A Colombian sidestep

Last modified 16.03.2022 | Published 23.10.19871980's, Brazil, Colombia, South America, Travelogue

Est. reading time:

This was a Colombian sidestep. We moved west on the Amazon and made a quick trip into Colombia and a town called Leticia.

This article is part of a travelogue from of a five month journey in 1987-1988 to several countries in South AmericaBrazil, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile.


Thursday 22.10.1987, Manaus – Tabatinga – Leticia

The day took a surprising twist. We ended up in Colombia.

The plane was scheduled for departure at 0730 and with check-in two hours before we got up early. The taxi was cheaper (500 Cz$ (8.3 USD)) than what the driver had informed us of. When we arrived at the airport is was completely dead, so to speak. It turned out we were able to check in less than two hours before our departure. We found this kind of strange, also considering the fact that we were the first to check in and continue through the passport control. That procedure was swift.

The 737 belonging to Cruzeiro was half full and we secured window seats where we despite the low clouds were able to, and managed to, get an impression of the vastness of the Amazon jungle. The service was impeccable and we were served a tasty breakfast.

When we after one and a half hours landed in Tabatinga we were approached by a local jungle guide who spoke very well English. He explained us that the best place to stay the night was in Leticia, notTabatinga.


The case is that the three-country border between Peru, Colombia and Brazil is in this region, somewhere out in the river. Anyway, Tabatinga and Leticia are twin towns where people may cross freely back and forth. We could too, without a visa or registration, as long as we didn’t venture deeper into Colombia.

The guide was nice and took the two of us plus a tall Swiss guy up on the main road. There we boarded a collectivo (a vehicle looking as a mixture of a bus and taxi) through Tabatinga and across the border to Leticia.


It was funny to see have the language on the store signs changed in only a few metres.

  • Residencias Marina. Expensive (3000 pesos (19 USD)), but we got a double bed and a spare one, with bath, TV, fridge with contents and a fan. Clean, spacious and nice. Breakfast was not included but the receptionists were friendly and helpful. (160 pesos = 60 cruzados = 1 dollar) (Possible map).

We relaxed for a couple of hours before taking a walk into town. It was a small, quiet, OK place. We exchanged some money across a small counter. Bo sent letters home and I bought postcards.

The Swiss guy turned out to be funny. He was a 21-year old accounting student highly characterised by being naive, whimsy and far-out. He didn’t know how much he paid for the hotel room.

Our lunch was good and cheap.


Back at the hotel it started to rain buckets later in the afternoon. I barely made it back from a tailor who had mended by shoulder bag. It has started to dissolve in the lining. Tropical rainfalls are not easily ignored. The pouring was formidable, not least with all the corrugated iron we have on our roof. The lights went out as well and the hotel people came around with candles.

When the weather had calmed down, the three of us went out for a good dinner, with a good red wine. On the way back we met another jungle guide whom we also had encountered earlier in the day. He was in the company of a French guy.

Together we went to a discothèque a la Colombia. There were not many people around and it was all Colombian music. The guide repeatedly asked Bo for a dance. It was funny to see her half a head higher than him, but they were both good dancers. We drank the national liquor, the aguardiente, reminding us of ouzo. The first drink was bad, not the others. We went home in pouring rain.

People seem very helpful around here, and nice. When we walked the streets this afternoon Bo’s contact lens fell out. We began looking for it on the ground and immediately a number of sympathetic people rushed in and helped us to look in the tropical heat. Fortunately she had not lost the lens but found it top of her eye when we returned to our room. It had somehow moved itself up there.

The girls in Colombia, at least in this town, look very pretty. Their faces are much more attractive than their Brazilian sisters who were a great disappointment to me. It’s not that I need anyone else but Bo to look at..


Friday 23.10.1987, Leticia

There was a heavy rain much of the morning and we spent time in our room. This afternoon we exchanged the rest of our cruzados into pesos at a poor rate.

We walked down to the river and had a look at the seething life there. There was a lot of garbage and small shops.


Read more

The next chapter: Impressions from Brazil: We have now been almost exactly a month in Brazil, thirty days more precisely. That is almost what we had planned or expected. It is time for a review of all the impressions I have.

Click to read the introduction to this journey 

Click to view a full screen map of the journey