Monday, 27 April 2015

Mysteries, Challenges and Sugar!

These are just some of the ingredients of a hike with a local guide on the outskirts of Chachagüí village in an area known as La Joya, and that’s excluding some steep inclines and jaw-dropping scapes. Exploring is something I can never resist and this was one of those trips; not far but the chance of getting inside some old caves and getting to know more about the local history and culture. 

Love Hiking and Trekking? Read this!

The type of panoramas you can expect on trails in the area.
Exploring the area around Chachagüí via the many trails that exist, is a rewarding experience - even for the most cynical out there. Although the walking trails require more development and collaboration (of utmost importance!!) with local communities, they will almost certainly be very popular with visitors from abroad as well Colombians who visit the area. Varying degrees of difficulty and length also ensure that they will be able to cater for the family with children keen for a walk, right through to the more hard/tough trekkers. Multi-day wilderness treks with visits to local farmers and villages along the way, is another exciting possibility.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Promoting tourism with a magazine

On Saturday, 25 April 2015, we launched a new magazine and directory to promote tourism around the village of Chachagüí and in the Nariño Department (province). Based on a similar and successful model in Uganda, it's distributed free of charge with businesses getting the opportunity to buy advertising space. This is complimented by articles and photos from the area.

Go to my "Books" section where you can read and download a copy of the "Veraneo" magazine!

Here is an extract from my speech as editor, at the launch ceremony;

"When I arrived in Colombia, I had huge expectations, but what I encountered exceeded them all by far!  Every view was sensory overload! I was constantly lost for words to describe my experiences and views; breathtaking landscapes, fantastic people with a rich and proud culture.

From all this I was expecting to find tourists everywhere but no - travellers were passing through and telling that I had to go to Popayan and further north and see all the amazing places there. Really?
After my first week I realised that this is because nobody knows about this hidden gem that is Nariño. Arriving in Chachagüí, I knew that I could not leave this place without sharing it with the world.

The potential I see around me here, and the little bit I've travelled in Nariño, is incredible. The restaurants and accommodation, businesses that can support tourism and transport infrastructure are there - now we just need to get the tourists here, from near and far.
Busy with my speech at the launch of "Veraneo"

Let's not forget local tourism! These are the people that support you in low season or when world events result in low foreign tourist numbers. We need to promote our tourism to the Colombians! Many of them don't know much about Nariño and what it has to offer - some places and things I've photographed are not even known to the Chachagueños!

What we want to achieve with Veraneo; the promotion and discovery of a stunning Nariño and also Chachagüí as a base for exploration and adventure. Each edition will have a theme, for example "conservation" with articles on culture, history and activities relating to the theme. With further expansion, the directory will have sections for each place - for example; a directory for Chachagüí, a directory for Pasto and one for La Cocha.

To achieve all of this, we need everybody's participation, suggestions and ideas. Buying advertising space and/or sponsoring pages, ensures the magazine continues to be distributed free and more widely. We look forward to the promotion of tourism and the development of more tourism products."


Thursday, 16 April 2015

Craving views at Forbidden heights?

One of the views from the viewing area at the top of the one tower
Ever seen those postcards with the grand panoramas of a city and thought "Wow, I want to get at least one photo like that!"? I'm sure you have as have many other people - problem is that some people will unfortunately never to get to see those views for themselves. Fear of heights and vertigo can be terrible, especially if you're travelling.

Personally (and happily so) I don't have a crippling fear of heights or ascending buildings or whatever to get that photo off the edge; but I have huge sympathy for people who's fear is that crippling that they just simply can't get up/out there. Similarly, huge respect and hats off to the ones who face their fears, grit their teeth and with only glimpses through narrowed eyes, take those much sought after photos.


Monday, 13 April 2015

5 Reasons to avoid Chachagüí in southern Colombia

View eastwards of Chachagüí
Chachagüí is a village about 25km north of Pasto, the capital of the department of Nariño in southern Colombia. At the edge of the village is also Antonio Nariño Airport so you could force yourself to even fly in if didn’t like road journeys. 

