Coffee Plantations & Waterfalls

After our couple of days living in the isolated paradise of Tayrona National Park, we headed back to Santa Marta and got the chance to wash our hair and dry out our clothes and become civilised again. We were only staying for the night before heading to the small village of Minca, which was only half an hour away.

Minca is famous for its coffee plantations and jungle-like surroundings. Hidden away 600 metres above Santa Marta, its the perfect place to escape the heat of the Caribbean coastline. The tiny village is all of one small road long and full of friendly Colombians offering lifts or tours.

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A village local

We arrived in the late afternoon, just as the heat of the day was starting to subside. Our hostel for the night was Casa Loma, which was this groovy treehouse-esque style hostel tucked in high above the village of Minca. We were thankful for only bringing small backpacks as the walk up to Casa Loma was a vertical ascent. Sweaty and out of breath, we reached the open area of the common area and checked in. Already I could tell that i would love this place. Big timber tables sat out on the edge of the mountain, with the spectacular jungle view below us. The hostel was covered in postcards and memorabilia and the staff were super friendly. It was obvious that people stay much longer than they intend here, its just a very homely place.

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Casa Loma

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Our beds for the night

We checked and signed up for the home-cooked dinner that night because a home-cooked meal sounded absolutely amazing (and we didn’t want to have to climb those stairs again!) To tide us over until dinner there was a very welcoming tray of brownies that we tucked into. As we watched the sunset over Santa Marta, with our beer and brownies, it was clear that Casa Loma had definitely won us over.

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Dinner was delicious but slightly on the small side, luckily there were extra brownies for dessert! We headed to bed early that night, eager to make the most of the following day. It was another night in a hammock but these ones were miles better than the hammocks at Cabo San Juan. I managed to get a full night sleep comfortably and woke up feeling fresh and ready to explore the area.

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Sunset at Casa Loma

We walked down the hill to a little cafe and had a filling breakfast of plantain, eggs and chorizo – washed down with local coffee. After breakfast we negotiated a price for some of the locals to drive us around for the day. Our driver from yesterday was there and he happily organised drivers for us and off we went on the back of their little moto-taxis ready for adventure.

Our first stop was the La Victoria coffee farm, about a 15 minute ride from the village. This small coffee farm still uses the original machines and has ingenious systems using water to transfer the coffee to one point from anywhere on the huge farm. We learnt about the coffee making process and the steps that goes into creating the perfect cup of coffee.

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Our drivers and us at the coffee plantation

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Learning about the coffee making process

It was interesting to learn that all the best coffee in Colombia gets shipped overseas and the Colombians only use the second and third rate coffee beans. It seemed peculiar that they would give away all their incredible produce but I guess whatever pays the bills! The farm does keep a small selection of the first grade coffee for their small cafe, which we happily took advantage of! They even had freshly cooked brownies and carrot cake which had our name all over it. This was definitely turning out to be the brownie tour of Colombia!

 

After the coffee farm tour, we jumped on the back of the bikes again and were taken to Pozo Azul to cool off. This little swimming hole was the perfect way to spend the afternoon and we played in the icy water, jumping off the waterfall ledge and taking a few too many GoPro selfies! We reluctantly headed back to the village of Minca, sad that the day had gone too quickly.

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At Pozo Azul

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Defs up for Colombia’s Next Top Model :p

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Unfortunately we were out of time in Minca and had to head back to Santa Marta to catch the bus to Medellin. It was a quick but peaceful stay in the this tiny village and when I return to Colombia one day, I’m definitely going to spend more time there. Its the perfect little oasis to escape the daily grind of travelling.

Now to catch the bus to Medellin! Hello 16 hour bus ride – I’m sure you’ll be a delight! :/

J. x

Tayrona National Park

We were back in Santa Marta and ready to tick off another one of Colombia’s must-do things. The Tayrona National Park was about a two hour bus ride from Santa Marta and super cheap, thanks to the local buses. Tayrona National Park not only has an immense natural importance on the region, but also it is a cultural treasure as it was once inhabited but the famous Tayrona tribe. Their culture is still present today with their direct descendants, the Koguis tribe still living and maintaining many of the original traditions.

