Last stop…Cartagena, Colombia

Well folks, Kim and John’s amazing Colombian trip is coming to an end. They have spent 18 days travelling in this amazing country, with the last 3 spent in the beautiful historical area of Cartagena. They love this old historical place. Everything is walkable, and there was a lot to do!

On the first day, they had a guide take them on a walking tour around the old center, where they learned about the history, saw some beautiful parks, and maybe a couple of animals.

A bit about this city….

Cartagena is a port city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. By the sea is the walled Old Town, founded in the 16th century, with squares, cobblestone streets and colorful colonial buildings.

The next day, they had a tour of the market, followed by a cooking class at a great restaurant called Siepre. This is a highly recommended restaurant on trip advisor that opened a year ago. The chef owner was their teacher! They made ceviche and coconut Continue reading Last stop…Cartagena, Colombia

Colombia’s Caribbean Coast

Howdy folks!

Well, no moss grows under their feet! Kim and John moved on from Medellín to spend a few days in the northern part of Colombia along the Caribbean coast. They flew in to the city of Santa Marta, and spent one night there, enjoying dinner at a seafood restaurant and wandering the historic center.

The next morning they were picked up by a driver and headed to Minca, where they spent two nights at a cool spot, Minca Ecohabs. These were 2 storey “huts”. They enjoyed this spot…it had a beautiful view of Santa Marta, along with a forest view. They loved the outdoor hammocks in the second floor, and spent a relaxing time watching the birds.

Here’s a bit about Minca….

Minca is 600m up in the Sierra Nevada above Santa Marta, Minca is a small mountain village famous for its organic coffee, incredibly varied birdlife and a bit cooler temperatures than on the scorching coast below. Minca has been recognized as a biosphere reserve – It is surrounded by thick cloud forest and mountain peaks.

The next morning they were picked up by their tour guide in their off roading vehicle. They spent the day exploring the countryside, looking for birds. Boy, was the road bumpy! Kim said the holy sh*t handle came in handy! They saw a lot of birds that day….but Kim said it was really hard to take pictures of them. She still loved taking photos of the scenery….she and John think Colombia is very beautiful! They did see a Caribbean Toucan 🙂 – Yellow, red and blue….also a lot of hummingbirds, hawks, and birds that are endemic to Santa Marta. Colombia has over 2000 different birds, the second most, only behind Brazil….and folks, Brazil is much bigger….so maybe Colombia wins? 😉👍

Breakfast stop, and the off-roading vehicle
Poinsettia tree
Coffee anyone?

Hummingbird endemic to Santa Marta….very small.. look closely

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Looking for birds

They also heard some ghost sounds…..howler monkeys! They didn’t see them though…..you can hear their sounds up to 5 Kms away.

After Minca, Kim and John moved on to a Finca very close to Tayrona National Park….along the Caribbean Coast. They both agree that the Finca Barlovento is their favourite stay so far…..they have beautiful views of both a river, and the sea. The people here are amazing! Very friendly….Kim and John said the coffee is awesome, and the food is delicious. Their first day here was a free day…they walked along the beach and might have had a massage….tough life they lead! They also met the pets there…..Roberto and a baby parrot….they said they were pretty awesome.

Great view, great Colombian coffee
View from our hotel
This little baby is 6 minty sweet old

Roberto
Along the beach by our hotel

Good ole Colombian coffee!
Walking along the beach by our hotel

The next day they met up with their guide to explore Tayrona National Park. They walked 16 kms, and visited 5 beaches. It was very hot for these Canadians! 31 degrees….yikes! Kim is looking pretty red😉. They enjoyed the day….they saw fire ants, bats, a woodpecker…..and howler monkeys! That’s the first time John has seen 🐒 and he was pretty excited.

A bit about the park….

Tayrona National Park, in northern Colombia, is a large protected area covering the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta as they meet the Caribbean coast. It’s known for its palm-shaded coves, coastal lagoons, rainforest and rich biodiversity. At its heart, the Pueblito ruins are an archaeological site accessed via forest trails, with terraces and structures built by the Tayrona civilization.

Beach number 1 of 5

This indigenous community lives in the park. They were selling coconuts

Oh boy! 31 degrees is too hot for this Canadian!

Camping anyone? $4 Canadian a night
Best lunch ever….delicious fish
One toothy fish

Look very closely…that is a howler monkey!

