The “Bienvenido” sign at the bus station in Bucaramanga announced another “Ciudad Bonita” and we simply grinned at each other: we had to stop here for the night to catch a flight to Medellin. What a nice surprise to find a strikingly clean and very modern city. This positive image certainly was enforced by the welcoming Kasa Guane Bucaramanga, best know here as K.G.B., full of cozy corners and a very helpful staff. Lot of the guests set camp here or at the sister hostel out of town to take lessons in paragliding. So far, this is the best hostel in Colombia we have seen, even though we wondered how we would have managed if it was only halfway full, with only one bathroom for 3 dorms & 2 private rooms…
The cream of their many services is a free visit to the Country Club up the street, which we certainly used, hanging out at the pool reading and relaxing.
The only bad surprise was the tattoo shop next door playing “Rage Against The Machine” at maximum volume until late at night. The nice surprise was meeting an American student analyzing the market of money lenders in Colombia, a grey zone of the local economy, but obviously widely spread. According to him, interest rates can be up to 20% a month for very small amounts for a short period, for instance 50 to 200 USD over 1 to 3 months.
He also explained that Colombia was one of the countries with the widest income gap, with an estimated 53% (!) of the population living below the poverty line (World Bank statistics) and almost 18% living with less than 2 USD per day. This partly does not fit with what we observed, with much less “obvious” poverty as in other countries in South America, for instance Brazil or Bolivia.