We reached the park entrance and paid our entry fee (note – bring a student card if you have one, chops off 45% of the price!) and took a colectivo to the start of the hiking trail. We planned to stay in Arrecifes for the first night, mainly because it was the first stop on the trail! We hiked for about an hour through the Tayrona jungle, dodging long hanging branches and spotting monkeys. After being in busy Santa Marta it was nice to be back to nature, with hardly anyone in sight. Reaching the campsite dripping in sweat, we paid for our hammocks and dropped our bags off before heading to find some water to cool off in.

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However the beach at Arrecifes isn’t suitable for swimming due to its dangerous currents. Judging the currents and our swimming abilities, we decided to ignore the sign and paddle in the huge swell. This didn’t last long though as a security guard swiftly came over to tell us off. At least we got to cool down a little!

Food was next on the agenda so we headed off down the trail in search of comida. There were a couple more campsites and small restaurants as we walked along the trail. The park had a very ‘Lost’ feel about it, I was expecting to see a crashed plane and a tribe of people to come running out at any second! We gushed over the beautiful scenery and the amazing light of the setting sun before stumbling across a life-saver of a lady who sold the most delicious bread in the world! Freshly baked, still warm pan was just what we needed for an entree for dinner. We sampled the ham and cheese, the guava jam and cheese and the chocolate bread before telling the lady we would be back first thing in the morning to have it again for breakfast.

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After views in Tayrona National Park

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Beautiful sunsets

We found some dinner at a small restaurant at the next camp to ours. Full from the bread, we just had a small dinner before attempting to brave the walk home in the jungle alone. We were all set to go until some fellow travellers told us how they had just seen the alligators by the beach. Slightly freaking out, we ruled out walking back by the beach and decided to go via the way we came. However the topic of snakes popped up and suddenly we were too scared and stranded to walk back alone! Luckily a couple of locals were heading the same way we were so they guided us back through the jungle and we made it back to our hammocks snake-free. Sleep came easy that night, which was surprising because it was the first time I’d slept overnight in a hammock. But the clean hammock and solid mosquito net made for the perfect slumber, especially with the sound of the ocean lulling us to sleep.

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Our ‘hostel’ for the first night

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The following day we packed our bags up and hiked towards El Cabo San Juan. Despite it still being early, the sun was beating down on us hard. We dodged some monkeys and made a pit stop at La Piscina (‘the pool’ for those non-Spanish speakers) for a quick dip and to admire the amazing view. Finally the white sand, turquoise blue water dream I had been envisioning was starting to come to life.

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Horses for when you couldn’t hike anymore
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La Piscina – the ‘swimming pool’

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We walked onto El Cabo San Juan, which took about half an hour and jumped straight into the blue water. This place was way busier than where we had been previously, mainly because it was the most advertised area. We spent our day sun baking, swimming and generally enjoying life. L and I braved swimming out to a huge rock with some boys we met and managed to scar ourselves climbing up the rocks to jump into the ocean. Luckily there were no sharks nearby to smell the blood!

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Cabo San Juan

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We dined on garlic prawns and rice for dinner and played cards until it was an acceptable time for bed. This sun-baking business was tiring! Unfortunately I didn’t sleep so well in the hammocks here, they just weren’t as comfy as the night before.

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Fresh garlic prawns! Muy bueno!

After a fitful night of tossing and turning I was happy to get up and start the day. We had freshly cooked ‘caprese pan‘, which was warm bread filled with cheese, tomato and pesto sauce, washed down with a fresh maracuya juice. It wasn’t quite as sunny as yesterday but we still managed to get in some solid sun baking time. We considered staying another night but the thought of sleeping in those hammocks again put us off and we decided to head back to civilisation that day.

In the late afternoon we had a final meal at the only restaurant on Cabo San Juan and caught the boat back to Taganga and returned to our hostel in Santa Marta for a proper shower and a bed! Tomorrow we planned to go to Minca, the tiny village in the mountains about 40 minutes away from Santa Marta. I couldn’t wait!

J. x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diving in Tagana

To be honest, I hadn’t really considered scuba diving in South America. But then again, I hadn’t really planned much past Cusco and here I was in Colombia by the Caribbean coast so I guess anything could happen. Like the majority of the things that I’d done so far, I’d heard from other travellers that scuba diving was cheap and beautiful in Colombia so I dug out my old PADI license from the depths of my bag and signed up for refresher course.

