Category Archives: Colombia

6 Points to Remember while Traveling.

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1.) Find out the Truth for yourself.

If a fellow traveler tells you about their experience visiting  a place, hostel, excursion, or something to do, take it with an open mind and filtered lens. You will only know the truth once you experience it for yourself. Too many times someone had told me so and so is a bad city there is nothing to do there, and then I go and discover it is one of my favourite places! Listen to them fully and then put your own rationality into it and find out the truth for yourself!

2.) Let go.

Let go of time, seasons, worry and fear. When you let go you are able to not think about the past and memories you once had. You will stop thinking about the future planning and organizing. You will find that when you let go of all, you fall into the present and there infinity exists because there is no longer time. When this happens everything will flow, people, places to stay, food to eat, everything will fall into place. Easier said than done, but just do it!

3.) Always Carry Toilet Paper, Always.

4.) Take up a new Talent.

You are never too young or too old to start something new or learn something new. From language to bracelet making, to guitar playing to cooking to traveling just do it! But its wonderful to pick a hobby/talent that you can easily do while traveling because there is so much down time. Waiting for buses, hanging out with down time because you are tired, or just laying hanging out on the beach, something accessible. Traveling makes you have time for these talents that in a “normal routine life” you may not have time for! Oh and it takes a little bit of commitment too but all is possible.

5.) Learn how to to Cook Healthy Local Food.

Travel with spices and food so that you have no excuse to cook healthy. Maybe a little curry, coriander, pepper flakes, mustard seeds, garlic and or favourite cooking ingredients. Healthy means good food for the body and for the mind, there is no excuse to be eating out all the time and not eating healthy when you travel. The local food also makes this exercise more fun because you can experiment.

I always try and cook local of course, which sometimes is hard in places that are hard to grow fruits and veggies but local is the most important. There are always bug convenient supermarkets that have everything you could possibly want in one place, but many of these stores put small shops that are run by local families out of business. So I would encourage travelers to get comfortable knocking on their neighbors gate and asking if they sell cheese or who does, so that they buy straight from the people and not from the big stores!

6.) Hitchhike

You can learn a new language and interact with local people. Hitchhiking provides a free way to travel and a cultural experience as well. Go to gas stations and ask people by knocking on their windows. This way you can look into their eyes and decide if you want to get in the car. And you are more likely to get a ride by asking first and not just with your thumb. Say you don’t have the courage or you are traveling alone? No worries because many people will say no to you, so you will have a lot of practice and can learn patience and new people skills! My travels were much brighter because of Hitching.

La Serrana, Colombia – Mural

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Where: Salento, Colombia. It is a small town in the coffee region of Colombia. It offers some wonderful coffee tours, hiking, horseback riding, and gorgeous scenery. This place was definitely a stop I would suggest for people that actually want a vacation. The energy of the mountains are gran and infectious. I painted this mural in the kitchen of ¨La Serrana ¨ a hostel about 25 minutes within walking distance from the town. They offered vegetarian meals in their restaurant, camping, nice movie theatre room

What: The mural was located in the kitchen about 35 feet long and 5 feet high. The mural wrapped around the kitchen and was split into thirds. This was the best paint that I have used on all my travels as the owner is from New York and we had the same idea of what acrylic paint was.

Length of time: Three weeks painting about 5 hours a day.

Accommodation: I spent the three weeks in a tent! This was my favorite accommodation yet! I also had meals at the restaurant that were amazing. While at La Serrana I chose to beome vegetarian as well!

What I learned: Working in communal spaces can be exhausting. I had a lot of people cooking around me and even spilling on the mural! I would prefer a place more secluded, but it was a great experience. Often people would interrupt me while painting or ask if I worked at the hostel.

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Palomino, Colombia ¨The Boat¨ – Mural

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Where: Palomino, Colombia; a little town next to the Sierra Nevada’s and the Caribbean Sea.

What: One boat on a beach, with gasoline, coal, and thinner! Woah you would not believe the smell! The boat was located directly on the beach next to the Sea in front of a juice stand.

Length of time: Two days, a total of 10 hours. The woman that commissioned me to do it also helped me paint. What a joy!

Accommodation: Free Juices! Zapote (a costal fruit of the Caribbean) with milk was my favorite!

What I learned: Painting in the sand can be dirty and full of bugs! I think so many sand fleas bit me because I was laying in the sand and I was in my bathing suit! I was bit for sure over 100 times on just one side of my legs.

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This is the boat before I painted it

After:

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Here is the boat after!

