After hard work by all the Academy boys during the winter, I got the opportunity to take a month off. I decided to take the opportunity to travel around South America and chose to spend my month in Colombia. I left early on the 3 March to catch a 17-hour flight to Bogotá via Frankfurt. With a library of the latest film releases and a free drinks bar the flight was over in no time. Once we had touched down at about 9pm local time it was time to sober up and crack out the phrase book and attempt to pass immigration. The officer didn’t speak any English and with my Spanish only reaching “where is the toilet” and “one beer please” it was a bit of struggle but with that hurdle passed I had to find my way to my hostel for the night.
Walking out the doors of the terminal the heat of Bogotá hit, but I was quickly dragged off by a local cabbie and bundled into his taxi. I still haven’t decided whether they are good drivers or not in Colombia. There doesn’t seem to be any rules of the road, there are five cars abreast in just two lanes and half of them are going the other way. One cabbie told me that red lights don’t count after 9pm! With no seatbelts in the car and the driver insisting that he “showed me the town” I wasn’t sure that I had got in quite a legitimate taxi. He took me up what was a very sketchy road and we stopped at a deserted crossing. From what I understood, the cabbie said to wind up my window and lock my door. As soon as we had stopped, our car was surrounded, people banging on the windows and trying to open the boot and doors. The driver took me around the back streets, pointing out where I shouldn’t go as it was too dangerous, which was alarmingly often.
I arrived at my hostel and, after the cabbie had fleeced me out of twice the fare saying he “had no change”, I crashed for the night.
I caught a connecting flight the next day to the Caribbean coast, to a place called Cartagena, where I met up with the friends I was travelling with. We stayed in an amazing hostel in the old town and took many different excursions around the local area with other travellers. A day trip to a mud volcano was one of the weirdest things I have ever experienced, I also spent two nights on the paradise beach ‘Playa Blanca’ where it was nearly warmer in the water than lying in the 35°C sun sleeping in hammocks on the beach and eating freshly caught fish and exotic fruit. We sampled the local culture, and danced salsa till the early hours in the morning most nights.
I got the opportunity to take a six day hike in the jungle to the lost city. I was in a group with 13 other people of many different nationalities, ranging between 19- 36 years old. We started the trek by getting a rickety metal pick up truck up the side of the mountain, we were driven by a guy who claimed he was 14 years old and could barely see out of the windscreen. With sheer drops on both sides, and the boy driving no handed at points, it wasn’t the safest. When we reached the starting camp we were given lunch and the trekking began. Within 15 minutes we were already swimming and jumping into the river that ran along the route. I thought, if the start is anything to go by, the trek is going to be a doddle. Little did I know that it was five hours of hard up hill trekking in jungle rain. We passed indigenous villages and slept in hammocks and mud huts. Our guides cooked for us and we had mule’s carrying our food for the whole trek but I was still knackered and hitting the sack by 10 o’clock each evening. We reached the lost city on the fourth day. There were Colombian soldiers all over protecting the tourists from any Guerrilla groups in the area after the kidnapping in 2002. It was an amazing view and learning about the history of the indigenous people was quite amazing.
After the lost city trek we all travelled as a group. First we took a 14 hour bus ride down to Medellin. This part of Colombia is where the infamous drugs lord Pablo Escobar lived and was famously killed. I experienced the crazy nightlife and went to a historical bullfight, apparently the best Colombia had seen for 60 years. I also visited a small village, Salento in the coffee region where I took tours of the local coffee and fruit farms. I then moved back down to Bogota preparing for the trip home. After a bike tour of the town and a cable car up to a church at the top of one of the surrounding mountains, it was time to say goodbye and start my journey home.
I had an amazing time and experienced a whole other culture, but now I am back and have started pre season training with the other lads. I am looking forward to what I believe will be a very successful season for the team.