My pal L and I booked our dives with Tayrona Dive Centre in the small town of Taganga. This little town was known for diving and crazy parties but it was so dirty and unfinished I was much happier staying 15 minutes away in Santa Marta. Our dive instructor Juan made us watch a video on the basics of scuba diving and then suited us up and ushered us out to the boat. L hadn’t dived before so I was expecting the first dive to be all about learning techniques and skills but once we were in the water, Juan made sure L was calm and confident and we set off to discover the world below the water. It sure was a big change from when I got my PADI license a few years ago, where it was all about safety techniques and practising skills. It was nice that they were so relaxed about it all because we got to spend more time under the water!

The first dive I was still a bit nervous because it had been four years since my last dive but once I got my ears to equalise I was on fire.We swam amongst schools of fish and past healthy looking coral life. Massive puffer fish floated past us and we found lion fish hidden away in in the hard coral. We took a break on a lone beach, where small geckos flitted around our feet before diving into the clear waters once more. I’d forgotten how amazing diving was and was so glad I decided to do it again.

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Cheese!

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All the gear … No idea

The following day we woke up early again and headed back out to Tanganga for our second day of diving. I was feeling a lot more confident today and loved every single under the water. Completing my Advanced Dive certification was now much higher on my bucket list!

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After our dives we said goodbye to Juan and headed back to Santa Marta. The following day we spent at Playa Bahia Concha, a local beach on the outskirts of Tayrona National Park. It was the perfect way to decompress after our two days diving.

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Hanging out at Playa Bahia Concha

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Tomorrow we head out Tayrona National Park to discover one Colombia’s must-see attractions. And to get in some more tan time!

J. x

 

A Holiday From a Holiday in Palomino

It was time. I’d been gallivanting around South America for about four and a bit months now and was surprised at how worn out I was getting at playing tourist. Whoever said travelling was a walk in the park obviously has only been on all-inclusive holidays. This travelling business is just as hard as a job, the only thing is that its full time. So after reaching Colombia, I was a little tired of always being the tourist, I just wanted to relax and chill out. I guess you could say I wanted a holiday from my travels – ah its a tough life!

Luckily Colombia is full to the brim of places to get stuck in and really just live like the Colombians. After a week and a bit in Cartagena, I was ready for some serious beach time and Palomino Beach seemed like the perfect idea.

I caught the bus to Santa Marta and spent one night in this hot, busy city. Santa Marta didn’t leave much of an impression on me in the short time I was there. It seemed too chaotic, dirty and busy so I caught the bus to Palomino the following morning to meet two of the English girls I had stayed with in Cartagena. The drive to Palomino was long but beautiful. We passed Tayrona National Park, the starting point of the Lost City trek and many different little roadside villages. I arrived at the Tiki Hut Hostel where the girls were staying at instantly felt at ease. This tropical resort looking hostel was exactly what I was chasing. I spent the afternoon lazing around the pool with the girls, catching up on what we’d been doing in the past week.

The following day I did more of the same – devouring the amazing breakfast on offer at the Tiki Hut, sun baking, swimming and sampling one of the best brownies I’ve had ever. Not even kidding, these brownies were LIFE-CHANGING! Life is good! I went tubing down the river with some Danish girls that were also staying at the hostel and a big group of us solo female travellers found a delicious vegetarian restaurant that we may have visited twice in one day!

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The Tiki Hut – amazing!

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For the first time of the trip I was surrounded solely by girls and it was absolutely wonderful. We were all either travelling solo or in pairs and it was great to see how we could all come together from different parts of the world. I felt like girl power was definitely at its finest in Palomino, no boys needed here! I also found it hilarious that despite your address, every group of girls will have the same conversations. We talked about boys, our bodies and futures. As cheesy as it sounds but talking with these girls was empowering and it made me realise that my decision to travel instead of settle down was the right decision.

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Girl Power!

