And so, much to the horror of my loved ones at home, I arrived in Columbia. I met an english lady on the plane who has been living here for a year. She freaked the feckin pants off me, I must admit, but 24 hours later I realised that Columbia was as safe (or as unsafe) as pretty much anywhere else in South America. People give South America such a bad name, honestly I’ve never felt restricted or in danger here whatsoever.

Now to be fair, there is a strong military presence here, at ATMs, in the airport and checkpoints throughout the countryside as you travel on the buses. It is a little strange but I guess it leads to a place being safer.

Anyway got into Bogota and my plan was to spend a couple of days there and then head for the coast to do nothing on the beach for my last couple of weeks. Now I was told that I’d probably never be able to sit still that long but that was my plan to make me relax because I’m pretty tired now and apparently look about ten years older than I am – grrrrrrrrrr :-(

Bogota really shocked me. There’s money here in Columbia, much more so than I had expected or experienced anywhere else in South America. Myself and an American girl, Stuart (yes like the boy), I met in the hostel headed off to see the Gold Museum. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a museum like this. The exhibits were displayed like pieces of art but sort of floating in the display case…..

 

…….really beautiful, I was totally impressed with it and it cost just under a euro to get in – sweet. Gold’s cheap it would seem, at least to view it, unfortunately you weren’t allowed take any home :-) Hit Bogota coming into Easter weekend and celebrations were at large on the streets……

…… a real party atmosphere going on with street performers, clowns and stalls selling pretty much everything.

Anyhoo, I fell at the first at the first fence of my relaxation plan and decided to visit the Coffee Plantation (Zona Cafetera) on my way north (it’s totally on my way so it doesn’t count) and Stuart said she’d come with me. All good. Our first stop was Salento, home to Valle de Cocora, this amazing steaming valley which was so green, it kinda reminded me of home, apart from the humming birds and giant palm trees!!

Such an ususual landscape and it was pretty bizarre so see cows grazing under these palm trees!! We did a 10km hike over many scary bridges like this one…….

in what I would call very VERY muddy conditions!!! You know when your foot comes out but not your boot, that kind of muddy!!

Still though we got to do it in our rented wellies, which I grew rather attached to and kept them on the whole time we were in Salento. Nothing like wellies for going to the local pub!!

Oh yeah! Tee hee, hee :-) Well I’m not going to be able to do it at home, now am I??

Easter time was still at large but there was no such thing as everything closing down on Good Friday, god no, the streets were hopping here. It was like a festival, I guess how it’s supposed to be, right? No easter eggs though, boo.

Next morning a bunch of us from the hostel decided to go horse-riding.

There was some great scenery of the region…….

 

……..and unlike the horse-riding I’d done in Brazil and Argentina, we got a good few gallops in so it was good fun.

On to Manizales we headed for some more coffee, which I’m seriously struggling with but trying to appreciate it while I’m here. So another bunch in our hostel decided us to join us for a tour on a coffee farm……….

………which was pretty in depth, we learned a lot (and i mean a lot) about coffee. We finished with a really “holy crap that’s strong” coffee and a lovely lunch, oh and now we’re certified coffee experts!!

Hmmmmm we’ll see, think my coffee drinking days are over now. Phew! It was a nice day and we got back into town standing up on the back of a jeep which was great fun, if not just ever so slightly dangerous but it’s all good when you survive, right :-)

More photos on http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157616559766480/   http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157616602015881/  http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindybear/sets/72157616733768186/