We spend a couple of stressful weeks shipping our car from Panama to Colombia. We sit around for a week waiting for blue to be released from his container.
Then head north to Santa Marta and Tayrona National Park. From there we head to the mountains and then another few weeks touring Medellin and the Zona Cafetera.
Below you’ll find updates of places we’re visiting and our usual cheeky shenanigans. Also, we’ll try to add useful information about our budget, internet availability, the places we stay, and road conditions.
Finding decent places to tent camp has been an ongoing struggle since leaving Mexico. Sure, there are plenty of empty parking lots, gas stations and restaurants we could pull in to, provided we could sleep in our vehicle as most overlanders do. But we prefer not to spend our nights in a tent pitched on gravel next to the highway.
Colombia has been a welcome relief from campground-sparse Central America. Not only are there plenty of campsites, there are more amazing places to spend a night in a tent than we've yet experienced on this trip. We normally publish a listing of where we spend our nights in each country, but after staying in over 60 campgrounds, we feel these five deserve extra attention. Super-friendly owners, free coffee, honor-system beer coolers, spectacular scenery and more amenities than we've seen anywhere else. You can't go wrong.
This article is part of our Internet and Phone Report series.
General Availability: High
Quality of Bandwidth: Medium
Frequency of Internet in Campgrounds: Medium-High
Frequency of Internet in Hotels: High
We went in loops in Colombia. It’s a huge country and after six weeks we barely scratched the surface. We started in Cartagena, then spent some time in the north around Tayrona National Park. Then we headed southeast to the mountain town of San Gil and to Villa de Leyva.
From San Gil we headed through Bogota to the Zona Cafetera (Manizales & Salento). We backtracked north for a week in Medellin before driving south through Cali to Popayan, Pasto and finally into Ecuador.
Internet availability is excellent. Almost every hotel, hostel and guesthouse had some type of connection. Most of the places we camped also had a hotel and restaurant attached. Usually the hotel or restaurant had wifi that we were allowed to use. With the exception of national parks, all of the campgrounds we stayed at had some sort of internet.
This article is part of our Budget and Money Report series.
Our per diem expenses cover food, lodging, gas and other supplies and travel costs for three people. We travel in a 1997 Toyota 4Runner, tent camp in paid facilities roughly 70% of our nights and eat less than 10% of our meals in restaurants. This budget does not reflect personal spending money, which is mostly used to buy souvenirs and booze. We don't track this money, but we do know we have not come close to spending our budgeted amount of $10 per person per day.
Colombia surprised us in many ways. Most were good: great people, spectacular campsites and beautiful scenery, but it came at a cost that we were not entirely prepared for. That's not to say we did bad, in fact if it wasn't for higher than expected costs related to importing our vehicle, and a $200 Amazon.com resupply run, we would have pretty much broke even.
A bit of Googling would have better prepared us. We relied too much on our horribly out-of-date Lonely Planet Colombia book when coming up with the budget for this country. We found food and lodging costs to be at least 25% more than the listings from 2009. Couple that with the $600 we were over budget in Panama, and we had to seriously pinch the pennies to stay on target.
Start: July 6, Salento
Finish: July 28, Pance
Fantastic Campgrounds: 5
Hours Spent Repairing Our Tents: 7
Cups of Great Coffee Drank: Dozens
Cardboard Boxes of Rum Drank: 2
It's been nearly three weeks since I've given y'all an update on our trip. Not because we've been busy, quite the opposite. Our pace has slowed considerably. Many days have been spent relaxing; sipping some of the world's best coffee, cooking good food and meeting tons of friendly Colombians.
Colombia is an easy country to get sucked into. In the past month we've stayed at half a dozen places that I could easily rank in the top ten of this trip. Our stop in Salento was number 100, and a couple days ago we clocked 300 days on the road. With less than a week left to spend in Colombia, I can honestly say I will miss this country more than most.
Why? That is always the question. Why do you like bugs? What is it that you like about them?
Well honestly I do not know. What I do know is that I like em all. Little ones, colorful ones, big ones, hairy ones and even the scary ones, I like 'em all.
When I was young, very young, I used to collect spiders of all kinds. I would pick them like ripe fruit from window sills, nooks and crannies, under leaves and in trees. I would find them and toss them all in one big glass jar. I had my very own ultimate bug fight club.
Start: July 14, Atlanta
Finish: July 21, Santa Elena
Number of PowerPoint Slides Seen: Thousands
Number of Prescription Drugs Received: 4
Number One Question of the Week: “Why is Jessica in Atlanta?”
Number Two Question of the Week: “Hey Jessica, aren’t you supposed to be in South America or something?”
Hi friends. I know I don’t write many trip updates, but I was alone on this venture, so here it is, coming to you from the great state of Georgia.
Before I became a digital nomad a good part of my freelance business was designing onscreen graphics for big conferences. Part of this job entails traveling onsite and being available for last minute changes. My biggest client is, of course, Microsoft.
This year, I was contacted to work onsite again at the biggest show of the year. They offered to fly me from wherever I was in South America, and even covered an extra night hotel accommodation so I could buy things, like business appropriate shoes. (Yes, my clients are awesome.)
Start: June 24, Tyrona National Park
Finish: July 5, Guatavita
Elevation Gain: 10,000 feet
Super Friendly Colombians Met: Dozens
Colonial Towns Visited: 3
Wineries Toured: 1
The past ten days have taken us nearly 1,000 miles from the Caribbean coast to the central highlands of Colombia near the capitol city of Bogota. We've spent quite a few long days on the road and have seen plenty of spectacular scenery along the way.
It's hard to say I'm surprised about how great Colombia has been. Between fellow travelers and a long-time colleague of mine (hola Miguel!), I've heard plenty of good news about this country.
But it still feels a bit unexpected. Coming from the US, this is not a country with many positive stereotypes. Granted, we don't pay much attention to that stuff anyway, but it still affects your expectations whether you want it to or not.
Here we go again. As if you didn't have enough fun reading the last 3,500 work article I wrote about part 1 of the shipping process, here is another 3,500 word post on part 2. I hope that someone out there finds this helpful, otherwise I'll be sad about all the time I wasted when I could have been drinking cheap Aquilas and prefecting my chocolate banana pancake recipe. Here we go...
Start: June 13, Playa Uverito, Panama
Finish: June 23, Tayrona National Park, Colombia
New Continents: 1!!!
Days Without Our Car: 8
Hours Spent Waiting For Something to Happen: Hundreds
Average Temperature in Cartagena: 32C (90F) with 110% Humidity
We had a saying at my last job: hurry up and wait. It is quite possible that the bureaucratic nightmare of working in IT for a hospital on a military base prepared me for the past two weeks. Then again, I doubt anything could compare to the hassle of shipping a car 150 miles from Panama to Colombia. Mostly because of how simple this process could be, and how expensive and convoluted it actually is.
But it's over. The dirty business is done and we shall speak of it no more except in the presence of strong alcoholic beverages. Truth be told, it could have been a lot worse. Our experience was certainly not as bad as others, but I'd still not wish it on anyone.