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Falafel and quinoa 
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Raw beetroot salad

We stayed in Palomino for the week, extending our stay every morning much to the hostels staffs humour. Each time we’d go to reception they’d said ‘Another night girls?’. That was another great thing about the Tiki Hut, the staff were so friendly and welcoming. I definitely recommend this hostel to anyone in Palomino – it’s the perfect place to enjoy the Caribbean coast. Plus the pancakes at breakfast are absolutely bomb!

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Palomino Beach

One of the English girls L and I wanted to go diving so we reluctantly left our little oasis in Palomino and headed back to Santa Marta to find a dive school. We booked into Masaya Hostel which was a grand old building, that must of have been a fancy hotel back in it’s day. The best dive shops were 15 minutes away in the small town of Taganga, so we put it on tomorrow’s do-to list and enjoyed dinner at a small little cafe called Carambolo, which had the most delicious wraps and drinks. It was here that I was introduced to coconut lemonade and let me just say that my life has never been the same! Carambolo was situated in a colourful little street that opened up into a big square, which was much nicer than the area of Santa Marta than I had seen briefly. My opinions on this city were starting to change.

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Inside Masaya Hostel

We headed to bed early that night, still running on our Palomino schedule where the bed time was early and the sleep was solid. Tomorrow, lets go diving!

 

J. x

 

Cartagena Part 2: Playing Tourist

I’d been living the high life in Cartagena for the first three days but I actually hadn’t seen much of the city. We’d spent so much time in enjoying the luxury of our own apartment that sightseeing had taken a backseat. While I thoroughly enjoyed my time living it up in style, I was also eager to experience Cartagena.

After a pretty ordinary stay at Chill House Hostel I made it my first mission of the day to find a new hostel. Luckily I didn’t have to go too far until I found the greatest hostel in Cartagena. Mi Llave Hostel was on the outside of the old town, right by the water in a bright pink building. This relatively new hostel had absolutely everything you wanted in a hostel and the staff were so lovely, I booked in straight away. After cooling down for a bit (Cartagena was the hottest place on the planet!) I set back out with my trusty camera and went to explore the Old Town.

Surrounded by Las Murallas – the thick walls built to protect the town from enemies – the Old Town is a real piece of colonial architecture. The construction of the walls too two centuries to complete due to storms and pirate attacks. It was finished in 1796 however due to the excellent military engineering they still remained in remarkably good shape. Inside the walls, the bright coloured buildings are squashed between churches, plazas, palaces and many different restaurants and cafes. I spent the day wandering the cobblestone streets, getting a sore neck from constantly looking around. Late in the afternoon I stumbled across what can only be described as a dessert lovers heaven and I thought it would be rude not to sample their goods.

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Entrance to the Old Town

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These cast iron statues are surrounded all around the Old Town

Mila Cafe sits on the corner of a colourful street in the Old Town and takes ones breath away once they walk through the door. The gold accented building has a French influence and their display cabinets are enough to make anyone a dessert person. I was particularly drawn to the gold topped brownies and tarts that sparkled under the bright lights. Deciding it was definitely cake o’clock, I ordered a brownie and iced latte and sat down in the cool air-conditioning. Let me just say, this brownie was not only the most amazing thing I’ve eaten, but it was definitely the prettiest! I knew I would be returning to this place a few more times before I left!

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Too pretty to eat!

That night my friend L, who I trekked the Santa Cruz trail with in Peru met me at Mi Llave and we planned to spend the next few days together in this hot little city. We walked the streets, ate more brownies, talked until we couldn’t anymore and almost gate-crashed a wedding.

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Exploring the Old Town
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Fresh orange juice!

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One day we caught a local bus to Playa Blanca, the nearest beach to Cartagena for some much needed ocean time. Playa Blanca is a beautiful beach, only polluted by the masses of tourists that visit it everyday. The snow white sand and clear water is incredible to be near, but the hordes of tourists and annoying hawkers make it not such a relaxing stay. We stayed for a few hours, playing in the cool water and working on our tans before heading back to Cartagena.

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Playa Blanca
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Welcome to the Caribbean Coast!

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L left after a few days together and I was alone for three whole hours before my bus buddy J met me again. He had been up north and we shared our adventures from the past week over more brownies and coffees (I may have become addicted to Mila Cafe) We watched the sunset on top of the walls of Las Murallas and had some delicious pizza to end the night with.

