The World’s Smelliest Waterfall

As part of our trip to Bogota, the city among the mountains – we knew we wanted to venture outside the city some to see some of Colombian’s famed Coffee Plantations and even get a glimpse at the lush mountain range. Thanks to my comrade’s diligent research, we were able to find a day trip outside of Bogota that would do just that!

Through Tours of Colombia, we found a full guided day trip that would take us to an authentic coffee plantation about 2 hours outside of Bogota and then end at what appeared to be an incredibly gorgeous waterfall. Coffee plantation tours and a waterfall to boot? YES PLEASE! The cost was a little pricy, at $145 per person (which truthfully is more than you would pay if you were to book a trip there) but we didn’t know the area, the rest of our trip was incredibly cheap and we figured, we’re really paying for safety and the guarantee. We wouldn’t know how to get out to the waterfalls otherwise – so it was worth it.

They picked us up at our hotel at around 9am and we were surprised to find that we were the only people on this tour. Not a problem though, our guides were great. We had a Colombian born lad our age that grew up in the United States and then returned back to Colombia to start the tour company. So not only was he fluent in English, but he really knew the history of Colombia which was incredibly fascinating. He also had a guide-in-training with him. She was sweet as well, but spent the majority of her time taking selfies while on tour – so we were happy we had the main guide with us!

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Owner of Hacienda Casa Coloma

First stop: the coffee plantation. We stopped at this little place, Hacienda Casa Coloma, a small but active coffee plantation that has been owned and operated by the same family for decades. There we toured the plantation and learned about how coffee was grown. Interesting fact: due to the corruption in Colombia and the manner in which the government seems to exploit everything – the  best coffee grown in Colombia has to be exported, so the people in Colombia only get the 2nd best coffee their own country can grow. It’s still great coffee, but I found that to be amazing! The tour itself was great for just learning about Colombia and the export industry overall – but we found the plantation itself to be a little touristy. It wasn’t what we expected but it was still enjoyable. At the end of the tour we were able to purchase coffee, but more importantly, take this incredible photo that looks like we are two hippie lovers on vacation – plotting a life of growing coffee in remote villages while taking in stray cats. Behold:

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I have since placed this photo in a cat frame and it now hang’s on Corinne’s wall. Or so she tells me.

Ahem.. moving on. After our lovely little coffee tour we began the drive up to the coveted Tequendama Falls. The view while driving to these falls, was absolutely spectacular! Yet it was a little nerve racking as we were winding through a lot of mountains and FOG. You couldn’t see 5 feet in front of you and I had a near panic attack. However, we did arrive in one piece to the majestic fall setting.

As we pulled in, our guide properly informed us to ‘mind the smell’ and ‘don’t worry you’ll get used to it’. Ummm.. what??

Apparently Tequendama Falls are the most polluted falls in all of South America. No joke. People have been dumping their garbage and sewage here for decades! So the water is toxic. Of COURSE we would go out to see the smellest waterfall in the world. Sigh… if you hold your nose, you’re actually in for quite a view:

 

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Not only are the falls gorgeous in an incredible cliff setting, they have a fascinating history. Native Americans would have rituals here, bless their new leaders and have them emerge out of the water covered in material that made it look like they were shimmering in the sun and holy – it had to look divine to the natives there. Early settlers thought that gold was hidden at the bottom of the river and thought it could also lead to El Dorado. The stories and legends go on and on – which made it a popular destination for visitors. As a result, the French built a hotel there, Hotel del Salto, that overlooks the falls. It was meant to be luxurious, with breathtaking views for all the visitors that were attracted to the area.  Yet as the river and water became more polluted, people began to lose interest and the hotel was abandoned. Now it’s being restored into a museum, but it’s thought to be haunted as the falls are also a popular destination for people to commit suicide (eh, yea there’s a dark history there too…).

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Hotel del Salto was closed when we were there – but we didn’t see any ghosts.

Overall though, while standing there and taking all the sights  (and smells), we felt incredibly blessed. The area is magical, represents so much history, and really makes you think about those that were there before us. That’s what I love so much about traveling, it opens your mind and gets you out of your comfort zone. I never knew a place like that even existed and now it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. South America has hundreds of places like that, just waiting to be discovered. Right then and there, I vowed to explore more of the continent.

In conclusion, while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the particular coffee tour we did, I would suggest getting out of the city to see more of the natural beauty of the country. Because it truly is incredible. Also, Tours of Colombia, while pricy, had some great story tellers and guides that really helped to explain the culture, governance, politics and history of the country, allowing us to understand and appreciate it even more.

