Day 5 in Colombia, and more
It was time to move on to explore other places in Colombia although Bogota has this charm where one can easily spend months or years living in the city. Bogota appears to be the end point for many travelers and so we were fortunate enough to cross paths with folks from all over the world who showered us with knowledge about South America. Initially we planned to make it north to Cartagena but realized that it was quite the jaunt up north with our interests more in southern region of Colombia. Stories from other travelers led us to venture out towards Medellin, stopping at the refugio Rio Claro for a few days of camping in the colombian rain forest.
Following a blurb from the lonely planet book on Rio Claro, we hopped on a bus around noon expecting to be at the park way before nightfall. Being fresh on the road, we are still rather naive when it comes to following the lonely planet guide which is seriously outdated by 3 years. Our 5 hour bus ride turned into a 9 hour ride where we had thought perhaps the bus driver simply forgot to inform us where to get off for Rio Claro. We shrugged and quickly picked a hostel for Medellin expecting to reach the city any minute. As we were doing this the bus came to a sudden halt with the the driver's assistant quickly rushing us off, throwing our bags to the side of the road in pitch blackness. The driver smiled, muttered Rio Claro and was gone in a matter of seconds. Once we realized that the bus didn't miss Rio claro is just took a little longer than expected we quickly assessed the area and saw a hotel by the side of the road where we inquired about where we might be able to set up camp to a young security guard blaring Michael Jackson. He shouted some directions, we followed them down the road only to walk into a military training camp where another young kid with a AK-47 advised us that all we needed to do was cross the street back where we originally were. We headed back, broke out the flashlights and hiked a dirt road into the woods, found a comforting sign that said "camping" and set up camp for the night.
We awoke to the sound of birds, the rushing river, and a half naked man wearing a machete who politely issued us a camping voucher. We were indeed in the Refugio. After shifting our camp to a more scenic area by the river we then spent hours swimming about, hiking in the forest, and simply enjoying the beauty of life. The insects, birds, and flora were all new to me (Adam) since it was my first time in the rain forest. Also my love of animals was quite satisfied by a young all black mutt of which I named "pajarito" (little bird) a new word I had been struggling to pronounce. He stayed by our side for our entire visit, and kept all the birds from invading our picnics. It is quite difficult to describe the beauty that was Rio Claro so I think I'll pass and just say that it was magical and unlike any forest or river that we have ever experienced.
After a few days we packed up camp, flagged a bus and arrived in Medellin, a thriving modern city of 3 million set within a hot and tropical valley encased by the Andes on either side. Medellin, once the center of the cocaine industry, is now a center of culture, art, music, etc... Thriving with an enormous student population and every commodity known, Medellin feels like NYC with a Colombian flare. All store fronts are wide open to the street mobbed with pedestrians and people peddling anything from ice cream (helado) to inflatable pools with plastic palm trees, while old men and drunkards dance and sing traditional Colombian folk songs. Yesterday we trekked ten miles of the city and today we shall do it again since there is too much to see and too little time. From here we are not sure where the next stop will be. We are considering heading out to the lake district outside the city limits and then south to the coffee region. Stay tuned, and check out the new pics.