ELYCE – “It’s time to leave South America when you’re woken up by a guy pissing on the floor of your hostel”

You know it’s time to leave South America when you are woken up by the sound of a guy pissing on the floor of your dorm room.

Yes, this is a true story. While I was staying in a hostel in Cartagena, Colombia I was woken up to the sound of a guy pissing on the floor of my dorm room while uncontrollably sneezing, because he had clearly had too much ‘wizz fizz’. I wandered down to reception to see if they could mop the floor (and my bag) in the hope that perhaps I could wake up to a slightly less acrid room the next day. On my way to reception I unfortunately happened to witness a beer-bellied Westerner on the cusp of middle age, leading a heavily made up (but lightly dressed) Colombian girl into his room. This was the moment I knew I needed to book a flight to North America.

The next morning my friend laughed at the said event as he recounted to me, “ I woke up and looked around the dorm to see a hoard of dirty bearded men to one side and to the other side was you, the delicate little flower looking unimpressed as you whispered, “some guy just pissed on the floor”.

Colombia is a beautiful country with so much to offer. The Lost City Trek, is hot tiring and spectacular as it leads you up and down its jungle clad mountains, through full flowing rivers and past native tribes who still live as their ancestors did (save for the gumboots). Medellin, the city of eternal spring, democratic architecture and one of the most innovative transportation systems in the world is one of my favourite cities in South America and nowhere near as dangerous as it’s reputation suggests. Eje Cafetero (the coffee region), with it’s plantation covered mountains, delicious coffee and Jurassic Parkesque palm spotted valley’s is tranquil. Bogota, perhaps the most under-rated city in Colombia, is trendy, vast and has something to offer everyone (if you can handle the altitude).

Above all my favourite thing about Colombia is its people, they are amongst the kindest I have come across in my travels and are truly delighted to have tourists back in the country after its tumultuous history deterred them for so many years. However in spite of all this if you reach the coastal area around Cartagena you will be bombarded with filthy tourists who have more interest in the fruits of Colombia’s sordid past than they ever will be in visiting natural wonders, learning Spanish or Salsa dancing. This behaviour is so expected of Westerner’s that on a couple occasions men would literally pop their heads through the windows of cafes and ask me, ‘cigarettes, cocaine?’ While this is their prerogative, and I shouldn’t be offended, it is also the reason why I now place a limit on travel in locations where the ‘high’ life comes cheap. While my pee soaked bag made me question humanity slightly, I don’t think it, or any other event similar will deter me from traveling. It has just made me more wise to the types of places to avoid. Number one on this list, any hostel that is referred to as a ‘party hostel’ in it’s reviews or locations that only contain hostels of this sort.

In a world of cheap flights and a mobile middle class there is no escaping hedonistic tourists in search of cheap thrills. Although Colombia is still perceived in the West as the home of cartels, Escobar and gorilla wars, it has grown up a lot over the past decade. While the last vestiges of Colombia’s dirty past are still present on it’s beaches and up the noses of the tourists that frequent them, the Colombia that I fell in love with is full of natural beauty, innovative design, a blossoming art scene and charming people.

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