Get high in Colombia

    Get high in Colombia
    By admin


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    Email the Travel Weekly team at traveldesk@travelweekly.com.au

    Get high in Colombia

    Get high in Colombia
    By admin


    Disneyland has a fight on its hands. Colombia is officially the happiest place on earth according to a global barometer of hope and happiness survey released by the WIN-Gallup international association at the end of 2012. 

    Colombians were asked if they personally feel happy, unhappy or neither happy nor unhappy about their life. The global average ranked 40 while Colombia recorded the highest result of 75. So what is it that they have to be so happy about? 

    First of all, they have a staggering 18 public holidays a year as well as an average 15 paid leave days. This quantity of holiday is beaten globally only by Argentina. That's one reason to celebrate. Not that Colombians need an excuse. Monday night is just as suitable for a party as Saturday. Family bonds are tight and big get-togethers involving food, music and dancing are common, any day of the week. Colombia has capitalised on its former reputation as one of the most dangerous nations in the world with a tourism motto of "Colombia: the only risk is wanting to stay".

    FOOD

    Just try to be unhappy in a country that sanctions churros – long fried donuts – for breakfast. Better still, you can knock it back with what is arguably the best coffee in the world. Sourced from lush enclave plantations found all over the country, this coffee has a vibrancy that can only come from a local product. A great tip is to grab a tiny cup of burly coffee called tintos from street vendors who resourcefully pour them out of thermoses.

    Empanadas are must-taste speciality. Different to their Spanish or Brazilian cousins, the fried crescent pastries are filled with meat or potato and served with spicy sauce or a lime wedge. Arepas is Colombia's answer to bread and is served with most meals. The flat dough is sold from street vendors and often comes served with cheese. 
    Colombians have a collective sweet tooth. They like to mix cheese with sugar and a fine example is arepas served with cheese and condensed milk. An even wackier combination is a bowl of hot chocolate served with a side hunk of cheese. This duo redeems itself when you discover that the hot chocolate contains no sugar and as such is more savoury in character. An obleas Colombiana is a large round wafer sold kerb-side and if you ask for one with the lot be prepared to eat a wafer sandwich of caramel and cheese.

    To wash it down, try aguapanela which translates to a teeth-aching sugar cane water. If you need something stronger, aguardiente is a liquorice flavoured tipple that locals say is unlikely to trigger a hangover, another notch on the happy meter. There is a hangover cure in the culinary arsenal just in case – changua, which is literally poached eggs cooked in milk and water and served as a soup for breakfast. They're also a creative country, soaking and roasting large ants which apparently ratchet up your sex drive.

    BEAUTY

    Besides their happiness quotient, Colombians are renowned for being among the most beautiful on the planet. Take a leaf out of their beauty regimen by travelling one hour from Cartagena. Here you will find a mud bath so dense that your feet will not touch the bottom. Instead you will be suspended above the thick gloop and the male attendants will give you a mud massage or take a photo for you, for a small fee.

    Beyond the locals, there is a wealth of good-looking wildlife. This nation has one of the highest levels of biodiversity anywhere in the world – rating second only behind Brazil. You can explore nature's blessing, contrarily enough, in the hectic city of Bogota at the botanical garden of Jose Celestino Mutis, which is a sanctuary for butterflies, orchids and tropical plants. Colombia is home to more than 25,000 butterfly species, and if the bright wings of the life-short beauties don't captivate you, there's dozens of native hummingbirds to catch your eye.

    Colombia has access to not one but two epic oceans – the Pacific and the Atlantic. It's also home to a wide desert, the mountains of the Andes, as well as the earth's oxygenating Amazon. Situated near the equator, the weather is warm and sunny year-round, unless you decide to trek to the mountains, where there is no reliability in weather. And for a visual spectacle, visit Cano Cristales, a rainbow river near Macarena (not to be confused with the dance, this one is a town). This waterway looks like a science experiment – in summer the water levels dip and the sun grows algae blooms to shades of red, orange and pink below the surface. 

    CULTURE

    Cartagena is the quintessential fairytale city, like Europe transplanted into a warm and happy Latin quarter. Cobbled lanes, ornate churches and plazas made for daydreams are set off by purple bougainvillea and even more colourful locals. The bright paint has peeled and paled to pastel thanks to the searing sun. Gabriel Garcia Marquez based his magical realist novel Love in the time of cholera on the characters he got to know as a journalist in this extrovert of a city.

    Botero is another one of Colombia's famous exports – he is an artist who specialises in chubby statues. His sculpture style is immediately recognisable with horses, women, men and children all wider than they are tall. The artist also has a collection of his own, the Botero Museum in Bogota, Colombia's former crime riddled capital. It displays works by Monet, Picasso and Renoir as well as Botero's exaggerated shapes.

    If it's all getting a bit heavy, you're in the right place to shake it out. Colombians have a dedicated word to describe late night carousing which sounds as fun as it actually is. Rumbear means to go out and party, dance and play music. It's a wise move to take a nap before going out at midnight for dancing until dawn. If you're no night owl, Colombians know how to throw a great daytime party, hosting the world's largest salsa festival as well as the biggest flower parade. Then again, who needs an excuse.

    Email the Travel Weekly team at traveldesk@travelweekly.com.au

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