Quilts and Other Stuff from Frances

Windy, cold, wet, wild & fantastic!!!

On Saturday there was a trip planned to a local Paramo which is a high treeless plateau found in South America.   I was expecting something akin to the Mesas in New Mexico….I was WRONG!!!

We had to be at the University at 5:50AM so wouldn’t have time for breakfast in the hotel. Instead, I purchased a “Bimbo” cake from the grocery store and we each had a slice and a sip of Diet Coke (for caffeine).  YUM!!!!


We boarded the buses at 6:20 and headed out into the countryside.  There were two buses, each containing about 30 people.

As we passed thru the city it was interesting to see people sitting outside, eating Arepas and drinking coffee.  It looked like a pleasant way to start a Saturday!!

We had one stop to pick up a photographer who was joining us and ended up outside of a little store.  We kept hearing loud noises and realized that there was a man outside the shop,  screaming at another man at the top of his lungs.  Cesar (one of the students) said that the bus had been stopped so that we could hear random Colombians scream at each other.

We started winding our way up the mountains, accompanied by lots of other cars, buses, trucks and motorcycles, and, much to our consternation, there was a lot of passing on blind curves.  Several of the particularly tight switchback curves had someone directing traffic….normally for a donation.   They would signal for one lane to stop while the big trucks made the turn,  taking up ALL of the lanes.  

We saw several accidents on our 1 hour trip.  One was a crash with 2 cars.   It looked like they may have been head on with the saving grace being that all traffic was moving very slowly.   One of the cars had the airbag deployed and the horn blowing.  There was also one 18 wheeler that had gone off of the slope and wedged against a tree.DSC_5482

But the kicker to the trip was a young man on a bicycle, holding onto the back of a big rig as it pulled him up the winding mountain passes.   I took this blurry photo as we passed him…..IMG_1527

Once we had finally relaxed with the traffic, we were able to enjoy the growing mountains around us……IMG_1534

After about an hour, the bus stopped on the road, made a three point turn in the middle of the highway and turned sharply onto a rock and dirt road heading up the hill.  We figured that the buses would stop here and we would start walking but that was not the case.

We were amazed that the buses were able to navigate the narrow and rocky track.  There were a few explicatives and groans as we sidled within a foot of the drop off down the mountain.  One time the bus in front of us stopped and backed up.  We sat there for a while as apparently something was moved out of the road so that we could continue.

My only thought in all of this is that there is NO way an American tourist bus would have been willing to do this!!!!

The buses finally stopped and we climbed out into a new world of harsh blowing wind (howling like something out of an old Western), COLD temperatures and massive fog.

We struck out down the trail…..

IMG_1542….and found one of the reasons for the trip.  The flora was gorgeous….


There were resplendent Lichens…..IMG_1547IMG_1549

….and a VERY muddy trail.   In this photo, I am getting ready to take the plunge!!!


I particularly loved this photo because of the delicateness of the blooms…..


We now gathered at a clearing to get final instructions and break into groups as we made our climb up the hill….


Check out this video  to give you an idea of the conditions…..

It’s Windy at the Top Video!!


It was amazing to realize that a delicate fern could live in these conditions…IMG_1568


The trail was very muddy and I was most thankful for having my hiking boots.  In places the trail was just barely big enough for you to stand with your feet side by side….DSC05183

There were some very steep, VERY muddy areas where you had to step/slide down about 2 feet.  Michael and I had gotten separated and a sweet young man (Diego) was helping me down the slopes.   At last he asked if I spoke Spanish and I answered “No, but I can say AI-YI-YI!!”

We finally reached the highest point that we were going to climb and immediately started taking photos.  Unfortunately you can’t see the background scenery…IMG_1589One of the reasons for this particular Paramo climb was the existence of this plant which I believe is called an Espeletia grandiflora…..IMG_1594

These are young plants but the older ones grow very tall with the stem forming a column and the leaves and flowers just being at the top.  Being a huge Sunflower fan, I was pleased to see that these looked much like them….IMG_1597

Now that we had seen the favored flower, the next most important thing was getting WARM.   Small, hugging groups formed everywhere…..IMG_1600

Even in the cold, Camilo and Mariana couldn’t suppress a smile….IMG_1602

….and of course, there had to be a group photo…..

DSC_5566As we finished the photography session, we were joined by 7 soldiers who were in the park on maneuvers.  They looked VERY cold and I am sure that were wondering about our sanity!!!IMG_1607

We began our walk back to the bus, but one last luxuriant flower needed to be photographed… IMG_1624

We thankfully found the buses again and Michael had to show his gratitude…IMG_1628I looked at my jeans and shoes and realized JUST how much fun I’d had…..IMG_1629

Now you might have thought that we would have trampled each other to get onto the bus but instead everyone pulled out the food that they had brought and started eating lunch!!

And of course there were more photos to be taken, this time with Victor Hugo who is Michael’s sponsor here in Quindio and the organizer of the meetings….


The clouds briefly cleared and we ran to get one more photo over the edge….IMG_1636

I mentioned earlier that there was a photographer with us and there was also a gentleman doing interviews with the symposium speakers.  He wanted to interview Michael, with Henry interpreting and then he said that I was going to be included too!!!   YIKES….I am not a scientist….what will I say!!!


But I shouldn’t have worried as he did a wonderful job of asking Michael questions about science in both English and Spanish and then switching easily to English as he asked me questions about my thoughts about my time in Colombia……


Martha (pronounced Marta) lugged a bottle of wine up with her and we shared in a toast to the Paramo……


Eventually, we climbed back on the bus and started the bumpy trip DOWN the mountain.  We decided that we were on the rowdy bus as the students wanted the music louder.   This video gives you some idea of the trip…..   


We were on the rowdy bus!!!!


Michael’s comment was that this bus had been where no bus had ever been before!!!

It was fun to see the scenery unfold…..IMG_1668IMG_1676IMG_1696

We made one last Bathroom stop…..


…..and then arrived happily back at the University.  Michael and I headed back to the hotel for WARM showers, a good meal and a 2 hour nap!!!

BUT, the day wasn’t over yet!!   The students had invited us to a Mojito and Salsa (the dance, not the condiment) party at the Hostel where they were staying.

Juliana was the master of the Mojitos….DSC05194

Everyone had a good time enjoying them…..DSC05198

….and then the table and chairs were moved out to leave room for some dancing.  Michael and I attempted one Salsa, with Diego yelling “Mike, Mike, Mike…do it like this” and Michael responding “I don’t think my body moves that way”!!!

We quickly reverted to the Texas Two Step!!!

It was a wild and crazy day, but one that I will remember always.

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