We met Frank Plamann, a German traveller in La Candelaria, Downtown Bogota. He chatted to our correspondent Mark Boultwood over a cerveza and a game of pool.
UC: Tell us a bit about yourself Frank.
FP: Well, I’m from Germany and work as a credit risk controller at a bank. I’m interested in sports, travelling, and photography. After my first few city trips in Europe, I travelled further afield to Syria, Cuba and Mexico. In 2010, I visited South America for the first time. Since then I have set foot in every South American country except Peru, Venezuela and the Guianas. They are also on my to do list.
UC: So what made you choose to come to Colombia?
FP: When I was in Ecuador in 2012 I met a lot of people who crossed Ecuador on their way from Colombia to Peru. Most of them said Colombia was a great place to travel. So I chose to go there last year and as there were (and still are) a lot of things I wanted to see I came back this year!
UC: You’ve been to Colombia twice in the last two years? That’s great! Where did you go on your first trip to Colombia then?
FP: Yes. I started in Bogotá and then went to the Desierto de Tatacoa. After that I went to the Zona Cafetera and visited Salento, Valle de Cocora, Manizales and Nevado Santa Isabel. After a stop at Medellin I went to the coast. After a few days in Cartagena I travelled to Mompos and then to Santa Marta. I visited Tayrona National Park and Minca. Then I based myself in San Gil for a few days and visited Barichara, Guane and the Chicamocha Canyon. Before heading back to Bogotá I made a final stop in Villa de Leyva.
UC: That’s one action-packed trip. You certainly fitted a lot of places in. So if you had to pick one, which was your favourite place on that trip?
FP: As great as places like Valle de Cocora and Desierto de Tatacoa are I would go with Tayrona National Park. Just for the combination of blue sea, white beaches and right next to it mountains. For architecture I would say Mompos.
UC: Where have you travelled to in Colombia on this trip and where were your favourite places?
FP: Again I started in Bogotá and then went to Sogamoso. From there I visited Páramo Ocetá, Lago de Tota and some villages like Iza and Mongui. Then I went to Popayán and from there, travelled to Tierradentro. After a few days in Medellin including a day trip to Santa Fe de Antioquia I flew to Cartagena. From there I went to Islas Rosario and Isla Baru. Then I went east. After a stopover in Riohacha I travelled to Cabo de la Vela. On the way back to Bogotá I stopped in Palomino and Santa Marta. The two best places were Cabo de Vela and Páramo Ocetá.
UC: You’ve definitely seen most of Colombia’s highlights by now! Do you have any favourite foods from Colombia?
FP: Definitely the fruits and juices. For the juices, Lulo, Guanabana and Zapote. For the fruits, Mango and Papaya. The one you get in plastic cups on the streets. It is no problem to get Mango and Papaya over in Germany – but they just look the same. The taste is not even close at home.
UC: So, you have travelled all over Colombia in your past two trips. Did you have any difficulties travelling anywhere and as a tourist did you find the country to be safe?
FP: I never really had difficulties travelling in Colombia. Not everything worked out as expected but this makes travelling more interesting. So I wouldn’t call it difficulties. Although speaking Spanish makes it easier. And I never felt unsafe. The most dangerous thing was probably getting on smaller overland buses, which was always quite an experience!
UC: Can you tell me a memorable travel experience you had in Colombia?
FP: On the way to Tierradentro the road gets bumpy. Really bumpy. This didn’t stop the bus driver going fast. Well, the bus broke once and they managed to fix it. The bus broke a second time. They tried to fix it again. Everybody was waiting. I started to chat with an older woman who was sitting next to me on the bus. She was living in San Andres which is right next to the place I wanted to go. After a while a chiva passed by. She and a few people switched to the chiva. Me too. The chiva drove to Inza. At Inza I had to switch to a 4WD for the last part. The trip didn’t go as I wanted but getting a really close impression of the typical transportion in the area was definitely more fun. For me as a European it’s surprising how relaxed the people were during the break downs and the waiting time.
UC: Haha! I guess that wouldn’t happen very much, especially in Germany! If you could visit one more place in Colombia that you haven’t already been to, where would it be and why?
FP: Mocoa. It’s a bit off the beaten track and it is supposed to be exceptionally beautiful.
UC: That’s a good one. Not many people have heard of Mocoa. What was the best thing you have done here in Bogota?
FP: I absolutely like walking on Carrera Septima. Apart from that the
graffiti tour or the bike tours are a great way to discover Bogotá.
UC: Thanks for talking to us Frank. We hope you come back to Colombia a third time!
The Uncover Colombia Team