Happy Travels!

 

Finding Affordable Flights – And Getting Inspired In the Process

The biggest financial challenge with any big trip tends to be the flight to get to ones destination. Flights, let’s face it – especially overseas, can be expensive. I get that, I really do. I’m not a person with deep pockets but I still have deep aspirations to take on every adventure I can. So, what’s a girl to do?

There are posts and blogs all over the place dedicated to flight hacking and detailing the best flight membership reward programs around. I’ll leave it to the experts that have dedicated their time with understanding the best credit card and airline membership programs, we won’t go into that here. However, if you are just looking for your initial first trip and aren’t dedicated to a particular airline or rewards program, we found a few ways to get started based on varying needs and desires.

1. When you know where you want to go and when.

If you don’t know kayak already, well, it’s time to get acquainted. This really is step number one! What’s great about this service is it allows you to search multiple days around your destination of choice to find the best deal across all airlines. Just setup an alert feature so you can receive notifications for when flights (or hotels even) reach the price you want! Yes there are multiple services out there like Priceline, Expedia and more, but I like Kayak as it provides the cleanest layout, functionality and it seems to be the most comprehensive source.

2. For traveling within Europe.

Ok, it may be costly to get to Europe – however once you’re there, traveling within the continent is CHEAP. I mean, like $20 cheap. There are a ton of budget airlines such as Ryanair and EasyJet that fly throughout the continent at super affordable prices. You may not fly into the larger airports – such as Heathrow – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as smaller airports cut your waiting time and checkin time in half.  Yes you could take the trains in Europe for intercontinental travel but depending on the city, when doing a side-by-side comparison flying is cheaper and takes way less time. Want to hit multiple destinations in Europe? Fly in roundtrip on a deal of your choosing to one city and take a budget airline to your other destination and back. You’ll be surprised at the savings.

One tip – since these budget airlines aren’t always a huge priority for the larger airports – sometimes they are a bit delayed, so don’t schedule a close connecting flight. Also, these budget airlines have some hidden costs if you don’t come prepared. Ryanair for example will charge a ‘printing fee’ if you don’t come to the airport with the your own printed boarding pass. That fee can add up to $90 – so read the fine print and prepare before you go so you can get the best deal.

3. Keep an eye out for new airline acquisitions and route announcements.

This may take a bit more energy, but it doesn’t have to. Just be aware. For example, Alaska Airlines just bought Virgin America and that could equate to new routes, destinations and – you’ve got it- savings. Another airline, Norwegian Air, recently started flying routes to the United States. They’re trying to market this new service and as such, are offering incredible savings. For example, I was able to fly roundtrip to London from New York this past February for just $400 and now they’re offering similar priced flights for trips to Spain. Again, just another travel tip – with budget airlines like Norwegian, they try to makeup for their cheap flights with hidden costs. Norwegian Air for example will serve NO water or food for the entire intercontinental flight – which is a real downer. Especially since the flight attendants were British and seemed extra snobby when telling us this. Yes you can purchase items but it adds up and the food sucks. So know before you go and prepare accordingly. To me, the $400 international flight was worth packing snacks and water bottles for!

4.  Not sure where to go but you want to go somewhere fun?

Ok, here’s the bread and butter. My favorite feature in Kayak. If you don’t know where you want to go – but know you want to go SOMEWHERE – here’s a great way to find some savings and a little inspiration. Go to the Kayak home flight page www.kayak.com/flights and scroll down, you’ll see a bunch of ads like so:

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You can click on any of them really – and you’ll be taken to a navigation flight page, like this:

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If you see the lower right hand corner, you’ll see the ability to browse flight origins and dates. You can select your origin (New York City for me) and then scroll down. If you scroll down even further, you’ll see the destination section. Here you can expand your destination and browse, based on worldwide, continents and of course, countries. It looks like this:

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From here it’s easy to see which countries have affordable flights. In the list above, you’ll see there are flights to France for under $400 and flights to Iceland for $250! When you click on the country, a list of flights and dates will pop up that you can sort through to see if any of the time frames would work for you. Some of them are up and coming and others you’ll find are later in the year – so you can plan accordingly. It changes constantly so make sure to keep checking back – you’ll be amazed at what you’ll find. Using this  method, I found roundtrip tickets to Morocco from New York City for a shocking $170 on a reputable airline and many more. Needless to say – this is now my favorite way to find fun destinations I normally wouldn’t think to go to for bargain level prices.

And there you have it! A few quick tips to find affordable flights – for places you know you want to go and to discover new places to fall in love with. Happy flying!