If you had told any one of this family that soon we would get to know a country totally new to us, we would probably have laughed you out of the room. But miracles, the improbable, the unforeseen story do happen.
Last year we embarked on a Christmas break to vacation on Little Snake island, otherwise known as Culebra, off the coast from mainland Puerto Rico. Its claim to fame is a magnificent beach – one of the best in the world.
We love that beach and enjoy the waterfront cottages. The customary way to get from Culebra to mainland PR is by ferry, and that is just what we did. But, of course, we were not alone.
Among the other passengers was a Spanish speaking family with three lovely children. There was a beginning acquaintanceship which within a day or two, once we and they were on the island, blossomed into friendship.
You might almost say – love at first sight.
So, it was Christmas day and wonder of wonders, we had enough presents with us to go around. Ana, her three kids, husband and joined in the party and over the next couple of days we bonded.
Ana saying more than once: “You must come and visit us….in Colombia! I scratched my head wondering where is this country, Colombia? A bit of research – maybe not the right word – showed me an interesting place of mystery and majesty, graced by a toasty warm Caribbean and mighty Pacific Ocean.
Not very far from Mexico nor far from Florida, a huge swath of the Amazon river basin nourishes and sometimes devours the countryside. Then of course, the Andes mountains, that touching the sea at Tayrona and weaving their way south, coveting the Cauca and Magdalena waterways.
And the cities of Colombia vie with each other for attention. Bogotá, the capital, is built high into this Andes chain with streets like a roller coaster. The high rise architecture is mind boggling and colorful. Its architects and street artists have not spared color or texture, either.
Driving through the city at night is a virtual pictorama. Museums dot the city, one laden with gold, another filled with plus-sized Boteros. Our travels took us to Cartagena, the Rosary Islands, breezy Santa Marta, and Minca – up in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
Two things stand out now for us as South America-touched pilgrims: the friendliness of the majority of Colombians. We can’t recall a country with so many smiling faces.
And the huge landscape variation in just a small travel adventure. The beauty of the Old City of Cartagena. It is a jewel of soft pastels, warmly modeled architecture, squares alive with music and dance. Good food is not to be overlooked.
The plazas are full of tables and chairs waiting for you to take your place. It’s a 500-hundred-year-old paradise, where buccaneers have been replaced by clinking beers in San Diego, and the old slave quarter of Getsemaní, an enclave of millennials en masse enjoying sun and mojitos en Santo Domingo.
Back in our little section of quiet New England, we are going around with residual smiles on our faces. What pleasure we had exploring a fabulous country called ‘Colombia’.
And ours a destined journey, thanks to an unexpected conversation on a ferry to Culebra.