It’s a wrap.

We’ve been home (Washington State) for almost 2 weeks, so I’m past due closing this out (Rita! 🙂 ) .

The trip is definitely in the “I’d do it again” category, and we will some day, taking in more of this beautiful country. No real negatives to report, and it exceeded our expectations.

One tardy photo: In the smaller towns & villages, older car are stretched to their limit, and motorcycles and scooters are most popular. And why stop at just one or two passengers? A ‘few’ is common, and an occasional “entire family” of five.

As seen in Mongue – my favorite stay.

The most memorable event for me (Laura) would be the chance meeting of the family of Louis Carlos Galan in Villa de Leyva on Dec. 30.

Mr. Galan would have been the president of Colombia after the 1990 election (he had a significant lead – 60%) , had he not met a spray of bullets from associates of Pablo Escobar – famed drug lord and politician.

In the 70’s, Louis’s parents & grandmother (from Bogota) build a family vacation home in Villa de Leyva before it became the ‘it’ spot – he would have been a teenager. Eleven siblings survive Louis, and their families have grown such that they are each building their own vacation home in Villa De Leyva. This left a vacancy (for us!) in the beautiful classic original home, which sits on about 2 acres – almost on the town square! A bit of the back story: We were scheduled to leave town the day of Dec. 31 – not having a room for that evening. Little did we know, New Year’s Eve is a huge event there, with two fireworks companies lighting up the town square at midnight. Eating pizza in a local joint on the night of Dec. 30, we met a nephew and brother-in-law of Louis when they sat next to us and started visiting – both in fluent English. (Come to find out, we were the only people in the tiny restaurant – their favorite – that weren’t part of their family!) They were aghast that we would miss the festivities by one day, and quickly went about securing one of the 2 vacant bedrooms for us for the evening of the 31st. At this beautiful 5 bedroom home we met more relatives and some friends of the family, and were a 1/2 block from the fireworks that evening. No one lives there full time except the house manager, and it will soon be on the market. It’s the only home on this prime real estate block that does not have a commercial operation of some sort in it. A bit of History and Hospitality, both of which abound in Colombia.

Our room, with photos of the parents and grandmother on the wall. It was the grandmothers room.
We were in one of two bedrooms on one side of this courtyard – 3 on the other. To Dave’s delight, he had a hot water shave. The ONLY home we stayed in with working hot water taps.

da Beach

Sunday is definitely the big fun day at the beach for local families. All of the cabanas were occupied and 2 lifeguards instead of 1.

We stayed in a one bedroom apartment in the building to the right (round balconies). Beach view and a nice breeze.
Back in Bogota.

Still hard to believe the cost to eat out. Here was another “set meal of the day” which included soup and an iced tea (not shown) , and choice of beef steak or chicken. Total bill for two – $5.00. And all good home-cooked food. Of course this couple converted their garage into a restaurant- so low/no overhead. Grocery store items similarly priced.

We flew from Cartagena to Bogota today – about an hour & a quarter in the air. A bus, winding through the Andes, would have taken 18 -20 hours and cost more! With advanced planning (10 days or more), Avianca offers very reasonable rates ($40-$50) and a free bag.


The one full sized (plus size?) Botero in town.

Mmmmm …. in front of a church.

San Felipe de Barajas castle – a hot hike to the top.

City view from the top.

Many photo op sites.

I read beauty pageants are very big in Colombia and there is no shortage of sites or beauties.

That’s different – pt. 5

On the topic of water, just when we had gotten used to hot water only in the shower, here in Cartagena – there is none! My guess is with this heat – always high 80s, low 90s – who wants it. The tap water is actually a luke warm. The Carribean is almost bath water warm.

Public restroom sinks at the airport had streaming advertising. Haven’t seen this in the states.. can’t believe Colombia would be ahead of us here!

And further more, what’s with the pants!? Only tourists are sporting shorts. Locals wear pants and even long sleeve shirts. Crazy.

A funeral procession – casket leading on the left, near the red umbrella.

Sand man

The sidewalk in front of our apartment gets daily attention from the sand man – nature blows it on the sidewalk, he shovels it back. He seems to make the best of his very secure job – pausing often to visit with beach goers .


Yup – we’re in Cartagena and will be till the end of our trip. It was never in the big picture plan, as I knew it’d be too hot for me, and really not a lot of sights to see. But… we were swayed by many Colombians who said it’s a must see – so we see.

It is hot and sunny and windy. On the Carribean, it’s main tourist attraction is the fortress wall, build in the late 1700s by the Spaniards, that surrounds the original city. Inside, colonial buildings are continuing to be restored and the area is the top spot for the many cruise boat cruisers. That’s where any authenticity ends. The ratio of visitors to locals hawking endless trinkets, souvenirs and dining spots (lots of restaurants is about 50-50. So unless you’re into shopping, the attractions – a few museums and churches – can easily be seen in a day. An unfortunate aspect of this is that if Cartagena is ones only exposure to Colombia, it bears no resemblance to the country. With a population of near a million, the rest of the city doesn’t have any interests for tourists, though it is a jumping off spot for some island excursions.

We will visit Medellin and the coffee producing region south of it on our next visit to Colombia (not Columbia). That being said, enjoy some images of the area while we soak up some sun.

Dumb luck found us with lodging in the Getsemani neighborhood right outside the big wall. Lots of moderately prices hotels, hostels, homey eateries and an overall festive, laid back air.
Beer is king here. Wine – not so much. Dave wonders (he’ll find out) if their wine imports are hit with big taxes, similar to Mexico.
Beautiful display- wonder if it’s original Art Deco work.

Mongui misc.

The country side is beautiful and if I haven’t mentioned it, the people are the friendliest you’ll ever meet. Initially we get a long glance, as we are different, but everyone greets you on the street or in a store or restaurant. The other day a gentleman walked up to me in a neighborhood grocery store, smiled, and shook my hand. I read that as “welcome!”. Walks : Mongui is at 9500′, so it didn’t take much to hike up to 10k. Dave noted he’d never been that high with his feet on the ground.

Country road
Happy siblings
Permanent fence posts

That’s different – pt. 4

“Hot wine” – our favorite little Italian cafe poured a mean glass of hot wine. Several secret spices used, but the one that came through was anise. Rimmed with sugar.
Saw this delivery donkey around town with regularity – waiting for owner.

Restaurants receive all of their food deliveries through the front door, as all of the old buildings have shared walls and no alley or back door. Congestion on these narrow streets is common, especially since each food type is a different vendor, like the egg man below.

Picture perfect

Another feature that puts Mongui on the map is their Christmas colored buildings. White with green and red trim are the rule, with a side of brick. But no two alike.

Seems to be lots of dogs roaming, but all well behaved. And yes, it’s a very hill town.
We got caught in the rain today – first of the trip! Looks like Fido has outgrown his home.