Colombia days 3-6: dream come true in the Amazon + spontaneous detour

I’m back from 3 amazing days in the Amazon Rainforest! This trip was hands down the most I’ve ever roughed it, but it was one of the best experiences of my life. I’ve dreamed of going to the Amazon since I was little, so the whole experience was truly a dream come true.

Day 3: Amazon Rainforest Tour day 1

My day started bright and early at 6am. I hopped onto a motorboat and drifted down the Amazon River to meet the rest of the group. Immediately upon entering the river, I felt this sense of peace and excitement for three full days of completely unplugging from technology and being one with nature.

2 hours later, we made it to the campsite, where I met the others in my tour group; they had already been in the Amazon for 3 days (they were there on 6-day tours, wow!). The group was immediately super welcoming and I was grateful for that. The Amazon is definitely not on most backpacker’s Colombia itineraries, but I feel like the people who do choose it are like-minded in being adventurous and open, and I really got that vibe from this group.

We started off the day with a jungle trek! A short boat ride to get to the trailhead, where we saw lots of birds and monkeys.

First things first, making a strap to hold our water bottles from vines. Our guide, Thomas, is super talented at handy-craft and weaving, and he made one for each of us.

Debuting my new line of Amazonian purses 😉

The rainforest was a LOT to take in at first. It was hot, wet, full of mosquitos, we were knee-deep in mud…I also forgot some essential items (like long pants) since I rushed packing. From someone who just hopped off the plane 2 days ago and was still adjusting to backpacking life, I had a bit of a “what did I get myself into” feeling…

But after I was use to being covered in sweat and dirt, I took a step back, looked up and smelled the fresh air, listened to the beautiful sounds…it hit me that the Amazon is so full of life. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world, slowly deteriorating to industrialization and wars of different communities. I snapped out complaining and just felt so happy to be there.

Thomas was the most amazing guide. He just exudes hilariousness and warmth; he actually grew up in the Amazon and knew SO much about every corner. His defining feature was always carrying a machete and shouting “Oh Whoa!” When he was around 10 years old, a shaman put some potion in his eye which temporarily blinded him, and he along with every boy in his tribe was sent to the rainforest to survive for 30 days with no machete or anything. If they survived, they were allowed to come back home and they were officially considered “men.” Fast-forward to a few years ago, Thomas decided he wanted to work as a tour guide, and so he went to Leticia to get a Colombian ID, but didn’t know his birthday so he just made one up. He didn’t even know the year he was born! He showed us his ID and it said he was 25 years old, but from his looks he was probably in his 30s. He started off by carrying tourist’s luggage on trekking tours, and learned English along the way and eventually became the head tour guide. His goal is to start his own tour company by the end of this year, called “Oh Whoa!” 😉 For those looking to travel to the Amazon, please, please look out for this new company! Thomas is truly a special person.

Thomas showed us so many unique trees. Some even had poisoning sap that could kill you in 20 minutes, and Amazonians would sometimes drink it to commit suicide. This tree produced a white liquid that dried up into rubber! We all made rubber bracelets.

After a few hours of hard work, we were done with the trek and made it to an eco-lodge in Peru for lunch. It had amazing views of the river, and would be our home base for the next 2 days.

All the food was AMAZING. I felt like I finally got a sense of authentic Colombian food, which is basically fish, fish and more fish.

Then, we took the boat to our campsite for the night. We each built our sleeping arrangements: a hammock + mosquito net + rain tarp overhead. We were all so excited to sleep outside in the rainforest – such a unique experience, and definitely the most I’ve ever roughed it!

Afterwards, we went out to spot dolphins.

Then we crossed over to Brazil and chilled on a beach, swimming in the river to wash the day off. I’ve never felt more refreshed in my life. I just love that there really are no borders in the Amazon and you can easily visit 3 countries in one day. Our group named this spot “mango beach” since the bottom of the river had a super weird texture, like a mango pit :P.

We went back to the eco-lodge for some dinner and we shared a bucket of cachaça – a super refreshing mojito-like drink. We had quite the tiring day and so it was well earned.

Conveniently being in a tipsy state, it was time for alligator hunting, ha. We were back on the boat; the river was pitch-black and it all felt quite eerie. We ended up catching one baby alligator. I held it and it freaked me out!

What an amazing, packed first day. We went back to our campsite and built a fire, sat around and enjoyed the beautiful smell and sounds of the jungle. We chatted some more and then went to our hammocks for bed…

Day 4: Amazon Rainforest Tour day 2

I don’t know if I just had accumulated major sleep debt or what…but I literally had the BEST night of sleep in weeks! I slept for 10 hours straight and woke up feeling so rejuvenated. Sleeping in the hammocks in the middle of the rainforest was such a highlight of the trip so far. I truly believe nature has the ability to be mentally transformative and healing.

Then it was time to go fishing for piranhas – my first time ever fishing! We had very simple fishing poles, but the river had so many piranhas that they were quite effective. The guys ended up catching 8-10 each and I only caught one, ha.

Our hard work became our lunch!

