By Jade Le-Moigne

Sarah Duncan drinking a cocktail in Colombia

Sarah Duncan in Colombia

Sarah Duncan travelled to Colombia in 2006 with the intention of providing travellers worldwide with information on the country’s perilous label and penchant for danger. Instead, Sarah found herself caught up in a love affair; captivated by Colombia’s charm, the humble and welcoming locals and its enchanting natural wonders.

Musicians playing the drumbs and flute in Honda

Local Musicians in Honda

After writing a story initially reporting on the country’s infamous connection to drug cartels and gun-violence following her first visit, Sarah made it her life mission to use her first-hand experiences of salsa dancing in the streets and seeing little-known sites to instead rid all negativity associated with Colombia’s past.

“Once I saw that article with my name in the by-line I felt physically sick, and saw it as my duty to tell people that Colombia is more than just its past, it’s actually a great place to travel, too,” Sarah says.

Red and Yellow buildings along footpath in Cartagena

Colourful Buildings in Cartagena

After spending 18 months there from 2012, Sarah saw the place for its own identity and today boasts a loyal following of avid readers on her blog Sarepa, an online travel journal consisting of inspired accounts into a day in the life of a local in the capital city of Bogotá.

“The beauty of the natural wonders are really breathtaking,” Sarah says of her second home. “From the Sierra Nevada to the Cocora Valley, the landscapes in Colombia are pretty incredible.”

“The equatorial world line runs straight through which make for some very interesting weather patterns. From the afternoon chill of Bogotá, to the eternal spring of Medellin, the snow-capped mountains of Cocuy or the sweltering heat of Cartagena; you want it, you got it!”

And it isn’t just Sarah who’s eager to kill the stigma attached to the South-American destination; the community of inhabitants are also keen to encourage tourism to their land.

Canyoning in San Antonio de Tena

Canyoning in San Antonio de Tena

“People can still be quite apprehensive about travelling to Colombia, but I’ve found while making my way around the country alone that the locals are so eager for foreigners to leave Colombia with a good impression of their country that they’ll go out of their way to show tourists a good time,” she says of the gracious locals.

“They’ll help you, offer you a place to stay, invite you out to a party and explain things to you in their best English, just to make sure you’re enjoying yourself.”

Fish farm lake, green grass with grass roof hut and table on grass

Fish farm and restaurant La Gaviota in Mariquita

Llanero singer with his band, harp in background

Llanero singer in Bogota

And Sarah’s warm heart and desire for wanderlust grows with each negative comment she hears about a destination.

“Eventually I’d like to visit Iran. I’ve heard many wonderful things about the country, but they always seem to be drowned out by the negative press the country receives,” she says.

“Right now my focus is on promoting Colombia and making sure travellers put the country on their list of must-see travel destinations.”

Graffiti wall and brick path in Bogota

Graffiti on the streets of Bogota

Sarah’s four essentials for a Colombian adventure:

Sturdy walking shoes – especially if you want to do The Lost City trek in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada.

A camera – so you can capture the Colombia your friends and family back home never knew existed. 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, it’s a classic and a great introduction to Colombia as told by the writer.

A tight pair of jeans – if you’re a woman, this is the fashion piece of choice in Colombia. Just thrown on a nice shirt and a big pair of earrings and you’ll be blending in, in no time.

Souvenirs from home – to share with the locals you meet on the way. The more friends you make on your travels through Colombia the more of the country you’re sure to see.

Photos by Sarah Duncan
sarepa.com