Playing in the white stuff...

Trip Start Sep 15, 2008
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Trip End Jan 01, 2009


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Flag of Colombia  ,
Sunday, September 28, 2008

After a bitter sweet farewell to Medellin (it was a really nice place) we headed south to the Zona Cafeteria, the heart of the Colombian coffee industry.  We took a minivan shuttle to a town called Manizales.  We arrived into town around 8pm and were picked up by a taxi driver who clearly had no idea where we were going.  After asking 30 different people on the street where to go we finally figured out the address in Lonely Planet was wrong - this wasn´t the first time the backpacker bible lied, and probably won´t be the last.  After confirming the new address it took our taxi driver another hour to find the correct place, again by asking about 30 people on the street. 

We checked into the hostel, signed up for a trip to the Volcano at over 15,000ft., and headed out for some dinner.  Manizales is a nice city with a big student population, being Friday night it was busy.  We squeezed into a small pizza place, met a nice local who basically offered to take us out, take us horseback riding, and gave us his number for anything else we might need help with anytime in town.  Nice people in Colombia!  On our walk back to the hostel we found out the new address of the hostel was less than 50m from the old address...good thing the taxi fares are by km not time because it took our driver 1 hour to make it half a block.

Our jeep to the Volcano left at 7am.  The street stands here have changed from sunglasses to toques and gloves.  Even though we are at the Equator the temperature is cool and the Volcano is always covered in snow.  As we climbed up the Volcano the landscape changed from tropical hills, to cloud forrest, desert, lunar landscape, and finally snow.  Here we have just recovered from our sunburns in Paradise (aka Tayrona Park) and now we are about to freeze our cans off.

We stopped a few times up the volcano to acclimatize, first for breakfast and hot chocolate, then for a few cups of Coca tea, then for an intro to the area at the ranger station.  At the top of the hike we will be at almost 16,000 ft.  After starting the hike below the snow line the lack of oxygen was pretty intense.  The walk up took 2 hours, the top was cold and Arik taught the Colombians how to roll a serious Canadian snowball.  The trip down included sliding on the snow a bit and then walking and took only 15 minutes.

On the trip down we stopped for lunch and a dip in a hotsprings glued to the side of the mountain.  Everyone was feeling pretty out of it due to altitude sickness.  The water was a ridiculous 60 degrees celcius.  Back at the hostel we took in a power nap to try and get rid of the altitude sickness and then joined some Colombias we met on the Volcano trip for some Salsa.

We had heard Colombians love to dance and they definitely do.  The entire place was rockin out to Salsa, Reggaton, and other latin beats.  The only western song we heard was Robbie Williams.

Unfortunately we slept in a bit late and after calling our friend from the pizza place he was already out on his horses...instead we checked out the towns Church, which dominates the skyline.  It is the 2nd tallest in the Americas and the 5th tallest in the world.  The view from the top was spectacular.  There is a big theatre festival in town aswell so we checked some of that out, accidentally walked into the ghetto, and hoped on a bus south to a sleepy town called Salento. 
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