Thursday, June 19, 2008

Colombia: First Impressions

I arrived in Baranquilla, Colombia last Thursday after a long flight. One of the first things that struck me was how nice the airport was! It was something I wasn't expecting. (My brother in law later told me that 80% of Colombians have never been on a plane, which helps explain why the airports have such a luxurious atmosphere, but more on that later).

After going through customs (a breeze) and border security (a bit of a pain--they rifle through all of your belongings, but I suppose it's necessary, though I'm not sure exactly what they think I might bring INTO Colombia) we emerged from the air conditioned airport and into the sweltering heat, which was a little bit overwhelming at first (it must have been close to a hundred degrees, and very humid). We met Javier's brother Fabio and his father (also Fabio) at the airport--it was so nice to finally meet them!).

From the airport we could see a bit more of the city of Baranquilla, which like the rest of Colombia, is a city full of contrasts, though the difference between rich and poor is the most striking. Immeadiately outside the airport are rows and rows of extremely meagre dwellings--roofs with the suggestion of walls. The owners sit or stand outside, attempting to sell fruit or souveniers to tourists. One thing I must say is that street vendors here are MUCH less pushy than I've seen in other parts of the world (Paris, for example). All you need to do is say "thanks" and move on. They won't bother you (as a side note though, if you're in a car, it's best to ignore them!).

The ride from Baranquilla to Santa Marta was extremely beautiful at times, and rather depressing at other times. There are a lot of invasiones--what we might call shanty towns--on the hour long drive to Santa Marta. The poverty is extreme, although I was relived to learn that there are schools for all of the kids you can see in these poor neighbourhoods. On the brighter side, we also saw lots of beautiful tropical trees and flowers from the road. The topography was so interesting, and it's amazing how much the land can change during a one hour drive (Baranquilla was humid and more lush, whereas as we approached Santa Marta the landscape became more dry and rocky).

We are actually staying in Rodadero, which is a large suburb of Santa Marta that has grown as a result of tourism. There are a large number of luxury resorts located near the beach, in addition to luxury apartments and numerous tourist-oriented shops. As you can see, our apartment is just a stone's throw from the beach (this photo was taken fromt the window).


Melanie said...

What an interesting place. I'm looking forward to learning more. Hope you're having a good time.

Best Wishes,

Margaret said...

Thanks, Melanie!

M.Kate said...

wow!! COLUMBIA!!

Margaret, is it ok to mention your columbia so other can hop over to see Columbia?

love the pictures and when I see the next post, I'll know you are not kidnapped hahaahaha..happy weekend