Ancient Ayahuasca Medicine

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In Salento, Colombia I was so lucky to have three different chances to experience and discover the medicinal ayahuasca. I was able to take the medicine with two families who are from the Amazon region of Colombia. For the ceremony we took an hour bus to the Shamans house. There was a big hut in the backyard where we were to start the cremony. It began at midnight where the people of the town come to take ayahuasca once a week, every Saturday as a community together. You have people who are there for their first time and people who have been taking it their whole lives since they were babies. It was almost as if this community considered the ceremony as church as catholic ideals were also influenced in the ceremony.

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There was a circle in the center of the hut where there were about 20 helpers who help Tita with bad energy and turning it from negative into positive. They believe that community is one of the most important aspects of life and that we all need each other in order to heal and in order to live a healthy life. These helpers take the ayahuasca with you and know the process and help people with healing. The first cup of the sacred vine is taken at midnight. The Tita sings songs and there are wonderful muscians there as well. Everyone has their own matress, sleeping bag, and pillow. There is also a fire to stand and sit around as well.
The second cup you take at 3 am and then the whole cereomny goes on until the day time where the real healing begins. The ayahuasca vine is sacred. The vine is in many of the indigenous stories of how the world was formed. Some believe that the sun gave birth to a woman carrying the vine and that the vine is the divine, and brings clarity, truth, healing and communties together.

The vine is known to bring about hallucinations and make you sick. Many people were throwing up or going to the bathroom frewuntly. For me, I took this medicine three seperate occasions and never got sick and never saw hallucinations. I just felt life.

My experaince was stunningly beautiful. I felt so much love from the Colombians that let us join their scared ceremony. At one point I saw 20 helpers healing a whole group of people. Massages, Raaki, hugs, and different forma of healing were practiced. It was as if these people believed that if one person is sick, we all are sick, and that we need each other in order to be healthy. No one is perfect, but together we are. It showed me a new way of life. Unbelievable I have never seen anything like it. I did not see clear visions, but I did hear the most beautiful noises and feelings.

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I felt like I was transported into the jungle and was able to speak with the birds, the thunder, and the rain. Just emotions. I felt the presence of an eagle and that I was soaring through the jungle and being one with the sky. I learned that the mother earth wants us to help her heal and that we are far off better working together, than against.

The whole experiance was amazing, many people have different opinions about the medicine or what it can do to you. There are so many different types of ayahuasca plants that come from Colombia, Peru and Ecuador that its hard to just sum up a ceremony in one sterotype. What I do know about ayahuasca is that it is a sacred medicine that the indegnious believe could heal people and the world. It has ancient roots that contain life for these people. I feel so grateful, thankful, and apprecaitive of all the love that these people showed me. They opened up their arms wide to stragners and treated us as their own. I am so glad I experianced what I did and feel beyond satisfied in my time with the medicine.

Traveling from San Agustin to Popayan

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Happy April! Traveling day! San Augustin to Popayan, which is a little backtracking through one of the worst roads I’ve ever ridden on.

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There were two options for crossing the ecuadorian border from San Augustin.

Option 1: Stay south from where we were, however that included some minor potentially dangerous options, and some pretty amazing options. Moca the town we could of visited is known as “the gateway to the jungle” and to visit the Colombian jungle would of been amazing. That was just one bus away. Then you would have to hire a driver to who owns a truck to get you across 6 hours on “the trampoline of death” road as it is a one-way dirt road that is on the ledge of cliffs which in one second toucan easily slip off of. This part didn’t sit we’ll with me, and the fact to hire a driver is quite pricey. The buses are more dangerous to take on that road and are advised against taking. Then the final straw was that we heard a traveler in Jan of 2013 get into some trouble with the paramilitary and said that its not worth traveling as they pose a threat and have been known to steal and mistreat people on their way to the border.

Option 2: Backtrack back to Popayan, and then take a bus to Pasto and then cross the border from there. This is a typical way of getting to Ecuador and recommended. So we decided to do this instead. Seemed faster, cheaper and less potentially dangerous situations.

Out of San Augustin it’s important to but a ticket one or two days in advance. There are few busses and every “day of” inquiry we had, they were always full. We eventually bought a ticket to Popayan with the bus company Cootranslaboyana Ltda- estelar. It is the second bus station from the corner with the tourist information sign. Don’t ever ever go with this bus company. They straight up lied to Steven and I and overcharged as there were more stops than discussed and the bus was one hour later than discussed. It’s one thing to be late, and its another thing to lie about it blatantly. They literally told us the exact opposite of the truth. Really rubbed me the wrong way.

The bus ride was 4 hours but can be anywhere from 3.5 – 6.5 hours so be sure to check what type of vehicle you are traveling in and how many people will be on that bus. Definitely makes a difference. The ticket was $30,000 for two ($15.00 USD).

