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Colombia day 9 – Flying out to Peru

Posted by on August 1, 2011

Alright, the day to fly out finally came. No more hot, sweaty nights for me since my room didn’t have A/C but for about $12US a night, I couldn’t complain about the room being basic to the core as it had beds, sheets, fans, and shared bathrooms. Besides, the goal was diving, not relaxation. That part was going to be in Lima, Peru, where I can finally sit down and relax about the end of my trip in South America. Nothing hard charging when I get there but all relaxation.

Green iguana by window, Taganga, Colombia

As I was packing my gear, I heard this rumbling sound by my window and when I looked out, there was this huge iguana! The jungle isn't that far away!

But taking the taxi from Taganga to Santa Marta’s airport and then trying to fly out of Santa Marta on a very late night flight was a big hassle. In the past, there weren’t a lot of passengers in and out of Santa Marta but now, there were loads of people! Even the airport changed. I remember checking in with the airline that had only 2 desks. The entire section was gutted out and now there were several counters served by different airlines. I also remember talking to the Colombian military who was doing the customs and security checks. No more. It was done by airport security and the police. Wow, what a change. That was another shock of the change that went through my head.

After checking-in with the front desk and awaiting word to get on the plane, I hear this message in Spanish on the intercom that made everyone groan. The flight going to Bogota was going to be delayed for several hours due to the flight crew not there. Apparently, some of the pilots got sick and were at the hospital or something like that. It was kind of bizarre. So what’s the first thing I do? I just got up like everyone else. But I did something else unlike the others who were venting their frustration at each other or to the airline employees. It was around lunch time so I made a beeline straight to the airport’s only restaurant which is not at all very big. I immediately looked at the menu, ordered a sandwich, and got myself a table before everyone with a herd mentality did the same thing. And guess what? I was right. The herd did come after the airport’s only restaurant and the frustration built up even more as there was a big line to the cashier. Some of the travelers got smart and just bought themselves a soda or something small, but to order something out of the kitchen was going to require a lot of waiting.

All I remember was watching these people go a little haywire but all in all, everything was okay in the end. The plane did take-off for Bogota although I’m sure a lot of people probably missed their connecting flight to elsewhere. Good thing I had several hours still left to burn before my flight went off to Lima. The only thing that I wanted to find but couldn’t find was Colombia’s best coffee. I had bought some bags of Sello, a coffee that a lot of the locals drink, for some of the family and friends back home. I don’t drink coffee but apparently, this is some good stuff.

Sello is good, but I couldn’t find the other coffees in Taganga or Santa Marta that Colombia was famous for. It probably had to do with the fact that I didn’t go to the major department stores, but the airport of Bogota was the last chance and by golly, I made good use of that choice. I finally found some of that damn good Colombian coffee. I initially asked around at the duty-free shops at the airport for Juan Manuel coffee only to have some lady laugh at me, correcting me that the name of the coffee was Juan Valdez. Wow, how did I make that mistake? I don’t know but there it was – a Juan Valdez coffee store at the airport staring at me at the face. So what do I do? I walked over there and bought some bags.

There is another thing about the airport of Bogota that I realized that was quite a bit of changes just like in Santa Marta. First, was the retrieval of luggage. I remember that I had to get my bag from baggage claim, hail a taxi, and then go to the international airport which wasn’t far away but walking-wise, it was far. Now, I didn’t have to get my bag at all but instead take a special bus for free to go to the international airport section. By taking the bus, I could see that there were major upgrades being done on the airport which I instantly knew that this country was on its way up if whole buildings were built up. Another thing that changed was going into the terminals. In the past, I had to get checked by the Colombian military who would ask me questions on where I was going, what was I carrying, what I did, etc. But now, it was just airport security doing the checks. Quite a change from the uniformed fatigues to plain-clothed shirts and slacks. I suppose that the country’s situation with FARC has improved so much that the country itself can finally grow out of it just like Peru did with its anti-governmental groups such as the Shining Path.