After being pretty active yesterday, we decided to keep things on the chill side. The 5 of us chilled on the hammocks and then took the boat out again and we swam in the river. Hands down the best part of this tour was meeting this group of spectacular people. We had Crista, a painter from Barcelona who has a contagious passion for life. Victor, an Australian student studying for 6 months in Bogota; he is completely fearless in his travels and is one of those people who instantly brings up the mood. Francisco is from France. He quit his corporate job 3 years ago and has been traveling the world since. And lastly Zohar from Israel: she’s been traveling in South America for 10 months and has some pretty wild travel stories. We had so much time to chat, joke around, talk about our different cultures, and share our life stories…our conversations were so real and eye-opening, and I couldn’t help but ask endless questions about their amazing lives.

If there’s one thing I got from our talks is that there is SO much more to life than myself and all the things I’ve been stuck dealing with the past few months. There’s so much beauty to life, and life is too short to not do what you love and relentlessly seek happiness. Meeting these kinds of people are the reason I love to travel, especially alone. Our group was so incredibly genuine and fun, and I’m grateful for each and every one of them. ❤

Sunset on the Amazon…wow. So many good vibes filling out boat. We were all just so happy to be there.

Back to the eco-lodge for some dinner, and then out to the jungle for a night walk. We saw some neat species that only come out at night like this lizard and tarantula.

Then we were off to the ecolodge for bed. The ecolodge was super basic in accommodation, barely having electricity and running water, but felt like a four-star hotel compared to the hammocks yesterday. Funny how perspective changes so quickly.

Day 5: Amazon Rainforest Tour day 3

Another refreshing night of sleep, although woken up by the roosters! We were off for a morning trek first thing.

This trek felt easier than the first day. We went at a slower pace and enjoyed the amazing, tall trees surrounding us; I took it all in and just tried to enjoy my last moments there.

We spotted the tiniest monkey species in the world. It’s hard to tell in this photo but they were around the size of a hamster – their cute tiny faces were to die for!

After our morning trek, we spent some last moments lounging on the hammocks having one of our awesome conversations when Thomas called me back to the boat to go home. I so not ready to leave! Thomas could tell how much fun we were having and even offered an extra night for me so I could stay with the crew, but I knew it was time to head home. We said our last goodbyes – this one was a tough one. 😦

I headed on the 4-hour boat ride upstream and enjoyed one last sunset on the river. Perfection.

Being back to civilization in Leticia was quite a shock. I remember feeling like it was such a big city after being in the rainforest even though it’s such a small village. I took the best shower of my life, ate some dinner by myself, and treated myself to a chocolate donut (I was craving sweets since we didn’t really have any in the jungle).

One of my dorm-mates, Bela, joined along and we hung out in the lounge at night. Bela is traveling solo for an entire year. Man, I thought taking 2 weeks to travel solo was super adventurous and long but compared to all these amazing backpackers from Europe/Australia/anywhere but America…it’s nothing! Bela and I caught up on our past few days and talked about our lives and just about everything under the sun for hours…time flew by and before we knew it, it was midnight! Time to sleep.

Day 6: Last morning in Leticia + crossing the border to Brazil + spontaneous detour

I had the morning to kill before my flight out of Leticia. Bela and I joined forces and decided to take a walk around Leticia. We did some light sightseeing to the big church and Amazon Museum…really the only attractions of Leticia.

Something super unique we did: we crossed the border to Brazil! It was literally 5 blocks from our hostel and there was no border control or passport stamps. So cool!

Grabbed a beer in Brazil just to say we did 😉

Then, Bela and I got some lunch back in Leticia, and then it was time for me to head to the airport. Bela is going to make his way to California in a few months as part of his year-long trip, and we decided to meet up in San Francisco, so it’s not the end!

Now for the rest of the day…it was quite the rollercoaster.

I was originally planning to go to Santa Marta, a beach destination up North. I was feeling lukewarm about this next chapter since after talking to the Amazon crew, they all said it was touristy, hot, and not that scenic…but I had already booked my flight. Womp.

All the backpackers I met, however, RAVED about Medellin. Saying things like “It’s the prettiest city in the world.” “I don’t even like cities but I LOVED Medellin.” “I was planning on staying for 3 nights and I stayed a week.” I was so bummed that I didn’t get this advice earlier since I had already booked my flight up to Santa Marta and wouldn’t have time to make it to Medellin.

Oddly enough…during my plane ride, the captain announced that we needed to take a detour due to thunderstorms, and we were going to land in Medellin instead of Santa Marta…YES!!! I immediately said to myself “change of plans”; I honestly saw it as a sign from God. I decided to completely scratch Santa Marta to spend my last week in Medellin and possibly one other city (Salento).

And so, I hopped off the plane in Medellin with absolutely nothing booked and NO idea where to go. I opened up my phone and saw a note I had written with the name of a hostel in Medellin that a friend from Bogota recommended. Done. I headed straight there and asked for a room for one night. I am so beyond glad I’m doing this whole day-by-day method for this trip. It allowed me to spontaneously adjust my itinerary without losing out on any money (I only booked 1 night in Santa Marta and they were nice enough to refund me). So here I am, randomly in Medellin with absolutely no plans and no more than a bed for tonight, ha.

Life couldn’t be better ❤


2 thoughts on “Colombia days 3-6: dream come true in the Amazon + spontaneous detour

    1. wonderful! wow 10 days is a long trip, but I think you’ll really enjoy it. definitely pack long pants, as I forgot this and got pretty scratched up. most companies will let you borrow rain boots which you will need. also a LOT of mosquito repellent, higher DEET the better. I used 95% and was much less bitten than my friends!

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