In Popayan at the bus terminal we caught another bus to Pasto which was a 5.5 hours. It cost $20,000 COP ($10.00 USD). You can definitely negotiate the price a bit, especially if there are two or more people traveling together. It was a long and windy road, also tough after a previous 6 hour bus ride.

San Agustin – The tombs of the forgotten

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Stolen by tomb raider the hundreds of tombs from the rolling hills of San Agustin, the stone figures of the region represent a culture long forgotten.

There are about 10 different sites in the region to view these mysterious sculptures. Each figure representing something different than the rest. The tombs laid on display above ground for viewing. Many of the figures had stone tablets laid across the figures or behind. Some were beneath the ground as well.

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My favorite part of the tour was the fuente de lavapatas which was volcanic rock that had flowing water from a stream manipulated and then carvings of animals, people and designs that we’re important to the culture. Just amazing.

The only thing that bothered us seeing over 150 sculptures there was no information on the artifacts or the people if the area. All we were told was what the figures looked like and nothing more! They say that the society that built them was gone before anyone can remember. What a shame right?

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So my friends and I are asking a lot of questions. Why do they display the figures the way that they do? A lot of this doesn’t seem like its protecting he artifacts, rather exploiting them and ruining them. Are there more tombs undiscovered? Who owns these statues and why are many of them shipped to Berlin? Why did the archeologists excavate the area the way they did? None of it made sense.

We left feeling a little disappointed as even some of the tombs seemed too placed and not authenticate. What we discovered later was that no one knows anything about it because no one has made an effort to understand it. We met a man who has lived in San Augustin for 35 years who has been the first documenting the statutes and writing text about each one. It almost seems as if these beautiful pieces are going to rot away as they are not being protected or thought about in a long term sense.

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None the less I was so incredibly happy to be in San Agustin and witness what I did. We continued the day seeing many different places with artifacts and two waterfalls. This place is quite magical and lovely to visit. Definitely worth the trip.

The tour for a 8 hour tour of the land and waterfalls cost $30,000 COP ($15.00 USD). The entrance to the archeological park which was a wristband you can take to all entrances.

Coffee Tour – Salchimama

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The day has finally come, after 3 weeks in the coffee region of Colombia, I am off to a coffee tour! Truth is I was waiting for my friend from Washington State to come visit me so we could go together. Steven came with his friend Jorge and we got to go on this coffee tour together.

From the center of town the tour was about 2.5 hour walk/hike down the side of a mountain to a river. Green was everywhere! There were new birds we discovered that were neon blue, yellow and red.

We finally reached the house of Pedro, the owner of Salchimama where his wife and two daughters lived. It was a tiny house resembling a tree house and their beds were all tents. The house was covered in natural art from seeds and leaves. They had great knowledge on the birds in Colombia and just loved sharing their lives with us.

The tour was all day, we learned about the surrounding vegetation and how that affects the animals and coffee. It’s truly amazing how welcoming Colombians are. They provided us lunch and then the later half of the day they took us to their tiny house a couple meters away on the top of a hill. It overlooked lulo fruit plants and coffee fields.

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The process of coffee making was surprising how simple it can be. Did you know that coffee only leaves Colombia in the form of a white bean, which actually smells like fermented vinegar? Then wherever it is exported extra ingredients are added and they charge a lot of money to sell it with additives.

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The beans are found in bushes that are red and not native to Colombia. They were imported from Africa and Vietnam. Colombia has a great climate to grow the beans, making it the third latest county exportin coffee behind Vietnam and Brazil.

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The tour was $20,000 COP ($10.00 USD) and was worth every penny. However to take back the jeep instead of walking the two hours its a whopping $70,000 COP ($35.00 USD).

Did you know? Fun facts about Colombia

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Thinking about making a trip to Colombia? I traveled 4 months in Colombia alone and as a woman in my mid twenties I never ever felt unsafe but rather just the complete opposite. I never found myself alone and the people were the warmest people I have met in my life, so willing to open their homes and share their lives with me.

