Colmbia holiday stories

Quibdó, Colombia – something else, reggaeton city

The flight from Medellin to Quibdó was the best one ever. We (Paula and I) landed at the time we were due to take off! Talk about a ‘short hop’, this one was a time warp. Only 25 or so minute hike.

What a city! It’s sign name is like ‘panning for gold at the river’.  It’s not on the tourist route and I’m not sure I would want to encourage it because it’s good as it is ‘unspoilt’. How, then, did I come to be here? As stated in previous entries, I had a strong wish to see the city at which Paula does her research on bats, her blog can be found here.

Here is a picture of the river that runs across Quibdó, called the Atrato river, courtesy of Paula:

I stayed at the University residences, fairly basic with cold water for a shower. Nice, since it’s so hot and humid there. Water for the shower comes from rain water that’s been collected in tanks; it rains so much many people have not ‘piped’ their houses (it’s also cheaper!). Over the bed, mosquito net is a must – although I was often left saying to P ‘how did that mosquito get in’!  I visited the university once, very well maintained and very cool with air conditioning. I used the p.c. once in a lab populated by dead (stuffed) animals, but that’s all part of the research they do at the Uni.

But there were two striking things about Quibdó: the motorbikes and the people. At University of Bristol typically the car parks and streets are full of cars, but around here the motorbikes reigns supreme. Motorbike taxi’s are popular and common: I took a ride on one to go downtown for 1,000 pesos (about 30p), and the university ‘car park’ hardly had any cars (I didn’t see any), but masses of motorbikes. P had been telling me this for weeks, but only seeing it could I understand it.

The people is the other aspect, but again it has to be seen. The majority of the people are Afr0-Colombian, so at times I didn’t quite feel I was in what I thought was Colombia, since there were less Afro people in other places I visited. Sound systems blare out music from the streets downtown, something we only experience at carnivals and festivals in the UK.

One highlight was the moored boat we relaxed on, with Aguila beer, taking a breather from the heat. To get on it we had to climb over a couple of horizontally fixed poles and walk a dodgy wooden plank. Because the river had subsided, the boat was listing, so the drinks were liable to slide off the tables. Lo and behold near the end of our drink session lots of bottles rolled off a table nearby. Here, loud music played and the people were happy. A man from Panama came up to chat and was dancing on the boat. The toilet was wanted, but had no door and all could see inside – we passed taking it, needless to say!

Now, I’m informed, by many sources, that Quibdó is the rainiest place on earth, situated as it is surrounded by rainforest. It thundered and crackled at night (and rained) but during the days I was there I never saw any rain…except once, when I decided to go for a run early one morning at an old sports track opposite the airport. Because it was so disused, running around it was muddy and I got soaked (but have no problems with that!). A dog also followed me on my run, which was so cute! I did my 21 laps, got wet and muddy, got back to the residences and showered.

I met some people from the University, very friendly, and the work environment seemed quite peaceful. Though I don’t know what it’s like when students are packing the lecture rooms.

It was sad leaving Quibdó because it was the last time I will see Paula until she returns to Bristol. I would liked to have stayed longer to have seen other parts of the city, such as a waterfall that’s nearby, some of the nightlife, and to have had more opportunity to socialise. In the city the nightlife is know for its reggaeton, a very popular and sensual dance. I would loved to have seen people in action doing the dance and, with a little Aguardiente in me, maybe have tried it myself.

The security fears are overblown. At night the city centre comes alive with throngs of people in the squares, the nightclubs, and on motorbikes. Police (dressed in green, thus appearing like the military to me) also roam the streets – but they do so in every UK city too (ok, minus the guns, but UK cops have vans, cars, pepper spray, batons, and sometimes dogs). We had a look inside one nightclub and it was actually so air conditioned it was cold. Places to eat seemed few, but where we did eat, downtown, the food was good, so we ate well.

Which reminds me…I was never ill once, nor did I threaten to even become slightly unwell during my hols. Amongst my favourite foods, snacks and drinks were: proper hot chocolate (with cheese dropped in is common); Arepa (usually plain or with egg or cheese); lots of yummy fruit, uchuva being my top fave; for snacks we often ate sliced up mango topped with salt and lime juice; and, of course, the unbeatable Colombian coffee. Top, top of the whole lot though was the fruit salad. A mixture of fruit with lots of thick cream and a form of grated cheese! The cheese is not like cheddar, but either queso campesino or queso cuajada.

A final picture, of sun setting on Quibdó, taken from where I was staying.

And some more pictures from the holiday:

Me in the shade!

At Roderdo, near Santa Marta

A present for great hosts 🙂

I very much intend to return to Colombia!