Surrounded by the sound of roosters letting everybody know that a new day has started with a nice sunrise, I’m writing this new post for you guys. I’m now in Salento, arrived yesterday in this beautiful little town on a sunny day surrounded by green mountains and lots of peace. This is where I exactly need to be after a couple of dissapointing and feeling-lost days. Let me tell you what happened.. 😉
I was feeling so excited to leave the coast and start my adventure to see Caño Cristales! CC is known for the 5 color river, one of the most beautiful rivers in the world because between Jun-Nov the algue in the river shows some beautiful colors on a clear sunny day! Before going to Colombia I already fell in love with the nature wonder, so it was a big thing on my list. The possibilities of going there were with a tour completed from a-z incl accommodation, food, transport, flight etc. This was rediculously expensive so I looked into possibilities doing it by myself one by one. A new challenge for this traveling tall Dutch girl 😜
This challenge started in Bogotá, the main city of this beautiful country and where I started my whole journey. Just 30 mins before my plane took off back to the city, I arrived at the airport. Thank god it was a small airport there at the coast and within 10 mins I checked in my bag and got to the gate, haha. Yes, this is possible in Colombia 😁 The plan was to spend one night in Bogotá and visit Monseratte which I haven’t been able to do my first time in the city and then take a bus the next day in the direction of Caño Cristales. I had the priviledge to enjoy Monseratte by sunset and the view was just so beautiful! 😍 I also had a long Skype date with two of my favorite girls; Chenice & Arwen! So nice to talk with them again and see their faces. It just felt I was there with them in the living room of Leeuwarden 😊 The technology of these days makes me feel less loney here. Its so easy to get in contact, call for free via WhatsApp or see eachother on Skype. Wifi is almost everywhere here, so happy me!! 😄
At my hostel I was sharing the room with a nice couple from the UK. They traveled already for quite some time and do this more often in their lives. The woman said, 9 months back home and I need to travel again! Haha. Who knows I will end up like that as well 😉
So, ready for my adventure I got myself into a bus to Villavicencio. From there I would fly to La Macarena, the little town just on the edge of the Natural Park of Caño Cristales. The traffic was crazy and I arrived later then I expected. At the airport I was directed to a small tour office where you can organize a charter flight to La Macarena. Unfortunately as I was traveling alone and you need 3 people for the plane, I couldn’t go that day anymore. I had to stay the night in Villavicencio and fly the next morning. Bought my ticket, one way as I didn’t know yet when I would come back. Villavicencio wasn’t spectacular, my hostel neither. Well, it was just to stay the night, leave my big bag there and go on my journey with a daypack. After arriving in the early morning I had to wait a loooooong time before I finally got on the small plane. Colombian style he 😁 Everything goes handwritten here in the smaller cities/towns. A guy from the airport would have a small note with your name written on there and call you out when your plane was ready. It made me a bit nervous when I saw people one by one heading off to their planes and I didn’t hear my name yet… At the end I was the last one with 2 other Colombians. How cool!! I would fly for 1 hour in a super small charter plane, over the countryside of Colombia, sitting next to the Pilot! Got my GoPro ready and all my other electronics to capture this once in a lifetime experience 😃 As we were about to take off, just before the runway, the pilot got a message that it was not yet possible to go due to too many planes arriving at the little town of La Macarena. So, another time waiting and waiting. I was already there at 7 AM in the morning, finally my little airplane was in the air at 11.30 AM 😊 What a cool experience!! The pilot was a really nice guy and brought me safe to the little town.
