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Parts Unknown: Colombia

Aired February 8, 2014 - 20:00   ET


ANTHONY BOURDAIN, HOST (on camera): This is a good place to both experience fantasy and reality. The air, explosives and food? You can't beat that. So you just stand here in the street, and random strangers bring you delicious foods. It's a great country.


(Voice-over): Colombia. Ordinarily and, for all too many years, when this country makes the news or appears in a film or television drama, it's not for its looks, which are, I should say right up front, spectacular. It's not for its people who are, everyone I've ever met, anyway, warm, proud, generous and fun. Or for its food, which is truly great.

(On camera): I don't know what this is, but it's good. Food in this country is excellent.

(Voice-over): I'm no stranger to this place. Generally speaking, it's a particularly vibrant mix of Spanish, European, Afro-Caribbean, and indigenous people. These are deep waters, my friends, that no news story or episode of "Miami Vice" has ever come close to navigating.

It is and always has been a fiercely, fiercely proud country, and its people yearn to see international coverage of something other than cocaine and violence, but that isn't a legacy that's easy to ignore.

Its decades of civil unrest have left vast swaths of Colombia relatively unknown, even to its own citizens. To reach a place previously considered a no-go area, I'll fly out of an airport in Villavicencio, 45 miles southeast of the capital city of Bogota.

On first inspection, this is an airplane bone yard, where unwanted props from "Romancing the Stone" corrode artfully. But in reality, this sleepy hangar is an important gateway to the more impenetrable parts of the country. The remote settlements in the Amazon basin are cut off from the country, with neither rail nor roads connecting them. There are only two ways in, either boat for several days downriver, or aboard a jungle bus, which is what locals call the World War II era DC-3.

(On camera): I've flown worse.

(Voice-over): I've been brought here by Pablo Mora, a teacher at Medellin University and a particular enthusiast for this classic of golden age aviation. (On camera): You've taken this flight before?

PABLO MORA, MEDELLIN UNIVERSITY: Yes, every time I have a chance I come here and fly one. It's a romantic thing.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): He sees the work that these hulking great airships and their pilots do, as daredevil humanitarian missions for the more remote Colombians.

(On camera): They have an in-flight movie?

MORA: No, no, no. Nor first class either.


MORA: No, no.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): The planes travel with their own mechanic to cobble together anything that might go wrong. And stuff can go wrong. The risk is that we'll be able to land but not take off again, so this guy is our return ticket out of the jungle.

Our captain is Joaquin San Clement, something of a legend in these parts, and his copilot, Captain Costanza Reyes.

MORA: It's mystical. You know, and they develop this sensibility with the plane. There's no "Intel Inside" here. There's no software. They have GPS, but that's about it. It's beautiful, you know, they have to sense everything. They know when the sound of the plane is not right. It's just man and machine.

BOURDAIN: The weather is the big unknown around here. It's changeable enough to ground planes in remote places if they hang around for too long. We have to make one stop on the way to pick up more cargo. Vital cargo, by the way.

The land we're passing over is beautiful and lush. But the life of those below has been anything but.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Colombia seems to be trapped in a vicious circle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: FARC has used the territory as a haven for kidnapping and drug --

BOURDAIN: Until recently most of the news coming out of this part of Colombia was not good. It was a front line in the war on drugs, for lack of a better term, and Colombia's long struggle with the FARC, a Marxist guerrilla force financed by drug trafficking, kidnapping and covert assistance from Venezuela.

Fifty years of a very dirty war. The stakes not about drugs per se, but about the ability of ordinary Colombians to live without fear.

We land in the jungle outpost of Miraflores in the southern province of (INAUDIBLE) in the Amazonian Forest Reserve. The heavy presence of army and special police is a result of its strategic location and recent history as a one-time center of cocoa production.

Farmers here would grow the stuff and make leaves into paste. Traffickers would come and buy it. The FARC had this area under its sphere of influence for years. Nine years ago, the government moved to expel the FARC, the traffickers and any paramilitaries, with apparently much success. Overnight, however, its population shrank by 85 percent. And what remains struggles to survive.

