Friday, February 28, 2014


From Santa Marta to Valledupar
I accidently got on a bus that said that it was going to Valledupar, but it was going to Fundacion and I had to change buses there.  Then again.  It cost 26,000COP and took over 6 hours.  They told me it would take 4 hours. From the bus terminal to the center of town is 5,000COP in taxi. 

Nice small town.  Has a park and plaza and a few places to go swimming, hiking, visit local indigenous tribes and music schools. It is famous for being a city with lots of trees and the mangos in May as well as for vallenata music. 

La Sirena - the siren at the river in Valledupar

Hostel Provincia
I stayed at Provincia Hostel since its really the only hostel in town.  The people were nice and a good vibe though of course there were not many people there.  I was able to stay in a dorm room with AC and there was no one else in it. Lots of hammocks and space since there were only 4 other travels, and all were over 30 years old.  Cost: 23,000 COP for a dorm

Valledupar to Santa Marta
Bus company: Costaline Cost: 23,000COP Duration: 4.5 hours (they said 3.5 hours)
Good bus company, large bus with comfortable seats, AC, bathroom, wifi etc

Santa Marta
Again back in Santa Marta.  The town is really hopping with everyone getting ready for Caranaval which starts tomorrow.

City map of Santa Marta

Hostel Masaya
Decorated like a hotel and with 2 pools!
Nice hostel almost like a hotel, 2 pools, bar, wifi in the entire hostel including rooms, different night activities, english speaking staff that are really helpful. The bunks all have curtains and locked drawers and a private fan.  Cost: 25,000COP
Hostel Masaya - Each bed had a fan, curtains, outlets, light, a lockable drawer and an little shelf. I like details like this.

Thursday, February 27, 2014


We went to Tayron for 2 days. We took the bus from the market in Santa Marta to the entrance of Tayrona.  It cost 6,000COP for the bus to the entrance el Zaino.  At the entrance we paid our 38,000COP (around 18 USD) entrance fee and had our bags checked.  We were told not to bring in the plastic bags of water or alcohol as it is not allowed, as well as guitars are not allowed.  Then we took the collectivo to the Canaveral which was 2,000COP.
From there we walked to the Arrecifes beach which had a few camping options.  The first place Paraiso had hammocks for about 13,000COP, or more expensive ones in a screened in hut, so we walked to the next place which seemed nice and the hammocks were only 10,000 COP.  But we decided to go to the next campsite called Bukaroo cause we were told you could cook there.  The hammocks were 12,000 COP per person so we decided to do hammock but were told after that a tent was only 20,000 for 1 or 2 people so we would have done that instead. I would not recommend cooking there.  They did not want us to borrow their pots and were a bit rude about it and its only a fire pit with some wire over it so you have to build a fire and find wood which is fun for one night but a little too much work since they didnt want to give us more than one plate.
Arrecifes was a pretty beach but Cabo San Juan was even prettier.  La piscina was ok and we saw a turtle swimming there.  All three places are maybe a half hour walk from each other.  We went to El Pueblito one day and I recommend it.  Its ruins from around 400AD and there are indigenous people that still live there and speak another language.They live mostly off the land, collecting fruits and plants.  We talked to one of the mothers who spoke English but her children did not yet speak English. It took an hour and a half to climb up to the ruins over some large rocks from Cabo San Juan beach.
Overall I am glad that we stayed in Arrecifes because Cabo was really packed with lots of people and crowded restaurant and bar.  Arrecifes isnt a far walk and quiet.  Also there is a bakery next door which has hot bread that is stuffed with choices like chocolate, cheese, guava and cheese, carmel etc.  They also serve hot meals which are very large and one of the cheaper on the island, besides the owner is really nice.  
When we left Tayron we went back the same way we came in.
La piscina lagoon

El Cabo beach

El Cabo beach

Our dinner over the campfire

Hiking to El Pueblito ruins

Lizard with a bright blue tale

Its so nice to bump into friends in unexpected places!  We havent seen each other since last year.  The hut is an indigenous hut where a family lives and the children only speak the indigenous language.

The little lagoon in front of our campsite

Up early after sleeping in a hammock

The beautiful sunrise over the beach
Tyrona Park Map

Santa Marta
We stayed at La Brisa Loca again and again they played the music very loud even though most people were sleeping and only a handful of people were at the bar.  Also dont stay in room 108 because they have some storage room or something off the room and tons of people kept coming in our room at 1 and 2 in the morning and were shining flashlights on our faces and making jokes.  Our friends were staying in a private room and some drunk girl broke the lock and entered their room at 3 or 4 in the morning.  When I return to Santa Marta I am planning to stay at Hostel Masaya. Its just down the street from La Brisa Loca and seems much nicer and quieter.  Its is 25,000COP at Hostel Masaya instead of 22,000COP at La Brisa Loca but Hostel Masaya seems really nice, with 2 pools and really clean it looks like a hotel.

