In love with Colombia

Trip Start Jan 12, 2011
1
8
Trip End Jun 21, 2011


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Flag of Colombia  , Quindío,
Saturday, April 16, 2011

Woke up at quarter to seven and went for a run on a country road out around the farm-hostel I´m staying at in Salento, a region of Colombia called ¨La Zona Cafetera¨ because it is a prime coffee-growing region. It rains most of the time and is damp all of the time, but I caught a great morning for a run, and the flowers and the earth smelled so rich and so fragrant... I had one of the moments where I remembered to be incredibly thankful that I am here, and that this isn´t normal life. It was a beautiful wake-up call in all the ways that that phrase can mean.

I´ve covered a lot of ground in Colombia since the last time I posted, and I´ve fallen so much in love with the land here, the people, the food... In fact, I feel so wonderful here (big news coming) that I´ve decided to stay a year or so and teach English in Bogotá! I´m heading to the city in about a week to find an apartment and I´ve been accepted into a course to learn to teach English, which begins on May 2nd. I can´t lie, the thought of being able to eat mango and pineapple for breakfast every morning was a large deciding factor in my decision to stay here...

Alright, now that the big news is out of the way, I´ll give some highlights of my last three weeks in Colombia. I ended up crossing the border on my birthday (literally, I got my exit stamp in Ecuador, walked across a short bridge into Colombia, and got into a taxi for the nearest town. It wasn´t until I arrived that I realized I needed to have gotten my passport entry stamp AT THE BORDER. Duh.) After my somewhat anti-climactic entry (no luggage search, no questions, nada - it´s harder to get into Canada) I met an Irish couple, Michelle and Ruaidhri, and we traveled to Pasto together, and after a night in that busy, blue-collar town, we headed for the university town of Popayan.

As soon as we arrived in Popayan, I knew I would want to stay awhile. The city was radiating with great vibes and is oh-so-lovely, with a colonial center of white buildings, a quiet plaza dotted with huge, old trees, and a tranquil green space to read in, overlooking an old stone bridge. It was peaceful and I felt very content.

I spent a week in Popayan, enjoying the city and meeting lots of great people. I headed out for Tierradentro with Karinna, a Chilean friend I met at the hostel, and we found Jordan, also from the hostel, on the four hour bus ride there. Tierradentro is an area mostly known for the indigenous archaeological ruins found underground in the mountains surrounding the tiny town, but it also apparently was a FARC stronghold back in the day (completely safe now). We did a beautiful day-long hike to see all the painted caves, once tombs or small houses, and when we got to the last site, the sun was warning us it was nearing dusk, and the honey-light colored the hills and filled us with an almost spiritual feeling as we dipped into the last three cages of the day. Near the sight, we had asked a farmer for some directions, and he graciously explained to us which caves were the best, helped us find our way, and stayed with us while we explored the tombs. I shouldn´t be surprised anymore by this lovely Colombian geniality and hospitality, because I´ve found wonderful people like this everywhere I´ve been so far, but it is still so refreshing and sweet that I continue to be taken aback. Their reputation as such is well known amongst other travelers, but I think the rest of the world needs to know how beautiful these people are. Truly genuine.

After Tierradentro, Karinna, Jordan and I made our way to Cali, one of the three largest cities in Colombia. It is the self-appointed capital of salsa and beautiful (plastic) women. The hostel we stayed at offered free salsa lessons on weekends, and we arrived just in time to ¨learn the basic steps¨ (a phrase that has stuck in my head ever since Linda, a Dutch friend, got caught in some salsa music at a bar in Quito and could be heard shouting ¨But what are the basic steps!¨). I got addicted, as many do, and took a few more one-on-one lessons to perfect the basics. After an hour straight of practicing turns with David, an Aussie friend who is also addicted, I very nearly can do one without losing my balance... Glory!

I left Cali for Buga on Monday, a large town that Jordan told me about, and which my sole reason for wanting to visit was due to the fact that the owners of the hostel brew their own beer and make their own pizza. WHAT! A microbrew! This palate has nearly gone dry in the past three months for want of a delicious craft beer. I rolled in around six and immediately tried the mango beer, with a hint of coriander, and followed it up with a pretty delicious red. I stayed until Wednesday, when Jordan arrived and when the hostel´s cafe-bar had its grand opening, and then on Thursday Ingrid, another Aussie friend, and I headed for Salento.

Salento is a really chill little town in, as I said, the coffee region of Colombia. Ingrid, two other Aussies, Emily and Becca, and a Texan also named Lauren and I did a trek through the Cocora Valley yesterday, which I think is the only place in the world that grows Wax Palm Trees, huge tall palms that grow solitary in the valley. What I had anticipated would be a four hour hike turned into six, as we battled the rain for the last two hours of it. The sight of the palm trees was still beautiful, and the trek was worth it even if I did dump out about a gallon of rainwater from my rubber boots when we finished.

Heading for Santa Fe de Antioquia tomorrow with Emily and Becca. Thinking of you all and wishing you the best!
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Comments

myrna on

this sounds so amazing!! awesome, awesome pics too. so ayumped you}re staying... may jhust have to visit you somehow! love you booty!!

Lynne Frye on

Lauren Feliz Cumplianos! No puedo creer que esta viviando en Bogata para un ano!! Buena suerte! Te cuidado. Have fun!

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