(On camera): So people here, you're telling me, they were born here? Or --

MORA: Most of the people came from elsewhere. In the beginning, in the 1950s and '60s, they were -- they were escaping from the violence, from the political violence between the two parties in Colombia.

BOURDAIN: So if you were having problems in the city or wherever you were from, you came out here?

MORA: Yes. Yes. Yes.

BOURDAIN: So what did you do for a living out here?

MORA: Cattle and doing some other agriculture, and after that the drug trade, I think, began and everything with the coco plantations.

BOURDAIN: The climate is good for it?

MORA: Yes, it's very good. And since 1999, there was no police or army force here, so it was just occupied by the FARC. And then by the farmers who tried to --


MORA: So that's when the real violence began.

BOURDAIN: So really the problems in this country preexisted the drug trade?

MORA: What we say here is that the drug trade just made everything more. There's no judge here. There's few institutions here.


MORA: Basically you know that the state is here just because the army is here. So I think you're going to meet the major.


MORA: Anthony, this is the major.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): Julio Cesar Gonzalez is the current mayor of Miraflores, which has seen much better and much worse days.

(On camera): How many people live in this town?

MORA: Around 1500 to 2,000 in the municipality. The FARC were in here for 20 years. And they were the central authority here.

BOURDAIN: You're running a subsystems farm (INAUDIBLE) plantains and not much else? Not even particularly well, you know, you're not particularly happy with the government, somebody comes along and offers you a nice machine gun and a cool scarf.

MORA: Yes.

BOURDAIN: Especially if you're 15, 16 years old.

MORA: Yes.

BOURDAIN: That's a pretty attractive option.

MORA: Of course it is.

BOURDAIN: And even if they say you'll probably be dead by the time you're 25.

MORA: It is.

BOURDAIN: Come on.

MORA: It is. And they offer you a salary.

BOURDAIN: So what is the future of this town?

JULIO CESAR GONZALEZ, MAYOR: There are various programs from the state. Now with the creation of the Department of Social Prosperity. One that is called Youth in Action that supports them with education.

MORA: They're providing free education and there's a lot of potential in biodiversity and ecotourism as well.

BOURDAIN: What our people say is without the customer, there's no -- there's no cocaine trade and there's no violence, right? So if the United States and Europe stopped buying cocaine?

MORA: That's so impossible. I can't think about it. About the situation where the demand is not going to be there.

BOURDAIN: But the demand in the states is down 40 percent.

MORA: As long as there is a market, there will be people ready to do it.

BOURDAIN: The United States spends how many billions of dollars a year paying for guns and uniforms, training, et cetera. Where should they be spending it?

MORA: I would say the health is very important, but more important is to end the war on drugs. It just -- it doesn't work.

BOURDAIN: Here's my problem. If crack didn't exist, I would have no -- I would absolutely agree with you, but as a former coke addict and as a former crackhead -- MORA: Yes. Yes.

BOURDAIN: That is a problem.

MORA: The thing is that people think that if you think that drugs should be legalized, you're saying that they're good. No, they're not saying that, but just -- we're just getting rid of one problem. The problem that the major has here.


BOURDAIN: You're freeing up a lot of money that you could divert to this.

MORA: Yes, we have two problems.

BOURDAIN: I'm with you. I agree.

MORA: One is drug addiction and the other is drug trafficking. We can get rid of one, we're not going to get rid of the other. We have to deal with it forever.

BOURDAIN: It's a beautiful country. The people here are -- from what I've been is really nice, even the bad guys are charming.

MORA: Yes. Yes. That is true.

BOURDAIN: The food is delicious. The problem is the United States will never legalize drugs. It will never happen. It's a complicated issue.

MORA: Yes, yes.

BOURDAIN: So the good people of this town could thank us for bringing their --

MORA: Yes.

BOURDAIN: -- fresh supply of coca. Cerveza, OK.