I bought a one way ticket to Bogota in December 2012 for $250 from Jetblue, which has great deals into Bogota. It is a country that had the least amount of tourists, people take showers and wash their clothes when it rains, it has the most tasty fruits, super friendly people and beaches that you can camp or put a hammock up and just walk for days and days along white beaches with turquoise layered warm water.

colom Colombia is the 26th largest country in the world.
colom Land wise Colombia is the size of California and Texas combined.
colom There are more fruits in Colombia than days in the year.
colom Per square kilometer Colombia has the same population as the United States
colom Coffee plants in Colombia are not native to Colombia. Many of the plants come from Africa.
colom Colombia is the third largest export of coffee behind #1 Brazil, and #2 Vietnam
colom There are over 130,000 different types of plants in Colombia a third of which are endemic species. It’s also estimated that, a minimum of 2,000 plants haven’t been identified yet and even greater number have yet to be analyzed for potential medicinal purposes.
colom Colombia has the worlds second largest exporter of cut flower after the Netherlands. About 1 billion worth of flowers are exported every year, mostly to the United States.
colom People from the United States buy 300 million Colombian roses on Valentines Day.
Colombia produces the largest percent of the worlds emeralds. Some estimate that the mines in Colombia may actually contain up to 90 percent of the worlds emerald deposits.
colom Colombia is the only South American nation to have coastlines on both the pacific and the Caribbean Sea.
colom Colombia has nearly 1,700 recorded species of birds, 74 which are native to Colombia

if you are thinking about going there, GO! The only thing you need to do is a buy a ticket!

Popayan – Semana Santa Colombia

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Semana Santa in Popyan! It is considered done of the top places in the world to be for this holy week leading up to Easter. Almost every single Colombian has the week off so the whole country has become flooded with Colombian tourists!

I have started my journey venturing down to Ecuador with my friend from Washington State leadership camp, Steven. He will be joining me for three weeks and its my first time traveling with someone else.

Popayan has Cathedrals, statues, artwork, artisans, and friendly people. Did I mention the town loves Catholicism?

We were told from the guide book that you must have a reservation during this time of the year. It also said to expect that dorm rooms would be three times as they usually are. Steven and I arrived at 7:00 pm with no reservations, smart right?

We stumbled upon expensive places and finally settled into a backpacker hostel for a super cheap Price. Steven found a bed for $22,000 COP ($11.00 USD) and I ran into some friends of mine and was able to sleep on the floor for $10,000 COP ($5.00 USD). Nice Price right? Its actually cheaper than any other place I have stayed at. So much for what the guide book says!

Here comes another lesson that I have learned that I want to keep reiterating. People talk about all sorts of things in life. Some of it is true, and some of it is false. Take what people say with a grain of salt and consider where the information comes from. The only real way to truly experience or know anything about something is to go and figure it out for yourself. I cannot say how many times people told me not to do something because it is too scary, expensive, or not worth it. When I ended up doing, seeing or going to where they said not to, it was one of the most favorite parts of my trip. This is definitely a lesson I will bring back to me in the United States. Listening to yourself is most important!

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Back to Popayan, the town was packed full of Colombians as they were all on their spring break. The streets were flooded with people were watching the procession of the Catholic idols. This ranged from Jesus to Mother Mary, to children carrying candles to the military carrying guns and saluting. This was a very serious sight to be seen as people travel from all over the world to see this!

We went out at night and enjoyed the locals and met some really lovely people. Its been quite lovely traveling with another person that I trust. I do not always have to make decisions on my own and its a nice change of pace.
To get to Popayan from Salento you have to take a bus from the center of Salento to a larger town nearby called Armenia. The bus ride is $3,600 COP ($1.30 USD) and takes about 45 minutes through the rolling luscious green hills.
From the Aremnia terminal we took another bus that was sold to us as ¨direct¨ to Popayan. We discovered it was not as direct as we thought and stopped in Cali, dropping off people in town and sitting an extra hour in traffic. The bus ride was $35,000 COP ($17.50 USD) and the whole bus ride was an easy 6.5 hours.

Palomino, Colombia – 8 Murals

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Where /Palomino, Colombia, a little town next to the Sierra Nevada’s and the Caribbean Sea. The hostel was just a month old when I arrived. The hostel was The Dreamer Hostel on the Beach.

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They Dreamer had a restaurant, swimming pool, and bar. It was a relaxing couple of weeks. The downtown had about 300 people and there was a disco tech that was open every Saturday night. There was only a handful of hostels there and the town is definitely not a tourist place. This made for a nice escape from the tourist circuit and relaxation.

What: 8 Murals in the private door rooms, and one additional mural for advertisement for the hostel on the road. The murals were all themed murals of countries so the concept of eac h piece was predetermined. The different countries were Malaysia, Peru, Korea, South Africa, Panama, Costa Rica, Tanzania, Marruecos and New Zealand. I also painted the letters outside each private room as well.

Length of time: Three weeks painting about 5 hours a day.

Accomidation: I spent the three weeks in a 10 person dormitory room. It was quite the experiance as every day you had new péople to wake up to. I learned one of the most valuable thing on my travels: always, always, always have a charged i-pod ready for sleep as many people snore, sleep talk in the dorms and it will change your life.

