07 January 2012

Feliz Año Nuevo!

Quindío wax palms, Valle de Cocora
I spent the week around New Year's on a "finca" in Colombia's "Coffee Triangle" with friends from Spain & Colombia--talk about beautiful & relaxing! The finca was a large vacation house which the 9 of us easily fit in to;  we were so busy with the pool, jacuzzi, beach volleyball & enjoying the surrounding countryside that we never even got to use either of the two pool tables, the tree swing, or the soccer field which were also available. It was a working farm with cows--we had fresh milk, dogs, cats, rabbits, roosters (although we could have done without their early morning wake up calls) & even peacocks roaming the yard.

Great food & gorgeous views!
I was told that many of these vacation homes several years ago belonged to various drug lords who ruled the area. While in the past the average Colombian wouldn't have dreamed of vacationing in this area due to the drug lord and guerrilla activity, tourism is now booming. We visited the Cocora Valley, where 60 meter tall Quindío wax palms (Colombia's national tree) shoot above the cloud forest below--an amazing sight; floated in (& out of! :) a bamboo raft down a river; soaked in thermal hot springs; went under, through & behind water falls; strolled through Salento, a typical Antioquian town; toured a coffee plantation and tried our hands at picking coffee beans; and of course we ate very well!

Burning last year's woes...
For New Year's Eve itself, I was introduced to a few Colombian traditions. First we wrote down on pieces of paper things from the past year we wanted to leave behind; they were then all put in a pot in preparation for burning at midnight--get rid of all the bad from the 2011! Many people will make large dolls, dress them in clothing from all the family & stuff them with the "bad" from the past year to burn at midnight--our pot had a tiny doll representing this. In in our pockets we also had lentils to ensure a year of abundance and some kind of cash for financial security. At the stroke of midnight, we each ate 12 grapes, a tradition I'd been introduced to in Spain as well. I learned too late that I should have been wearing yellow underwear at midnight to bring wealth & prosperity in 2012!

Touring the coffee plantation.
After a week in the coffee zone, I returned to Bogota by car with my Spanish friends who are living in Bogota, an ~180 mile trip that took us a lightning fast 9 hours. As there is no train system in Colombia, all goods are transported by truck and passenger buses are also popular. Any goods arriving at Buenaventura, Colombia's Pacific port, arrive at the capital city by truck using the very route (ie, the only route) we were using to get to Bogota; buses between Bogota and the other main cities of Medellin and Cali use this road as well. The single lane highway climbs a mountain and is filled with hairpin turns; you can imagine how slowly these trucks laden with goods climb and how difficult it is to pass with all of the turns. So it's slow going....and an experience!! One of the pluses about this route, however, is the amazing scenery, although for our climb it was cloudy & rainy and we couldn't see much (this weather added to the excitement of the drive! :), but for the descent, the green countryside with its steep terrain was amazing.

A "fiambre" lunch wrapped in banana leaves during our bamboo raft trip
I'm in Bogota briefly before returning to Cartagena. The weather has been taunting me here with beautiful mornings & early afternoons--my friend's apartment has floor to ceiling windows with fabulous views of the mountains and is right near a great park, so at least for a couple of days I've been out "running" (& I use that term loosely). It's all making me wonder why I'm not living in Bogota....but once the rain starts in the afternoons & I hit traffic whenever we venture out, I remember why. Still, it's growing on me and I do have some great friends here, so I'll be back!

A few more photos of our week in the Coffee Triangle are here.

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