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Final sunset in Cartagena

The following day we split up again, with him heading south to Bogota and myself to Santa Marta. I’d had a small taste of Colombian beaches with Playa Blanca and I was keen to get some more. Caribbean coast here I come!

J. x

 

 

 

Cartagena Part 1: Living in Luxury

As the taxi drove us through the city of Cartagena to the old town, I could just tell that this place was going to steal my heart. The old colonial style buildings mixed in with the colourful houses were mesmerising to look at and the cobblestone streets were just enticing me to wander through them.

We reached our hostel, Media Luna, and quickly changed clothes and went out to find food. Entering the arched gates of the Old Town we found a small cafe and splurged on burgers to make up for all the poor snacks we’d been surviving on for the past few days. It was ridiculously hot and humid in Cartagena, which was a shock to both our systems, so we revelled in the air-conditioned cafe for as long as possible.

Eventually mustering up the energy to face the heat again, we headed back to Media Luna and laid out by the pool for the rest of the afternoon. That night we met up with J’s friends and I became acquainted with five English girls who were just lovely. We tested out the Cartagena nightlife (which is fantastic) before crashing hard in the cool air-conditioned rooms at Media Luna.

The following day J and I met with the English girls in their fancy AirBnb apartment. It was absolute luxury and we spent the day in the pool right outside their apartment door. The seven of us had all been travelling for several months now and were all missing food from home, so after trawling the nearest Exito supermarket we created a menu to make any Westerner jealous. A Blue cheese, a baked brie, guacamole and toasted garlic bread for entree, Japanese stir fry for dinner and chocolate truffle and tiffin for dessert left the seven of us literally in a food coma. Unable to move, we sprawled out on the floor, totally stuffed but totally satisfied! Mission accomplished!

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Chefs at work
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We may or may have not brought a trolley three blocks from the supermarket into the apartment. Funnier still, an Exito employee came and took it back for us!
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First course!

The following day J left for the north coast and the girls invited me to stay with them in their apartment. I happily took them up on the offer and moved straight in. We spent the day by the pool again, working on our tans and enjoying this little bit of luxury. Another delicious home-made dinner and cocktails, we did our best not to comatose ourselves with food again. As it was one of the girls last night in South America, we went out on the town in search of an espresso martini and a good place to dance. El Barôn delivered the goods on the martinis (which were almost as good as the ones at home!) and afterwards we found a couple of local salsa bars to boogie in. It was nearly 3am by the time we got home but it was just so nice to have a girls night out. I hadn’t done that since I’d left home.

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The following day was similar to the day before and we managed to convince the owners the give us a late check-out. Not leaving until 5pm, we reluctantly said our goodbyes to our beautiful little apartment and went our separate ways. Some of the girls were heading north to Santa Marta and some others were heading south. I was staying in Cartagena for a few more days because my friend L was arriving so it was back to hostels for me. I said goodbye to the girls and we made plans to meet up again on the Caribbean coast, they were such a great group of girls that I hoped those plans would stick.

Checking into the Chill House Hostel just around the corner from our apartment, it definitely was a shock to the system. It wasn’t the flashiest of hostels and a far cry from the luxury I’d been living in but it would do for the night. I headed to bed early so I could be ready to spend the following day playing tourist.

J. x

 

How NOT To Cross Three Countries By Bus

One lost phone, one lost pair of thongs, a scam at the border, four buses, one flight and absolutely no headphones later I finally made it to Cartagena, Colombia and let me tell you I was so, SO happy to be there!

Let me rewind to three days earlier when I met up with my friend J in Mancora to begin our epic journey. J and I had met in La Paz where he was working behind the bar at the Wild Rover Hostel. We’d kept in contact since then and when he told me his plans to head north to Colombia to meet some friends I quickly jumped on board. After months in southern South America I was itching for some hot weather and nice beaches. I’d heard nothing but good things about Colombia and wanted to get there ASAP. The thought of having a travel buddy was enticing and before I knew it we were making plans on how to make the 4,000-ish kilometre journey to the Caribbean coastline.