I took a bus from the street that cost 26,000 COP to get to Valledupar. They said it takes 4 hours but it took me 6.5 hours and I had to change buses 3 times.  I am staying at Provincia hostel which is so quiet with not many people but really laid back and friendly.  Its 23,000 COP and has AC in all the rooms.  I wish I could spend longer here as it seems to have many things to do.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Medellin, Cartegena, Santa Marta

Arcadia Hostel - Not recommended.  We first stayed in Arcadia hostel for 4 days but it was cramped.  The dorm room had too many beds in too small a space so we had to walk over everyones bags and the beds were three levels and I was on the top level so I kept hitting my head on the ceiling cause I could not sit up.  It was 18,000COP (~10USD) to stay in the 12 bed dorm.   They included make your own pancakes but they do not give any syrup or anything to put on the pancakes so the free breakfast is not really worth it.  They played the music too loud especially when people wanted to watch a movie.  The wifi did not always work.  Overall there was not enough space for the amount of people, the kitchen was always crowded.  The location was also a bit far if you wanted to go out at night, while its close to bars and restaurants there is a couple blocks where there is nothing and a little too quiet to feel very safe at night. It was also very far from the metro stop.

Grand hostel - recommended so we moved to grand hostel - wonderful place.  Really quiet with patio computers, nice kitchen and the owner Lucy really looks after everyone and runs a tight ship.  She keeps everything clean and makes sure everyone is behaving and keeping quiet.  Its right near the supermarket and the metro station and still close to the restaurants and going out areas.  We paid 25,000COP per person to share a room without a bath.  Really quiet and chill hostel. 

Well we decided to fly to Cartagena after finding flights for 80,000COP on vivacolombia (see cheap flights within Colombia at end of page) where you can pay at the exito in Medelling by the poblado stop.  We shared a taxi to the airport for 60,000COP so it was only 20,000 COP for 3 people.
In Cartagena we got a taxi to the street media luna where all the bars and main hostels.  It cost us 10,000COP but should really be around 8,0000COP.   We stayed at Hotel Marlin in a 4 bed airconditioned dorm for $30,000COP. It was nice because it was quiet on street with lots of party hostels but really close to places to go out as well as within walking distance of the walled city.  If I were to stay there I would stay at Mama LLenas next time because I ended up spending most of my time there. Its more like a hostel with lots of people and kitchen and its only $20,000 in the dorm and includes pancake breakfast.  But I think especially weekends but sounds like most of the time the popular hostels you need to book in advance.
In this season air conditioning is not needed at night.  The nights are cool and a fan is sufficient. 

Cartagena is really a pretty city with a nice ocean breeze right now.  It is so touristy though. The walled historic area is really nice.

Santa Marta
We took the tourist bus from Cartagena to Santa Marta.  They leave at various times throughout the day and pick up at the hostel and drive you direct to your hostel in Santa Marta. It was 43,000COP and said it would take 3-4 hours but took us 5 hours.  I was told the bus to Santa Marta was 25,000COP and you need to take a 10,000COP Taxi to the bus terminal in Cartegena and another taxi for 5,000 COP in Santa Marta or a bus for 1,400COP to get to the center of town so the tourist vans are much easier and not that much more expensive. If I were to be using Santa Marta as a base for trips I might stay at the Dreamer Hostel which gets good reviews and is close to the terminal.

Hostel La Brisa loca -not recommended- We are staying in the dorm for 22,000COP with fans and it seems OK. It seems pretty well run but its a Saturday night and a bit of a party hostel.  We go to Tayrona tomorrow.  

Cheap flights in Colombia

Vivacolombia has very cheap flights within Colombia.  Check their website as their prices change often.  Their prices are often cheaper than taking a bus and can save long bus rides.  Be aware that if you have luggage to check that you should purchase online when you purchase your ticket cause its only 20,000COP but if you wait till you get to the counter they will charge you 40,000COP.  You need to print the boarding passes yourself or they will also charge you for this.  To buy the tickets you likely cannot use your credit card if it has been issued outside of Colombia.  You need to click on the pay online option (Via Baloto) With Via Baloto you have till the end of the day to go to pay it at the nearest Via Baloto. You just bring via baloto number with you. There is a Via Baloto in most of the big Exito supermarkets.  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Cali to Pereira - Supposed to take 3 hours but took over 4 hours
Pereira to Cartago - Company Tax Cartago -3,000 COP (less than one hour)
Cartago to Guayabito Cauca (mayapurita farm) - taxi cost 25,000 COP but Krishna has the phone number of Carlos who will drive people for 14,000 COP or go to the vegetarian restaurant across the street from the Tax Cartago bust station that the Mayapurita Farm owns and they can help you arrange a taxi. 

