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@radiobrendan
As we’ve mentioned before here, Colombia’s popularity as a tourist destination has never been higher. The country is very much in fashion, not just among backpacking types but for a range of tourists. In many ways, it could be argued, we’re just at the start of this upward swing. The potential for sustained growth in this sector appears substantial, pretty much like the size of the country itself (for the record, of Colombia’s 32 departments, four are bigger in area than the island of Ireland).

We already have the fairly well-established areas such as Cartagena, Santa Marta and their surrounds on the Caribbean coast, the Eje Cafetero (coffee region), Medellín and the capital city Bogotá to name the most obvious.

Tame, Arauca, Colombia.

The plains of Arauca. That’s Venezuela in the distance, somewhere … (Photo from Facebook.)

There are other areas, however, that are practically virgin territory when it comes to tourism, and more or less anything else for that matter. Vast tracts of the previously written about Caquetá and Putumayo, for example, fall into that category.

Another department that has plenty to boast about but is rarely even considered as a place to visit is Arauca on the eastern extremes, bordering Venezuela. It’s part of Colombia’s vast Llanos or plains; in over-simplified terms, cowboy country.

As has been the case with most of the country’s other more remote locations, one big reason why tourists, both those from inside and outside, were reluctant to visit was down to the internal conflict. Now, however, with the Farc and paramilitary problems fading post the peace agreement, the associated security concerns are also abating.
What’s more, in this air of optimism circling around Colombia, coming from both near and far, everybody’s looking to get some warmth (strike it rich we could say) from this new positive light. And why not?

To this end, those working in Arauca’s fledgling tourism sector certainly don’t lack energy and enthusiasm. The problem, however, is getting their message out to a wider audience in a country full of beauty spots, varied as many of them are. Other Colombians are unaware of the region’s attractions, never mind outsiders.

As Carlos Alberto Duque, the creator of the Colombia Realismo Mágico slogan and who realises the tourism potential Arauca has, puts it: “Each place has sights to show off, a story to tell, but not many are good at getting the message out there.”

Tasty Tameño meat: Tame, Arauca, Colombia.

Tasty Tameño meat …

Arauca’s location doesn’t help either. By bus, it’s a good 12-hour trip from Bogotá just to reach its borders, and on the way the argument could be made that you pass places more or less equal in terms of landscape and culture. Coupled with this is the fact that for many backpacking types it’s unnecessarily off the beaten track, basically a ‘road to nowhere’ as Venezuela is off limits for most right now.

That aside, while our short visit to Tame was mostly taken up with the town’s annual festival, the all-round tourism pull the place has is evident.

For starters, what’s a negative is also a positive. Not many tourists come here, so as tends to happen in such places, the locals are even friendlier than the Colombian norm. There also doesn’t appear to be any ‘gringo prices’  in operation.

For bird watchers, the region is fluttering with delights. Indeed its wildlife, in general, is a big selling point (and a reason why we’ll be keen to return to go on the look for caiman, giant turtles and monkeys to name just a few). Throw in the fact that over half the area of the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy National Park, home to Colombia’s third highest peak, is situated in Arauca and nature lovers have plenty of reasons to visit.

From a cultural point of view, outside of the cowboy and meat-eating lifestyle, there is an indigenous influence in certain aspects, something that the locals seem eager to enhance and promote. Tame itself is known as the ‘cradle of freedom’ (cuna de libertad), the place where Latin America’s great liberators Simón Bolívar and General Francisco de Paula Santander met for the first time, just weeks before the decisive Battle of Boyacá in 1819. This is honoured with an impressive monument of the two men seated in conversation.

Bolívar & Santander monument, Tame, Arauca, Colombia.

Bolívar & Santander first met in Tame, Arauca. (Photo from Facebook.)

Another not-very-well-known attraction is Arauca’s cacao. The department is actually home to award-winning chocolate on an international level. Chocolate could become for the region what coffee is for the Eje Cafetero, which draws tourists all year round.