The thing now, gentlemen, it was really our pleasure.


BOURDAIN (voice-over): Bogota, the country's capital and an almost two-mile-high city with new lofty food ambitions, where previously a restaurant scene didn't really exist. Now young restaurateurs such as musician-turns-chef Tomas Rueda are beginning to make a name for themselves in Colombia.

THOMAS RUEDA, CHEF: This is (INAUDIBLE). It's one of the biggest markets in Bogota. I love this place. It's very beautiful. The colors. My mom comes here to buy flowers, my grandma also.

BOURDAIN: Did I mention that this city is over 8,000 feet up? Hence the altitude sickness I'm feeling. Not good. Tomas comes here a few times a week for an early breakfast, which I'm hoping will make me feel better. Paloquemao market has been running in one form or another since the 1940s.

(On camera): This place is huge.

RUEDA: You want some juice?

BOURDAIN: Yes. What do you have?

RUEDA: I love orange juice with carrots.

BOURDAIN: It's probably the healthiest thing I've had in a while.

RUEDA: Good for the high altitude.


RUEDA: This is better?

BOURDAIN: I'm feeling better every hour.


BOURDAIN: The first hour is killing me.

RUEDA: But you have a better face.

BOURDAIN: I didn't think I was going to make it out of the airport.


RUEDA: Most of the mornings, early in the mornings, 5:00 to 6:00 in the morning, I climb the mountain.


RUEDA: Fresh air.


RUEDA: You have to come with me.

BOURDAIN: Hell no. Ain't happening.

RUEDA: You want to taste some arepa? This arepa is made with corn. It's fantastic, I love it.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): Tucked away in the back corner of the fish market is a place that serves breakfast to the market's workers and shoppers. We're talking beef short ribs simmered in an oily broth with potatoes, salt and scallions. Tomas swears by this stuff, a traditional breakfast soup from the Andean region.

RUEDA: Good table.

BOURDAIN (on camera): OK. Gracias. RUEDA: Would you like chile?

BOURDAIN: I do. Yes. Now we're talking.

RUEDA: This is perfect. When you have a good party last night.

BOURDAIN: I was just going to say, this is hangover food.

RUEDA: Perfect.

BOURDAIN: I know hangover food well and this is good. There's good meat in there.


BOURDAIN: Good broth.


BOURDAIN: The stock is good. So what is this dish called?

RUEDA: Beef stock. Caldo de Costilla.

BOURDAIN: Broth -- rib broth.

RUEDA: Yes, it's rib.

BOURDAIN: Rib broth.

RUEDA: Yes. With potatoes, of course. Everything with potatoes.

BOURDAIN: Caldo de Costilla con tatos.

RUEDA: Costilla con tatos. Very good Spanish.

BOURDAIN: I don't speak Spanish. I speak a little Mexican.


BOURDAIN (voice-over): Bogota. Back in the '90s, a very dangerous and violent place to be. Today, not so much. Today in my repeated experiences here, kind of awesome. La Candelaria is the recently renovated old city where I meet up with Hector Abad. Distinguished author and one of the most important and supremely talented writers in Latin America.

Hector's recent work, a memoir called "Oblivion" is about his father who was killed for his outspoken attempts to change things for the better.

(On camera): So, first of all, where are we?

HECTOR ABAD, AUTHOR: Puerta Falsa. This is a place where many Bogotans come to eat something in the middle of the morning or in the middle of the afternoon. BOURDAIN (voice-over): The tamales here are made with chicken and pork belly combined with vegetables, rice and masa, wrapped in a banana leaf and slow cooked for hours. This place has been serving chocolate completo to the politicians of nearby Plaza Bolivar for a couple of hundred years.

ABAD: Here are the tamales.

BOURDAIN: It's beautiful. It is a thing of beauty, isn't it?

ABAD: Let's see if it tastes like my mother's.

BOURDAIN: That's a high standard.

ABAD: I suppose it is now.

