Reflections on my Trip to Colombia
Holy smokes my trip to Colombia was epic! Or should I say ‘our’ trip to Colombia. I linked up with Whitney in the airport in Bogotá. The meet up went seamlessly. Our flights landed practically at the same time. By the time I was out of the bathroom near the Customs processing point I nearly ran into Whitney as she was exiting her flight. What a nice hug that was! It had been almost 6 months since we had seen each other.
Phase #1: Bogota, Cundinamarca, Colombia.
Our first few days we spent in the Colombian capital of Bogotá. Whitney found us a really cool hostal in an even cooler neighborhood called Chapinero. Before getting to Colombia we knew that our hostal was going to have live music. We thought it sounded epic! Maybe a cool DJ or salsa music. But instead, we got a very close up and loud taste of the Colombian punk and metal scene. We slept with ear plugs the both nights we were there and made sure to eat a big dinner with some drinks in order to fall asleep more heavily. It sort of worked.
On the first night we found vegan food, a craft brewery and a supermarket where we were able to buy some snacks. We had lots of fun getting lost in the streets around our hostal. We felt safe and didn’t have a problem walking around at night. The following day we attempted to visit one of the more touristy sites in Bogotá, Monserrate. We showed up and immediately turned around because of a line out the door that would have taken hours. We googled it instead. Instead we walked to the National Museum and ate at a restaurant that was recommended to Whitney by a Colombian friend. The food was typical of Colombia, heavy and meaty but delicious.
That night we had date night. We made last minute reservations at a restaurant called 7 Cabras. Turned out to be a wonderful choice. The food was really delicious and the cocktails were quality. I had this eggplant pizza and Whitney went for an eggplant casserole thing. For an appetizer we munched on a freshly roasted artichoke. Afterwards, we found a bar for a night cap. Another super trendy and local spot. Overall we spent very little money. Dates in Colombia are very affordable! The next morning we got up super early to take a flight to our next destination.
The next spot we went to blew our minds! Located on the rim of a small part of the Chicamocha Canyon is the Refugio la Roca (Rock Refuge). It’s a small and sustainability built and operated rock climbing hostal. We were greeted by climbers from all over the world and a small monkey named Jacinto. Our room was a small wooden cabin set precariously close to the edge of the cliff. The view was amazing.
We were here for about 3 days. Everyday we woke up early, ate delicious breakfasts (like eggs, fresh fruit or vegan pancakes) and went rock climbing until it got dark. The rock climbing there is world class. Despite that, we had the whole cliffside pretty much to our selves. There were maybe 15-20 climbers staying at the hostal and climbing at the cliff.
On the first day we made friends with (almost immediately) with Kirsten and Zach, who as it would be, were from Colorado. Shocker! We were happy to link up with them and share catches. We ended up climbing with them all the next day and eating our dinners with them. It was nice to talk about Colorado and reminisce about the state that all 4 of us love and come from (in one way or the other).
The climbing here was so good and the scenery was so beautiful that we didn’t want to leave. But we had to move onto the next phase of our epic vacation. What a bummer! On the last day we scheduled for a private taxi to pick us up at 6:30pm so we could climb all day. And we did. By the end of it, Whitney and I were struggling to climb 5.9’s, aka easy routes for us. A few hours later we were in Bucaramanga at a new hostal. We arrived super hungry. After lots of online research, we found out that quite literally the only thing to eat in the area were hamburgers. There were about 7 burger joints within walking distance. We ate burgers and were not stoked about it (especially after finding a really cute Colombian restaurant just down the street that we had missed). Oh well. We stayed for just 1 night so we could fly out of the airport early next morning. We were off to Santa Marta.
Phase #3: Costeño Beach, Santa Marta, Magdalena, Colombia.
In case you didn’t know, Whitney is a surfer. She loves the beach. So it made sense to try and get some surfing in while we were in Colombia. Originally we thought we would go to Cartagena, but instead, Whitney found us a hostal on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Upon arrival into Santa Marta, an airport located so close to the ocean that when you’re landing you feel like the plane will crash into the water, we were immediately sweating. We had a vague idea of how to get to our hostal and set off from the airport.
Before finding the bus we went grocery shopping. We wanted to bring some food to the beach so we could save some money on meals. Turns out we spent the money we saved on beer, but whatever. We loaded up on sandwich materials, fruit, popcorn and Pringles. We were ready.
The bus ride to the beach was beautiful. The Caribbean coast of Colombia is hilly and tropical. Lots of green, plants I cant describe and palm trees. We got off the bus at a taxi stand except there were no taxis, just motorcycles. Turns out, in this part of Colombia, taxis are motorcycles. The drivers took our packs, loaded them onto the handle bars and through us on the back. We road about 10-15 minutes to our hostal on the beach. We passed banana plantations and super beautiful Colombian coastline on the way.