That’s it for now everyone! Kim and John move on to the city of Cartagena tomorrow. It’s a 5 hour car ride! They have some pretty cool things planned…stay tuned!

Teddy 💗💕🐶🐶🐶

Medellin….once the most violent city in the world to a vibrant city

On their second day in Medellin, Kim and John took two tours. In the morning they went n a graffiti tour, and the afternoon was a Pablo Escobar tour. Both tours focused on the violent history of this city, and how people and social projects turned things around. Medellin is now a vibrant, innovative, progressive city. Kim said the people are amazing and resilient and they are still working towards building a strong inclusive community.

Graffiti Tour

This was a surprise, Kim said, because they got more than they bargained for. While they saw a lot of amazing graffiti, they also learned about the violent history of Comuna 13 (Pablo Escobar played a huge part of this), and they learned about how the hip hop, rap, art, and music culture influenced change.

A bit about the area….

Only a few years ago, the Comuna 13 neighborhood was the most dangerous community in the city of Medellin but today it’s the most colorful and vibrant communities in the city. After the government and private sector invested in social and youth programs the local residents and artists reclaimed the neighborhoods and contributed to the miraculous transformation which we see today, the streets filled with incredible street art, music, street performers, and vendors.

Surprisingly, escalators are one of the innovative transport solutions that have helped transform life in a place once known as one of the world’s most dangerous cities.

Its 12,000 residents had to hike the equivalent of 28 stories home after scraping their living in the city. Steep roads made it impossible for vehicles to access this poor neighborhood, leaving the community isolated and impenetrable.

A 384-meter orange-roofed escalator, opened in 2011, scales the mountain, with a journey taking just six minutes. The development has become a model for urban planning around the world. This simple innovation is credited with helping to bring peace and pride to a community once plagued with violence.

Wandering around comuna 13

Image represents the culture of brake dancing, hip hop and music…elephants symbolize family
The escalators

Our b boy guide
The Phoenix represents rising from the ashes. There is still a lot of police presence in the area….prevention of violence recurring
No words
Part of the social works to revitalize the area was to build parks…why take the stairs, when you can take the slide!

Trying out creating a tag. I won’t quit my day job

Pablo Escobar Tour

When Kim and John started working with travel agents to book their Colombia tour, one of the companies wouldn’t book Escobar tours, because they didn’t want to support promoting this part of the history. There are different tours, some seem to idolize him, but the one Kim and John went on focused on the history of narcoterrorism, with a balanced view from the many victims.

From the NY times..

The drug lord’s legacy has cast a shadow over Medellín, driven in part by new documentaries, television shows like the Netflix hit “Narcos” and books that have focused on Mr. Escobar’s life.

In death, he has become something of a folk hero, for his meteoric rise from the working class to billionaire, and for his generosity to some, building houses and hospitals for the poor.

Medellín, called the world’s most dangerous city by Time magazine in 1988, has seen violent crime plummet and has increasingly become a tourist destination. Some have capitalized on the city’s history as a narcotics hot spot.

But the tourist narrative often leaves out the impact of his bloody rise to power and the bribery, kidnappings and killings of anyone who dared defy the cartel.

The mayor of Medellín, Federico Gutiérrez, told the local news outlet El Colombiano ahead of the demolition that knocking down the structure was an important symbolic step forward for the city and the country.

Kim and John’s tour…

They started by seeing the house where Pablo was trapped and killed, followed by the cemetery where he, his family, and members of the cartel were buried, and ended with the memorial park.

inflexion Park remembers the 46,612 victims of the narcoterrorism that affected the city and country between the 1970s and the beginning of the 21st century. It is on land that previously was the home of Escobar. The government demolished his home and created the memorial.

Inflexión Memorial Park is Medellín’s place to remember the victims of drug trafficking, and to come together. It is a place to remember history, to give it a new meaning from the perspective of those who died in the war between the drug cartels and to make a joint commitment for it to never happen again.

In the middle of the park is the path of heroes. Stone engravings capture messages of the victims who faced the horror of drug trafficking and focus on values such as honesty, good judgment and justice.