BOURDAIN: I was just in Miraflores yesterday.

ABAD: Yes?

BOURDAIN: What economy there was was entirely drug-based economy. I mean, now that the drugs are gone, there is no economy. It's a ghost town. It's a military and people sitting there staring at the space waiting for the beer to arrive. Best I can understand.

Tell me something hopeful.

ABAD: I think we are becoming more and more conscious that this past decades of violence have been absolutely useless, and that we have to change many, many, many things . So -- I think -- it's not as good as my mother's. I'm sorry.


BOURDAIN: Well, it never is. If you removed cocaine from the equation, if you removed the drug trade as a financial engine, you would still have serious divisions over ideology here. Is that improving?

ABAD: Things are changing in a good direction, but very slowly, I think. You know, 10 years ago in Medellin they killed 7,500 people every year. And three years ago this number came to 700 people killed in Medellin in the year. So the situation has changed.


ABAD: I have only questions, I have no answers. I'm so sorry. If I were the president, I really I -- I don't know what --

BOURDAIN: You would know what to do?

ABAD: No, I wouldn't. I wouldn't.

BOURDAIN: To suggest that a nation should expand its social services, do its best to lift people out of poverty, to provide medical care for everyone, as you well know, that may be in the minds of many as the same as (INAUDIBLE). Are those as dangerous and potentially deadly ideas as they used to be?

ABAD: Well, 25 years ago my father was killed just because he was asking for these basic things like clean water, a glass of milk, and an arepa for every child. That was -- we still don't have that and we need that. Now we in Colombia, maybe we are trying. I think there are some people here even in the government who are working for that.


BOURDAIN (voice-over): Bogota is the largest city in Colombia and the economic heart of the country. About a fifth of the population lives here. Many of them very well, but some not so well.

It's a city with a marked north/south divide. Chef Tomas Rueda's Tabula and Donostia restaurants sit side by side in the Macarena neighborhood where the city center meets the north.

The lunch Tomas is serving us here at Tabula is defined more by high quality fundamentals, than by high concept theories. If there's a theme here, it's the ingredient this good, meticulously prepared, are the essence of great eating.

(On camera): It's a beautiful space. So how's the restaurant business in Bogota?

RUEDA: It's a very good business. A lot of people with money, they don't know how to cook.

BOURDAIN: Nobody cooks at home. Maybe their cook does. So they eat out a lot?

RUEDA: Yes. It's a new part of our culture. Everybody wants to go to restaurants.

BOURDAIN: So 10 years ago, 15 years ago, what? Traditional casual food?


BOURDAIN: A few fine dining, you know, white tablecloths, serve, what, French or continental or Italian? But this is new.

RUEDA: It's a new stuff, it's a new business, it's a new world. There's two great bodies from Colombia food, the mixture of the culture, yes?


RUEDA: Black people, Indian people, white people. That mixture is beautiful. And the other one is all of this region of the mountains, all the valleys, all the rivers, all the sea, we are like a big farm, a beautiful farm to send all these products to the world. I believe more in a beautiful carrot than a great recipe, yes?


RUEDA: This one is crop salad.


RUEDA: And this one is our homemade pasta.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): Thin sheets of handmade pasta are filled with Labneh cheese and finished with a chorizo sauce.

(Voice-over): So you used to be in a band? You used to be a musician?



RUEDA: I'm still.



BOURDAIN: So what happened? How did you go from music to restaurants?

RUEDA: Rock and roll don't give me money.


RUEDA: This is good. Yes. It's really good.

BOURDAIN: It's great that business is good because generally speaking, the only worse idea that I think I'll try to make a living making music is I think I'll make a living by opening a restaurant.

Let's see why that's so popular? Good stuff.

RUEDA: Thank you, Tony.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): Tomas' take on Osso Bucco uses beef shank instead of veal which is braised over cubed vegetables, wine and broth in a wood-fired oven.

(On camera): Whoa, it's -- it's huge. Yes. (INAUDIBLE). Yes.