Pereria to Medellin - Bus company Flota Occidental for 37,000 COP (20 USD) they said it would take 5.5 hours but took about 7 hours as there seemed to be a problem with the toilet and they stopped a few times for some repairs.  The bus was nice with lots of leg room, comfortable seats that recline back, bathroom, wifi and private tv screen.  The other option was a van that went from Pereira to Medellin and cost 32,000 COP though when we started walking to the other ticket counter the guy said he would give us a discount so it would be 30,000COP but we decided it was worth the extra money to go with the big air conditioned bus. 

Mayapurita Farm
Pros: An interesting hare krishna farm to visit.  They are very nice and could really use your help.  Krishna is really wonderful.  From what I hear the food is normally really good vegetarian food though the volunteers were not very happy when I was there cause things were a little bit off the normal schedule and the food was being cooked by volunteers not used to cooking for so many people so the food was not very good and from what I hear not enough.  It was very pretty cause its on a river and they have many good projects going there. 
recycling project to try to get the town to recycle their plastic by making eco bricks that they intend to use for building later. 
volunteer at the local school -they could really use the help.  The kids really seemed to enjoy the individual attention I was able to give them that the teacher when alone is not able to do.
Garden, composting (including worms),
Activities;  daily yoga in the afternoon, meditation and chanting and though they didnt do any while I was there they often do other workshops or films and discussion etc.  I was only there 6 days. Its on a river you can swim in and there is a pool down the road that you can pay a few thousand pesos to swim in. 
schedule: The volunteers mostly volunteer in the morning after breakfast which is served at 8am until lunch which is served around 1pm.  Then in the afternoon is normally yoga, maybe some light chores like helping cleaning up after lunch or watering plants at dusk etc, or other workshops or you can go to the school. The work was pretty easy.
Cons:  Overall I personally think I would prefer to go to one of the more developed ecoyoga villages as I think they might be a bit more developed for more learning. This one is just starting and while I think its a great opportunity for some I think I would have preferred one with more activities going on.  I am not sure if it was the season but there were so many mosquitos and it may have contributed to a very individualistic attitude where we went to read in our beds to be in our mosquito nets any free time we had.  From what I understand I was there during a stressful time so things were not as organized as normal, there were only 3 yoga classes of the 6 days I was there and not really many other activities.  Since I have never paid for any volunteer experience I think I had high expectations.  Its $12 a day and includes all food and bed. If you dont like large cockroaches or mosquitos this might not be the place for you,  the mosquitos would get in my net at night and since I tend to be allergic I tend to swell up and get too uncomfortable to sleep when I have too many bites.  Being allergic means I am somewhat used to being uncomfortable on farms but I think I have volunteered on enough farms that I did not really care to stay and endure getting attacked by mosquitos so I ended up leaving after 6 days. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Salento - Armenia - Cali

Salento to Armenia
Buses leave a block and a half from the firestation as well as from the park in Salento
To Armenia - less than an hour, costs 3,400 COP, leaves every 20 minutes

Armenia to Cali
There are lots of collectivo vans that leave from the bus station and so many different companies for around 20,000 COP.  We went to TransArmenia which was 21,000 COP which the van was nice and clean though they said it wouldnt take more than 2 hours and 45 minutes it took over 3 hours and even though they said no stops they still stopped to pick up passengers.

From the bus station we took a cab which use taxi meters.  To get to hostel El Viajero we took a taxi that cost 8,000 COP. The hostel is nice and is 23,000COP per person for a dorm room of 12 people.  I was annoyed when I was checking in and the 6 people who came after me were all brought to the dorm first.  It has a pool and is open so it stays nice and cool.  They have free yoga classes 3 days a week and free salsa classes everyday.  It includes breakfast of coffee/tea, bread (but no marmalade or butter) and cornflakes, pineapple, yogurt, milk and a juice mixed from a packet.  It a good hostel with lots of activity and two computers and good wifi.  It does not include towels which surprised me cause all of the hostels I have stayed in recently in Ecuador and Colombia have provided towels.
I am going to move to another hostel Tostaky which is 18,000 COP that is down the street and a little bit quieter, no breakfast (but the free breakfasts are not normally very good) or pool or yoga, but they do provide free towels and the dorm is only 4 people and also has a computer.  Its close to San Antonio park which is nice to walk around.

