So it seems somewhat ironic that I type this leg up on a rainy afternoon, sitting in the office at home, having made it home- what many would call bland surroundings without a touch of adventure. The latter is true.
How am I feeling? Bath is still surreal and I am determined not to get too settled in before I head off again. It is actually good to be back. I am feeling more cheerful than I ever thought I would at this stage but I am aware the magic is fading and whilst there are still people to see, my inevitable itchy feet will return.
The last two weeks of Colombia, when my sister and mum joined me, were predictably amazing and also different. Mum was offended by the opening of my last post where I rightly said that South American life as I knew it would take a back seat in favor of smart hotels, flights and not buses, and nothing too wild. This was not supposed to come across as criticism, it was anything but. I was sick by this point so a quiet two weeks were ideal.
I met Larissa and mum in Bogota, a city I had spent a lot of time in and come to know pretty well. We spent the first night just taking it easy and in the morning, had a flight booked to go to Santa Marta. Whilst my friends had been enjoying the Northern reaches of Colombia on the Caribbean coast for weeks now and had returned slowly to cities such as Bogota and Medellin to tell me all about it, the region I felt had been kept from me, due to my own stupid mistakes with finances. I had voluntarily spent weeks at altitude and spent time being cold with only stories to go on as to how beautiful this place really was.
Tyrona National Park
And was Tyrona national park absolutely remarkable. We arrived at about ten at night when it was pretty dark on horseback with our luggage after the minibus dropped us in land. This was hilarious in itself as our bags disappeared on a cantering horse into the darkness with our guides on foot, trying to navigate through huge roots, sand canyons, and boulders when none of us could see a thing. We attempted this at speed too, with the only casualties being my flip flops and some water bottles. And no one eating dinner battered an eyelid when we clattered into the site- this was the first introduction as to how crazy this continent truly is.
The three of us stayed in an 'eco- lodge', which was a wooden hut with dried palm leaves for a roof and two hammocks. It had an ipod dock so in true Obolensky style, kept our neighbours up with music and dancing on the wooden slabs for a floor so the whole building threatened to come crashing down among us. The coast was indescribable- white sands, turquoise waters. It was possible to ride to each beach as well. On reading the itinerary, it said it was possible to swim with horses but our receptionist looked baffled- 'you want to swim with the hoarses?' That became a catchphrase.
We met up with three friends I had made in Bogota as well and spent a couple of days with them on the beach eating coconut slices and drinking beer. Colombia had already worked its magic on me but mum and Riss was captivated.
I had heard so much about this city, before I had even come to Colombia. Where you hear about a city thousands of miles away when you are sweating it out in Patagonia, you can't help but have high expectations. It was the most memorable city I had ever encountered- we were all totally absorbed by its ancient fortifications and colourful streets. The beaches we passed on the three hour drive between Santa Marta and Cartagena were nothing to write home about but I forgot all about this when we were driven around the old city. We had a carriage ride in the dark around beautifully lit calles and found a cocktail bar on the top of the ancient sea walls.
The hotel was gorgeous too with a pool in the centre and pink flowers that grew up the old stone walls. The three of us enjoyed a fantastic walking tour around the city where we learnt about the Spanish Inquisition, religion and art. Three days were not enough here but necessary as we had two more stops on this two week tour.
Salento and the coffee region
Famously regarded as the place to detox after a week in Medellin, Salento has been a popular go-to area for anyone wanting to take it easy in the countryside and learn a thing or two about the best coffee in the world. Its a well known fact that Colombia's best coffee is exported and so unfortunately, nothing you can drink in Quindio will be anything better than what you can find in Sainsburys.
However, learning about the process of coffee making and the poor deal that labourers get for working with the beans is something that has been kept from the rest of the world. The shear steepness of the hills and the difficult climbing terrain was something that really struck me- this is not idle work and yet, the lack of international recognition or appreciation and the poor rate of pay does not add up.
Part of the reason Colombian coffee is the best in the world is the pride that comes with it. Labourers are forced to forfeit if a 'bad' coffee bean is found in a kilo sack of their work in a day- this can be anything from losing a days work to paying on the spot and with such a bad salary, its not worth taking the risk.
Salento is also famous for riding and so we took advantage of that with a beautiful path by waterfalls and through a valley.
Return to Bogota
Unfortunately Larissa and I were pretty sick by this point. I felt like I had burnt out anyway during those weeks and had not had the patience to take it easy after hospital so was vulnerable to every type of bug. I couldn't take advantage of those days in Bogota and spent a lot of it in bed.
This wasn't really a problem though as mum and Riss still filled their time admiring the street art which had sprung up dramatically in recent days due to Bogota's 425th birthday, and visiting museums which the city is well known for.
When they left on that Monday, a strange thing happened. I was ready to go back to Bath with them, lying in my bed and feeling too ill to check out and move to a hostel.
I somehow managed to fill five more days in Bogota before I too caught a flight unfortunately back to Lima and then to Miami so I ended up lapping myself. Luckily, as I was facing a twelve hour wait at Lima, I met someone from Santiago and so bud-died up with him so things did not get too depressing waiting in a very cold, Peruvian winter's evening. The rest of the journey was predictably painful- customs at Miami airport being responsible. I thought my passport would give me trouble and I was right when the official peered over at me and asked what I was doing in the continent for seven months. He was met with an expression and I longed to say 'definitely, like our fellow British girls in Peru, taking back a shed load of Cocaine'. I think this would have gone down like a lead balloon.