The Top 10 Ways You Know You’re in Colombia

If you love adventure traveling, consider taking a trip to Colombia. While many people might be nervous about visiting the South American country due to crime, drug cartels and the like, the biggest problems visitors typically deal with are frightfully unsafe bus rides and contracting gastrointestinal illness (GI) from sketchy water.

Let me preface the following list by saying Colombia is a beautiful country with friendly locals, a variety of spectacular landscapes and cool environments (including beaches, cities, jungles, mountains and more), and a host of activities for those, like myself, who love trying new things and crave a spike in adrenaline every now and then. The adventurous experiences–good and bad–now make for unique and funny stories, and this list is (mostly) tongue-in-cheek. Iodine tablets, however, are actually recommended!

Up, up, and away in beautiful San Gil.

Up, up, and away in beautiful San Gil.

1) Your bus stops in town every four minutes to pick up passengers, but then doesn’t stop for four hours in the mountains, and the bumpy ride has your bladder screaming to be emptied. 

 2) You’ve won the lottery if you’re the one person out of twenty-one who didn’t contract GI while on a four-day trek through the jungle. 

3) Starting something forty-five minutes late is the closest to on time you can hope to experience.

4) You’ve lucked out if there’s toilet paper in the bathroom you had to pay to use. Soap is a luxury you only dream about. 

5) Comparing bug bites with fellow travelers is a common past time, and twenty-eight on each leg is considered low. 

6) You eat burnt ants because they just might be better then the local fare. 

7) Honking is a substitute for stop signs, turn signals, breaking and saying hello to other drivers. 

Fording the rushing river.

Fording the rushing river.

8) In the jungle you’re wet nearly every waking moment from sweating profusely, jumping into the river to cool off, being dumped on by the daily afternoon and evening torrential downpours, fording a river with waist-high rushing rapids due to one of the said torrential downpours, or soaking in the river in the evening–lightning be damned, because you know it’s not going to stop raining before you need to get some shut eye–in attempts to alleviate the itching caused by the numerous bug bites covering your legs, and wash away the sweat from the day’s thirteen-kilometer trek. 

9) You catch a ride with a random local on the back of his motor scooter because the vehicle you were in died on the side of a mountain and you didn’t want to swelter in the afternoon sun or have mosquitoes feast on your legs while you waited for another car that may never have arrived. 

10) You nearly throw up in the back of the bus not from the seven back-to-back hairpin turns you took at seemingly one hundred and eighty-three kilometers per hour, or from the moldy mystery cornmeal pancakes of which you regrettably consumed too many bites, or from the severe back pain you’ve incurred from being ejected from and jolted out of your seat repeatedly because of the crazy road, but because someone apparently doused the vehicle in fourteen vats of Lysol immediately prior to departing, and after six hours–many of which are spent silently battling the man seated in front of you for the opportunity to open the shared window so you can suck in one breath of fresh air every hour–you’re still not accustomed to the smell.


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