What I learned: 8 murals is a lot of work to paint in one location. However it was a challenge that I was glad to have taken on. What made it difficult was that there were people that were sleeping in the rooms and so getting into the physical space was quite a challenge. Sometimes I had to tell the guests to wait and come back later so that I could finish painting. It became frustrating, especially when you have a flow going while painting and then guests stop the flow because they are paying for the room. Overall this experaince was super rewarding and waking up to the sound of the sea was stunning. I loved my time in Palomino and got to do some more commercial type work here. Definitely learned how to pick up the pace painting while maintaining quality work.

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Tanzania Private Dormitory

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Costa Rica Private Dormitory

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New Zealand Private Dormitory

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Maurecos Private Dormitory

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Korea Private Dormitory

Malaysia Private Dormitory

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South Africa Private Dormitory

Salento Sunset, Valley de Corcoa, Colombia

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My second time to Corcoa Valley where the wax palms and fog live.

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Sure enough, some yoga poses and a couple minutes later the clouds part and just a speck of the sunshine hits the valley. The most picture perfect lighting on the lime green hills. The sun behind the clouds made for the perfect sunset. We watched for the next two hours and sat in silence taking in every inch of energy that the mountains gave us. It was absolutely stunning.

Five of us decided to go on the adventure to see the sunset. We heard it’s a good show.

I have done the full 5/6 hour hike but this time we decided to do the tail end, the best part, and watch the sun go down in the valley. Typically this area is covered in fog, so we were hoping for the best around 615pm.

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Corcora Valley is a $3,200 COP, $1.60 USD to take a jeep into the Valley. You get off at a small bus stop and start the hike. The path to the right leads to the hummingbird farm and the waterfall, about a 5/6 hour hike. It’s a loop that goes along a river and then into the mountain. It ends in the valley where the palms, horses and cows are.

We decided to go left, to catch the end of the hike and it’s just about an hour where you have to dodge horses and people descending the hike. We arrived at the lookout point, a little nook of green grass at the top of the mountain overlooking at 360 view of the valley, and we were an hour ahead of schedule. The fog completely filled the valley. “Darn it! Maybe it will clear up” we thought.

As we descended we got lucky and caught a jeep back for the same price $3,200 COP, $1.60 USD. They usually stop at 5pm and we caught one magically at 730pm. Great timing right, a family was getting done with work and we caught a ride with them.

I have to make this hike again before I leave. I heard there is also a 3 to 4 day hike into the same valley that is supposed to be worth doing. Falling in love with Salento more and more each day.

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At the end of the journey the jeep dropped us off in town, and we drank delicious Colombian coffee from the land at Jesus Martin, a highly recommended coffee shop in the central downtown. The cappuccinos are to die for, and the artwork to top doesn’t hurt as well!

Back to the Mountains, Salento

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Magical mountains, birds singing a symphony of songs, delicate raging rivers, potent flowers shining in the sun and shades of varadescent greens cover the rolling hills in this story book land. Salento, Colombia is one of the most beautiful places I have seen on my journey thus far. I forgot how beautiful the mountains are.

In Salento there is the most gorgeous hike that I’ve ever been on. It’s called Valley de Cocora and it’s about 45 minutes $3,500 COP ($1.70 USD) out of Salento. It’s free to do and about 6-7 hours to do the whole loop. There is even a hummingbird farm! This hike was stunning: tiny path lined with wax palms, mysterious clouds thickly wet with dew, the occasional cow, waterfall after waterfall, and rolling hill after rolling hill.

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There was one mountain that was later than the others, and the clouds would creep slowly up it, and then spiral down the side. I’ve never seen anything like it, I felt as I had fallen asleep in a fairy tale and awoken to a new world.

After traveling almost 3 months on the coast I forgot how wonderful the mountains are. Going from 90 degree heat to rain and lucious trees has made me appreciate the qualities of both landscapes. Colombia is so diverse and colorful, every place is so distinctly different.

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To get to Salento from Manizales you can go to Pereira or Armenia. Both are easy and both will get you to salento. I chose to go through Peridea. It was $8,000 COP ($4.00 USD). It was about 1 hour bus ride. From that terminal I got another bus to Salento. It was just a 45 minute bus ride for $8,000 COP ($4.00 USD). It’s a short ride and easy to catch from Peridea. The weekend schedule is different from the weekday schedule so make sure you check before you go.

