In January I'm setting sail to the port city of Cartagena for a tour of Colombia. I'm hooking up with a friend from Bogota who is helping me put my ideas in motion and will travel with me when I arrive there.
I'll be packing a camera, pen, notepad and folding bicycle seeking answers to two main questions: 1) Are we (Western Tourists) ready for Colombia and 2) Is Colombia ready for us?
Consensus from people on the ground--locals, tourists, and expats is a big YES to both of the above. Pablo Escobar is dead, kidnappings are down, the Pan-American highway and several key tourist destinations are now under control of the Govt. The New York times has published three articles in the past year about the fruits of travel in Colombia and have ranked Bogota 21st out of 53 new global hot-spots to see in 2008. There's even a group on FaceBook.com titled "COLOMBIA, THE ONLY RISK IS WANTING TO STAY"--the group has over 5,000 members.
The US Govt. web site on travel lists Colombia alongside Iraq as a code red danger zone. What's the real danger today? Who decides when a country is safe for travel? And why visit Colombia in the first place--what's there to see?
Along the way I hope to interview some of the famed international cyclists that the country has a storied tradition of producing, heads of the national parks (who have seen their crowned jewels transform from Guerrilla war zones to international tourist destinations), and sample the arts, cafe-culture, and outdoor adventure scene in this up and coming travel destination.
After Colombia, I'm toggling from tropical sun to the -40 degree Alaskan winter to cover what just might be the world's coldest, most brutal 100 mile bicycle and foot races. More on that to come.
I'll keep this blog up to date once I touch down.