Specifically, in relation to the town of Tame, its climate is relatively fresh for a low-lying tropical region. So even with temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius, it doesn’t feel overbearing thanks to the refreshing breeze blowing about.

With plans afoot to develop a ‘Ruta de los Llanos’, basically a multi-departmental tourism-focused way through the plains, Arauca’s delights could be set to become more accessible and widely known.

An ‘Arauca awakening’ of sorts. You read it here first!
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PERFIL
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La vida en Colombia desde la perspectiva de un periodista y locutor Irlandés, quien ha estado viviendo en el país desde 2011. El blog explora temas sociales y cultura, interacción con los nativos, viajes, actualidades y mucho más. Escucha su podcast acá: https://www.spreaker.com/show/the-colombia-cast.

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    @wwaycorrigan [Listen to an audio version of this blog entry here.] In the 1972 classic, Godfather, there's an early scene where Don Corleone berates his godson, Johnny Fontaine, for crying because he didn't get a part in a movie. 'Godfather, I don't know what to do', a sobbing Fontaine mutters. Cue a slap in the face and a violent retort, 'You can act like a man', followed by a gentle mocking of his behaviour from the Don. [caption id="attachment_4643" align="aligncenter" width="347"]People who cry regularly get on Wrong Way's nerves. 'Let it all out ...' (Image from emojipedia.org.)[/caption] Crying times That scene is set in the late 1940s, a quite different world from that which we inhabit today, to state the obvious. These days, it's all about being in touch with one's emotions. It's OK to cry, whether you're a man, woman, child or however else you define yourself. Don't suppress your feelings, let it all out. I don't completely disagree with that approach. For one, for the most part, it's good to be honest about how you feel — at least if you're asked that is. What I don't like, what irritates me, is when the waterworks start, especially — although not exclusively — when it's men who are shedding the tears. This is where I side with Don Corleone. It's not that it makes me uncomfortable, it's more a case that I find it hard to take seriously men who cry with regularity. As for women, whether the tears are genuine or not, they often, um, precipitate a granting, justified or not, of whatever they may be looking for. I generally make an exception for death, but even in that there seem to be people who let flow more than really appears "necessary". (Perhaps we could introduce a tear scale. 'Careful now, you're close to your limit.') Bidding adieu to loved ones for an indefinite period of time is another "acceptable" tear-jerker. Alcohol-induced crying is also excepted, meaningless as it often is.

    'When the tears in others come they invoke a negative, cold reaction in me. Rather than wanting to help, I have a desire to walk away.'
    This aversion towards, bordering on utter contempt for crying has something to do with, it's safe to assume, my childhood. I was, after all, a serial crier into my mid-teens. Then, from about 15 onwards, I started to develop a strong dislike when seeing others well up for reasons that I would have considered rather inconsequential. During that time, no doubt having to deal with me, her last born, I recall my mother crying for what seemed like the merest of reasons. It used to get my blood up. Even if I'd been told it was all largely down to the menopause, it's unlikely I would have been sympathetic to her plight. Selfish teens, eh. Dry your eyes, mate This clearly left its mark. For in my current abode, the landlady, a nice woman I hasten to add, cries on an almost-daily basis. It's not only, as has happened a fair few times, a headache when she does it speaking directly to me about some grievance or another (these grievances have nothing to do with me, by the way!). It also irks me simply when I can just hear her sobbing away in her room. I know I should probably be a little more empathetic considering she suffers from depression, it's just when the tears in others come they invoke a negative, somewhat cold reaction in me. Rather than wanting to help I have a desire to walk away. It's not that I lack understanding. In fact, I'd wager I take the time to listen to and empathise with other people's gripes as much if not more so than the next person. I just wish they'd leave the crying out of it. The British-Irish band The Pogues sang in Streams of Whiskey, 'there's nothing ever gained by a wet thing called a tear'. That's not fully true, but I wish it was.   _______________________________________________________________ Listen to Wrong Way's Colombia Cast podcast here. Facebook: Wrong Way Corrigan — The Blog & IQuiz "The Bogotá Pub Quiz".

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