My travels to Eje Cafetero, Colombia's coffee-growing region.
It's not every weekend that you swim in hot springs, sleep in a 5-bed attic hotel room, see a parade with cross-dressers, chickens, and jeeps, and dance three nights in a row. Ok well, maybe that last part Colombians actually do every weekend. However, I was fortunate to experience all of this in a short period of 4 days.
I met my traveling companions the night before we left. My friend Jime from Loras put me in contact with another extranjera from the States (Minnesota), and while we've tried to get together before, it has never worked out. So finally we had the same week off and decided to travel to the coffee region of Colombia with three of her other friends (two Colombian guys, and one other gringa also from MN).
I had the impression that we were leaving Thursday night, but we decided to go party that night instead. It was my first time dancing in awhile, but I had fun. They dance so well here, and I think I'm getting better. (On a side note, I'm taking a rumba class after school on Wednesdays with some of the other teachers, and my dance teacher told me I actually have very good rhythm! He said I should continue to practice and in no time I'll have dancing "instincts" close to Colombians'. Haha we will see about that. I will keep dancing though; it's one of my favorite things to do here).
So anyways after partying Thursday night, Katie, me, and Juan Manuel left at 10am on Friday morning for Pereira. Cally and Jorge had to work and take classes, so they met us in Pereira later. The bus ride was...interesting. I would never take my dad or my sister on a long bus trip here. Driving through the mountains plus 8 hours equals lots of nausea. I did make it without throwing up, although the little boy behind me didn't...gross.
The first thing we did when we got to Pereira was see our lodgings. We stayed on a farm for the first two nights of our trip. It was really nice, but we only had two beds for five people...we made do. Then we decided to head over to the Fonseca concert (a famous Colombian singer) in the city. We got there late, bought some scalped tickets (which we later realized we didn't even have to buy...the concert was free...oops), and watched an awesome concert. I'm going to have to download some Fonseca songs. The pic below is from the internet because we forgot to bring our cameras to the concert (and the other pics on here are from Katie's camera because mine decided not to work...I'm buying a new one for my birthday).
After the concert, we saw some of the city's bars and met Cally and Jorge at the bus terminal.
Los Termales de Santa Rosa
The next day we woke up late, and took a taxi into Pereira. We then ate lunch and took a bus to Manizales. We then found a off-road jeep "taxi" and road up the gravel mountain road to Los Termales de Santa Rosa (hot springs). Yes, I think half the trip was spent on traveling! I didn't really know what to expect at the hot springs, but I was very pleasantly surprised. There was a huge waterfall way up in the mountains, that led to two smaller waterfalls which flowed into the hot springs pool. We swam and relaxed all day in the hot springs...it was gorgeous.
On the way home, Katie wasn't feeling so well, so she and Jorge went to the farm while the rest of us went out dancing. It was pretty fun, although Juan Manuel tended to leave us to pick up other girls : ) Cally and I probably looked super funny dancing together considering she is about a foot and a half taller than me. Anyways, in the second club, Cally and I left at 12, while Juan Manuel said, "I'll probably stay three hours more." So we said, "Whatever floats your boat," and left lol.
On Sunday we woke up somewhat earlier since we had to find a bus to Armenia, which was about a 2 hour drive. Armenia was a really cool city; it was so much calmer than Bogota. We stayed in a hotel in Armenia, and I have to tell you about our room. We decided to take the five bed room, even though we could have taken one room with three beds, and one with two. Little did we know how funny the five bed room would be. We walked up to the third floor, and started to walk down the hall to the rooms (at this point we are outside on the roof), but the hotel employee said, "No, it's up there." So we all looked up some rickety stairs to an attic bedroom. So we laughed and walked up the stairs to the landing, then crossed a rickety metal bridge to our door. The room was nice looking, the beds were soft, the wallpaper was peeling, and the bathroom doors were frosted, but see-through. Oh well, I paid about 25,000 pesos, which equals about $12, so I'm not complaining. After setting our stuff in the room, we went to lunch and took a taxi to the city. We found out that there was a parade going on in the city, so we booked it over to the street it was on.
Here are the differences we noticed between parades in the US and parades in Colombia (possibly Latin America in general):
1. No one in Colombia sits nicely on the curbs waiting for the parade to go by. Most of the time when a truck, jeep, or "float" went by, people's toes were dangerously close to being run over. And in the US it is now considered dangerous to throw candy...psshh
2. Colombian parades are super random. Firetrucks and marching bands are pretty much non-existent. Instead I saw, in order, a truck full of chickens, a truck full of drag queens, and three or four jeeps spinning only on their back tires (as the entire crowd stampedes back so as not to get hit).
3. One similarity...people drink. One guy had aguardiente in his back pocket (a liquor made with anise...not my favorite) and was sharing it with all his friends. Yay!
After the parade, we headed back to the hotel, napped, had dinner, and went dancing! We found a cool stretch of clubs. We entered the area where they all were, and the employees of each club basically drag you into their bar. They pester you so much, so we just found one that had some good music and parked ourselves there. We drank a lot of rum and coke, danced with some Colombians (I tried to communicate), and laughed at some guy that did not stop staring at Cally the whole night. He never asked Cally to dance, but when I danced with him, he asked me her name...go figure...
Ibague and Bogota
Ibague was not on our list of traveling spots, but we got stuck taking a bus there since there were no buses going to Bogota from Armenia. So anyways, another 8 hour bus ride later and I was home, exhausted, and happy. Yay traveling!