I completed with Chopper, and at 18m deep he proudly scribbled, “Congratulations! Open Diver Certified!” on his underwater clipboard, and shook my hand.

PADI Open Water Dive with Octopus Dive Center

 As we retuned to the diver center, it was time to celebrate. Anyone and everyone with access to a boat was taking them up two towns, to party and dance and float about in the sea. They invited me along for the ride, and off we went, laughing and splashing and smiling as the sun sparkled on the waves in the sea. It was a celebration unlike any I have ever experienced. There were hundreds of boats on the water, and soon people took out buckets and started throwing water onto the passengers of the other boats. From time to time all the boats would come to a stop, and people would jump out and swim, or climb and roll down a sand dune, or hop from one boat to another. They were some of the wildest hours of my life, and I was without a doubt the only foreigner in the midst of all the madness.
As the boat ride came to an end, the party took to the streets. Taganga is typically a party town at night, but this night was beyond all the rest. Everyone was out drinking and dancing in the streets. It was really special to be with people who had lived their whole life in Taganga, and to go from person to person meeting them and hearing a bit of their life story in between rounds of dancing.

Taganga Colombia As my time in Taganga came to a close, I was amazed as I reflected on everything I had experienced in my long weekend there. I had devoted my energy to developing myself, and in the process I had overcome tremendous fears, earned myself a PADI Open Water Diver certification, and I had gotten to know the people of the town on a personal level. The small fishing town which had originally felt so foreign now felt a bit more like home. As I set off on my next adventure, exploring Tayrona National Park, I knew that Taganga would always have a special place in my heart, and that every time I embark on a dive in the future, I will always remember my time with Chopper, and be grateful to my wonderful Couch Surfing host for introducing me to the Octopus Dive Center.

Taganga Colombia

 

*Scuba pictures courtesy of Octopus Dive Center. All others taken by me.

Climbing El Peñol the Gigantic Rock of Guatape Colombia

When you first spot the great rock of El Peñol de Guatape it is impressive. As you get closer and start to clearly see each individual step you must climb to reach the top it is downright intimidating. However, don’t let this stop you from actually climbing El Peñol! The 360 degree view of the surrounding lush, rolling hills which pop out from the man-made reservoir is worth each one of the 740 steps it takes to reach the top.

El Peñol Guatape, or El Penol Guatape

 As you make your way up, pause frequently; enjoy the view. Think of all the work that went into constructing these solid, concrete stairs that you’re climbing. Take note of the air plants which cling to the rock, and run your hands over the rough texture of the walls, noting the different minerals and colors that come together to make up this gigantic wonder.

El Peñol Guatape, or El Penol Guatape

 When you make it up to Step 675 of El Peñol breathe a sigh of relief -you’re technically at the top! However, you will quickly notice that there is another large structure, with more stairs, which tempt you to climb them for an even better view. You might be tired, but trust me, those next few steps are worth it!

Climbing El Peñol Guatape, or El Penol Guatape

 At the top of the rock there are snacks, refreshments, and trinkets available for purchase, so why not have a look? If it’s a warm day and you’re in the mood for a treat, enjoy an arequipe and queso ice cream on a stick while listening to the traditional music of the Colombian country people and soaking in the spectacular surrounding view.

View from El Peñol Guatape, or El Penol Guatape

 The first person to climb El Peñol was Luis Villegas back in 1954, and he was the visionary behind putting stairs up to the top so others could enjoy the view as well. At the very top there are many artistic facades, or  zócalos, honoring him and his dream.

Luis Villegas and El Peñol Guatape, or El Penol Guatape

 The way down from El Peñol is a different route from the way up. By the time you reach the bottom, your legs will probably be shaking. Again, take it slow and enjoy the journey. Once at the bottom, head up the road to the magically colorful town of Guatape.

