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Colombia, December 2012

San Gil, Santander Department, north-east Colombia

A small colonial town in the Andes, known as Colombia’s adventure sport capital.

2nd December

Tony sliding along a zip wire to a bungee jump platform. This 40-foot bungee jump was Tony’s 14th bungee thus far! Taken in the downtown park El Gallineral.Tony sliding along a zip wire to a bungee jump platform. This 40-foot bungee jump was Tony’s 14th bungee thus far! Taken in the downtown park El Gallineral.

Tony further down the zip wire approaching the platform.Tony further down the zip wire approaching the platform.

In the distance, Tony on the platform above the Rio Fonce (Fonce River), preparing for the bungee jump.In the distance, Tony on the platform above the Rio Fonce (Fonce River), preparing for the bungee jump.

Tony dangling on the bungee cord above the Rio Fonce.Tony dangling on the bungee cord above the Rio Fonce.

Tony in front of Santa Cruz Cathedral in Parque la Libertad, which is San Gil's main square. The cathedral was built in 1791 and remodelled in 1965.Tony in front of Santa Cruz Cathedral in Parque la Libertad, which is San Gil’s main square. The cathedral was built in 1791 and remodelled in 1965.

Park El Gallineral overlooking the Rio Fonce.Park El Gallineral overlooking the Rio Fonce.

Tony inside Santa Cruz Cathedral. Looking along the main aisle towards the altar. Rows of wooden benches and stone columns down both sides.Tony inside Santa Cruz Cathedral. Looking along the main aisle towards the altar. Rows of wooden benches and stone columns down both sides.

In front of the gold and white main altar.In front of the gold and white main altar.

Tony relaxing in a hammock at Hostel Santander Aleman, downtown San Gil.Tony relaxing in a hammock at Hostel Santander Aleman, downtown San Gil.

3rd December

A tree with long beard-like strands of moss dangling from its branches. Taken at Pozo Azul (Blue Lagoon), a natural pool, which is used for swimming. It's a 10-minute car ride out of town.A tree with long beard-like strands of moss dangling from its branches. Taken at Pozo Azul (Blue Lagoon), a natural pool, which is used for swimming. It’s a 10-minute car ride out of town.

Tony standing on steps that lead down into the pool.Tony standing on steps that lead down into the pool.

The rocky Quebrada Curití river near the Pozo Azul (Blue Lagoon). Trees and dense vegetation line the far bank.The rocky Quebrada Curití river near the Pozo Azul (Blue Lagoon). Trees and dense vegetation line the far bank.

Back in the town centre outside a shop selling various items including ornaments, watches, sun glasses and stuffed toys. A row of motorbikes are parked in front.Back in the town centre outside a shop selling various items including ornaments, watches, sun glasses and stuffed toys. A row of motorbikes are parked in front.

Santa Marta, capital of Magdalena Department on the Caribbean Coast

It’s Colombia’s oldest existing city and a top tourist destination.

4th December

Tony standing on a bridge over a small river. Taken at Minca, a small mountain town, one hour's drive from Santa Marta.Tony standing on a bridge over a small river. Taken at Minca, a small mountain town, one hour’s drive from Santa Marta.

River full of weathered rocks. Surrounding trees and vegetation.River full of weathered rocks. Surrounding trees and vegetation.

At Pozo Azul (Blue Pool) waterfall, Minca. Tony hiked with a group of four along a rough uneven track to reach this waterfall and pool.At Pozo Azul (Blue Pool) waterfall, Minca. Tony hiked with a group of four along a rough uneven track to reach this waterfall and pool.

5th December

Tony touching roots hanging from a large tree in the grounds of Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, Santa Marta. Unofficially the tree is called Barba del Viejo for the dangling roots that look like the beard of an old man. Although the tree is large, it is only about 70 or 80 years old.Tony touching roots hanging from a large tree in the grounds of Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino, Santa Marta. Unofficially the tree is called Barba del Viejo for the dangling roots that look like the beard of an old man. Although the tree is large, it is only about 70 or 80 years old.

Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino is a 17th century former colonial mansion and now home to the Simón Bolívar museum and botanical gardens. Bolívar died here on 17th December 1830. Simón Bolívar is credited with liberating Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. He is a national hero in those countries with many places named after him.

Tony in a large room at Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino. There is a crowd of people standing around a large piece of wooden machinery located in the middle. It looks like a press, possibly used in the production of panela or rum.Tony in a large room at Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino. There is a crowd of people standing around a large piece of wooden machinery located in the middle. It looks like a press, possibly used in the production of panela or rum.

