Note #1:  This is more of a summary than my traditional journal style.  During our time in Colombia, we were very busy and I wasn’t able to write everyday.

Note #2: This journal was posted but not emailed.

October 8-14:  Zona Cafetera Summary

The overnight bus to Manizales was our second night trip that was not without incident.  Travelling by night through the mountains in Colombia can put you a little on edge...things are changing a lot, especially north of Bogota, but still there is the occasional bus that gets robbed at night.  This was a big problem in the north of Brazil as well.  Somewhere around 4:00 a.m. that morning our bus came to a stop...and then a minute later the engine cut off.  I immediately reacted, spreading my cash around and stuffing some valuables under my seat in a matter of moments.  What amazed me is that almost nobody else seemed to do anything but sit and wait to see what would happen.  Once I was comfortable with where I stashed everything...I even got out of my seat with my flashlight and looked into the "cockpit" of the bus (on the buses here, the driver is separated from the passengers by a door).  Nobody else did anything but look around and wonder what to do or what was happening.  Not that I was on some single handed vigilante mission to save the bus or anything...but the idea of sitting there and not know why we stopped wasn't good enough for me.  It drove me crazy that nobody seemed to be reacting except for me.  It turned out to be nothing...construction had blocked the road and it was closed until 4:30...but was a little tense for me for a few minutes.

Anyway, we arrived in Manizales safe and sound around 7:00 a.m.  We found Diego and Yvonne at the hostel which was cool...but they were leaving that morning.  We really wanted to organize a hike to Los Nevados, similar to what I had done in '05 but we found out that the hostel charged a whopping 95,000 pesos for the tour ($30 USD) and that you only get to hike for an hour now, from 4800 meters to 5000 meters.  We covered four times that distance back in ’05 and we hiked the whole day and I probably spent 20k total.  What’s worse is that we found out from Diego that they tried it the previous day and it was cloudy and they saw nothing at the top.  We immediately scraped our plan to do the hike...it was a nice day anyway, so we ended up just walking around the city.  We went to a neighborhood that overlooks the city...they had a lookout tower that had great views.

Manizalespana

There was also a cool bar inside the tower so we decided to have a drink there.

manibar

That night we went out with some people from the hostel for a few beers but nothing eventful happened except meeting this douche bag American guy from Michigan.  He was actually with a Korean girlfriend...they had been in Colombia for like 6 days and she already wanted to get away from him!

The next morning we decided to head to Salento.  It took a few hours and couple buses but it was worth the trip.  We arrived around 11 so we had the whole day to spend walking around.  It was a great little colonial town and it was exactly what we were looking for after spending so much time in cities the past week.  It had a similar vibe to Villa de Leyva...maybe the scenery was better but the town wasn’t quite as quaint.  Either way, it was another example of the beauty that Colombia has to offer.  We spent the day walking around the town...we hiked up to the top of an overlook once again...this time looking out on the small town of Salento.

Randomly, there was a swing set at the top of this hill so we got on to relive the glory days.

swinging

Drouyn did not represent Australia very well...the guy didn’t know how to swing!  We laughed our asses off teaching him though...it was a fun afternoon.  We had planned to go horseback riding but we were having so much fun we decided to just hang out around the town for a couple more hours.  We ended up having drinks at a cool cafe overlooking the countryside.

cafe

Back at the hostel that night we drank and played music...it was pretty chilly there so Drouyn built us a nice fire.  A couple more people had showed up by then so it was yet another night of random travel stories.  It was a great night to be honest...one of the ones that even though nothing happened, it was nice to be a traveler in a random town in Colombia.  I think Angelica enjoyed it as well, which made it even better for me.  It must be cool for her to travel in her country but doing it gringo style on buses and staying in hostels.

The next day we went to Valle de Cocora to do some horse back riding.  It was beautiful despite the rain we had to deal with for the first part of the ride.  We still got plenty of great pictures of the wax trees that grow to well over 100 feet high!

cocora

Back at the hostel we packed up and hit the road.  It was a little sad...Jodi had to head south towards Ecuador because her Mom was coming in just 10 days.  Drouyn and I went north to Medellin with Angelica.  I was sad to split up with Jodi but happy for her...I really think it will be nice for her to have a couple weeks on her own.  We are getting along great, don’t worry.  It will be a little different experience for her to be by herself but I bet she enjoys it.  Hopefully it will give her the chance to practice Spanish much more...and also just get to have a couple weeks of doing whatever she wants and not having to worry about me.

Drouyn, Angelica and I arrived in Medellin around 9:00 that night.  It was probably 10 by the time we got to the Black Sheep.  The place was exactly as I remembered it but I was surprised to find there wasn’t much of a party going on.  Apparently we had missed the big group of people who went out that night.  We ended up just going for a beer just the three of us.  We went to the Zona Rosa which had a plaza that was absolutely packed with people.  We sat outside for a drink and then hit a small rock bar.  By then, there had been a bit of a spark between Angelica and Drouyn.  For the rest of the time in Medellin, they were pretty inseparable.

We spent the next 4 days in Medellin not doing much...plenty of partying and having a great time in the hostel.  I did take this video tour of the place at one point.  You can see it’s the type of spot where you can just hang out the entire day.

One other story of note from our time in Medellin...Angelica has some family friends that live in a town just outside of the city.  We went out to visit them one day and they took us to this great place called Guatape...this giant rock that overlooks a beautiful lake district.  Here is a picture from the top.

lakes

It was a beautiful place to visit and the only downside was that it was cold and rainy most of the time we were there.  We had gone up about 1200 meters in altitude.  In the city, it was rather warm so we were not dressed for the occasion and both Drouyn and I were in shorts and flip flops.  Nevertheless we still climbed an access of 1000 stairs to the top of the rock.  Afterwards we were freezing so we stopped to get a hot chocolate.  Not much to do with the story, but when they gave me mine, my cup did not have a handle on it!  This has happened to me 3 or 4 times in Colombia.  Why would you serve somebody a boiling hot drink in a ceramic cup with no handle??  Isn’t that the whole reason the handle was invented?  Anyway, if that wasn’t strange enough...something they like to do in Colombia is serve cheese with their hot chocolate.  No, it’s not for eating separately...they put it IN their hot chocolate!!  Chunks of cheese.  Very strange...although it didn’t really taste that bad.

Anyway, on the drive back to their house, the car broke down!  Now we were really in for it as the rain had gone from a drizzle to an all out downpour.  We were able to get to a gas station to park.  Angelica, Drouyn and I had planned to head back to the city but it was a Sunday night and it wasn’t possible to get a bus in the middle of the road.  Even more, none of us wanted to deal with going 2 hours back to town in the freezing cold...so we ended up sleeping over at their friends house for the night (we took a cab back).  We had some sandwiches and chatted for a couple hours and we all appreciated their hospitality.  The bonus was the next day we got to ride back to the bus stop in their cool WWII style jeep!

Anyway, that was it for our time with Angelica and our adventures in the Zona Cafetera.  That Tuesday night, Angelica got a bus back to Bogota and Drouyn and I got an overnight bus to Cali.  Finally we were en route towards Ecuador...but first we had a few more stops to make.

AC

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