El Peñol Guatape, or El Penol Guatape

 The town of Guatape is covered from the waist down with the impeccably painted zócalos depicting different flowers, animals, cars, or scenes of traditional Colombian life, like the famous “silleteros” who carry things like flowers from their farms to the cities in containers on their backs.

Silleteros

 Back in the 1980s the leaders of Guatape decided to beautiful the town, and thus began the creation of the artistic zócalos. Because of this, easy to spend hours wandering about Guatape, enjoying the cheerful colorful houses, and admiring the details of the town.

Calle de Recuerdos in Guatape

 If you are traveling in Medellin, Colombia, then a day trip to El Peñol and Guatape are definitely a “must” on your to do list. From climbing the rock to exploring the town, you will be happy you took the time to come out and explore.

Calle de Recuerdos in Guatape

Two Weeks Traveling Colombia

When my mom was planning our travels around Colombia, I was little to no help. I was in India, with intermittent access to Internet, attending a yoga teacher training course that kept my days full with meditation, yoga, and lectures. I told her, “Go for it! Whatever you want to do, I’ll do, and whatever we end up doing will be great, because we will be together.” This gave her free range to plan whatever she wanted. She utilized a Lonely Planet book and TripAdvisor, and ended up planning an incredible, off the beaten path, 9 day adventure-packed journey around Colombia.

Guatape

 The journey started in Bogota, Colombia with a group of flower enthusiasts known as the World Flower Council. With this group, we visited a local market, breezed through the Gold Museum, walked around the city and stopped in the beautiful Botero Museum, full of statues and paintings done by Colombia’s own Fernando Botero. We also had the chance to visit the countryside outside of Bogota and to see three different and distinct flower farms: Jaroma Roses, Alexandra Farms, and Eclipse Gardens.

Jaroma Roses

 From Bogota we caught a plane to Cali, Colombia, where we enjoyed four days of learning about floral design and connecting with hundreds of other people involved in the flower world, all in the name of “World Peace through flowers”.

World Flower Council

 Our solo travels started out the Monday morning after we finished up with the World Flower Council and Iberiada floral summit. We set off on a day-trip to Cordobá, where we embarked on a wild ride on a “brujita”, a wooden bench cart which is pushed by a motorcycle on a train track to the jungle town of San Cipriano. We spent the day enjoying all San Cipriano had to offer: a cool and refreshing river to swim in, delicious fresh fish meals and coconut muffin tortas, and an extremely rugged yet rewarding hike through the jungle to a waterfall.

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 The next day we set off for the town of Silvia, near Popayán, where we spent hours and hours  walking around the town’s Tuesday market and mingling with traditionally dressed locals.

Silvia Market Colombia

 From there, we set off on the mountain roads less traveled to get to San Andrés de Pisimbalá. The drive was full of breathtaking moments brought on by the both the spectacular mountain views, as well as the treacherous driving conditions. It was all worth it in the end, because our hotel in San Andrés, La Portada de Hospedaje, had the most genuine, hospitable owners and the best food of our whole trip.

Driving in Colombia

 We spent our day in San Andrés on horseback, riding through the mountainsides of the archaeological sites of Tierradentro, climbing down steep stairs to see some amazing ancient tombs which were well-preserved with their wall paintings and carvings.

Tierradentro Colombia

 When it came time to leave Tierradentro, we drove through the hot desert-like Huila region of Colombia, pausing to take a look at one of the biggest rivers in the country, The Magdalena, before we arrived at the microscopic airport in Neiva, where we caught a domestic flight to Medellin, the city of eternal spring.

The Magdalena River Colombia

 Medellin was impressive right from the start. As we spent nearly 30 minutes driving down a mountainside to get towards the impeccably clean El Poblado neighborhood we were able to observe the sprawling city and its beautiful mix of green space. While in Medellin, we took a free walking tour, which explained a lot about the city’s difficult past while highlighting its transformation which makes it the “New Medellin” that it is today.