Memorial to the police that died fighting narcoterrorism

The holes represents bullet holes…there are over 20,000 in the memorial
One of the quotes along the hero walkway. All of the individuals that are quoted were

Kim andJohn enjoyed their visit to Medellin and are now waiting at the airport to head to the north coast. Have an awesome day and hug your family and friends. Everyday is a day to be grateful for living in a safe place, and having the privileges that we have. Hugs and kisses 💗❤️💕Teddy

Modern and Vibrant Medellín

Well folks, Kim and John arrived in Medellin and their first day was filled with tours of the city and Arvi Park.

They told me that Medellin is an interesting city. Once the most violent city in the world (narcoterrorism) it is now a vibrant, innovative city that has been changed by the people, through social projects.

Here is a bit of information about Medellin..

The position of Medellín as the second industrial city in Colombia has been the main factor in overcoming its crisis of the 1980s and 1990s. The Medellin metro, a massive urban transport service, is the pride of the city. The metro system is very unique and has connected the communities. The metro consists of trams, gondolas, bikes, and buses.

During the city tour, John and Kim’s guide Francisco took them on the tram, and then up the passenger gondolas. They went up the steep hills of the city and were surprised as the city disappeared and they were over Arvi park.

Passenger gondola connects communities….taking people up the steep hills

View from gondola
Arvi park, view from the gondola
Arvi park

Arvi Park is huge! It covers 16,000 hectares, 1,760 of which are in the state of natural forests. It has over 54 miles of walkable trails. It is a major tourist attraction, known for its wildflowers, butterflies and trails. Kim and John thought it was amazing and wish they had more time to explore. Next time 😉

They headed back down to the city on the gondolas and headed to the botanical park of Medellin. The botanical garden covers a big area and it has 4,500 flowers and 139 recorded bird species. Oh….and they had iguanas and turtles too!

Next stop was Plaza Botero, home of the statues of Fernando Botero Angulo – a Colombian figurative artist and sculptor. Born in Medellín, his signature style, also known as “Boterismo”, depicts people and figures in large, exaggerated volume, which can represent political criticism or humor, depending on the piece. Kim wishes they had time to go into the museum as well…..next time 👍

And last but not least….they went for a supper at an amazing restaurant called Carmen. Their guide recommended it. Kim and John thought they had one of their best meals ever….it might have beaten their favourite restaurant Maido, in Peru ;). They treated themselves to the 10 course chef tasting, complete with wine pairings….they also may have had a cocktail….they paid for it the next day with a bit of a wine headache. 😆. Kim said she died and went to foodie heaven. Lol

This cocktail was called pirate bootie….served in a skull
Ready to start the 3 hour dinner
Tuna….one of the 10 small courses….Kim said one small bite is so much better than a big plate of not so good food….she loved every course!

Sorbets…one of two dessert courses
Omg….their favourite….chocolate
Doesn’t John look happy?

Sounds like they are having a great time! One more day in Medellin….a graffiti tour and a Pablo Escobar tour are planned….then they head to the north part of Colombia.

That’s it for now folks! Teddy 🐶❤️💕

Colombia…Coffee, Butterflies, and Birds, oh my!

Today Kim and John continued to explore the coffee triangle region. Their guide Sergio picked them up at 9:00 am and they headed to their first stop….the coffee “theme park” of Recuca.

At RECUCA visitors take on the role of a Coffee grower, learning the coffee process from the seed to the cup. It’s a working farm that diversified into an educational experience. Kim and John learned a lot….and participated in some of the activities….a bit cheesy, but who doesn’t like a little cheese once in a while. Lol 😀👍. There are pictures to prove it.

So, what did they learn about Colombian coffee?

It’s all hand picked…the terrain is so hilly, machines can’t be used

Coffee at higher altitudes taste sweeter

It takes 18 months from seed to first harvest

The coffee that is exported is not roasted…countries roast according to their taste.

Coffee in Colombia is milder…..John prefers stronger Canadian coffee

Their guide likes to say “good coffee doesn’t need sugar, bad coffee doesn’t deserve it”. Lol

Coffee production in Colombia has a reputation as producing mild, well-balanced coffee beans.Colombia’s average annual coffee production of 11.5 million bags is the second total highest in the world, after Brazil, The beans are exported to United States, Germany, France, Japan, and Italy. In 2011, UNESCO declared the “Coffee Cultural Landscape” of Colombia, a World Heritage site.