 A few historic objects on display: shallow bowls with stones used for grinding, a large mortar and pestle, plus some round jars. A few historic objects on display: shallow bowls with stones used for grinding, a large mortar and pestle, plus some round jars.

A small altar in the room in which Simón Bolívar died. A table with candlesticks and decorative metal jugs. An alcove containing a religious statue above.A small altar in the room in which Simón Bolívar died.

Tony next to a white marble statue of Simón Bolívar in the grounds of Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino.Tony next to a white marble statue of Simón Bolívar in the grounds of Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino.

Altar de La Patria (Altar of the Fatherland). Constructed in 1930 on the 100th anniversary of Simón Bolívar's death. Simón Bolívar stands on top with several other statues below.Altar de La Patria (Altar of the Fatherland). Constructed in 1930 on the 100th anniversary of Simón Bolívar’s death. Simón Bolívar stands on top with several other statues below.

Tony carefully touching a tall cactus in the gardens of Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino. The gardens were formerly a sugar plantation run by African slaves.Tony carefully touching a tall cactus in the gardens of Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino. The gardens were formerly a sugar plantation run by African slaves.

Cartagena (Cartagena of the Indies)

Capital of Bolivar Department and a port in the Caribbean Coast Region, north Colombia. Cartagena’s colonial walled city and fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

7th December

Tony at the foot of some steps in Plaza de Fernández de Madrid. Above is a statue of José Fernández Madrid (1789 – 1830). He was a statesman, physician, scientist and writer. He was born in Cartagena and witnessed the independence act of Cartagena signed on November 11, 1811. He is regarded as a hero of the city.Tony at the foot of some steps in Plaza de Fernández de Madrid. Above is a statue of José Fernández Madrid (1789 – 1830). He was a statesman, physician, scientist and writer. He was born in Cartagena and witnessed the independence act of Cartagena signed on November 11, 1811. He is regarded as a hero of the city.

Tony outside the Heredia Theatre. The exterior is made of white marble and decorated with statues. It was built in 1911 and restored in 1998.Tony outside the Heredia Theatre. The exterior is made of white marble and decorated with statues. It was built in 1911 and restored in 1998.

Old wooden doorway into the Casa de España.Old wooden doorway into the Casa de España.

Looking up at flowers growing on the balcony of a colonial-era house. The house is painted yellow with a white wooden balcony around the first floor.Looking up at flowers growing on the balcony of a colonial-era house. The house is painted yellow with a white wooden balcony around the first floor.

The street below the same house. A man selling food from a cart. Pedestrians passing by.The street below the same house. A man selling food from a cart. Pedestrians passing by.

Tony outside a grand-looking colonial building painted in yellow and white on a street corner in the old town. A chemist occupies the ground floor. An stone-carved name above the door reads 'Rafael del Castillo y cia' (a flour and cornmeal manufacturer).Tony outside a grand-looking colonial building painted in yellow and white on a street corner in the old town. A chemist occupies the ground floor. An stone-carved name above the door reads ‘Rafael del Castillo y cia’ (a flour and cornmeal manufacturer).

Plaza de los Coches (Carriage Square). Tables around the sides of the square. Food is being served from the tables. A local food day, showing work from art students.Plaza de los Coches (Square of the Carriages). Tables around the sides of the square. Food is being served from the tables. A local food day, showing work from art students.

The Clock Tower (Torre del Reloj) at the official entrance to the Old Town called Clock Gate (Puerta del Reloj). It connects with the Square of the Carriages (Plaza de los Coches).The Clock Tower (Torre del Reloj) at the official entrance to the Old Town called Clock Gate (Puerta del Reloj). It connects with the Square of the Carriages (Plaza de los Coches). This is an important local landmark and symbol of the city. The tower was constructed in the 17th century, although the present four clock-faces weren’t added until the 19th century.

Tony at the foot of the Clock Tower.Tony at the foot of the Clock Tower.

Looking away from the Clock Tower towards the old port. Immediately in front is a road filled with a line of taxis. Beyond at the edge of the water are a pair of large statues of winged horses (Muelle de los Pegasos).Looking away from the Clock Tower towards the old port. Immediately in front is a road filled with a line of taxis. Beyond at the edge of the water are a pair of large statues of winged horses (Muelle de los Pegasos).

Tony in front of a statue of Christopher Columbus in Plaza de la Aduana (Customs Square).Tony in front of a statue of Christopher Columbus in Plaza de la Aduana (Customs Square).