Real City Tours Free Walking Tours Medellin Colombia

 Just outside of Medellin are the flower metropolis farmlands of Santa Elena, and we spent one day touring a beautiful hydrangea farm, learning about the growth process, and also oogling over the 3000 species of award-winning orchids that made up the personal collection of the owner.

Orchids in Colombia

 After a few days in the city, it was time to get back in touch with nature, so we set off for El Cañón de Rio Claro, a beautiful and completely affordable private nature reserve. The two nights we spent there were absolute bliss, with our open air room allowing us to have a birds eye view of the lush jungle that enveloped us. We could hear and see the river rushing below and we were at the same level as the colorful toucans who perched in the trees across the river. The reserve also has an amazing and intense hike through a marble cave, which involved trekking through the jungle, jumping into deep pools in the dark cave, and walking through stretches where creepy nocturnal birds cackle like goblins.

Rio Claro Colombia

 When our time in Rio Claro came to an end, we knew we only had one day left before we would separate our paths. We spent the last day driving to the massive rock known as El Peñol, and climbing the 740 steps to the top where we were able to indulge in a 360 degree view of the surrounding flooded mountains. The rock is near the cute and colorful town of Guatape, and after we descended from El Peñol we wandered the town, enjoying the beautifully painted houses.

Guatape

 One more long drive brought us back to the same hotel we had left only a few days earlier in Medellin. There we unpacked and re-packed, shared photos and reflected on the amazing trip which had just come to an end. My mom’s great energy and good attitude always make her my favorite traveling partner, and when I had to say goodbye the next morning I knew my travels would be quite a bit different as I continued on exploring Colombia without her.

Guatape

Driving the Colombian Countryside to Tierradentro

“If I hadn’t had two years of living in Costa Rica for training, this would be quite intense,” I said to my mom, as we both breathed a sigh of relief after passing through yet another mud pit on our way from Silvia to Tierradentro.

“Well, this is still quite…exciting,” she replied, having finally selected a word that truly captured the moment.

Driving in Colombia

 We had set off from the small town of Silvia only a few hours before, climbing up into the mountains on a lesser-traveled route to get to San Andrés de Pisimbalá, the closest town to the historical tombs of Tierradentro.
Our driver had selected the current route after asking around town and finding out that the main road to San Andrés was blocked by a landslide which had taken place 15 days prior. What we didn’t know when we set off, however, was that this new route we were taking was perhaps even more treacherous.

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  As we got higher and higher into the mountain range, we became further from civilization. Soon, we were in the middle of nowhere, in a misty fog, and the road had turned into sloppy muddy ruts from the wheels of the busses and motorcycles that had passed on before us.

Driving in Colombia

 We safely passed our first little landslide and mud patch and the road reverted to its normal compact dirt country road.
“Thank goodness that’s over,” said my mom. She had no idea we were only just getting started.

Driving in Colombia

 We spent the next five hours crawling through the mountain roads. The views were beyond breathtaking, with mountains upon mountains as far as the eye could see, and lush green countryside all around, but the roads were in terrible condition from the rain.

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  From time to time we would encounter an unmarked fork in the road and our driver would always look to me, and say, “What do we do?” or “Qué hacemos?” in Spanish, like I had the answer. Thank goodness that despite being in the middle of nowhere, we always seemed to find someone who could confirm our route, whether it was a child, a cowboy, or a “mala indígena”, a “bad indigenous person”, as our driver said under his breath after he got directions from a man cutting plants alongside the road.

Driving in Colombia

 “What’s mal??” asked my mom, snapping to attention when she recognized a word in Spanish. When I told her what the driver said, her eyes opened wide. She had done a lot of research for our Colombia trip, and the guidebooks had mentioned that the mountains around Tierradentro had a reputation for being a guerrilla stronghold. As we continued on our muddy, hilly, beautifully dangerous route, her mind ran wild with what-if situations where we got stuck in this desolate mountain region.
 At one point we were behind a “chiva”, a bus-truck that was full of people with supplies they had bought at the Silvia market down below. We watched as the men unloaded bag after bulging bag of rice and beans and other various supplies that would have to last for the next month until they went back into town to buy more.