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Manizales, Colombia

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Manizales, the tourist guide book says little about it. Including something along the line of leave your camera in your pocket as there are not many things to see in Manizales. So I had somewhat low expectations and decided to venture into Manizales before leaving for Salento. I was going to do a little exploring with the intention of leaving later in the day. I walked for a little bit, and exploring a new city alone can be a little stressful. I am definitely getting better at it. It is quite a skill as you don’t want to look like a tourist, yet you have to remember where you are and you are bound to get lost.

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I found a breakfast spot and sat down next to an older man and woman. If there are empty tables at a restaurant and you sit by yourself rather than with other people it can be considered to be rude. It is very Colombian to sit with other people like a community and get to know the people who are dining in the same place as you.

I met an old man named Alberto who only spoke Spanish and he was curious about my solo adventures. I told him I was leaving Manizales to Salento because I wanted to see the coffee farms there and he immediately took me under his wing and offered showing me around the town. I could not resist, so I said of course.  We first went for some coffee from the land of Manizales as it is known for its coffee farms and rich beans that are exported from the land. He paid for my breakfast and for the coffee, which is also very Colombian. When a man invites someone to do something whether it’s a movie, drinks, or out, they always always always pay. Its amazing and its considered rude if you do not let them pay.

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So for the rest of the day we drove around in his car touring the whole city. The energy of Manizales is tranquil and reminded me a lot of San Francisco. There were not vendors trying to sell you things, the people were so nice and laid back, and there were so many hills that mirrored the way San Francisco makes me feel. We saw a gorgeous cathedral, the largest and tallest in Colombia, we saw many beautiful views of the surrounding area which is all farms. And from a distance you can always see green hills and layers of houses next to each other, just like San Francisco is the background. This town is picture perfect and makes for an amazing city. Sometimes when people write in the guidebooks I don’t think they actually visit the places and give each city a chance.

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From the city we headed for beers with Alberto’s friend who owns a coffee shop. Then we went his friends coffee farm where I learned about coffee farming and got to ride his horse. They take such pride in their farms and horses. Alberto rides competitively and is so proud of it, constantly showing me pictures of his family and himself riding horses. The Colombian people here, and I think I have a good grasp on this now, are so willing to invite you into their lives. It is as if you are a part of their family and they want you to experience a good time. I felt so lucky to have met this man. But the night did not end there.

Alberto invited me to a party later that night for some beers. Of course, I agreed and met him around 7pm to take a bus to this party. At the front door of the party we are greeted with costumes we must wear, that were all handmade. We enter the kiosk hut and there are tables full of glitter, live music, a bar and people dancing. I realize that I am at a horse club, where I assume everyone owns a horse that is at this place and this is where all the competitive people who ride horses hang out. The theme of the party was Carnival Barranquilla, even though carnival has past, they still celebrate. Out comes the flour, foam and other sorts of carnival costumes. Dancing all night long and everyone so willing to meet me, dance with me, and make me feel included.

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Viejando de Cartagena a Manizales

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Backpacking: when a person travels with their belongings on their back through unknown places. I have not been doing much of this as I stay in one place 3-4 weeks. My backpack usually stays on the floor of my dormitory. When I chose to fly from Cartagena to Medellin and then bus to manizales I heard that it was easy and cheap so I was ready at 11 am to travel. I took a bus to the airport. The bus was easy to take $1,500 COP ($.75 USD) and there was even free WIFI at the airport. Go for be airport in Cartagena early! At least an hour and a half early because I almost missed my flight being an hour early. Colombian time is usually late but in this circumstance it is better to be safe than sorry.

The flight was horrible. Seriously, horrible. The whole time the plane did the up and down move where your stomach goes up in knots. It was bad, but manageable. About this time it is 3:30 pm.

Once in medellin I knew I had to take a 45 min bus to the terminal where I would take another bus to manizales. The bus from the airport to medellin was $8,000 COP ($4.00 USD). The taxis are twice as much starting at $15,000 ($7.50 USD). Make sure you ask the bus driver where the bus ends and where you want to get off. The bus driver dropped us off at a place which was not the terminal so I took another bus to the metro which I knew connected to the terminal. The metro in Medellin is super easy to navigate and costs $1,500-1,700 COP ($.75-1.00 USD) to go one way from one spot to the next.

Once I got to the terminal there were no buses to Manizales. Why? Because I was at the wrong terminal. Apparently there is a south terminal as well. Don’t go to the north terminal in Medellin if you want to head south! Trial by error!

About this time it is 4:50pm and I hop on another bus for $2,000 COP ($1.00 USD) and I arrive to the south terminal. it was about a 20 minute bus ride.

At the terminal I learn that the workers jn the coffee region are on strike because of fair wages making the whole area extremely difficult to travel through. It was 5:30pm, I was tired and just wanted to get to Manizales. I decide to start asking people around and see if there was a collective taxi since all the buses were shut off. Sure enough there was one and not a bad price. $38,000 COP ($19.00 USD. There were 7 people in a van but it didn’t leave till 6:30pm.

