This week we bring you another edition of our monthly interviews. We would like to thank Chris for taking the time to answer our questions and share his photographs of Colombia with us and our readers. You can read more great posts from Chris in his personal blog: http://chrisdriver11.wordpress.com
The Uncover Colombia team
Tell us something about yourself (Where are you from? who you are and/or what you do?)
Hi, my name is Chris Driver; I am 23 years old from Ipswich, England. I am a photographer on cruise ships, so I am very fortunate to travel the world and see some amazing and interesting places.
Why did you decide to visit Colombia?
My decision to visit Colombia was an easy one. My girlfriend and I met at work on a cruise ship. She is Colombian, from Bogota. We had been together for about 4 months, when she invited me to stay with her and her family in Bogota during our 3 month vacation from work. So I booked my ticket for 1 day after Christmas 2012 and the rest is history.
What sort of things did you like?
When people ask me what I liked about the country, I find it hard to answer, because there is so little that I didn’t like. Colombia for me was a treat for all the senses. Beautiful people and beautiful scenery. I was fortunate enough to stay with my girlfriend’s family so I was able to see Colombia from a local point of view, not just as a tourist. The people are so friendly, the food is very good, although, as an English person whose appetite is used to English sized portions, I found myself to be the butt of a few jokes, as every time I had a plate of food put in front of me, my eyes would widen and jaw would drop…cue the laughter of my girlfriend and her family. I spent a lot of my time in Bogota. I have been to a lot of cities, mainly in Europe, which are all very beautiful and have their own charm. But Bogota had something about it, maybe it was the surrounding mountain views, maybe it was the hustle and bustle of the streets, the street vendors and street food, the delicious beer from the Bogota Beer Company. It is a city with a fascinating history and a rich culture.
What sort of things didn’t you like?
The thing that frustrated me about Colombia was the sheer amount of things to do, and not having enough time to do it.
What was your favourite experience?
During my trip to the Caribbean coast, myself and my girlfriend travelled to quite a few different places. We flew from Bogota to Cartagena, and from there we took buses all the way to Rioacha, then a car to Uribea in the Guajira Peninsula, stopping for a few days in Tayrona National Park, a 2 hour bus journey from the fantastic city of Santa Marta. This for me was probably my favourite experience. Seeing the mountains roll down to the beaches, covered in tropical rain forest, and then a few hours on a bus, a cab, a Tuk Tuk and a car, being in a completely different landscape in Cabo de la Vela, Guajira. Desert meets ocean, blistering heat, and fantastic fresh fish, and of course the local Wayuu people. In fact, that is one of my favourite things about the whole country, the different landscapes throughout. I can only speak for what I have seen personally, but from other people I know that live and have visited other areas say it is so vast with many different eco systems, each “zona” having its own character and traits.
Did you have any problems, finding accommodation, transport, food, etc?
Finding accommodation wasn’t too much of an issue. In Bogota, I stayed at my girlfriend’s parent’s apartment, and Cartagena we also stayed with my girlfriend’s family. Once we started backpacking along the coast, we had no issue in finding a hotel either. In Santa Marta we just walked into the hotel and they had a room, and the same thing in Uribea, we asked a young boy who was driving one of the very charming bicycle Tuk Tuks to take us to a hotel, where they also had a room. I wouldn’t recommend this though, we were fortunate enough to be travelling at the end of the season, so everywhere was a little quieter than normal. Transportation was great. Bus travel is cheap and safe. We paid about $12 US for an 11 hour bus journey. Taxis are easy to get and not overpriced, well, compared to what I pay in England! And as for the food, well as I mentioned before, it is very delicious, and there is lots of it. I tried lots of different food, and I liked pretty much all of it. One of my personal favourites, which became a stable part of my diet whilst on the north coast, was Arepas de huevo. Arepas are a very typical food from Colombia that everyone must try.
Which other countries did you visit besides Colombia and how does Colombia compare with these countries?
This trip I only went to Colombia, and it being my first trip to South America I cannot comment fairly. I have been to a lot of countries and different cities, but I have never been anywhere like Colombia.
Which image did you have about Colombia before going there?
Like most people, I had the closed minded view of Colombia that is portrayed in the media. But my girlfriend, who loves her country, told me months in advance how it is not as bad as it is made out to be. So like I do with all of my travels, I went with an open and un-biased mind.
Did this image change after your trip?
Yes, I fell in love with Colombia. For me it is one of the most fascinating and beautiful countries I have ever visited.
Would you like to come back?
I plan on it! Hopefully 2014 I shall be back. There is so much more to see to not go back.
What would you recommend to someone considering Colombia as a destination?
GO! If you are backpacking, plan your trip if backpacking isn’t your thing, then book tours, either way there is so much to do, you need to make the most of your time.
Any final thoughts?
Colombia is there for you to see, go and enjoy a country that is fast becoming one the biggest tourist destinations in the world.
- Uncover Colombia Interview: Clare and Glen (www.uncovercolombia.com)
- Uncover Colombia Interview: A 180 degree change in perception (www.uncovercolombia.com)
- Uncover Colombia Interview: Meiqiong and Sean from the beach to the jungle (www.uncovercolombia.com)