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my Top experiences

Cycling through THE Tatacoa Desert

Reminiscent of the Grand Canyon, the Tatacoa Desert is an arid landscape of red rocks, towering cacti and ancient river beds and although the cycle from VillaVieja, the nearest village, is only around 7kms, it is quite hilly and punishing in the dry heat. However, it's totally worth it for your first glimpse of the other-wordly view across the horizon and the opporutnity to explore deeper into the desert on foot.

Interestingly the Tatacoa Desert has two distinctive colors: ochre in the area of Cuzco and gray in Los Hoyos both of which can be seen in half a day. Incredibly the whole area was once rainforest and there have been ancient fossils found in the area of caiman and giant aquatic turtles.  With rain often falling in April and May, the Tatacoa is not officially classified as a desert, but it is populated with snakes, reptiles, puma, rodents and birds (however, the only creatures I saw were vultures).

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Visiting an organic coffee farm

Nestled amongst the hills above San Agustín I was lucky enough to visit a local organic coffee farm and explore the production process from growing seedlings in the plant nursery to exporting the finisihed product around the world.

Guided by the local family who owned the farm, the experience began with a foray into the coffee "cherry" fields.  We were then shown firsthand the meticulous cultivation and harvesting techniques, culminating in a delicious coffee tasting experience exploring the differenct grades of coffee based on their fullness of flavour.

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Bird-watching Combeima Canyon

After a 5am start taking a 'chiva' (brightly coloured local bus that has been transformed into a party bus with lights and music!) from Ibagué through the winding Andean roads to the Combeima Canyon, we embarked on a gentle trek through the misty cloud forest to Ukuku Rural Lodge. A haven for bird enthusiasts, the sheer abundance of hummingbirds was breath-taking and the awe-inspiring scenery of lush fields and gushing rivers was topped off with the ever-watchful gaze of the snow-capped Tolima Volcano.

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A Graffiti tour in BogotÁ

One of the only cities in the world to legally allow and support graffiti, Bogotá is literally a street-artists paradise.  With so much to look at and so many different styles to decipher, a guided tour with an impassioned connoisseur will give you a totally different perspective on an art-form that is often overlooked.

As an art-history graduate I have always had a deep interest in graffiti which has a very diverse and complex culture behind it. However, this captivating tour explained the social, political and cultural statements that young local artists are making through their creations and gave insight into the different types of street art, plus the materials and techniques employed.

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Q&A

Were there any surprises along the way?

I have been to Colombia before but I think the biggest surprise was remembering just how friendly and welcoming the Colombians are – they are genuinely pleased to have visitors, show you around and tell you all about their wonderful country.

What tips do you have for travellers wanting to visit the same destinations?

Make sure you wear light clothing for Tatacoa Desert – dark clothes attract insects, particularly mosquitos. Also, you will need a hat, lots of suncream and lots of water – it’s incredibly hot!

Is there anything indispensable to pack or prepare for?

If you are using your phone as a camera take a back up power bank with you – by the end of each day I was at the absolute bottom of my battery charge.

Any local snacks, dishes or drinks that should be sampled?

Colombian Lechona – not one for the veggies but this is an incredible traditional dish from the Tolima region. Usually served on special occasions it consists of a whole pig stuffed with rice, peas and spices and cooked in a brick oven for around 10-12 hours.

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