Early Thursday morning J met me at the Loki Mancora and between my hangover and his altitude sickness we sure were a sight for sore eyes. After a quick kip, I finally checked out of Loki and we bought our bus tickets to Guayaquil in Ecuador. The bus was leaving in 10 minutes so we just made it on time for the minivan to meet us in the street and take us to Tumbes on the border of Peru and Ecuador. The ride took about two hours and was uneventful. J and I caught up on all our travel adventures since we last saw each other and laughed at our hopelessness and crazy decision to travel all this way.

We reached Tumbes and the minivan dropped us on the main street. We were quickly hounded by taxi drivers offering us rides when two men came up to us saying that they had to drive us to the next bus station because the one in Tumbes was closed.I hadn’t heard about any bus stations closing or that we would need to be driven anywhere but the men were wearing shirts bearing the ‘Chifa’ bus logo and they had business cards and a fancy looking car. It felt a tiny bit suspicious, but they assured us that they would take us to the right spot. So far since travelling I’ve had no issues or fell victim to any scams. In general, most people I’ve met in South America have been genuine and actually want to help. So Team Dumb & Dumber (aka J and I) got in the car and crossed our fingers.

As we drove out of Tumbes and onto the main highway I started to feel a little uneasy. I had assumed it would be a short drive but as the minutes ticked on, it felt like we were being taken on a ride. The men assured us that this was the right way to go and that the border was very dangerous so they were being our security. I had heard stories that the border was in fact a bit dodgy so went along with their charade and J and I hoped that our positive attitudes would lead to a positive outcome.

Unfortunately we were wrong.

We reached the town on Ecuador side of the border, which even now I still don’t know what it was called. Driving right through the border signs, the men drove us to a small side street and into an empty car park. It was here that my warning bells were ringing off the rails. I clutched my backpack containing all my valuables and waited to see what their next move was. Another man came up to the car and we were told that he would walk us to the bus station but we had to pay them $60USD for being our security before getting out of the car. J and I stared at us in disbelief. That much money was about quadruple the price of our bus tickets to Guayaquil, which the man in the passenger seat still had. We tried to argue but our poor Spanish just wouldn’t get the message across. After a lot of finger pointing and shaking our heads, we decided to just hand over the money and go. Luckily J had $60USD in his wallet so we threw it at the drivers and grabbed our bags quickly. The drivers demanded more money but we walked out of the car park and prayed they wouldn’t follow us. The man who had met us in the car park caught up to us and led us through the busy market to a bus station. When we reached it, he went to leave but we asked for our bus tickets back. He kept saying ‘No se, no se’, as in he didn’t know and turned and walked quickly off.

Fuming, we dropped our bags at the bus station and wiped the sweat off our foreheads. It was about 35 degrees and we were both melting. I looked around the bus station and realised this wasn’t even the Chifa bus station and that the little Ecuadorian man had just taken us to the closet one he could find.

Feeling defeated and annoyed we sat in the small bus station and pondered on what to do. At this point we were sitting in in Ecuador illegally, with no stamp in our passport, no bus ticket, no money and no idea. Too hot to think we decided to get on the next bus leaving to Guayaquil from this bus station and hope for the best. It was leaving in ten minutes and in my awful Spanish I tried to ask the bus driver if the bus would stop at immigration so we could get a stamp. J was sitting on the bus waiting and our bags were stowed underneath but something felt wrong. After asking a couple of people I finally someone who understood me and said that we had to catch a taxi to the Frontera to get our stamps before getting on the bus.

Quickly pulling our bags off the bus we watched as the bus pulled out and wondered where to go to next. I only had Peruvian soles on me and had to change them over before we could go anywhere so leaving J to rest in the shade, I persisted in the heat to find a money exchange. Three banks later I was still unsuccessful. Finally after walking through a forest of market stalls, I reached what appeared to be the border of Ecuador that we had driven past earlier with the dodgy men. Asking around I finally found a man changing money and got some US dollars in my hand. I asked the man about getting our passports stamped and he confirmed what I’d been told before, go to the Frontera by taxi to immigration.

Feeling slightly better now that I had money and sort of idea what to do next I raced back to J and relayed the news to him. We pulled our bags on again and braced ourselves to emerge back into the heat to hail a taxi. The taxi ride was short and only cost us a small $3USD. Feeling better about our situation we waited in line at immigration and almost jumped for joy when they stamped us in! No more illegal backpacking in Ecuador!