Tony outside the town hall in Plaza de la Aduana.Tony outside the town hall in Plaza de la Aduana.

Outside Café San Pedro in Plaza de San Pedro Claver (Saint Peter Claver Square). Grand colonial-era architecture.Outside Café San Pedro in Plaza de San Pedro Claver (Saint Peter Claver Square). Grand colonial-era architecture.

Tony in Plaza de San Pedro Claver. Behind him two metal sculptures depicting everyday life can be seen: the nearest one features a group of people around a table and just visible beyond another shows a woman sitting at a sewing machine. The Museum of Modern Art is near by, hence the every-day statues.Tony in Plaza de San Pedro Claver. Behind him two metal sculptures depicting everyday life can be seen: the nearest one features a group of people around a table and just visible beyond another shows a woman sitting at a sewing machine. The Museum of Modern Art is near by, hence the every-day statues.

Tony in front of a statue of Saint Peter Claver with a male slave. Saint Peter Claver (1580-1654) was a Spanish Jesuit priest who spent his life helping the slaves who were shipped into Cartagena.Tony in front of a statue of Saint Peter Claver with a male slave. Saint Peter Claver (1580-1654) was a Spanish Jesuit priest who spent his life helping the slaves who were shipped into Cartagena.

Plaza de Bolívar, a square and park in the old city. In the centre is a statue of Simon Bolívar on horseback. There are people sitting on benches around the sides. The square is surrounded by some of the city’s most elegant colonial buildings, including the Palace of the Inquisition.Plaza de Bolívar, a square and park in the old city. In the centre is a statue of Simon Bolívar on horseback. There are people sitting on benches around the sides. The square is surrounded by some of the city’s most elegant colonial buildings, including the Palace of the Inquisition.

Tony by a fountain in Plaza de Bolívar.Tony by a fountain in Plaza de Bolívar.

Tony next to a canon again in Plaza de Bolívar.Tony next to a canon again in Plaza de Bolívar.

Tony at the base of the Simon Bolívar statue.Tony at the base of the Simon Bolívar statue.

Another view of the statue of Simon Bolívar on horseback.Another view of the statue of Simon Bolívar on horseback.

Outside Cartagena Cathedral.Outside Cartagena Cathedral. Construction began in 1577. In 1586, while still under construction, it was damaged by an attack on the city by the English privateer Francis Drake, which caused severe damage and delayed its completion. It was finally finished in 1612. It was designed by master builder Simón González, modelled after basilicas in Andalusia and the Canary Islands.

Tony in front of the cathedral's large wooden door. At each side are pairs of stone columns with statues in between them.Tony in front of the cathedral’s large wooden door. At each side are pairs of stone columns with statues in between them.

Looking up at the façade of an old building with small decorative balconies.Looking up at the façade of an old building with small decorative balconies.

A man selling hats and jewellery at the side of the street.A man selling hats and jewellery at the side of the street.

Tony by a memorial listing the names of those who were executed in 1816 following the reconquest of the city and region by the Spanish. In November 1811, Cartagena had declared its independence, but the Spanish retook control following a five-month siege in 1815.Tony by a memorial listing the names of those who were executed in 1816 following the reconquest of the city and region by the Spanish. In November 1811, Cartagena had declared its independence, but the Spanish retook control following a five-month siege in 1815.

Tony by a marble fountain. It depicts a fish and two cherub-like children inside a large sea shell. Located near the port.Tony by a marble fountain. It depicts a fish and two cherub-like children inside a large sea shell. Located near the port.

A bust of Manuel Rodriguez Torices (1788-1816). He was a statesman, lawyer and journalist. In 1815 he was part of the Triumvirate of the United Provinces of New Granada: this was a short-lived country that declared independence from Spain. He was executed in 1816 after the Spanish army retook control of Cartagena. The statue is located near the port.A bust of Manuel Rodriguez Torices (1788-1816). He was a statesman, lawyer and journalist. In 1815 he was part of the Triumvirate of the United Provinces of New Granada: this was a short-lived country that declared independence from Spain. He was executed in 1816 after the Spanish army retook control of Cartagena. The statue is located near the port.

The decorative red and white façade of the Augustinian Fathers Convent. Today the building is used by the Bolívar University Institute of Fine Arts and Sciences.The decorative red and white façade of the Augustinian Fathers Convent. Today the building is used by the Bolívar University Institute of Fine Arts and Sciences.

Tony outside the former Augustinian Fathers Convent.Tony outside the former Augustinian Fathers Convent.

Street scene in the old city. Goods being sold on small carts.Street scene in the old city. Goods being sold on small carts.

