Cool Colombia

Hope we’re not tempting fate…. but after three weeks, cool Colombia ’s already looking hot-favourite for Cuthbert’s ‘Top Spot – South America’ Award. In the last blog we joked about Colombia’s notoriety for drugs barons and banditos. In truth, the threat to tourists from such characters is now very much history. Beautiful, clean, lots to see and do, outstanding value for money, exceptionally friendly and with a kind of chilled-out vibe that’s difficult to quite put your finger on. We’re continuing north now for some ancient tombs, a photo-dilemma and (yet another) visit to Iveco. The bar has been set high for Colombia so far… let’s see if we can find any points to knock it back along the way!
Cool colombia


Tierradentro tombs

Tierradentro Tombs

Remember those cool San Agustín ‘stone-tablet-carving-things’ that we chirped-on about in our last blog? Well, some …. km away down the road at Tierradentro are some historic tombs of equal archaeological significance. These date from around 6th century AD, around 500ish years later (give or take the odd century or two 😊) than the San Agustín culture – but just as interesting.

Dotted on the hillside around the village are various sites of tomb chambers dug deep into the ground. They’re a fascinating day out, but not for the claustrophobic. Access to many of them is a steep and slightly precarious clamber down steps cut out of the wall of the vertical tunnel descending to the tomb chamber. Once down at ‘tomb-level’, the chamber opens up with rock-pillars supporting the cave roof. Some are decorated with black and red geometric patterns in astonishingly good condition bearing in mind their extraordinary age. We love these really ancient archaeological sites that put into perspective the ‘new-fangled’ Inca ruins, so ubiquitous in Peru and just a few hundred years old.

The Photo Dilemma

Where next? Ah yes…. Next, we head over on a Tuesday morning to see a market in the small town of Silvia. Just another market? Well… yes… and no. It is just another market, but it’s one to which many local indigenous people flock in their distinctive traditional garb to gather and trade their wares. Men and women all wear a bright purply-blue blanket with cerise pink edging. This season’s ‘Sylvia Market’ fall/winter blanket-look is complemented with a traditional shaped hat, some natty lace-up ankle-boots with chunky socks, and for the ladies, a large, multi-string, white-beaded necklace.

Colombia villages

Don’t think he minds the paparazzi attention 🙂

Now here’s the traveller’s photo-dilemma… many of us love taking pictures, and there is no more fascinating subject for a travel photographer than indigenous people in traditional clothes flocking around a weekly fruit and veg market. But it is abundantly clear from their demeanour that these people don’t like to be photographed.

I try to sympathise with their position.
I imagine myself wandering around Sainsbury’s in UK for my weekly shop… trolley full of goodies, minding my own beeswax, checking out the deli-counter’s latest offer on some nice juicy honey-roast ham (or some mouth-watering, dry-cured, unsmoked back-bacon…. Ahhh! I miss that! 😊). Suddenly, I spot a tourist with a long lens, focusing on me from the other side of the store. They think I won’t notice them so far away, but I feel their lens following my moves, snapping away as I choose the best offer porky-product of the day. I wouldn’t be overly impressed by the cameraman. In fact, I’d find it an insensitive intrusion.

So I think I get why the market people of Sylvia turn away sharply and look harassed in a similar situation. Yes, of course I would love to be able to illustrate this blog with an artfully taken snap of country folk going about their daily lives. And yes, I could of course have spent the whole morning wandering around the market with my DSLR, happily capturing  the scenes around me. But I really have to respect their sensitivities… and I hope other travellers do too. Just sayin’ 😊

Iveco Again

Regular Cuthbert followers will by now be familiar with our various attempts around South America to obtain spare parts for Cuthbert with varying degrees of success. The Navesa chain in Brazil provided excellent service and even treated us to lunch a couple of times. If only all Iveco dealers on the continent were like that! Now that we’re about to leave South America and there are no Iveco dealers in North America, Marcus feels the need to get ahead with some anticipatory routine replacement of stuff. He pulls together a long list of items (which we wholly expect will need to be ordered in from Europe) and we head to the Cali branch of Iveco: “Sure…. No problem… we can order… takes 30 days… leave it with us… we’ll sort it out!” Sounds promising, huh?

Cutting a long story short… it’s now one week after our initial visit. We’ve received a few itemised prices by email (which to be fair, are not unreasonable compared to Iveco prices in Europe) but we have still received no quote which will allow us to pay for the order and get the ball rolling with the import from Europe. Ho-hum! The clock is ticking on our visa time here… maybe we’ll have to apply for an extension! There are far worse places in the world that we could think of to spend 6 months!

Drinking Coffee

During our wait to place an order with Iveco, we’re hanging around the Colombia’s lovely Coffee Region. The beautiful cutesie small towns of Salento and Filandia are places where it’s very easy to stall your journey. It’s a scenic area with a nice cool climate in the green highlands. We’ve done a lot of sitting around with other overlanders, drinking great coffee. We’ve bumped into overlanders we met before further south and made other new friends. Never ceases to amaze us the variation of overlander vehicles we meet – they travel in trucks, vans, cars, motorbikes and even bicycles (how cool is that?)

Anything bad to say about Colombia yet? Well… we’ll reserve judgement until we get our Iveco order sorted 😊

Link to next blog: Colombian Coffee Time      Link to full South America Blog

Cool Colombia Photo Gallery