Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Colombian Hitchhiking Part I - Sabaneta, Amagá, Fredonia, Venecia & Bolombólo

(click to enlarge photos)

I completely forgot that I had these photos from a hitchhiking trip here in Antioquia during Semana Santa (Holy Week) in April. Sadly I didn't keep a journal log of this trip so I am afraid that there is a lot I don't remember and as a result this entry is going to be briefer than I had hoped. Nevertheless, I hope to inspire some of you to take some time to hitchhike is this wonderful country with no itinerary or specific destination...just go for it! If you have any questions regarding hitchhiking in Colombia feel free to ask.

I started the trip from southern tip of Sabaneta and caught a ride from a truck driver named Juan Carlos (there are thousands of Juan Carloses in Medellín alone) to Amagá. Very nice guy who couldn't believe that I wasn't with my family during Semana Santa. He treated me to an empanada while in Amagá which was very nice of him. I found very cheap accommodation that night in Amagá after participating with the celebrations (which was basically a six hour church service). I didn't have my camera with me because this was a very religious occasion and I didn't want to offend anyone; sorry for not having any photos from Amagá.

Before I headed out on the open road for four days of hitchhiking wherever the drivers were heading during Semana Santa (Holy Week) here were some of the supplies I had brought with me. The sign says, "If you would be so kind" in hopes to make drivers feel sorry for me and give me a lift. Luckily for me it turned out that the sign wasn't necessary in order to be picked up constantly by drivers. My list of supplies and why I brought them:



-35 liter Gregory Z-35 backpack. I traveled throughout Turkey, Iraq and Syria for two months with this pack. It is light weight, is a roll top, breathable, and has a good amount of lumbar support. I highly recommend Gregory packs for their support and durability. However, always buy a pack that fits perfectly, is best for your needs and is able to fit all of your gear (the backpack should be the last thing you buy before going on a trip).

-Vanilla soy milk powder.

-Assorted oatmeal bars.

-Arc'teryx Palisade Pant.

-Bathing suit. This actually wasn't and still isn't a necessary item, I just swim in my ExOfficio boxers which by the way are AMAZING. I warn you, once you buy ExOfficio boxers/briefs it is incredibly difficult to go back to cotton underwear.

-Sun glasses. I didn't use these either. Sun glasses are a must during mountaineering pursuits or while on the water but other than that I've never been a sun glasses kind of guy. Just make sure while purchasing sun glasses that they are polarized.

-The last of my couchsurfing cards. Sometimes we (couchsurfers) meet people along our journeys and think to ourselves, "Man, this guy is what couchsurfing is about". Sometimes we just have to spread the good word.

-Cell phone.

-Adventure Medical Kit.

-Regular glasses in order to see the mountains more clearly.

-Black Diamond Cosmo headlamp.

-At least 3 liters of drinkable water in case of little luck hitching a ride.

-Pack cover to protect pack and gear from getting wet or damaged.

-Quick drying synthetic towel.

-Golite windstopper jacket.

-Western Mountaineering ultralite -7°C/20°F down sleeping bag. Luxury baby. Trust me on this one, as soon as you sleep in one of their sleeping bags you're hooked.

-MSR Hubba Hubba tent. This is a wonderful tent but I would have been happier with the one person version the Hubba. A two person tent is a bit much when traveling alone (which is usually the case).

-And of course a synthetic t-shirt that is breathable and quick drying, jeans if invited to dinner or a special event with hosts, and a camera so that your parents don't scream at you for not taking enough photos.


The road somewhere between Amagá and Fredonia in the department of Antioquia. Not the best place to hitchhike due to lack of shoulder space for the driver to pull over; a beautiful area nonetheless.

Although sporadic showers bombarded me from time to time I am happy that no one gave me a lift for the first two hours of my walk from Amagá to Fredonia. The walk was stunning with mountains, very Paísa fincas (Paísa farm houses) and coffee farms in every direction. Several minutes after taking these photos a guy from Medellín gave me a lift in his 4x4 jeep from the 1960's through "roads" that eventually led to Fredonia. He even invited me to some beer which I happily drank even though I don't care too much for beer.

