I’d arrived in Colombia…and almost out of my wits thinking: ‘I’ve chosen to travel in one of the most notoriously dangerous countries in the world!… what have I done?’ As a first precaution on the plane from Miami I agreed with my travel companion that we’d be extremely cautious about the taxi we hail from the airport as we heard one or two horror tales from friends… after all it was late at night and our first port of call on a five month trip from Bogota to San Francisco with no flights along the way.
After collecting our bags from the luggage carrier we were approached by a rather over enthusiastic taxi driver who ushered us into the car park. Before I could stop him my friend followed the man beyond the main car park and into a very dark and dingy looking area where he proudly pointed to his rather clapped -out –looking heap of a taxi. I was fuming at my friend’s apparent madness to go along with this ‘unofficial’ looking man; however after nearly twenty four hours of travel I was too tired to argue, so I jumped in regardless.
The taxi ride was bumpier than a camel festival, and Bogota seemed about as picturesque as a scene from Children of Men. However, as the taxi rattled though Bogota we did surprisingly seem to be heading in the right direction. I was on the edge of my seat holding tightly onto my bag and camera while my friend was smoking out the window looking more relaxed than a sedated sloth. We both come from two different schools of thought; he thinks everything will always turn out fine, and I on the other hand think; we’re doomed it’s all going to end horribly, and why did we come? You might well wonder why someone of my disposition and outlook on life would choose to travel anywhere at all (especially through Central America) and doesn’t simply stay at home eating jam tarts and reading Enid Blyton. Anyway, my love for exploring and photography eventually seems to override these crazy irrational fears.
As I’m sure you are well aware, Colombia has endured some pretty bad press in recent years; and not for nothing. The infamous cocaine dealer Pablo Escobar has a large hand in this reputation, being a figurehead amidst Colombia’s darkest days. In the height of Escobar’s power he was said to be in control of 80% of the world’s cocaine market. However, despite his villainous reputation with most, to others he was a hero responsible for financing the construction of a number of football stadiums and hospitals in his home country. Escobar is just part of Colombia’s dark past which includes political conflicts, much bloodshed and the continued presence of guerrilla groups controlling large rural parts of the country.
You’d never know whilst wandering the streets of Bogota that its residents had endured the turmoil of recent times: they seem to have a rare love for life and just making a simple purchase in a local shop is a pleasure as you are always greeted with the broadest smile. I can’t remember the last time I left Tesco’s feeling so jubilant! Colombians are also keen to share their country with you, encouraging you to dance the salsa or drink their national drink, aguardiente, but, beware, don’t mix the two because both need a lot of practice in a country of seasoned professionals!
So, all in all my worry was in the end for nothing: Colombia turned out to be as welcoming as anywhere I had ever been… but that doesn’t mean to say I won’t be sitting on a plane anxiously before arriving at my next destination, wherever that might be!
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