Inside Cartagena Cathedral. Looking towards the side wall with marble columns in front. A row of stone-relief carvings embedded high up in the wall.Inside Cartagena Cathedral. Looking towards the side wall with marble columns in front. A row of stone-relief carvings embedded high up in the wall.

The decorative carved-marble base of the pulpit near the main altar.The decorative carved-marble base of the pulpit near the main altar.

The main altar. Decorated in red and gold. Statues in alcoves, plus a depiction of Jesus on the cross in the centre top.The main altar. Decorated in red and gold. Statues in alcoves, plus a depiction of Jesus on the cross in the centre top.

A marble side altar. There is a statue in the middle, probably of Saint Peter Claver. He is holding a small child while giving food, maybe bread, to a boy standing next to him.A marble side altar. There is a statue in the middle, probably of Saint Peter Claver. He is holding a small child while giving food, maybe bread, to a boy standing next to him.

Tall stone columns inside the cathedral.Tall stone columns inside the cathedral.

Tony at the end of the central aisle.Tony at the end of the central aisle.

Outside a colonial-era building in the old town. A decorative wooden balcony around the outside. A horse-drawn cart in the street in front.Outside a colonial-era building in the old town. A decorative wooden balcony around the outside. A horse-drawn cart in the street in front.

Water spraying from the top of a fountain in Plaza de Bolívar.Water spraying from the top of a fountain in Plaza de Bolívar.

8th December

Tony at El Totumo mud volcano, an hour’s drive from Cartagena. View across the lagoon that the volcano stands on the edge of.Tony at El Totumo mud volcano, an hour’s drive from Cartagena. View across the lagoon that the volcano stands on the edge of.

People in the mud bath, which sits on top of the 15 metre (49 feet) high volcano mound.People in the mud bath, which sits on top of the 15 metre (49 feet) high volcano mound.

Tony climbing down a ladder into the mud.Tony climbing down a ladder into the mud.

Tony lying on his back in the mud.Tony lying on his back in the mud.

A concert taking place outdoors in Plaza de Bolívar. A group of musicians on stage in front.A concert taking place outdoors in Plaza de Bolívar. A group of musicians on stage in front.

Evening view of the Clock Tower (Torre del Reloj) at the main entrance into the old town.Evening view of the Clock Tower (Torre del Reloj) at the main entrance into the old town.

Another view of the José Fernández Madrid statue. It is dark but the statue is well lit.Another view of the José Fernández Madrid statue. It is dark but the statue is well lit.

9th December

A statue of India Catalina in a square with the same name. It was sculpted by Eladio Gil Zambrana in 1974.A statue of India Catalina in a square with the same name. It was sculpted by Eladio Gil Zambrana in 1974. India Catalina was abducted in 1509 by Spanish conqueror Diego de Nicuesa from an indigenous settlement located near where Cartagena was founded. She was the daughter of a local chief. Subsequently she was adopted by a high ranking Spanish official and she learned the Spanish language and adopted the Catholic religion. She acted as an interpreter and intermediary in the Spanish conquest of Colombia.

Tony with a young charming Colombian lady who was working in the hostel where he stayed.Tony with a young charming Colombian lady who was working in the hostel where he stayed.

Tony by an historic stone sentry tower overlooking the sea, part of the old city wall defences.Tony by an historic stone sentry tower overlooking the sea, part of the old city wall defences.

By the Simon Bolívar statue in Plaza de Bolívar. There is a crowd of people watching a classical concert.By the Simon Bolívar statue in Plaza de Bolívar. There is a crowd of people watching a classical concert.

10th December

Tony on a walkway that climbs up to Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, a bastion fortress, on San Lazaro Hill in Cartagena. The fortress sits at a strategic location dominating approaches to the city by land and sea. It was built by the Spanish with construction starting in 1536. It was expanded in 1657.Tony on a walkway that climbs up to Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, a bastion fortress, on San Lazaro Hill in Cartagena. The fortress sits at a strategic location dominating approaches to the city by land and sea. It was built by the Spanish with construction starting in 1536. It was expanded in 1657.

Tony climbing up to the fortress with a view of the city beyond.Tony climbing up to the fortress with a view of the city beyond.

Tony by a sloping defensive wall at the fortress. Again views across the city and the sea in the distance.Tony by a sloping defensive wall at the fortress. Again views across the city and the sea in the distance.

Tony touching a rusty canon pointing through the fortress walls.Tony touching a rusty canon pointing through the fortress walls.

