When I decided to go to Colombia, people asked me why. my barber said, “on purpose?”
This is my why.
Yesterday I traveled 2500 miles at speeds in excess of 580 mph. Hello to Colombia. Today I participated in a bike tour of Bogota. The bicycling was fun and daring. There are 1 million bicyclers out on the streets today and I am not used to navigating a bike well. It was scary but I did OK. I learned some facts about the city and country. Our tour guide, Daniel, was awesome. and Jose our overall tour guide was also very helpful. We sampled some coffee and it was phenomenal. We also sampled many different fruits that I have never tried before that are native to Columbia. Uchuva was my favorite, but there were many that make me want to move to Colombia just for the climate (always perfect here in Bogota) and the constantly available exotic fruits. I was given some Coca leaves to chew and leave in my lip, like tobacco (but nothing like tobacco). It’s the plant from which one can make cocaine, but cocaine requires extreme processing. The raw plant is said to be helpful with energy, altitude sickness, and digestion. I also went through a museum that is free on Sundays about artifacts and gold found in this country. Apparently there are a lot of archaeology digs here with a lot of rich finds. Sundays are the day to tour Bogotá if you want a lot of action. Street vendors lineup for miles. They shut down several streets on Sundays so that bikes and joggers etc. can utilize the main streets. Tonight all the restaurants were closed so I got a hamburger from the street vendor, and it was pretty good especially considering it cost me 1 dollar. I ate it back at my motel because I needed to get off the streets. I braved the streets after dark by myself. It was much like street witnessing in San Jose Costa Rica. The homeless and drug addicts come out after dark. You have to watch where you step for caca and piss puddles. I saw two different homeless men peeing in the wide-open. And I was only out there for about 45 minutes.
One cool thing I noticed is that people in Bogotá are not on their cell phones. They are living their lives without staring at a screen. Even the teenagers who are out and about are actually having fun and paying attention to the world around them. There are a lot of openly gay couples here. There is a lot of police presence in the nicer parts of Bogota, and the police are sometimes decked out in full riot gear even though nothing is going on. Overall, Bogota is a great city with a lot of culture, history, and problems like any city. I’m sore from the biking. Going to bed early today. We have an early local flight to the coffee triangle. Goodbye, Bogota. Thank you, comfortable Hotel Taquendama. “Jesus, bring salvation to Bogota.”
Today started early so we could catch a local flight from Bogota to the countryside starting in Armenia, Colombia. We are in the coffee triangle, which is like 3 states in one area that are big coffee producers. The flight was gorgeous. Colombia has beautiful land features. From there we got in a nice transport van and drove for a while through the jungle and mountains to a little town that time forgot – Pijao. It’s pretty, efficient, simple, comfortable, full of perros, and mostly old people staring at you as you walk through because time stands still in Pijao. It’s not all old people because school got out while we sat near the town square and about 50 ninos filled the square in their uniforms before they started walking the distance to their various homes. Apparently those hills are filled with homes and families even though they look so untouched. In Pijao I tried a local drink made with corn and sweetened milk – Masamorra. I also tried pork belly called Chicharron – Not my fave but I’m glad I tried a couple local favorites. After lunch we visited a plant nursery. The elderly lady there gave us a private lesson in medicinal plants. It was interesting! She has a wonderful collection in her little nursery. Most of the plants she talked about we would consider herbs for cooking, but she sees them as medicine. She included Coca and Marijuana, but not for the recreational effects. She has basically a “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” mentality about it. Yes, they can be used wrongly, but there are so many right ways to use them. She gave us herbal drinks that were amazing! She takes a lot of the medicinal herbal plants, crushes them up in a pestal, pours boiling water over them, then mixes that tea with a sweetened fruit mix. Mine had papaya in it. I want to start growing enough herbs in my gardens that I can pick freely to make these healthy teas. I bought some tea from her that is supposed to help memory.
After leaving Pijao, we traveled again through the windy mountain roads and came to Buenavista, a town built on a sort of mountaintop peninsula. The narrow strip of mountain top is surrounded on 3 sides by a beautiful vista of valleys and mountains in the distance. We stopped and had a nice “coffee honey” tonic while admiring the view for a couple hours.
After Buenavista, we drove for some time into the jungle on a very bumpy road to finally arrive at Finca San Diego. A finca is a sort of small plantation or country estate. The spry, 78 year old running this place is precious and greets everyone with a hug right as you get out of the transport van. The place is nice, homey, and the food is to die for! She likes to say she cooks from the heart, and she is full of chatter about all sorts of things and gives good wisdom to us. She tells us it’s important to remember the good things that happened in life and hang on to those and the people that shared those good times with us. I suppose that may be the difference between old people with a gleam in their eye verses old people whose eyes seem glazed over – which parts of their life they hang onto.
Today we slept in before having a beautiful breakfast with la Señora Yolanda. I slept extra good and the whole world seems so right and peaceful. After breakfast we traveled to a horse ranch where we road horses in the most beautiful landscape I could imagine riding horses in. My horse, Pabarron, was very nice and easy going and we bonded well. We stopped for lunch in town, but I was still full from the huge breakfast spread, so I just had a carrot cake. We made it back to the finca around mid afternoon and had the rest of the day to lounge around the estate. I took a nice nap in the hammock and did some bird watching.
This morning we had one last beautiful breakfast with la Señora Yolanda before we drove out to a town called Salento. From there we took jeeps out to a coffee farm. I rode on the back of the jeep standing up and hanging on. It was beautiful. We toured the coffee plantation of Ocaso and learned a lot. I made several notes about what to do differently with various methods of coffee preparation, and of course the coffee was delicious.
After returning in the jeep to Salento, we played a Colombian game called Tejo. Something like horseshoes only you’re trying to hit a metal ring that has packets of gunpowder sitting on it. When you make a good throw, the gunpowder explodes and you get 3 points. I actually won the game against the whole group because of one really lucky throw where I got an explosion plus my metal rock landed in the middle of the ring, so I got 13 points from that one throw.
The finca tonight is comfortable. I’m thankful for having a single room. I was thinking I’d share a room to save money, but since there are no other guys on this trip, they let me have a single room for only $100 more. Now I realized I’m very fortunate to have it because you spend all day with the group so when you get a chance for some alone time, you really appreciate it.