Beautiful landscape…coffee farm

They have diversified into growing plantains..which provide shade for the coffee as well as additional income

Educational tour

Their amazing guide

Stages of the bean growing process

Coffee plants….beans are still green…when they are red they are ready to harvest

Hmmmm…ready to go and pick beans?

More Willy’s

That’s one loaded Willy!

John said “who are those old people? Lol!

When to drink coffee? All day long…..😀👍

Next stop….the Jardin Botanico Del Quindio. This is a non profit conservation area that has over 600 species of plants, including many different palms, and orchids. It also has a butterfly house with over 1500 butterflies, representing 50 different species. Did you know that Colombia has the 2 nd highest number oF butterfly species in the world? First is Perú 🙂

These butterflies like to land on people

Kim and John also loved seeing all of the birds here…Colombia has the highest number of bird species in the world. Kim said it’s so beautiful….lots of different colours and sizes….they are everywhere. They’ve seen egrets,ibis, hummingbirds, toucans, blue jays, warblers……too many to name, and they couldn’t if they tried! Kim wishes she had the right camera lens to take pictures….but the birds are also pretty fast….they are hard to take pictures of!

Well, looks like their time in the coffee region has come to an end. They said to give this region paws up. 🐾

Tomorrow is a travel day and they fly to the city of Medellin. Stay tuned folks!

Touring Coffee Country Columbia

Well folks, after a quick tour of Bogota, Kim and John hopped on a plane and took a short flight to the city of Pereira. They were picked up at the airport and taken to their hotel in the countryside. They are now in coffee country, where it is very lush and beautiful. There are birds everywhere…Kim said it is surreal.

View from their terrace

The next day their guide arrived at 9:00 and they headed out to explore the region. First step was the Unesco town of Finlandia. A beautiful town with flower fringed balconies and painted walls, doors and window shutters. It has amazing, maintained colonial architecture.

The lush landscape
Graffiti art in Finlandia
Hand painted artisan work…Kim may have bought something.
Unesco site, colonial architecture
Finlandia square

There are a lot of jeeps in this region. Willy’s were donated after the war and became mechanical mules, transporting coffee along the mountainous roads. What took days for transporting, now took hours. They also use the jeeps today as cheap taxis. They saw some restored ones in the towns. Kim said jeeps are cool…she has one you know. She would like the Willy….do they have them in Canada?

Next they stopped for lunch and it was delicious. Trout salmon….that’s a new one for me, and you know I love fish! It was a trout, that was pink like a salmon inside. Before their lunch arrived, they tried a shot of fire water and rum. They aren’t hard liquor drinkers….Kim has that written all over her face. Lol

After lunch, they went and planted a wax palm tree. They said if it survives the first 11 days, it will be transplanted and hopefully in hundreds of years, it will grow like the others in the area….to over 60 meters. Paws crossed. 🐶👍

Nest stop…they went horseback riding in the beautiful Cocora Valley. Kim said this was the best day ever. The scenery was amazing and wax palms over 60 meters tall were all over the hillside. They saw a lot of birds, including vultures, hawks, parakeets and a toucanito…..you know, a small Toucan 😉

Touring with their guide Sergio

Toucanita

After their tour of the valley, they wrapped up the day with a stop at the town of Salento, another beautiful coffee village.

Arepas….stuffed corn cake with cheese, topped with honey and butter

Award winning coffee
Delicious espresso

Kim took lots of pictures and they stopped to try the Columbian food, at bakeries, coffee shops, fruit shops, and street vendors…..no surprises here folks!

Pineapple pie
John loves bakeries!

Step 1….Cleanse your palate with water, step 2 drink the espresso, step 3 eat the chocolate
They even convert the Willy to a coffee shop!

Kim and John already say everyone should come to Colombia. The people are amazing, the cities, towns and countryside are incredible, and the food is awesome too! And….they still have 2 weeks to go!

Life is one big adventure. Enjoy your day folks! Stay tuned….

And they are off! Beautiful Bogota Colombia

Hi everyone! Teddy here 💕💗🐶

Well, you know if I’m blogging, my people are off travelling and on another adventure 😀🐶🐶🐶. Si, es verdad! (Yes, it’s true). This time they are off exploring Colombia and we three furry kids are staying at our friend Marge’s. So, lots of people asked Kim and John “why Colombia?”. Well…why not? Lol! I think we might find out over the next couple of weeks as their adventures take them from Bogota to Cartagena ….stay tuned!