Tony sitting in a gap in the walls.Tony sitting in a gap in the walls.

Again Tony on the fortress walls.Again Tony on the fortress walls.

Guatapé, Antioquia Department, central north-west part of Colombia

Small mountain town surrounded by many lakes. Located 25 miles from the city of Medellín.

11th December

Colourful murals of Guatapé Rock painted along the lower external wall of a building.Colourful murals of Guatapé Rock painted along the lower external wall of a building.

Tony on a long narrow cobbled street in Guatapé.Tony on a long narrow cobbled street in Guatapé.

Tony touching a mural of a sheep on the wall of a building.Tony touching a mural of a sheep on the wall of a building.

Tony in a street lined with decorative metal lamp posts and more colourful paintings on the walls of buildings. A lake can just be seen at the end of the street.Tony in a street lined with decorative metal lamp posts and more colourful paintings on the walls of buildings. A lake can just be seen at the end of the street.

Inside Guatapé's main church. Tony with rows of pews behind him.Inside Guatapé’s main church. Tony with rows of pews behind him.

Outside the main doorway into the church. The church is attractively painted in red and white.Outside the main doorway into the church. The church is attractively painted in red and white.

Tony outside a blue and yellow painted building with a painting depicting the Nativity on the wall. Possibly part of the church.Tony outside a blue and yellow painted building with a painting depicting the Nativity on the wall. Possibly part of the church.

Close-up of a pinky-red flower growing in a flower bed in the town.Close-up of a pinky-red flower growing in a flower bed in the town.

12th December

Tony standing on a narrow rickety-looking wooden bridge during the walk from the town to Guatape rock.Tony standing on a narrow rickety-looking wooden bridge during the walk from the town to Guatape rock.

View of Guatapé Rock in the distance with a lake in front. Guatapé Rock (Peñón de Guatapé) is a massive monolithic rock formation around 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometres) from Guatapé town. It is over 200 metres high and is visible throughout the surrounding countryside.View of Guatapé Rock in the distance with a lake in front. Guatapé Rock (Peñón de Guatapé) is a massive monolithic rock formation around 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometres) from Guatapé town. It is over 200 metres high and is visible throughout the surrounding countryside.

Moving closer to Guatapé Rock. An impressive zig-zagging cascade of steps up the almost vertical side of the rock can be seen. Visitors can climb the 649 plus steps to the top.Moving closer to Guatapé Rock. An impressive zig-zagging cascade of steps up the almost vertical side of the rock can be seen. Visitors can climb the 649 plus steps to the top.

Tony on a road leading towards the rock.Tony on a road leading towards the rock.

Tony at the foot of the rock. The rock wall immediately behind him has been spray-painted with graffiti.Tony at the foot of the rock. The rock wall immediately behind him has been spray-painted with graffiti.

Tony on the long climb up the side of the rock.Tony on the long climb up the side of the rock.

View of the steps ascending the rock.View of the steps ascending the rock.

View from Guatapé Rock. Probably at the first viewing level, about half way up. A patchwork of lakes interspersed with wooded land below. Mountains rising in the far distance.View from Guatapé Rock. Probably at the first viewing level, about half way up. A patchwork of lakes interspersed with wooded land below. Mountains rising in the far distance.

Tony on top of the rock. Again an excellent view of the surrounding landscape.Tony on top of the rock. Again an excellent view of the surrounding landscape.

Again Tony on Guatapé Rock. The network of lakes spread out below. Cloud covering the tops of the hills and mountains rising up beyond.Again Tony on Guatapé Rock. The network of lakes spread out below. Cloud covering the tops of the hills and mountains rising up beyond.

Tony by a safety barrier, with various brightly painted murals upon it, including one depicting the rock and its surroundings.Tony by a safety barrier, with various brightly painted murals upon it, including one depicting the rock and its surroundings.

Tony relaxing in a hammock at the wonderful and homely Hostel El Encuentro. A lake down below and Guatapé Rock clearly visible in the distance.Tony relaxing in a hammock at the wonderful and homely Hostel El Encuentro. A lake down below and Guatapé Rock clearly visible in the distance.

Manazales

Colombia’s coffee region in the Andes.

15th December

Tony with Katie and Nathan: two backpackers from Colorado, USA. Tony met them on a bus to Guatapé and they travelled together for a couple of days. Taken outside the hostel they stayed at in Manazales.Tony with Katie and Nathan: two backpackers from Colorado, USA. Tony met them on a bus to Guatapé and they travelled together for a couple of days. Taken outside the hostel they stayed at in Manazales.