Yes it’s top five time, not top ten this time, yes that is an indictment on Colombia but lets just gloss over that shall we. Colombia did come home with the goods towards the back end of our trip so we’ll focus on that.
Disclaimer time: we are very aware that we’re short term tourists, not informed social beacons, so this is a ‘what we saw’ only, a snapshot of what was presented to us. We’ve been struggling to put our fingers on exactly why Colombia simple didn’t quite hit it for us, the obvious start is that Charlie was sick and damaging the porcelain for the better part of a week. But it’s not only that, Colombia’s recent past is, like so many South American countries, littered with unrest, corruption and misdirection. A relative boom in recent years is evident, possibly this has led to some cash and the inevitable embracing of superficial plastic crap. What is evident is that when it comes to social touch-points (places to eat/ drink, plazas and public spaces, architecture, food etc) there’s little we have seen with much grace, ingenuity, innovation or panache, it’s all a little bit ‘Coca Cola’ really.
On the other hand… Colombia boasts the Andes, Caribbean coast, historical identity and so much more. Yes Colombia is beautiful, yes it is gracious, yes it is captivating, inspiring, cultured and all of those things. What we have discovered is that it just takes that little bit of adventure to get off the beaten track. From wildlife to coffee culture and the extremes of Alpine severity the big cards in Colombia’s deck are the natural ones, not human invention. So with that said, here’s our highlights of a Country that is surprising, gifted and definitely not without inspiration; if you care to look.
Being a great city is one thing, having a natural jewel is another. Sydney has our harbour, Melbourne has hipsters and Bogota has Monserrate. In truth the real gem here is the small but abruptly steepling range of mountains that Bogota wedges itself up to like grout to a tile. Monserrate is a particular peak and a diamond in this crown. In this big gritty shitty city, Monserrate is equal parts grandeur, grace and relief, a counterpoint to balance and give perspective to the sprawl it so commandingly oversees.
4- Museo de Oro (The Gold Museum):
The only ‘man-made’ entrant to the list is a museum, yes a museum. What truly gives it the status we hold it to is what it gives beyond the expectations the city sets. First of all it’s extremely well set out, providing a space that you genuinely want to be in. Beyond that it’s a truly comprehensive view into history, art, culture, spirituality, politics and so much more. And in this regard the museum shows it’s light, through all this the feeling of a classroom is elegantly bypassed and replaced with an enticing atmosphere of intrigue.
3- Rio Blanco:
Holy crap this place was just about as much relief for us as it was grand in its own right. Having a dip into nature is always something that invigorates and at this time of our trip it was more than invigorating, it was a gift. Throw in a bear, amazing vistas, rare sightings and the picture is one of tranquility and peace. But the star of the show is the hummingbird haven. With this element to the pie, peace and tranquility and layered with excitement and wonder, a real gem that cannot be overlooked.
2- Hacienda Guayabal:
We all pay just enough attention to the provenance of our coffee in our favourite cafe to soak up the smugness of knowledge but not so much as to bother our busy days. In this regard we are primary sinners. When we had our tour of Hacienda Guayabal, that fleeting ‘beans- from Colombia’ takes on a whole new meaning, coffee is no longer a snobby critique, it’s a culture and a history. In Australia we associate romance to wine in its entirety but coffee remains the domain of the cup. We profess no genuine knowledge beyond the knowledge that there’s so much more to know.
1- Volcan Purace:
Possibly going to be the biggest no brainer of a number one in this entire trip. Hiking in big mountains is one thing, there’s a teasing mystique about a volcano that sets it apart. It’s all about the peak, the crater. It’s a more focused drive than usually exists on a hike and when the crater reveals itself as the otherworldly vision that carries all the weight of the humility that nature can give: it’s something unique that cannot be overlapped or paralleled to anything else. It’s extraordinary.