The Galeras volcano at Pasto, the Rio Pasto (Pasto River) and Rio Juanambú (Juanambú River) all have been part in the creation of jaw-dropping deep and long canyons, waterfalls and forest-covered mountains and hills - but of course that would hurt your eyes having to look at all of that and you’d not be able to tell other people other than show them photos, because you’ll be speechless!

Here’s some more reasons you’ll want to avoid this little village of Chachagüí:

1. You’ll want to fly high over the valleys and hills and enjoy the spectacular views from the air - again and again!
Preparing for a tandem flight from Cundur near Chachagüí

Paragliding off the high hill of Cundur
with a view north of Antonio Nariño Airport

2. You’ll just have to take a walk on one of the trails in forest that harbours a host of animals, birds and butterflies - once again, being confronted with those landscapes that leave you grasping for your camera.
One of the trails around Chachagüí

3. Just when you think you’ve escaped it all, there’s a steaming world-class coffee - grown in the hills around you, waiting in front of you.

Coffee grown, prepared and roasted in Chachagüí

4. What if you enjoy cycling?! There’ll be a mountain bike right there beckoning you onto the trails and backroads around the mountains and smaller villages (pueblitos). Oh damn, there’s those landscapes again too. 
The area is absolutely naturally "designed" for mountain biking

5. If you still haven’t escaped by now, you’re stuffed! The friendliness and hospitality of the people will have won you over and you’d have realised you cannot and don’t want to leave!!
Weekend market for your fresh produce and some socialising
At this stage - send me a message and I'll come and meet you in town!


Enticement in Colombia

Rio Pasto canyon seen from a trail in Chachagüí, Nariño
Many years ago when I was still a young boy, mention of Colombia conjured up images of jungles, forests and mountains for me. The chances of it not being very safe obviously played to my adventurous cravings as a teenager who was already involved in a fair amount of adventure. In my dreams I would stare at the canopy of the forest, sky-high above me, listening to the birds and animals far from civilisation. The media was also appealing to the adventurous side of me even as later Colombia became even more known (through the media) as the land of drug barons and their wars.

Starting my travels and work in the tourism industry, I was to encounter and meet many Colombians,
Nariño (inlcuding Chachagüí) is also home
to some world-renowned coffees
all seemingly more friendly and pleasant than the ones I met before. Once again my dreams of Colombia were being strengthened plus word was out it was going to be the happening country for everything ranging from its natural wonders to adventure activities.

Landing in South America in 2014, my eyes were always looking north and wondering when (and if) I’ll be getting to Colombia. January 2015, saw me entering Colombia at Rumichaca in the south from Ecuador. The people were as friendly and pleasant, and more, as the Colombians I’d met abroad. In fact, people I was chatting to on the bus from Quito ended up being Colombian! The landscapes of mountains, canyons and forests were just simply breathtaking. Even now I find myself at a loss of words many times when confronted by yet another panorama - and that’s a few times a week!

Cathedral at Las Lajas near Ipiales, Nariño
Through the first week of incredible sights like the Las Lajas cathedral constructed over a canyon near Ipiales and countless churches, temples and cathedrals in Pasto, I started moving north and stopped in Chachagüí about 25km north of Pasto.

Squirrel: The forests around Chachagüí harbour a host of wildlife species
The first morning at Hostel Kundur dawned and I was surrounded by the song of birds I had yet to learn the names of, scenery that would leave the most hardened cynic searching for words and most of all, friendly and hospitable people. 

Village of Chachagüí
25km from Pasto en-route to the Antonio Nariño Airport
This dawn was also the dawn (again) of the realisation that I’m smack-bang in the middle of a childhood dream and living it! Chachagüí and Nariño Department (province) doesn’t have much tourists as foreign advice from North American and European governments stated that it was dangerous - I could feel the danger! The danger of not being able to leave!

Follow me as I explore this amazing region through photos. 
To see more of my photos from Colombia, visit my Flickr page 

Mountain biking is one of many activities to enjoy in Chachagüí