Colombia is a mix of mountains and jungles which creates a rich area of bio-diversity. An invitation to a wedding gave me the opportunity to visit this South American country in February of 2016. The photos are from around Cartagena (wedding site), Tayrona National Park on the Caribbean coast, and kayaking in the Antioquia region east of Medellin.
I didn’t have a contact for kayaking in Columbia but guidebooks suggested visiting the town of San Gil, as it is a major outdoor sports area. Later, I came across Expedition Colombia’s website and contacted Jules Domine based out of Medellin. I asked him if he could pick us up at the Medellin airport (with boating gear) and go boating for three days in the Antioquia region east of Medellin. After a warmup run on Rio Cocorna, we boated a two day run on the Rio Samana. Jules is an excellent boater and guide. I highly recommend his services including his fluent Spanish, English, and French. He has done the Samana many times and knows the locals who live and gold mine along the river.
Rio Samana (Norte) is a 28 mile, big water, pool drop run. It was first boated about 4 years ago (2012) and can be rafted as well. The trip usually requires two days and overnight gear. There are about 30 class 3-4 pool drop rapids and another 5 drops that would be more like class 4-4+. Beware that the Rio Samana can rise very quickly from upstream rain. At the end of the run marked by hydro release tubes, there is a class 5 gorge with an additional 5km of whitewater down to the Puerto Garzo bridge. If the hydro tubes are releasing there could be quite a bit of additional water going down the gorge. The putin is a bridge on Highway 60. There are no facilities at the putin but further down the highway at Rio Claro, there is a rafting-canyoneering resort that has a hotel and dining facilities. The take out is at bridge at a small town of Puerto Garzo with a restaurant. In the near future the Rio Samana will be damned by a hydro project.
After years of civil war and kidnapping, traveling in Columbia has improved. The interior regions and major cities of the country seem quite safe. There are some border areas that the government doesn’t seem to have total control over various groups that are still unhappy with the Bogota government. During our visit one remote region had protestors handing out propaganda literature but no violence. There are also issues along the Venezuela border with Columbian refugees being kicked out of a deteriorating Venezuela. Expect military presence in tourist locations, highway roadblocks, and at all major bridges. We found the Columbian people to be very courteous and accomodating.
Dengue, Zika, and Chikungunya are all found in Columbia. Sleep in screened rooms or hammocks with screened tops. We had RAID electric mosquito repellent dispensers which you can buy at grocery stores or pharmacies. You plug the dispenser into an electric outlet in your hotel room. Fewer mosquitoes are found in cities located in the mountains.
We did have GI problems in Colombia probably because we ate too much greasy street food. If you’re not too adventuresome, you will probably be fine. Bottled water is found everywhere.