I found a cheap place to sleep where I got a private room because the dorms were full. La Macarena is a small town with a couple of streets and a military base because the FARC is still active around there. So you see lots of militarian man with big guns! I was afraid of taking a picture of them or just talk to one of them as the atmosphere was really different than what I normally experienced in Colombia. The people of the town were nice luckily and were used to tourist walking through their streets. Lots of big groups are here who bought the full package. Turns out, they get priority in everything!! 😑 My experience to get a tour to see Caño Cristales wasn’t that great. First I heard that I couldn’t join because there is just a certain amount of people allowed in the parc per day, then they share super high prices with you to rip you off, everything needs to go with a guide, no wandering around by yourself is possible, lots of things are not allowed in the park like plastic water bottles, no sunscreen, no insect repellent etc. I read about this a bit before, but when you’re there the experience is so much different than expected! I couldn’t just finish my first day there by not going to see CC the next day, so I did everything I could to get a tour. As you know, Nadine doesn’t take NO for an answer… 😅 Still having the Nike mentality inside me! 😜 I succeeded in getting myself into a group of 6 other people and even bargained the price, well done me 💪 Eventhough in the end I got what I wanted, I was pretty tired and overloaded with the experiences I got that day. Sometimes your head is just too full to take everything in. Later that day I met a really nice Colombian couple. They were so interested in me and asked me lots of questions about the Dutch culture! So sweet.. We went to get some nice empanadas in town, one of the most known snacks in Colombia and I spoke Spanish all evening 😊
That night it was raining a lot and I started to get afraid for the day.. 😮 Not the best way to start your day where you were looking forward to for months already!! Again the tour started with lots and lots of waiting. We needed to watch a movie of the National Park to understand what was allowed and what wasn’t. Then we had to wait for a boat, then wait for a jeep and then wait to enter the Park! Luckily it stopped raining, so we hadn’t to wait in the pouring rain.. My group existed of all Colombian people, so the tour was in Spanish and I couldn’t understand most of it. The guide was mumbling with his Spanish.. The people were nice though, but I hoped to learn a bit more about the flora and fauna. Instead we just walked for hours in the Park. Ready to see some beauty, I felt very dissapointed when we got to the first waterfall places of Caño Cristales.. Because of the rain the level of the water was pretty high and you couldn’t see the other colors than just the red algue. Besides this it started raining again and this time it was pouring rain!! So, I got soaking wet.. We walked further and some views were nice, but it didn’t impress me in the way I hoped. Once coming back into town I felt so dissapointed and sad… 😢 Especially when my guide showed me pictures of the day before which looked absolutely stunning!!!! 😤 That what was I wanted to see, what I dreamed of.. But no, I didn’t get that experience and had to deal with my first big dissapointment in my travel journey. I was thinking of going another day, but it was pretty expensive, the whole experience of the guide and everything around it wasn’t that great, so spending my money again for something I’m not sure about will exceed as the weather changes by the minute, didn’t feel right. I just had to deal with this and move on. Not an easy thing to do I can tell you! It hit me harder than I thought.. I felt so lost again in what to do. The next day I joined another group to a small place where you could see a bit of CC again and swim in the lake. It was cheap to go there and gave me a chance to hopefully see another glimpse of the most beautiful lake of the world! This time I was with a group of foreigners, had a good guide who spoke a bit of English and there was no rain. It was nice and I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t in an ecstatic mood… One thing I am lucky with here in my travel journey, seeing some beautiful sunsets 😍 On our way back from Caño Piedra the sunset and colors of the sky brought back a bit of positivity inside me.
The last picture in the left is a collage of what I saw and what I should have seen if I was 1 day earlier in La Macarena.. These were the pictures of my guide.
With some nice people I met at the small tour I went for dinner, met another German girl who was heading the same direction after CC as me, so the next day we traveled together in the direction of the coffee region. Lucky me that I didn’t buy a return ticket for the flight as the ticket back was cheaper ☺ The same pilot brought me back to Villavicencio. Again a cool experience and he even flew over CC to see it from up the air! This time we didn’t had to wait for long times. From the flight we got into a bus to Bogotá and from Bogotá we got into an overnight bus to Armenia. Bus drivers here are driving like crazy!! Traffic jam, mountain roads, it doesn’t matter, you have to hold on tight and enjoy the ride 😜 Unfortunately I couldn’t sleep at all because of this, so I just watched a movie in Spanish, Inside Out 😉 haha. 5 AM we arrived at Armenia. My travel compagnon headed off further and I got myself a hostel for 2 nights in Armenia. I called the host, woke him up.. ups! but he was so nice to pick me up and gave me a bed so I could sleep. Finally! 😊
The dissapointment of the last days was still not gone and I was really asking myself “Is this it? Do I really like my life like this?” At that moment I just wanted to go home.. I missed my family and friends a lot. When I talk with people I meet about my family for example, people tell me their relationships with their mom/dad/brother/sister. Sometimes I hear stories about them not having a nice relationship with one of them and that makes me realize how happy I am with my relationships. How much I love my people ❤ Missing them made me feel more down and lost as well. They say “Getting lost will help you find yourself” Well.. I can say I haven’t found myself yet 😅
Luckily the universe keeps on giving you what you need eventhough you’re a bit on a low point. The hostel I stayed was a nice country house owned by a lovely man and his African women. Everything I asked was possible. I was cooking my own healthy dinner, was a bit fed up with all the meat. At the last night I had to move rooms which turned out in my favor, a private little cabin with own bathroom, a big bed and nice view in the morning! 😊 A cute little kitten also gave me some extra love those days.. 😻
Slowly a smile was coming back on my face 😄 Especially when I arrived at Salento! As mentioned at the beginning of my post, this place is so beautiful and peaceful 😍 I might end up staying longer here and work on a coffee farm, learn more Spanish and be one with nature again 😊
Well guys, this post is already way too long.. 😁 I hope you like reading my comprenhensive stories, haha!
Until the next one 😉 Oh, my friend JP didn’t join me yet here so no hiking and camping stories yet. Who knows they come in the next post!
Ciao lovely people! Big hug and kisses to you all xx 😘❤