RUEDA: You don't need a knife. Only with a spoon.

BOURDAIN: You're right.


RUEDA: Sorry.

BOURDAIN: Do you cure this first in salt or --


BOURDAIN: Dry it? Salt it?


BOURDAIN: Just fresh -- you know, the --


BOURDAIN: Delicious. So you'd never get this off your menu. You'll have to keep this on your menu forever, right?

RUEDA: Forever.

BOURDAIN: Yes. This is --

RUEDA: The best part.

BOURDAIN: Mama didn't raise no fool.

(Voice-over): Santiago De Cali or just Cali, as everybody calls it in these parts, is a city in the southwest of Colombia known for its proximity to the Pacific Coast and its semitropical temperatures, but I'm not really here for the climate. I'm here for tejo. It involves alcohol and explosives.

Colombian Mario Gallino, ex-pat, Will Holland, and their band mates are to be my guide to this ancient and traditional Colombian sport.

(On camera): How do you play this game? I guess that's how it's done. What do you call this object?


BOURDAIN: El tejo. Hence the name of the --


BOURDAIN: I should be good at this. I've been throwing pots into the dish sink from across the room for years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You win more points if you get in the middle without hitting anything.



BOURDAIN: But that doesn't sound like any fun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone has a different style, it seems. So you've got to do like one and then another, and swing.

BOURDAIN: I don't think that style is going to work for me.

(Voice-over): After some more or less success it turns out we all pretty much suck at this.

(On camera): Not enough beer. That's my problem.

(Voice-over): Time to bring in some outside muscle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to mix in now the experts.

BOURDAIN: Who am I with? I'm over here with these guys. Whoa.


Holy crap, two in a row? This is (INAUDIBLE). No, wait. One of those guys had to be on my team, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the guy in the white striped shirt. His name is El Pollo Viejo, which is --

BOURDAIN: The old chicken.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The old chicken.

BOURDAIN: I need a poultry name. He's calling himself the old chicken. I should be the enormous cock. The chicken dude is killing it. Yes, he's -- every time. That's what I'm talking about. But I wanted something to blow up.

(Voice-over): Tejo is hungry work. But the kitchen here is up to the challenge, making a Colombian picata. This is a huge selection of fried pork, pork rib, steak, casava, potatoes, and deep-fried plantain.

(On camera): I smelt food. Oh, thank you. Oh, that's good. A beer, explosives and food? Can't beat that. Yes. Yes.


BOURDAIN (voice-over): If Bogota is Colombia's financial heart, then Cali is its shaking hips. People here like their music. My tejo buddies Mario and Will are the founders of a collective called On the Tropica. Their idea was to reinterpret the tropical music heritage of Colombia. What often sounds like salsa in style is actually Cumbia. If there's one type of music that can be classified as distinctly Colombian, this is it.

Cumbia draws on the music of the African indigenous and European mix that makes up the country. So Will and Mario created something a long way from the pop music that's a staple here. They brought together musicians who had been famous on the Cumbia seen in the '50s and '60s, and matched them up with younger counterparts.

As if the impressive amount of fried meat we ate at the tejo courts wasn't enough, we go for dinner at one of the band's favorite spots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The recording that we made for three weeks in Medellin, had 42 musicians so it's a big sort of ensemble. And there were musicians from, what, I think the youngest was 25, maybe, and the oldest was maybe 82.

BOURDAIN (on camera): Old school and new school mix?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that was the idea so we can meet -- not only doing music, but like also exchanging lots of like information about how music was made, how music was recorded.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was the spirit of the music.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So that's the ideas, is to get back to the roots.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): First up, the Cali version of ceviche. Cooked shrimp lathered in mayonnaise, ketchup and Worstershire sauce. Essentially a '70s shrimp cocktail. Native to the mangroves in the Pacific Coast, the (INAUDIBLE) is a staple used in everything from tamales to stews.

(On camera): Cooked rice, and like Guancha, not a clam --



BOURDAIN: It's not a clam.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like a rock mollusk pretty much.

