Off the beaten paths travels in Colombia, South America!
Meet the latest travellers in our series Interviews on Off the Radar Travel Destinations!
This week, we have with us Gemma and Craig from Two Scots Abroad – the ridiculously good looking couple from Scotland are currently living in Vancouver, Canada, enjoying some slow-paced travel after a mad five months on the road. Craig has lived in Vancouver before and wanted to take Gemma along to see if she’d consider immigrating in the future and guess what? She’s in.
Gemma and Craig are on an 18 month career break to travel the Americas and Europe. They are currently in month seven having spent the first five months in the States, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia and Cuba. They are due to leave Canada for Central America in January – back to a warmer climate!
The pair have done some really fascinating travel journeys such as five weeks in South East Asia in 2013 to test whether they were travel compatible (Craig passed!) for this career break. Today Gemma will be talking to us about their travels in Colombia.
Tell us a bit about yourselves and your travels
I’ve been travelling since I was 19, beginning with an interrailing trip around Europe with friends and the rest was history. Craig was more of a city breaker before we met, chasing the Moto GP bikes and DJs around Europe. When we met we both made it clear we wanted to travel, once the time was right at work I applied for a career break, which was granted. Then the focus was to sell our stuff and save £20K in one year! We kicked off the trip in March in New Orleans, losing two nights of our lives to that hot mess then moving on to Austin for the music festival, SXSW. We’ve been hiking, biking and diving in South America at a fast pace (so much to see) but have decided to slow things down now. It’s not physically possible or beneficial to your travel experience to keep that kind of travel up! However, that ‘two nights here, one night there’ type of travel did allow us to sneak Colombia into our itinerary, and for that we are grateful.
Why did you choose to travel to Colombia?
Word of mouth – everyone we met in Peru and Bolivia that had been to Colombia said we had to go. Craig worked out the dates, figures and flights, making it possible to fly to Bogota from La Paz and spend three and half weeks there. I wish we had longer but I think we covered a lot in that time without feeling too rushed. The Western media would have you believe that Colombia is dangerous (my Mum has just started watching Narcos…) so we hadn’t even considering it. This is not true! Colombians are the most positive nation of people we’ve met, and many of them have been through a lot of pain in the past few decades.
Where did you stay?
We followed the typical travellers’ route – Bogota to Santa Marta, Costeño Beach (not that common, highly recommend it), Tayrona National Park (very common), Minca in the mountains, Palomino, Cartagena, Medellin, Salento (El Mocambo, farmhouse come hostel!) then back to Bogota.
What were some of the interesting parts in this place?
It’s so varied – Bogota is the capital, it rains every day and it is pretty grey in architecture but the street art movement is massive so that brightens the streets up. Santa Marta is a small town where lots of Colombians go on holiday; travellers tend to use it as a jumping off point for the beaches and Tayrona in the north (all of which are reached by local bus.) Cartagena is a walled city full of colourful buildings. Medellin was one of our favourites, and it’s hard to pinpoint why. Salento is a sleepy town surrounded by coffee farms.
Highlights (and difficulties, if any) of your stay?
We met a Colombian called, Ricardo, for like five minutes whilst in Peru. We swapped details and he insisted we hooked up when we arrived in Bogota. He had clearly been practising his English since we parted; he became our Rolo (someone from Bogota) tour guide for the day. He bought us lunch and answered all of our questions about life in Colombia. That’s typical of Colombians, very kind.
Consteño Beach was such a hoot. We partied on the beach with really cool travellers and even tried to surf (no one should attempt to surf unless a pro in those waters!)
Tubing in Palomino was relaxing but the biggest highlight was Medellin. I think the main reason for this was the Real Medellin Walking Tour. The tour guide, Pablo, walked us (and about twenty others) around the streets of Medellin for two and half hours sharing his stories from the past and convincing us of the progress that Colombia has made from the days where ‘the man with the same name’ had control. A local jumped up and shouted ‘thanks for coming to Colombia’ – the people really are grateful
What were some of your favourite dishes/food there?
Aw man, Craig couldn’t stop eating empanadas. He had three in one day! I liked the patacones, a deep fried type of banana which isn’t sweet. Craig tried the breakfast meat soup, Caldo de Costilla, I stuck to huevos (eggs.) My ultimate favourite meal was breakfast in Tayrona – fresh bread filled with chocolate from Panadería. I must have been a stone in weight!
Would you recommend Colombia to other people? Families? Solo travellers? Backpackers?
Without sounding like a representative from Colombia Tourism, there really is something for everyone – beaches, cities, history, coffee, mountains, parks, art. The bonus is that it is not overcrowded with tourists (yet) like Peru.
What’s next on the horizon for your travels?
A rainy winter in Vancouver for Two Scots Abroad then a bus trip down to Seattle and Portland to see just how hipster it is! Then we randomly fly to Orlando, I’ve yet to meet Mikey and I love the fairground, flights were cheap so thought why not?! We then spend a month or two in Central America before flying back to Europe for five months of travel, slowing making our way back to Scotland via Germany, Croatia, Slovenia and Spain. In true traveller style, this is all subject to change. Who knows, we might find another ‘Colombia’ in our midst!
Two Scots Abroad (Gemma and Craig) have downed tools as teacher and tradesman and are traveling The Americas on an 18 month career break. They are currently living it up on the Sunshine Coast of Canada after four months in North, South America and Cuba. Catch up on their stories of trekking to Machu Picchu; diving in Cuba and discovering that Colombia is safe, friendly and not full of druglords as the Western media would have you believe at Two Scots Abroad.
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