The Awkwardness of Being a Solo Female Traveller

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San Gil is a small city located in between Santa Marta and the country´s capital, Bogota. On my first day there, I went on a day trip to Barichara, a little colonial town an hour away.

When I got back to the hostel, I met three guys who invited me to go out with them that night. As a general rule, I don’t go out with guys I’ve just met. When I was in Asia, I had a few strange nights being the only female in the group. It had gotten uncomfortable either because I had felt too much the centre of attention or more commonly, the guys spent the rest of the night trying to pick up local women or prostitutes. I don’t have a problem with tourists picking up local women per se, but it annoys me that some male tourists see their relative wealth, cultural capital or better English as some sort of license to take advantage of non-Western women.

I could tell that one of the guys, a guy from Israel, was pretty sleazy but the other two seemed decent so I tagged along. A Colombian guy who worked at the hostel came out as well. First we drank in the plaza by the hostel. In Colombia, it is pretty common to start the night this way. It was pretty lively and if it wasn´t so cold, it would have been nice to stay there all night.

Afterwards we moved to a club which was when I started to feel awkward. It sort of felt like all the guys were hitting on me while simultaneously searching for Colombian women. The strange thing was that instead of all being put in the same dorm, as is usually the case when there aren´t many people staying in a hostel; we had each been given our own room and I think the guys were all desperate to make the most of it.

It was annoying as I did like the Irish guy in the group but he was the only one who did not seem interested. The Israeli guy was vocal in insisting that he was going to teach me salsa which scared me as even at my drunkest, waving my arms around is the extent of my dancing.

Even though I was convinced for most of the night that the Colombian guy was gay, he was the one who made me the most uncomfortable. He kept on touching me inappropriately – it was excessive even by South American standards.

When I sat down to drink a beer I had just ordered, he walked over and without a hint of irony said, “You have to dance with us. Four guys dancing alone, we look like gays.”

This was when I realised he probably wasn´t gay. The Irish guy confirmed it when he told me the guy had a girlfriend and baby. For the rest of the night, I avoided the Colombian guy as much as it was possible.

The next day, we went swimming in a lake. There was one main part where everyone swam and we put down our things there.

There was a small waterfall up the other end and I decided to climb up the rocks to see what was there. It wasn´t long before I was alone but I kept on following the river. Going against the direction of the water, I came close to losing my flip flops a few times but it was really cool. I liked having that part of the river to myself.

I wanted to stay up there but I hadn´t told the guys where I had gone so reluctantly I went back. At the top of the waterfall was a group of Colombian guys. They were nice and we talked a little, as much as it was possible with my poor Spanish anyway. It was much more difficult going down than up and they helped me down a few rocks, even when it wasn´t really necessary. I didn´t really want their help but South American guys can be pretty intense when it comes to chivalry.

When I arrived in Bogota the next morning, it was raining heavily. I had planned on spending three or four days there before getting a flight to the jungle but it was a long cab ride from the bus terminal to the hostel and looking out the window, it seemed that Bogota was just another big congested city. By the time I arrived at the hostel, I’d come to the decision to book the flight for the following day.

In the afternoon, I went to an underground salt cathedral north of Bogota. I mixed up my Spanish and instead of asking the driver if the bus went to the church, I asked if it went to England. But aside from that, getting there was pretty straightforward. The cathedral tour was all in Spanish but it was still pretty cool.

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