Finally, we’ve arrived in South America!
After traveling through the San Blas Islands between Panama and Colombia, we eventually ported in Capurgana, Colombia. This marked the beginning of our adventures through South America. We rested in Capurgana for a day, and spent the evening saying goodbye to all of the friends we made on our boat between countries.
The next day, we purchased a speedboat ticket from Capurgana to Turbo, where we could take a bus further into Colombia. What they didn’t tell us, though, was that the boat ride was absolutely crazy. As soon as we left the dock, the driver cranked the three engines on the back of the boat and we shot into the open water, jumping over each wave as they passed. Unfortunately for us and a few friends who knew no better, we sat in the front of the boat because it was wide open with plenty of space to lounge. Wrong choice. As any experienced boat traveler would know, the front is the bumpiest part. We literally were knocked off our seats and rolled around, before the Captain finally cut the engine and allowed us to move further back.
As soon as the boat docked in Turbo, we hardly had time to kiss the ground before we were flocked with dozens and dozens of “friends” who wanted us to take their bus or their taxi, because it was obviously the best and cheapest. We were haggled for a good 10 minutes, before they finally relented and left us alone.
We ended up sharing a private van with 7 other members of our boat trip, because we were all headed in the same direction. We all ended up getting a hostel together in the new city we were in: Medellin.
We arrived to Medellin late, after a 9 hour bus ride from Turbo. After settling in that night, we slept sound and explored the city the next day. We were impressed with all of the beautiful street artwork, parks and museums in Medellin.
During our lunch in the center square, we ate at a family owned street vendor. They were really friendly and had a kid who was overly passionate about his soccer trophy…as he should be.
One museum we visited featured a game where two participants sit across a table from each other, with a wall in the middle dividing the table so that one cannot see the other’s side. Each participant’s side had a variety of foam shapes and pieces. The object of the game was for one participant to arrange the pieces in a specific pattern, and then try and explain to the other participant how they arranged their design, so that they can try and mimic it on their side. We recorded a video of our attempt, and you can check out how we did below.
Another highlight of Medellin was their brilliant metro and cable car system. We ended up taking a cable car up above the city, into a area known as Arvi. There, they have a park with beautiful overlooks and hiking trails.
On our way up to Arvi, we made friends with a Colombian family who lived near the top of the hill. We rode in the Cable car with them, and they were amused by our broken spanish and the silly sentences we were attempting to speak. They, kindly enough, invited us to their home for local made Colombian coffee, after our visit to the top of the mountain. We, along with our friends from the boat, ended up accepting their invitation and had an awesome evening fellowshiping with a local family. We got to learn a lot about their culture and ambitions. We learned that they have some family in Pennsylvania near Exton, ironically, and they plan to go visit them sometime soon. We also learned that one of the sons, Steven, spends time with a lot of the local kids, and wants to become a youth pastor some day.
We spent one more day in Colombia, where we visited a few more museums and checked out a couple of the universities. As we prepared to leave Medellin, we said goodbye to the friends we’ve had since Panama. Nearly all of us parted separate ways. Some went to Cali, some to Peru. and others remained in Medellin for a bit longer.
From Medellin, we caught a bus to Pereira, Colombia. We arrived there at night time, and wandered around the small city until we found an open McDonalds. We went in, relaxed, and set our bags down. We actually didn’t have any place arranged to stay, so we made McDonalds a home for a majority of that night.
Eventually, we contacted a Couchsurfer named Stefan, and met him at an English speaking group the next evening. There, he brings together other Couchsurfers and locals who want to learn and practice their English.
Stefan was nice enough to invite us into his apartment to stay for a couple nights. There, we learned that he’s originally from the US, but currently teaches English in one of the local schools in Pereira. Also, he has a pretty sweet home-made version of Settlers of Catan.
We spent the next day hiking through Selento and Cocora, based on Stefan’s recommendation. Before the jeep ride over, we were in a funny mood as the next pictures will show.
It was a great day enjoying nature, far away from the bustling and busy cities that we’ve been spending so much time in.
We started our hike in a hilly, mountainous terrain, but it quickly transitioned into a jungle path that followed, and crossed a river.
A few hours in, we reached one of the summits, which had a hummingbird sanctuary, built and maintained by a local family who lived in the mountains.
Soon after we arrived, a crazy storm hit the area and thunder, lightning and heavy rain may our travel back down the mountain nearly inaccessible.
We waited on top of the mountain with the family, who provided hot chocolate and soda for us. Unfortunately, however, we had a jeep we had to catch to return into town. Eventually, we decided we would have to bear the storm and descend the mountain regardless of the weather, otherwise we would be stuck there for the rest of the day. We descended, but with increased difficulty due to the river rising and making parts of our trail inaccessible. We made it back to the road where we were to meet our jeep, but sadly missed it by mere seconds. We recollected ourselves, and ended up walking down the road back to town, eventually hitchhiking the rest of the way back.
We made it back to Stefan’s apartment soon before dark. Craving a hot delicious meal, we went downtown and discovered possibly the world’s best kept food secret known to man.
Las Crepes De Paris, to be specific. We indulged in not one, not two, but three meals worth of Crepes, and a delicious home made lemonade for each of us. We couldn’t have been happier, or more satisfied. We made an agreement to eat at every single Las Crepes we would find on the remainder of our trip (later, we were heartbroken to discover that the one in Pereira is, in fact, the only one we know of in the world).
We slept well with delicious food in our stomach. The next day, we woke early to continue our journey into southern Colombia, mile by mile making our way closer to Ecuador.
Our next couple destinations would reveal to us salsa dancing, riots, and an exhausting all day trek through mountains, rivers and part of the Andean cloud-forest.