BOURDAIN: It's delicious. Wow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So this is like Palau, very Pacific, this is pago rojo, like red snapper. Steamed shrimp.

BOURDAIN: Very cool.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And some nice green tomatoes. They always find (INAUDIBLE) everywhere.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With all of this food you have to accompany with some beer.

BOURDAIN: Yes, I'm learning that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the best way to just handle this.

BOURDAIN: From cane sugar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, cane sugar like homemade --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I'm just going to take one.

BOURDAIN: So what are your favorite places in Colombia?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Colombia is like five countries in one. When you come to Colombia you definitely have to go some Pacifico experience, either with Cali or go straight for the coast. You have to have like an Atlantic or Caribbean experience. You definitely have to have like a mountain experience, like Medellin or Bogota. Another would be like just go to the Amazon, you know, like just go the jungle and --


BOURDAIN: I'm planning a vacation. Should I come to Colombia? Should I come to Cali?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most definitely, man. Like, you will find great music, great partying, great food, beautiful views, beautiful nature around.

BOURDAIN: Yes, yes, look, the country is beautiful, we know this. OK. But most Americans, they're afraid to come. Is Colombia any more dangerous for a tourist than Rio or Puerto Rico?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: South America (ph)?

BOURDAIN: I mean, my impression is no. You know, when you go to Rio, you don't wear a big watch, you don't wear an expensive suit, you don't -- you don't behave like an idiot, and life is going to be good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like maybe I've been lucky, but I've never been, you know, mugged or kidnapped or robbed. Most people will tell you that we had an amazing time. We heard some great music, we met some beautiful girls or guys. We drank some great drinks, and we just hung out, and we went to the beach, and we -- it was a great and we want to come back, you know?

BOURDAIN: I mean, there's a lot of hearty here. People feel very, very deeply.


BOURDAIN: About things. It is the most welcoming country in Latin America that I've been.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Salud, salud, salud.


BOURDAIN (voice-over): I leave the subtropics for more extreme climbs. Riohacha is a city 600 miles northeast of Cali on Colombia's Caribbean Sea. The Guajira is the most northern part of South America and borders Venezuela in the east.

It's home to the native semi Nomadic people of Colombia called the Wayuu. The Wayuus are a tough autonomous tribe who's never taken sides with either the government, the FARC or the paramilitaries. As a result, they remain independent politically and live pretty much by their own code.

I'm meeting Juan Pablo Majorca, a chef from Bogota who comes to this spot on a regular basis.

(On camera): This is not another country. This is Colombia. But it's a very different part of Colombia.

JUAN PABLO MAJORCA, CHEF: The Guajiras are very rugged terrain. There's desert. There's not that much water, so that's part of why the Spaniards, they weren't able to colonize it.

BOURDAIN: You've been coming more for some time.

MAJORCA: I became interested in Guajira because I began dealing with fresh fish and fresh lobster, fresh shrimp, and for goat meat to take back to Bogota.

BOURDAIN: Is it good?

MAJORCA: It's very good.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): Goats are important to the Wayuu, as they're used for food, for bartering, and even as dowry payments. Rancho owners come to the old market in Riohacha to sell, slaughter and cook goat in the mornings. Today we're having very frichi.

MAJORCA: This is a traditional fish from the Wayuu. It consists of the trifes, the heart, the intestines, and the offal.

BOURDAIN (on camera): Of the goat.

MAJORCA: So it's really fresh because they slaughter them back here and this is where the Wayuu women cook it so it's really fresh and traditional.

BOURDAIN: So this is breakfast.

MAJORCA: This is breakfast for them.

BOURDAIN: A little bit of everything in there?

MAJORCA: Yes. We have hearts. We have a little bit of meat, of ribs.


MAJORCA: And it's interesting because this one, it's for breakfast, and it's almost done with the slaughter. They have to eat this fresh.

BOURDAIN: Fresh this is delicious. Not fresh this would not be so good.

