After nearly a year and a half stuck in Lisbon due to the pandemic I figured it was about time to step outside for a breath of fresh air. While I did start 2021 full of promising plans and willing to make things happen, sadly it wasn’t to be. The inspiration never came and, after frustrating myself over and over again with my own lack of productivity, I concluded I needed to be on the road for the creative juices to start flowing again.
When it came to choosing a country (the hardest part, for sure) I was slightly limited by Covid requirements. Half of the world was yet to fully reopen and the other half was strictly shut. Colombia, a country I had visited in 2015 during my first round-the-world trip, ended up being the preferred choice. I quickly set my eyes on Santa Marta, a small city with a lovely colonial Old Town that I remembered being charming but not overly busy or touristy. It seemed like the perfect place to finally start working on editing and publishing the travel books I wrote over the last couple of years.
Rather than going straight to Santa Marta, which is located on the warm Caribbean coast of the country, I opted to spend a week in not-so-warm Bogotá first. I had enjoyed (but not particularly loved) my short stay in the Colombian capital when I first visited in 2015 and wanted to give it another go. This time around it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the city and feel like I’d definitely come to the right place. In other words, I felt at home. But we’ll get to that!
Flying for the first time in so long was actually good fun. Even though things didn’t get off to a great start with a shuttle breaking down between terminals at Barajas airport, I was very excited! I flew with Iberia in a brand new plane with plenty of room and – believe it or not – decent food. I’m biased when it comes to airplane food (love it!) but the Thai curry they served for lunch was truly fantastic. The soggy wrap we were given at the end of journey not so much, but let’s not get into that.
I spent the flight watching three rather average movies (Godzilla vs. Kong, Wrath of Man, and An American Pickle) and obsessively playing Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? on the in-flight entertainment system. I actually managed to win the grand prize once but couldn’t find where to claim my million dollars. Now that was a definite bummer!
On arrival the queues to get past immigration were quite long but moving at a decent pace. The only Covid-related requirement to enter Colombia was to fill out an online form and bring a copy of the confirmation, which I did. Apart from that there were no checks of any kind but you did need to wear a mask at all times. Since I landed at night – something I’m not particularly fond of, I always try to arrive during the day – I decided to take a cab to the hostel instead of chancing it on a bus ride. Colombia (much like most of Latin America) is lovely during the day, but can be rather sketchy at night and some risks are just not worth taking.
The rush of navigating the airport and trying to find a taxi among the chaos filled me with a lot of joy, I had truly missed it all! My taxi driver was quite talkative so we had a good chat en español during the 25-minute drive to the hostel. I’d reserved a bed in La Candelaria, the colonial downtown area of Bogotá, because I wanted to be in the centre. The hostel (called R10) was located in a gorgeous colonial building and was both beautifully decorated and very spacious – exactly what I needed for my week in town! In fairness, I didn’t have much of a plan. Or rather, the plan was to finish all the pending little things (like answering e-mails, messages, so on and so forth) so that by the time I got to Santa Marta I could fully focus on editing the books.
Now, Bogotá sits at 2,625 metres of altitude (making it the third-highest capital city in the world, after La Paz and Quito – in Bolivia and Ecuador respectively) so I knew I would probably have a rough night/first day. I’ve got decent resistance to altitude sickness and 2,625 metres isn’t even that high but… it had definitely happened last time I visited. As it turned out the night was actually not too bad but the next morning I woke up with a light headache that would stay with me for a few days. It didn’t really matter though because this was a new beginning of sorts and as long as I drank enough water it would all be fine. I called it a day not long after being shown to my room. I was exhausted and in urgent need of sleep but also very happy and beyond excited to start making things happen again. The time had finally come!