We were out of breath, having just climbed 1,200 stone steps when Celso, our indigenous guide, called for us to join him around a group of stones arranged in a circle in a clearing. In the middle of the circle stood another square stone on top of which lay a pile of coca leaves placed as an offering. Celso explained with trademark calm in a slow, deliberate voice, “This is a place where we should let go of our impurities, our negative thoughts and emotions.”
Call it my imagination. While I looked forward to our visit to Colombia, I harbored the occasional image of thuggy bush-mustached Colombian narco-gangsters and aggressive gold cap-toothed street thieves shaking me down in the back shadows of Bogota or Medellin. (Yes, I realize I’ve probably watched one too many bad airplane movies.)
Colombia, thankfully, was altogether different. We spent time on our own, under the auspices of friends, on tours, in cities, way up in the hills, on the coast, and in destinations in between.
No narco-gangsters. No untoward experiences, for us.
We're headed to Colombia tomorrow. We're off to see a country we were supposed to visit five years ago. We'll be on the trail for Colombian culture — from the Andes to the Pacific to the Caribbean — and to find The Lost City along the way.
Colombia. It's one of the countries that got away during the 15 months we traveled through Latin America a few years ago. We didn’t skip it because of safety concerns — in fact, even at that time ever more travelers were saying the opposite and urging us to go. We just happened to pass it at the height of rainy season and we figured we’d return when we were certain to have ample time to explore.
We didn’t expect it would take five years to return, but here we are.
We leave for Colombia tomorrow.