Goodbye Colombia!

Trip Start Feb 07, 2004
Trip End Dec 15, 2005

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Friday, August 6, 2004

After 4 months (the total time I originally estimated to cover most of South America) in this diverse, beautiful and bizarra country, I have certainly developed a deep love for Colombia. I have experienced far more than I ever anticipated here and now hold more excellent memories and friendships.

Here is an extract from Killing Pablo where Mark Bowden gives one description of Colombia which I find interesting:

Colombia is a land that breeds outlaws. It has always been ungovernable, a nation of wild unsullied beauty, steeped in mystery. From the white peaks of the three cordilleras that form the its western spine to the triple- canopy equitorial jungle at sea level, it affords many good places to hide. There are corners of Colombia still virtually intouched by man. Some are among the only places left on this thoroughly trampled planet where botanists and biologists can discover and attach their names to new spieces of plants, insects, birds, reptiles and even small mammals.

The ancient cultures that flourished here were isolated and stubborn. With soil so rich and a climate so varied and mild, everything grew, so there was little need for trade or commerce. The land ensnared one like a sweet, tenacious vine. Those who came stayed. It took the Spanish almost two hundred years to subdue just one people, the Tairona, who lived in a lush pocket of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta foothills. European invaders eventually defeated them the only way they could, by killing them all.

...Ever since (the liberator) Simón Bolívar´s death in 1830, Colombia has been proudly democratic, but it has never quite got the hang of peaceful political evolution. Its government is weak, by design and tradition. In vast regions to the south and west, and even in the mountain villages outside major cities, live communities only lightly touched by nation, government, or law. The sole civilizing influence ever to reach the whole country was the Catholic Church, and that was accomplished only because clever Jesuits grafted their Roman mysteries to ancient rituals and beliefs. Their hope was to grow a hybrid faith, nursing Christianity from pagan roots to a locally flavoured version of the One True Faith, but in stubborn Colombia, it was Catholicism that took a detour. It grew into something else, a faith rich with ancestral connection, fatalism, superstition, magic mystery...and violence.

So, though feeling a piece of my heart was missing, my itching feet got me onto a bus for Venezeula.

Along the way we stopped at a typical street-side restaurant, and, while the delicious senorita/waitress inspired an appetite for carne, it was with mixed feelings that I received Almuezo (lunch). As I had recently been eating at more gringo/western styled places, it had been a while since I was last greeted with corn and pig`s stomach soup. It still takes an effort for me to enjoy the corn flavour while dodging the bits of pig guts staring up at me, but I didn`t go hungry.

Crossing the actual border was a breeze, we all received much attention from numerous people wanting to change currencies (US dollars here get Bs 2500, instead of the official rate of about Bs 1920).

Thank you to so many people who helped make my time in Colombia so fantastic - I shall return!
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