Valley of Cocora (valle de Cocora), Salento, Acaime Reserve

Valley of Cocora
To get to valle de Cocora jeeps leave the central park of Salento when they have enough people so when I arrived on Sunday at 8:30 they had enough people so I didnt have to wait.  Cost 3,400 COP, ride took about 30 minutes.
From where they drop off in the valley they had some places selling food and snacks.  I walked up the hill to the blue gate where there are signs about the park and trails and started the walk to Acaime reserve.  It was pretty straight forward, just follow the main path and the signs.  On the weekends there are lots of people doing the trail so its hard to get too lost.  There is a trout farm at the beginning of the trail.  To enter its 2,000 COP and I am not sure the price but you can go "fishing" there.  I didnt enter as it didnt seem to be a tour but more a fee to enter.  The hike to Acaime took me around 2 hours.  At Acaime you pay 4,000 COP and then get a free drink of your choice of hot or cold beverages.  They have hummingbird feeders and quite a few different types of hummingbirds.  They also seem to have a small museum but it was closed.  Its a nice place to stop and relax.  From there I hiked the trail to the "mountain" or the viewpoint.  It was about a 30 minute hike uphill to a restaurant that served lunch and drinks.  The view wasnt very good as it was covered in clouds so I couldnt see any "view" so I kept walking.  The walk down was nice. The national tree of Colombia a tall very tall Palm tree called Palm Ceroxylon make for a beautiful landscape.

The town is cute and on the weekends the central park is very busy with locals. There is a street off the central park that leads to a viewpoint of the city and is lined with places selling food and crafts.  Then the mirador leads to another viewpoint of the valley.

Acaime Reserve humming birds

Acaime reserve

Acaime Reserve

Acaime reserve

Acaime Reserve

At the top there was lots of fog so I couldnt see anything

Lots of birds on the trail back


Tall Palm trees make the landscape really interesting

The national tree of Colombia

Valley of Cocora

View of Salento after walking up the viewpoint

Monday, February 3, 2014

Bus travel Pasto - Cali - Darien (Lago Calima) - Armenia - Salento

Pasto to Cali
Wow I made a mistake.  From Pasto to Cali on a normal bus should take about 8-9 hours. I normally go to a few counters to ask but it was 5 am and I tried to stay awake most of the night so I could sleep on the bus so I went and asked how much the vans were and they were around 40-50,000COP and said would take about 8 hours.  So I went to ask at the bus companies and the first one COOTRANAR said it was 30,000 and would take about 8-9 hours. So I thought perfect that leaves me an hour or two to catch my next bus.  Wow was I wrong. The bus I was on made a stop every 5 meters to let people on and off so we arrived 11 hours after we started.  Ugghh!  Pay the extra money and go with another bus company, I heard Boliviarano is much faster and only maybe 5,000 COP more. I did have some funny companions in the seat next to me.  One guy starts talking to me and was talking about something then just adds in you are so beautiful you could be a model, then keeps talking.  Wow, I thought these guys are really skilled at lies, I am sitting on a bus with worn dirty wrinkled clothing, my hair in a bun and my face profusely sweating, and he is telling me I am beautiful and fit to be a model!

Cali to Darien (Lake Calima)
There is only one company TransCalima located on the third floor near door 12
Cost 13,600 COP (~$7) Duration: 2 Hours.  From Darien buses leave to Cali hourly from 5am to 6pm

I went to Darien to take a Kitesurfing class but was a bit disappointed in Calimakitesurfing company as they were not very helpful in helping me find them. They dont have any signs so when I got there I would need to call them but I dont have a cell phone.  I sent them an email asking how we can meet but they only said to call them and directed me to go to one of the shops to use a payphone.  I find it much easier to just arrange a place and time to meet over email than to walk to a shop but they just would not give me any information over email and after wasting a perfectly nice day without a response from them I decided to move on. 

Cali to Armeia 
OK I made another mistake with companies.  After my experience with the bus I decided to take a collectivo taxi service to Armenia with Coooperative Integral de Taxis Belacazar.  The ticket collector said it was only 2 hour direct with no stops.  I asked again cause I said its going to be dark though and I dont like to arrive late, so he said no it wont be more than 2 hours ride.  So I bought the ticket for 20,000 COP thinking I would arrive by 7pm then.  Well we arrived at 9pm so the bus ride took over 4 hours!  We did make a few stops to let on passengers and the engine was overheating so we had to ride with the cover to the engine ope to the bus and door open to let out the hot air coming in.  When I arrived in Armenia I asked what is the fasted a bus from Cali would arrive in Armenia and they told me 3 hours.  Expect a 3 hour journey even if they say 2!  So since I missed the last bus to Armenia I had to stay the night in Armenia at a very sad hotel for 18,000 COP.

Armenia - Salento
The next morning vans to Salento start running around 5:30AM so I got up to take the van at 6am.  It was 3,800 COP (~$2) and took less than an hour to arrive in Salento.  I got off at the fire station at the entrance to town so I could stay at Plantation House which is 19,000COP for a dorm room depending on which dorm the prices change a bit.  While its nice I think I would probably try Tralala Hostel if I were to stay at least 2 nights, as their dorm for 1 night is 22,000 COP and 20,000COP a night if you stay at least 2 nights.  Its newly renovated and located right by the square.