Our moods turned brighter when we saw a bus pull up with a sign saying Guayaquil on it. We pounced on the bus driver and begged him to let us on. In our broken Spanglish we got the message across and he told us it would be $10 and to wait on the other side of the road until the rest of the passengers had been stamped through. Within twenty minutes we were on a bus to Guayaquil with stamps in our passports and money in the wallet. Team Dumb and Dumber were back on track!

After venting about the border incident we decided to just think positive and not think about what had happened for a few days until it would become a funny story. In retrospect we were super lucky, we still had all our belongings and were only $60USD and a bus ticket down – the situation could have been a lot more worse. Luckily J and I were both very easy-going people so once we’d had a little vent, we were just happy to finally be back on track with our journey.

The journey to Guayaquil was uneventful and we arrived into the Ecuadorian city at around 9pm. The bus station was the fanciest I’d seen since travelling. It was about four stories high and even late at night, it was buzzing with activity. There was even a Maccas in the food court! We booked a ticket to Quito which cost us all of $10 and left in 25 minutes. Good spirits were flying between us both despite our tiredness and we got some dinner before running to the bus.

We reached Quito early in the morning at 4:30am and delirious from lack of sleep we raced through the bus station and found a bus leaving in 10 minutes to the border of Ecuador and Colombia for a mere $7AUD! My shocked face said it all as we laughed about how our bad situation had done a total 360 turn, things were coming up Team Dumb and Dumber!

The bus was a local one which meant that it was a constant chaotic mess of loud noises, screaming children and crazy people coming on board trying to sell hand wash and pens. The six hour journey went slowly but together we managed to survive the ordeal. We reached the border at Tulcan and crossed without issue. Finally we were in Colombia!

One final 12 hour bus journey to go, we booked our ticket to Cali and grabbed some food for the next bus. A bit sick of sitting down, we decided to cheat a little and book a flight from Cali to Cartagena as it meant cutting out at least another 20 hours. With ten minutes to spare between buses we quickly booked seats on the next Viva Colombia flight before running to our final bus!

This bus ride was probably the worst. Leaving in the early afternoon we watched as the sky slowly turned darker and darker. The views however, were phenomenal! Huge mountains, deep valleys and windy roads made the long journey slightly easier. By this stage I’d had only about three hours sleep in total and was running pretty much on empty. The visions on a Colombian beach and a coconut cocktail was the only thing keeping me going!

We reached Cali around midnight and couldn’t be more happier to be off a bus. Our flight wasn’t until 10am so we had heaps of time to kill in between. The shuttle to the airport didn’t start running until 4:30am so we took advantage of the well set up bus station in Cali and settled in for a few hours. This bus station felt like the Holy Grail – there were SHOWERS! We both raced to the showers and washed away the past two days of travel. Feeling much fresher,we found some food and played cards until it was time to catch the airport shuttle.

Cali Airport was small and nondescript. Being 4:30am in the morning, not much was happening so we settled in on the hard concrete floor and tried to nap for a couple of hours. If you can picture two hopeless looking humans spread out in the middle of a food court in an airport, covered in sarongs and scarves then that was us. We looked ridiculous!

The hours ticked by slowly and I managed to finish my second book of the journey while J napped on the floor. Finally at around 8:30am we could check in and drop our backpacks off. Cartagena was so close I could almost feel the heat! We found breakfast and coffee and waited patiently until our flight was called. As we boarded our flight, I couldn’t believe we’d actually made it this far! This journey was definitely going to be a story for the ages.

The flight to Cartagena was super short (mainly because I fell asleep before take off) and once I opened my eyes, we were landing. Racing of the plane, J and I were ecstatic despite our tiredness. We were in Cartagena! We caught a cab to the Old Town and found our hostel, where we would be meeting J’s friends. I was stoked to be in Colombia, this country has been the one that every person I spoke to loved. I couldn’t wait to explore it!

I had no plans for the next part of my trip, only knowing that I wanted to squeeze as much of Colombia in as possible. Stay tuned to see how it turns out!

J. x