Amongst the global backpacking crowd, countries don’t get much cooler at the moment than Colombia.
While I was researching my trip, Colombia wasn’t even on my original itinerary. After hearing people rave about it, and in particular how much safer it is now, it became a must see.
When I got to Mexico, the excitement continued to build. Pretty much every traveller I met who’d been there couldn’t wait to tell me about how it was the best country they’d ever been to, and that anyone still worried about security concerns (outside of the Amazon areas) really had no right to be backpacking in the first place.
After being warned about Mexico and Guatemala (and realising how over-cautious those warnings were), I arrived in Colombia ridiculously excited and not at alll apprehensive.
Big Mistake. Unduly raised expectations are a dangerous thing. The taxi drive into Bogota revealed a city that looked like one of London’s uglier suburbs (although god know what I was expecting. Latin American capital cities are frequently ugly, and even the nicer ones still have plenty of ugly bits). My first encounter with travellers in my hotel was with three others who’d been there a few days. All had been mugged.
My excitement soon faded to disappointment and apprehensiveness. After emptying my wallet of everything and leaving my camera behind, I ventured out to explore, and the feelings persisted. The main square was nothing special after seeing so many amazing ones elsewhere. The colonial buildings were a bit drab. And much of the archtitecture was pretty bland.
It didn’t help that my first two days were a public holiday, and everything was shut as all the locals had left town for the weekend (I could see why). Oh, and it rained most of the time too.
I spent a couple of full days there, punctuated by further tales of muggings, but I soon realised my heart wasn’t in it, and so my planned week was cut to three nights, and I left as early as I could once a plan had been formed.
In retrospect, the fault was mine and not the city’s. Raising one’s expectations so high is a very dangerous game. Nowhere is perfect, and I have no idea how I allowed myself to think that somehow Colombia could be. Writing this a week later, I think my initial impressions were harsh, and I really didn’t give the city much of a chance. I have to back at the end of the month to fly to Lima, and I’m determined to give it a fair chance, this time with more realistic expectations – and I’ve spoken to other traveller since then, and it seems like I’ve unfairly judged the place, and it’s my own fault.
You can see my slightly disappointing photos of Bogota here if you really have nothing better to do.