Now that we have been in South America for a week, I have a few more well-formed thoughts about this wonderful continent. While Ecuador and Colombia are not many travelers’ first choice, they offer a genuine travel experience, without any pretense, or overhyped travel hyperboles.
Mainly, I noticed that people in both countries seem to be hard workers, and proud of their countries. And in Colombia, in particular, there is a joy and delight in the everyday lives of the citizens, particularly after some rather difficult years of drug cartels and violence.
That is not to say these places are perfect. Actually, far from it. While they have invested heavily in new airports and other infrastructure (their roads are superior to ours), it appears housing is still a big issue. Sewage and the environment are yet more challenges facing their leaders. Homelessness is perhaps as rampant or more so than in the United States.
They love their cakes and eat it too. But compared to ours, it is much heavier, and difficult to eat more than a bite or two, even with their best coffees.
I did not see a single golf course, and very few tennis courts. Soccer fields are also in short supply. What does this really mean? Perhaps their leisure time activities do not mirror ours or other developed countries. Certainly, the high carbohydrate diets do not help.
Police presence is everywhere. This can be both good and bad. It tells me there are still plenty of problems, drug violence notwithstanding. Personally, I find it a little strange to see thirty or forty police officers in a one block radius. Yes, I am comforted by their presence, but worried about why it is necessary.
It was nice being the only tourists in most places, realizing it is off-season for tourism. Invariably, I just get tired of seeing so many French and German tourists. It is really pleasant mingling only with local tourists, out for a day or weekend of leisure. And certainly, it was nice not having any American tourists around.
But yes, drugs were offered to us in many places. I realize that happens everywhere in the world, not just here. This is not a good place to discuss drugs in any manner. Yesterday, our driver was the first to mention Pablo Escobar, and show us where he was shot.
When it rains here, it really rains. This storm started yesterday, mid-afternoon, and has continued through the night into this morning. Of course, we saw the highland hillside farms that depend heavily on this water for their crops.
Families were out yesterday for some sort of Columbian holiday. A few were exercising on the main boulevard, whether walking, jogging, cycling, or just sweating.
Wines, even those we can get back home for under $20 USD, are priced well over $40 here. No wonder the locals drink so much beer, and their home-brew with the anise flavor.
Today is our last full day in Columbia. I am certain we will celebrate tonight with another trip to Parque Llerus.