From Fredonia I was instantly offered a ride from a girl that seemed to be quite interested in me. She gave me her contact information and seemed quite eager to go out sometime to dance salsa and vallenato with me in Medellín. I still have her number and might actually call her sometime. Nevertheless, she dropped me off in the middle of nowhere and didn't even invite me to her finca (farm house) for some arepa. Luckily ten minutes after dropping me off a family picked me up whom we very nice people and invited me for dinner in Venecia. The trout was amazing as well as free which made it taste better I suppose! Sadly they didn't give me their contact information and went on their way. Venencia is a lovely Antioqueño town surrounded by amazing trekking opportunities but during the peak of tourism season (Holy Week) I couldn't find free accommodation nor a place to camp and it was getting late.

It's funny because my sign was absolutely useless except when bombarded with rain it helped shield some of the rain. Being an obvious foreigner with red-blondish hair greatly helps in regards to Colombian hitchhiking to the point where I don't even stick out my thumb to get rides. Here is a typical dialogue (more or less) between me and drivers in Antioquia:

A secondary road in Antioquia with a bright blue pack-cover alone with a good walking pace while enjoying the beautiful scenery. Every time I hear a vehicle behind me I turn around and make eye contact with the driver in attempts to show the driver that I am in need of a ride and have no intentions of robbing the guy. The driver pulls up next to me and the dialogue begins with a heavy dose of the Paísa (or Antioqueño) dialect of Latin American Spanish.

-Driver: "Oíga mono, venga pues!" (Hey white person, come here)
-Myself: "Hola muy buenas tardes señor ¿cómo le va?" (Hello good afternoon sir, how's it going?)
-Driver: "¿Bien o no? Gracias ¿y vos?" (I'm good thanks and you?)
-Myself: "Muy bien gracias. Señor, ¿me puede llevar?" (Very good thank you. Sir, can you give me a ride?)
-Driver: "Claro pues, bien pueda mijo" (Of course, you're more than welcome my son)
-Myself: "¡Esoooo! Listo pues! Gracias!" (Yessssss! Ready! Gracias!)
-Driver: "Con mucho gusto" (My pleasure)

Most driver that pick up hitchhikers are either incredibly curious about the foreigners' journeys or are just incredibly lonely and need someone to talk to. During vacation time in Colombia (especially Holy Week) drivers will often pick up hitchhikers out of pity for that hitchhiker's lack of family. Family is INCREDIBLY important throughout Colombian cultures.

On the road from Venecia to Bolombólo. The girl that picked me up in Fredonia had told me about a town called Bolombólo which isn't on any map I've seen. She told me that I had to go there so I took her word for it and began walking from Venecia to Bolombólo. The light soon faded and so did the small amount of day traffic. When a car did pass by once an hour at most they weren't too crazy about picking up a hitchhiker at night; I don't blame them honestly. Long story short, I spent the next five hours walking down an empty road where anything could have happened. There were times when I literally couldn't see anything which was both a relief from light pollution but also a bit sketchy. These photos were taken with a flash and still nothing can be seen. My head lamp came in handy. Finally I arrived in Bolombólo and was greatly disappointed to find nothing more than a truck stop with a population of roughly 13,000. If it weren't for the Semana Santa (Holy Week) I probably would have been mugged. After an entire day of hitchhiking and many many hours of walking I was ready for bed. Bolombólo is at a much lower elevation so as a result it was a good 27°C/80°F at night. I slept in the cheapest accommodation I could find which was 10,000 Colombian pesos a night (roughly $5 at the time) which was double the normal price (normally 5,000 Colombian pesos a night or $2.50) due to Holy Week celebrations. I slept incredibly well in this truck stop prostitute infested motel.

The next morning I woke up at 6am and walked around a little bit. Sadly my hitchhiking trip came to an end because I literally had about 8,000 Colombian pesos ($4) on me and had some homework to finish. I couldn't risk running out of money because I didn't have my debit card with me and it is always a good idea to have some money just in case of an emergency. So after about 45 minutes waiting for a ride I finally came across a bus that took me to Sabaneta for 6,000 pesos ($3). Sadly my original four day plan was only three days.

I greatly look forward to going back to Amagá, Fredonia, Venecia, and Bolombólo to spend more time exploring these areas and as a result write more about them.

By the way, I am currently in the process of writing and uploading photos for my next blog entry "Colombian Hitchhiking Part II - Manizales"

I hope that you guys enjoyed this entry and were encouraged to hitchhike as well as support the smaller towns of Colombia. Take care.


-Kevin Post

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