It’s a dream of mine to visit all seven continents (yes, Antarctica included) and last week I got one step closer when I finally arrived in South America. I came to South America to visit Peru, but along the way I had three short stops in Medellin (Colombia), Bogota (Colombia), and Quito (Ecuador). Unsurprisingly, I love this country... here's why.
Medellin: My first taste of “danger”
My first experience of Medellin was slightly off-putting. I got off the bus and a young gentleman speaking a decent amount of English asked me if I needed a taxi. I said yes and showed him the name of my hostel.
His eyes went big and he asked in disbelief, “el centro?” I nodded my head and he exchanged some quick words with the taxi driver before turning back to me. “You should no go to this hostel. Es peligroso. Uhhhh—danger. It very danger.”
He suggested other hostels across town and promised were just as “económico”.
My stubborn, independent side protested. You’ll be fine! You're always fine. This is a scam. But my responsible voice (which sounds a lot like my dad) insisted that I was always fine because I made smart decisions and even if it did cost more, it was worth it.
I wasn’t entirely sure it was safer to believe them—if it was a scam, it would be safer to find another cab—but the man speaking English looked so scared and was practically begging me to go to the other part of town. He didn’t care which hostel I stayed at so long as it was in La Palabra not El Centro. Finally, I acquiesced.
Turns out it wasn’t a scam. The hostel they brought me to was wonderful and it was in what was by far the best part of town. My hostel was only a few blocks from one of the central parks and both days a street market filled the park with food stalls, handcrafted jewelry, and other vendors that reminded me of the craft fairs back home.
The few blocks surrounding the park were filled with hip restaurants, boutique shops, cozy cafes, and the like. Still, my highlight was not the endless exploring of day one. Instead, it was the total stillness of day two. A thunder storm drenched my entire second day in Medellin, so I opted to escape the rain by hulling up in one of the cuter coffee shops I had discovered the day before.
I spent hours drinking tea, people watching, and writing. Medellin was a quiet city without much to do other than wander the handful of cuter streets. It was the kind of town that inspired me to write instead of making me feel guilty for writing instead of exploring, and I loved it for that.
Bogota: When new friends become old friends
The nine hour bus ride from Medellin to Bogota was the shortest bus ride of my trip, but my eagerness to see my friends at the other end made it feel unbearably long. When I did finally get to the hostel I threw my arms around Maria and Alberth.
I’d known them for about 2 weeks In Costa Rica and though by all traditional standards I “hardly knew” them, it felt like I was reuniting with old friends I hadn’t seen for too long.
They’d spent quite some time in Bogota and were excited to show me everything. They pointed out all their favorite street art, made me order just about every type of street food, and brought me to their favorite café to try santafereño (a cup of hot, unsweetened cacao that you dump blocks of cheese into).
Bogota is home to something like 40 different universities, so the town is teeming with young people. Art is alive and ever-present and a delicious meal costs $5 at most. So far, I was a fan of South America.
Before leaving Bogota, Tyler, Anton, and Leo (all people I met in Costa Rica) came to join us. I’m still not sure if the magic I felt in Bogota was something the city provided or the joy of having so many of my new friends together in one place. Either way I spent my last few days in this charming city walking on air.
Quito: Don’t believe what they tell you
The 30-hour bus ride from Bogota to Quito was excruciatingly long, and this time it had nothing to do with what lay on the other end. In fact, I wasn’t that excited to go to Quito. Sure, I was glad I could add Ecuador as country number 28, but everything I read about Quito warned me that it was dangerous and underwhelming.
Well I don’t know what those bloggers were doing there, because I f***ing loved it.
The whole time we were there the weather hovered on the verge of rain, staying just dry enough for us to explore freely, but remaining cool enough that we could do so without dripping sweat. And boy did we explore.
I was on a mission to find the artisan chocolate store I’d read about (any good chocaholic knows that Ecuadorian chocolate is about as quality as it gets) and after we indulged on way too many truffles we found out the Sacred Music Festival was going on. Call it luck, call it travel karma, call it good timing. Either way we arrived at the Compañía de Jesus just as the door were closing. We were the last people admitted for a free organ concert in what many people call the most beautiful church in South America.
We spent the next couple of days exploring the artisan market, visiting the equator, touring Quito’s other famous sites, “exercising” (playing) in the park, drinking coffee at the café where Blue Bottle gets its beans, and eating way too much chocolate.
There wasn’t a moment of Quito I didn’t love and I never once felt even slightly threatened. Maybe it’s just because I found Indian food for dinner one night and got to eat my own weight in high-quality chocolate for a reasonable price, but I left Quito convinced that every other blogger was wrong about the place.
Off to Peru
The whole reason I came to South America was to visit Peru. I am currently writing this on an 8 hour bus ride. I just finished a 12-hour ride and I have another 4+ hour ride ahead of me. Tyler, Alberth, and Maria are asleep. Anton and Leo are somewhere in Ecuador on their way to meet us.
As for me? I’m staring out at the uninterrupted desert landscape all around me and thinking about the fact that I am actually here; South America. It’s been a dream of mine for a while (especially Peru) and it feels a bit unreal that it is finally coming true. And so far South America has been everything I dreamed of and so much more.