They left on Thursday with a bit of a puddle jumper flight….Saskatoon to Minneapolisi, to New York and finally Bogota…..that was a long day. The last leg of their flight was interesting….lots of turbulence. John said it can’t be good when the pilot comes on the speaker and in a panicked voice says “ sit down and put your seatbelt on for your safety,”. It was a roller coaster and Kim came out of her seat! But they made it safe and sound, and the driver was ready to pick them up and take them to the hotel. They arrived at 1 am….time to sleep!

The next day was an early start at 9 am. The driver and guide picked them up. They had a lot in store for their private tour today…..they toured the city of Bogota, the gold museum, the historic square, and did a bit of shopping for emeralds….

A bit about this big city

Bogotá is Colombia’s sprawling, high-altitude capital. La Candelaria, its cobblestoned center, features colonial-era landmarks like the neoclassical performance hall Teatro Colón and the 17th-century Iglesia de San Francisco. It’s also home to popular museums including the Museo Botero, showcasing Fernando Botero’s art, and the Museo del Oro, displaying pre-Columbian gold pieces.

First stop on this tour:

Monserrate a high Mountain over 10,000 feet high that dominates the city center of Bogotá. It rises to 3,152 metres (10,341 ft) above the sea level, where there is a church (built in the 17th century) with a shrine.

Well folks, this is an interesting place to start because altitude is not Kim’s friend…..she felt the effects right away when the plane landed. But, she knows to go slow, and she loves this part of the day. Beautiful trees and flowers.

Waiting to head up on the funicular

This is a pilgrimage space, part of which has the stations of the cross. The statutes are from Florence, Italy

Colombia is the second most biodiverse country, the first is Brazil

Just one example of the gorgeous flowers

A newer church on the top, built in 1930’s

Heading back down

Heading back down…looking pretty smoggy

View from the top

Here’s something that was new to Kim….Colombia has up to 90% of the worlds emerald market. Can you say time to shop? Lol. Their guide Caesar took them to some reputable places to browse. You have to be careful here, lots of tourism means you can get scammed. So, with some help Kim is bringing back an emerald ring….she didn’t break the bank because she said you can buy ones for thousands of dollars….yikes!

Where Kim bought her ring…and the lady that helped her spend her money. Lol

Checking out what is for sale ….you can buy raw stones in the square, but you need to know what you are looking for…tourists and scams might go together….it was interesting to see

The emerald trade center….where you think you are buying one gem, and they may swap it out for a piece of glass when you purchase it…buyer beware

Next stop was the gold museum. If you come here, Kim says you must do that. Now, she isn’t really a museum person, but she loved this one and they spend a couple of hours here…

The museum displays a selection of pre-Columbian gold and other metal alloys, such as Tumbaga, and contains the largest collection of gold artifacts in the world in its exhibition rooms on the second and third floors. Together with pottery, stone, shell, wood and textile objects, these items, made of a– to indigenous cultures – sacred metal, testify to the life and thought of the different societies which lived in present-day Colombia before the Spanish conquest of the Americas.

Last but not least, they wandered through downtown and headed to the old colonial town-La Candelaria. They could only go into the old cathedral. All the other municipal buildings that are still in use were closed due to expected protests. Protests happen weekly here. People are unhappy with their corrupt government, and are wanting change. The police were out, but Kim and John didn’t see any activity. They have seen this before, in Peru.

Buying Colombian fruit

This fruit was very starchy like a potato. You put honey and or salt on it

Municipal square

Waiting for the demonstrations

Last but not least, they finished off their day at a great restaurant called Andre DC. A great recommendation by their guide….you know they like their food. Lol

Kim just found her happy place! Cab sav and a side of strawberries

Ceviche

Colombian arepas

Their 86 page menu

You can’t go to Latin America and not have tres leches. Delicious

A very busy day! Kim is trying out her Spanish….lots of folks in Colombia don’t speak English, so she is trying to pick her Spanish back up again quickly. She said it is fun though. O mi Dios! (Oh my god).

They are off to their next destination on Saturday. A quick flight to coffee country!

Later folks! Have a pawsome day and May your life be full of adventures! 🐶🐶🐶❤️💕💗