7:00pm we finally get going, everyone in the car is from Manizales, apparently not a lot of tourists go there. The van was okay for the first 20 minutes because we were in traffic. Once we started going I was terrified of the corners that the bus driver was cutting because they were blind corners and the only thing he based off cutting the corner by was if he could see headlights. This as well made my stomach turn into knots!

The poor gentleman beside me was helping me calm down but for 6 hours this continued and sure enough I was sick the whole time. Horrible!

I arrived safely I manizales at 1:30am and slept the whole night. 6 1/2 hour bus ride hat was supposed to be 4 hours with one bus. Next time I am bringing anti nausea medicine. So glad that is over. Staying in one place for a long period of time is much easier for me than traveling at a fast pace!

Cartagena, Colombia Mural

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What a pleasure it’s been to spend three weeks painting in a house, not a hostel and alone! This piece is in the second story of an apartment home. It overlooks the sea, has great light and the wall was over 10 feet tall by 12 feet wide. This piece was on a flat surface and had some light structures to the left and right. I also did not have a ladder which made for some messy painting when trying to get to the high surfaces. 20130227-145951.jpg

Location: Cartagena, Colombia. A rather small Spanish Colonial town located on the Carribbean Coast. The town has amazing energy that has large balconies with flowers pouring over the railings, artwork in form of statues and murals all over the city, and people constantly buzzing around the city.

Time to paint: 3 weeks, 3-4 hours a day

About the process: I went back to my old style from college and decided to do a Cartagena cityscape. The city was such an inspiration so I had to go for it. This process involves a couple of different layers. I start by painting the background one solid color. Often when the wall is white it can be overwhelming and I find myself thinking too much about what goes on top of it and what could go wrong. So instead I take white and a little dab of other colors and begin painting a solid background. That way it also makes the painting feel like there is depth to the piece as well. Then I start by sketching. That way if I mess up, I can always go over it with the same background color. The drawings go on top, then a couple layers of detail. Layer in spanish is called cuatromano. Cuatro which means four and mano which means hand. It makes sense as it usually takes four strokes with your hand to create one layer.

What I learned: This style was fairly familiar to me. I haven’t done a piece this large so it was difficult to fill the whole wall. I learned that I should never use a chair and a cooler again as a ladder and that a fan is a necessity when pairing in 90 degree weather.

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International Festival de Peliculas Fiesta

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It was 10 pm, the night was sticky and hot with a soft breeze that was swaying in and out. The outdoor movie was dancing in the wind as the screen moved around.”The bicycle thief” was the movie in Italian, translated into Spanish subtitles. The International Film Festival was in full swing as we drank beers while watching the film for free.

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Honestly, the movie was horrible. The experience was priceless. After the five of us walked 15 minutes from the old historical town to the media luna district which was roaring with energy. We found ourselves at the plaza again as street vendors and artisans were humming about.

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Suddenly, a car pulls up and starts playing music from subs in the trunk of the car. My friend Karine from Australian starts feeling the music. So much that he starts to go Napoleon Dynamite and dances by himself holding up traffic. A circle starts to appear around him and the rest is history. Thank goodness I have this on film! I couldn’t help myself I just couldn’t believe that he was dancing like he was!20130223-173447.jpgAnother wonderful end to the gorgeous day in Cartagena. I don’t think I could be more in love with the people and this city.

No Hay Aqua y Seunos Verdad

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Thank goodness they still had coffee without water, iced coffee too!

For two days in Cartagena there is no water! It happens for two days every week. Could you imagine your life without water for two days? How much more would you appreciate water? In the restroom you have to manually flush them with buckets of water which made me think so much more about how much water I consume; even cooking is not possible without it!

On another note today I am in a cafe planning my next mural. I want it to be a city scape yet flowing abstract piece of Cartagena. I am traveling around the city taking pictures of the buildings I want to draw and starting in the morning. Who knew I would be sitting in a cafe, drinking my favorite cup of coffee, sketching and preparing material for a huge mural in a gorgeous house that over looks the sea in downtown Cartagena. I dreamed this dream and now it is real. When do I wake up?

Volcano Madness

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It felt like peanut butter!

Imagine a small mud mound volcano, small in size and not what you expected. Imagine you walk up the volcano on tiny steps to a mud hole where one by one people enter the pit. The pit is also small and a tiny square full of three grown men. As you descend a handmade wooden latter you meet the mud and start to sink and float at the same time to the top of the mush. One of the three men approach you and start to massage you. Even if you say no they still do it! This scene becomes shuffled body after body around the mud like sardines to fit everyone in! Absolutely hilarious! This scene was so awkward and intimate that you cannot help but laugh!

