After a long talk with Tati, my partner in crime traveling around the world, we decided to start an adventure for 2018 holidays visiting a city which is not the most touristic place in Colombia, Itsmina Chocó in Colombia.
This is the first blog post I write traveling with my brand new BMW G310GS and I have to say the happiness we felt crossing paved and offroad is something would describe as magic. That is the excuse to start creating this “ride the magic” blog and of course to travel around our country and the rest of the world after.
Why do we decide to come here? The answer is actually interesting. Every year when you think about vacations, it is normal to talk about going to the beach or going to a warm place with pools and facilities to get tanned. This year we wanted to be in a warm place full of water but not full of tourist, putting together these ideas, one of the destinations meeting the requirements was the second largest city in Chocó.
We jumped in our new toy and started traveling Bogotá – Pereira wishing to rest for the first night, then we crossed Risaralda department with a mix of roads full of indigenous communities and unique landscapes to end up in one of most humid cities in the world.
We stayed in “Hotel Las Americas” in downtown, a nice place where you can get a nice room with AC for around 25 USD. The city does not offer you a big amount of parking buildings for the motorcycle, following the local advice we parked in a public spot right in front of the mayor’s office, they say no one wants to steal your belongings because who does it can have problems with local controllers (not the police). We got invited to have dinner with a local family, and we took a Tuk Tuk, the local taxi vehicles. The driver started taking wrong ways because it was good to do it at that time of the night. When we arrived, the family offered us a local dish named “primitivo” with cheese. It was a not sweet plantain with a Colombian “queso costeño” which is a different flavor, very salty indeed, with tasty chorizo on the side, it was delicious.
The next day, as part of our journey we walked around the entire town. Many people in bigger cities always warned us about this city because of its past and the possibility to be a target; we have to say it is not true, as you may see in the pictures. Of course, we are not talking about a fancy city with the most beautiful houses or a lot of expensive cars parked in the streets, but what we found was people full of happiness celebrating the end of the year with what they have, and their ancestors left for them.
It was curious to see everybody getting ready for Christmas; the beauty saloons were already booked up to December the 28th because not only women were in the waiting list, the number of men getting a spot with the local hair professional or a good manicurist was the general topic around. While everybody waits, it was always good to have a cup of rum or the local aguardiente “Platino deluxe” they even have a big sign in the main bridge that reads “I <3 Istmina” with some bottles on it.
Not only poor buildings are found in the city, talking with some citizens about the look of some houses, they told us one of the main reasons is the flood of the river, when that happens, most of the time the first floor of every building is covered with water, and we are talking about houses and businesses, everything. That situation is something familiar now, and they have a river flood parade when it happens.
By the end of our walk, we found a nice hotel with a not very Colombian style at downtown right in between the stores and restaurants it is nice to see how the investments happened here some time ago. We decided to double check our motorcycle parking spot where we find a nice amount of kids sharing the space playing with balls and pretending to be riders in some other motorcycles parked there. That night we received a call from our local host family, they invite us to have a cake from Choco for dinner, and we were happy to have something sweet, so we accepted. After arriving and getting ready to eat, what they served us was a plate with a proper amount of delicious rice like in a paella with local citrus flavors, chicken and sweet plantain. It was no traditional cake at all but still marvelous.
A new day a new adventure. For Christmas day we got invited to another house of the family, we were challenged to make “Pan de yuca” from Choco. It is a tradition to have something called buñuelos, which is a kind of fried cheese balls mixed with corn dough, but here they instead of using corn they use cassava (Yuca) flour. We were part of the complete process from cracking the eggs to serving, it is not very difficult to achieve, and the taste and the texture are amazing.
While we waited for the “Pan de yuca” to be ready, we saw through the window, at the river we found people were doing their laundry in the very traditional way. We start realizing about the social contrasts you can see in this part of the country because although some of the families can fully finish their master studies in the zone, some others are poor and they have to find the way to stay alive. We went back to our breakfast making juice using sour guavas which were rarely delicious blended with some ice.
After some rainy days, Christmas was an excellent day to go around the zone and visit a couple of towns close to Istmina, we decided to hire another taxi driver to have the trip to Condoto and Andagoya. These towns have been mentioned in news for different situations which are related to artists and politics. There is a local well-known music band called Chobquibtown, they have a new proposal mixing champeta with dancehall and some Caribbean rhythms, they have partnered up with Nicky Jam, Tego Calderon, Carlos Vives also they have been nominated to some Grammy awards and they have won some Latin Grammy Awards. The main singer is known as “Goyo” and was born in Condoto a little town which had a better plan than Istmina when it was built has better streets, better sidewalks, and also better buildings full of colors but the same warm people to talk and share. After lunch, we crossed the Condoto river with one of the best views around this place, the river was not very powerfull by this season but still a good amount of water to see its greatness.
Our next destination was Andagoya; this little town was known because it was the biggest gold mining field in the country. Some years ago there was no town at all, but some gold diggers coming from America came to extract it all creating an advanced camp setting up multiple facilities to achieve the extraction, they got an agreement with the government after some time, but they got kicked out when the country was in charge of Alvaro Uribe. The camps and well-made houses are still working but for locals who try to extract part of the gold with way less technology and success.
Andagoyita is like the second part of the town which you will access walking a hanging bridge that moves like Indiana Jones movies, after crossing, you can get a haircut or shave at “Barbería el suave” which means the soft barber. Andagoyita is also known because they organize a big soccer tournament inviting teams from different parts of Choco, everybody gets together to see the match in their stadium(?) and of course get drunk afterward. Those are the traditional activities for the people who live around.
Before leaving the town, we had a not common experience, a 12 years old guy saw us walking and start calling us, when he got our attention with the best manners asked us to help min with a pound of rice. I thought he was asking for money but he insisted he didn’t need the money he just needed the rice, we took him to the supermarket and told him to take more than rice, maybe tuna, toilet paper, and more basic stuff, that was our Christmas gift to him and we took a picture of him to remember him. We talked about him with our Istmina friends, and they told us it was so ironic for the Andagoya people they can have everything they want made with gold (24K), but sometimes that is not enough to not be hungry, and yes our kid had a necklace that cost up to 400 USD.
Christmas night arrived, and we spend the night with our host family, we had food and a lot of dancing and whiskey. The warm spirit in every person around this area of the country is beautiful the experience was incredible, and we recommend entirely to come and visit this beautiful part of the country not expecting to find a fancy environment.
What to do for not having any problems? Use local transportation, try not to explore unknown areas without a local, forget about having a ride through the river in a boat, even locals suggest it can be dangerous because of what is happening in the jungle. Enjoy the people, enjoy the food, enjoy the way they dance and how they move, go to parties they love to party and take a good amount of clothes if you stay long because after laundry the clothes don’t get dry because of the humidity.
We are ready for our next destination!