Before I talk much about my recent two-week Christmas trip to Colombia, let me answer what seems to be most people´s first question:
Yes, Colombia is safe for Americans, as long as you don´t go rubbing elbows at cocaine factories deep in the Amazon jungle. The last gringos kidnapped in Colombia were US defense contractors – local rumor holds also CIA operatives – and that was in 2003. Yes, Colombia is gorgeous. And yes, the people are as stereotypically friendly as any Latin American country I have ever visited. Luke and I had a blast, and except for our rather brainless wandering around the ghetto in Cali, sniffed not a hint of personal danger.
Now, on to the meat of things. State Department be damned, Luke and I flew north to Cartagena on December 16th. We landed at night, spent three hours fending off pimps and cocaine dealers, and fled as fast as possible the following morning. Cartagena could have been great – it´s a coastal city with beautiful beaches and French Quarter-style bougainvillea-covered balconies overlooking narrow streets. But it´s just so much grimier even than New Orleans that Luke and I couldn´t stomach it.
So away we fled to Taganga, a tiny fishing village east of Santa Marta. I am scratching my head as to why we´re not in Taganga today, to be quite honest. Luke and I spent three days eating fresh-cooked fish, drinking fresh-squeezed orange juice, and puzzling over whether to spend our afternoons after scuba diving reading on the beach or relaxing in the hammocks of our favorite beach-view restaurants. Go to Taganga. Yesterday.
Next up: another set of urban disappointments, lying to my parents about traveling in Colombia, and the day-long search for coffee beans/bird food in Cali.