One of my most favorite things I have loved about Colombians is that they never take anything too seriously. From getting foam and flour poured all over their faces, to doing something stupid they don’t get mad, embarrassed or feel stupid about, they always have a good attitude. I admire the fat they know how to laugh at themselves and each other and it’s actually one of the most amazing qualities and something I love about the culture.

After the bath everyone dried off and then washed off in the river. So beautiful so hilarious, everyone was playful and having a good time.

My favorite part about it were the children. You could stand in the mud pit but not because there was a floor but because the pit is so thick with mud!

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To get to the mud volcano from Cartagena you just hope on an hour bus for $30,000 COP ($15 USD) toward Barranquilla and get off right in front of the volcano. If you want to go another way you have to take 3 different forms of transportation, it takes an hour and a half longer, and it ends up costing about the same. Bring a towel, bathing suit, camera and small change as many of the people who assist you in the experience expect money at the end. Don’t be alarmed when they tell you to only bring your bathing suit with and to hand over your cameras as you walk to the mud pit. It’s normal and you will have great pictures as the end, promise!

Cartagena Ultimo

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She is carrying coconut with different types of dulce fuits! Sugar heaven!

“A fairy-tale city of romance, legends and sheer beauty, Cartagena is the most beautiful city in Colombia, with cobbled alleys, enormous balconies shrouded in bougainvillea, and massive churches casting their shadows across leafy plazas.

Door Knockers in Cartagena

Founded in 1533, Cartagena swiftly blossomed into the main Spanish port on the Caribbean Coast and the gateway to the north of the continent. It attracted pirates and, in the16th century suffered five sieges. ” -Lonely Planet

I am staying in the Media Luna district, at the Media Luna Hostel. There are many bars, stunning architecture and cheap places to eat. Many people claim that Cartagena is expensive, however you can always find cheap places to eat. I love it here!

Colombia Dia 76

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I have been in Colombia 76 days and thought I would start counting the days. I spoke with my Dad last night and I agree with him in that when you experience new things and places to go your idea of time is quite different than what you think of in normal life. No routine, always meeting new people and my life is always changing. I have never experienced anything like this.

I am feeling like I am finally getting to a point in my travels where I have enough experience to really start making strides and travelling in a cost effective and more intelligent way. For example cooking in hostels: people always say it’s cheaper. It isn’t! Unless, you really take time to figure out what you are going to buy, how you are going to use every single thing you purchase, and count out how many times and meals you will make to use everything in an efficient way. I think someone should make a cook book for hostels because I see a lot of people buying groceries like they are going back to their own personal home. You never use everything and sometimes you have to travel with food to make it worthwhile to eat that way. Sometimes it’s cheaper to go to the corner restaurant and purchase a pizza or menu of the day that is less than 3 dollars.

Antoher thing I have learned with time: don’t always listen to hostels advice on travelling, don’t always believe what other travelers say about a place, and if you really want to learn about a city or place you just have to go there yourself and experience it. Also there is always, always, always a cheaper way to travel than what you guide book says. I also have learned to not go on the same route that a lot of travel companies, busses and guide books tell you are a better way to go. Very interesting travelling can be cheap, easy, and way more fun if you don’t follow the normal route.

I have been thankful enough to stay for free and eat for free. In return, I cannot stand paying for thigns that I think are too overpriced, even if they may not be in terms of Untied States mentality, my mind is officially in the Colombian way of thinking. For example, I went to Playa Blanca yesterday, arguably the most popular tourist destination in Colombia. Everything was overpriced! However, I knew this and spoke with certain vendors and explain to them that I have been travelling as an artist, don’t have enough money, appreciate their service, and negotiate with them a fair price. Even if it’s the difference of 8 mil a night for a hammock (4 USD) and getting them to give it to me for 4 mil (2 USD) a night, it really does make a difference if I am going to be travelling for a year!

I keep thinking that I need to leave Colombia, like I need to get out because people just don’t stay in one place this long! Yet I constantly need to remind myself that I am travelling intelligently, that not everyone paints, and that the slow route is in fact better to get to know a culture. My hopes for the rest of my travels is that I may get to do a mural with someone, that I will meet a friend I can travel with for longer than 4 days and that I meet a community that is more like minded as I am of artists and down to earth people. All sorts of people travel and all sorts of people exist in this world. I am determined to find one that is more like what I am striving to become in my life. I know it exists, and I have a lot of time to find it. However now I feel ready and open!