Driving in Colombia

 Along the route we also had several encounters with horses carrying loads of sticks, which would be used as cooking wood in the houses. It was quite funny because usually these horses or donkeys would appear in our path right as we finally had a dry, straight patch of road where our driver was hoping to make up for lost time and go a bit faster.

Driving in Colombia

 One horse ended up galloping in front of us for a few minutes before darting off to the side of the road and another swayed its hips from side to side slowly walking in front of us, apparently unaware of our existence, with no owner in sight.
The last stretch of the drive was some of the most nerve-wracking of the whole five hours. Our driver was a champion, carefully easing his way down through the steep muddy stretches, maneuvering around busses and horses, and maintaining his calm when the going got tough. When we finally arrived to San Andrés de Pisimbalá, and immediately found our hotel, La Portada de Hospedaje, we all could have kissed the ground with gratitude and relief.

Driving in Colombia

 The next two days were spent blissfully relaxing at La Portada, in the quiet town tucked in the lush mountains of the Huila Departamento, and exploring the awe-inspiring archeological tombs and indigenous statues found in Tierradentro.

Step Back Into Time at the Tuesday Market in Silvia Colombia

“It’s like walking into a scene from National Geographic,” said my mom, as we stood in the middle of the bustling market in downtown Silvia, Colombia.

Silvia Market in Colombia

The items for sale were nothing too out of the ordinary, but what stood out were the hundreds of Guambino people, in their distinct traditional clothing, who had come down from the hillsides for the weekly Tuesday market in Silvia.

Silvia Market in Colombia

Although the people have their own language, they also speak Spanish, and I was extremely grateful that I could engage them in conversation. After warming up with some market talk they were more than happy to let me snap a few photos.

Silvia Market in Colombia

My mom and I were just about the only foreigners there, so we were as interesting to them as they were to us.

Silvia Market in Colombia

We walked around the marketplace for hours, trying different exotic fruits and local fried snacks, and conversing with the vendors.

Silvia Market in Colombia

People started to recognize us, and on more than one occasion we were solicited for pictures as well.

Silvia Market in Colombia

The Tuesday-only market in Silvia doesn’t have too much in the way of artisan goods, but there are several stands selling their traditional clothing and jewelry. You can find the black dome-shaped hats, and the knee length skirts; the knit shoulder bags and wool scarves; the stacks of white beaded necklaces and the pink or teal-edged  blanket shawls; and the beautifully embroidered straps which the women use for a variety of things, from holding up their skirts, to strapping their babies to their backs.

Silvia Market in Colombia

We happened to compliment one woman on her spectacular beaded necklace and she took it off and sold it to us on the spot, then found us a few minutes later and sold us her sister’s necklace as well! You can bargain if you want, but their crafts are so beautifully made and high in quality I figure it’s worth it to pay a bit more than the locals and invest your money in their community.

Silvia Market in Colombia

Before we left we sat down at one of the food stations in the “restaurant” corridor. The meals all appeared to be the same but different, serving either sancocho soup, with big chunks of potato and yucca, or a traditional rice, beans, salad and protein plate. Coffee and juice were flowing, and sweet treats could be found for sale in the main market. We opted for some cookies made from panela, which is a block of sugar derived from sugarcane. They reminded us of molasses.

Silvia Market in Colombia

By the time we left the market and the surrounding square, we were beaming from ear to ear. The experience was so traditional yet so exotic. We knew we had experienced something special, and that it would live on in our memories for years to come.

Silvia Market in Colombia

As we set off through the mountains, on our way to Tierradentro, we didn’t know if the day could get any more interesting…but boy oh boy did it ever. If you want to read about Tierradentro and the exciting drive there, click here.

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