We arrived to a really beautiful hostal set amongst the palm trees. The beach and crashing waves could be scene from the reception desk when we were checking in. Out room was another private cabaña, complete with a hammock, picnic table and mosquito net (amongst the other normal amenities like bathroom and bed). We were 2 minutes walking from the ocean. And that’s if you were walking really slow.
Every day we ate, drank, surfed, swam, napped, hung in hammocks, slack lined and got sunburned. It was amazing. Minus maybe the sunburns. But that was just me. Nice job on the sunblock Whitney! At night there was always something going on at our hostal. One night karaoke, another night salsa dancing.
We were here for Valentine’s day. This time it was Whitney’s turn to take us on a date. There was sushi for dinner at our hostal so we had some of that as an appetizer. Then we walked to a different, slightly more classy hostal down the beach. We ordered some happy hour cocktails and pizza. Yes pizza is one of my favorite foods and yes I eat it even when I travel to foreign countries. There was a Valentine’s day party down the road at a different hostal, but Whit and I decided not to go. We were happy to just be together and to have a quite night.
Eventually it was time to leave the beach. We had our last breakfast and sat one last time to listen to the waves. We checked out and motored back to the highway for a bus. We waited but 2 minutes before one came tearing down the highway. We were loaded and off to the airport once again to head back to Bogotá.
Phase #4: Suesca, Cundinamarca, Colombia
By the late afternoon we were back in Bogotá. We were headed to our last destination of the trip, Suesca, the birthplace of Colombian rock climbing. We arrived to a down pour of rain and colder temperatures. Mind you we were still in beach clothes and sandals. We got a bit turned around on our way to our next bus and spent some time running around in the rain. We were absolutely soaked. Eventually we found the right bus stop. Some local Colombians were happy to help us find our bus considering how out of place we looked. Turns out one of the men at the bus stop worked at a pizzeria close by to my hometown in Los Angeles, California.
The bus ride to Suesca was beautiful. Getting into the countryside outside of Bogotá was really cool. And luckily it wasn’t a very long ride. Before we knew it, we made it to Suesca. Conveniently it’s practically a one-street town. We got dropped off maybe 50 feet from our hostal. We arrived to a tiny, cute and humble hostal. ‘Mom and pop’ style. The owner, a local rock guide, greeted us with a smile. He was happy to show us our room and talk to us about the climbing we wanted to get done. That night we walked closer into town and did some grocery shopping for lunches and dinner. We found the plaza and ate a mystery desert-street-cart thing from a friendly Colombian lady.
The following day we got up and got ready for our first day of climbing. We ate breakfast and made lunches. We had a general idea of the routes we wanted to climb. Suesca is an old school rock climbing place. Majority of the routes are climbed in the traditional style of climbing, and some of the best are multi-pitch climbs. We got a bit turned around finding out first route but eventually we were tying in. It was a great introduction into the climbing. A bit sand-bagged (harder than people describe it), with some slick rock, and long walks back to the bottom of the cliff. But the climbing was great! At the end of the day we drank some beers and made enough pasta to feed a small army.
The next day we had one of the most classic and longest routes at Suesca on our to-do list. This day, a Monday, Suesca was a complete ghost town. There were so few people we loved it. It was quite. We practically had the whole place to our selves. We eventually found the route after a relatively long walk. It was quite literally located in the last sector of climbing along the long cliffside. From the ground the first pitch looked intimidating. Despite it only getting a grade of 5.8, we had read that it was actually harder. We read more about it from other people online and decided to go for it. Whitney asked me if I felt comfortable leading it and I asked her if she trusted me. We both said yes. Rock climbing does wonders for building trust and confidence in romantic relationships and friendships!
The climb went swimmingly. The climbing was really, really, really good. The geology was incredible. The movement was smooth and sexy. And the exposure really got your heart racing. The climb had it all. After about 3-4 hours later we were on top, basking in the view and enjoying our accomplishment. We were safe, satisfied and stoked! So satisfied that we decided to end the day there. It wasn’t going to get better than that.
We had a nice slow walk back to the hostal. We had all our bags already packed so all we had to do was turn our key in and wait for a bus. Before long we were on the bus, eating lunch (more Pringles) and headed back to the big city of Bogotá.
Whitney was flying out on a a redeye that night. I was flying out the following afternoon. So in order to be comfortable, Whitney reserved a hotel next to the airport. It was by far the nicest accommodations we had all trip. Maybe a bit out of our budget for one night, but totally worth it. There was hot water and comfy beds. We ordered room service and enjoyed each other’s company until the last moment.
It was really sad seeing Whitney off in the airport shuttle. It is always saying ‘bye’. On the flip side though, I was still so, so happy! Our trip went so well. All the reservations we made had the right dates. No flights cancelled. No getting sick. No getting lost super terribly. No robberies. Nothing bad whatsoever. Just a whole bunch of love and fun. Colombia was really, really great to us. And it has repeat value. I see myself back in Colombia in the future. Probably to do some more climbing.