MAJORCA: No. BOURDAIN (voice-over): This is where I say something to take us seamlessly from a discussion about fresh meat to me hauling my aging carcass on an ATV sugar bear style. Tribal members of the Wayuu have dual citizenship and can cross the border into Venezuela to live or trade there whenever they need to.

Luckily for us it means that cheap gas is easy to come by in these parts. There are no stations as such. You just keep an eye out for the cans.

MAJORCA: Most of this gas is from Venezuela. It's extremely cheap. It's like 50 cents a gallon. The government subsidizes a lot of it. They are able to buy Venezuelan gasoline and sell legally Venezuelan gasoline in Colombia.

BOURDAIN: Having taken on as much gas as can be mouth siphoned in one sitting, we're off again. Let me set the scene. It's hot out here. Desert hot. And we plan to ride three hours along the coast to our lunch spot, and I ate salty goat innards for breakfast and I refuse to wear a helmet or sun block. We avoid wild donkeys and goats and get lost more than a few times. So a little heat stroke leads to a lot of horsing around, and we decide to open these puppies up.


BOURDAIN (voice-over): A momentary concussion is seldom a good thing. Waking up in Colombia on a beach almost always is. Having abandoned the epic ride, we're back where we started in (INAUDIBLE), in the Guajira at the Blue Sea Restaurant.

(On camera): How come you're all clean?

MAJORCA: I changed.

BOURDAIN: You brought a change of clothes?


BOURDAIN: I'm hurting now. I'm feeling every minute, every hour, every month and year of my age.

MAJORCA: So you're ready for some cazuela?

BOURDAIN: Yes. I trust it will make me feel all better.

MAJORCA: Much better. It's a good end to a --


BOURDAIN: Can't ask for better scenery. It's beautiful here.

MAJORCA: A beer.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): I need the anesthetic qualities of the local fire water.

(On camera): That's probably a really good idea.

MAJORCA: That's going to be a good start for tonight.

BOURDAIN: A good start. I'm done.

MAJORCA: Oh, man.

BOURDAIN: That dog has the right idea. See, I'd be very happy if that was me right now. Just like laying down in the sand with my chin out like that. Man, it's so beautiful here. Who comes here?

MAJORCA: Basically tourists from Colombia and a lot of backpackers that are making their way up to the north in Guajira.

BOURDAIN: Right. But I mean, we saw one tourist all day. Yes, it's nice, really it's completely off the grid.

MAJORCA: This used to be a fisherman village.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): There are definitely worst places to eat seafood than beachside in a fishing village and the strength of this stew, cazuela de mariscos, lies in the variety of fish available.

MAJORCA: Basically like a fish chowder.

BOURDAIN (on camera): Right.

MAJORCA: Made with shrimp, clams.


MAJORCA: (INAUDIBLE), which is a small kind of clam, a lobster, fish.


MAJORCA: And conch.

BOURDAIN: I need a bath. Very clear sky for the Caribbean. Oh, yes. Oh, man.

MAJORCA: Always accompanied by lemon and coconut rice and plantain, and some hot sauce in there.

BOURDAIN (voice-over): Some good food, a few shots of (INAUDIBLE), the sounds of waves in the background, a nice sunset. These are things in my experience that will set most things right.

(On camera): Thank you to Guajira.

MAJORCA: To Guajira.

BOURDAIN: And Colombia.

MAJORCA: To Guajira and Colombia. Salud. Cheers.

BOURDAIN: We had good fun. MAJORCA: We had good fun.


(Voice-over): I always find Colombia encouraging. They face problems more extreme and seemingly more intractable than many of us can imagine, and yet every time I come here it gets better.

Don't get me wrong. Problems, serious problems, remain, which is particularly heartbreaking in a country so beautiful, so generous, so proud, so eager to love and be loved back.

I come back to my own country from Colombia and I think if they can fix that, if they can make things better, then surely there's nothing we can't do.

For now, however, I'll settle for fixing my headache. That hurt.