Adios Colombia!!

 

On Saturday morning, we were picked up by Victor and Katherine and taken to the airport to make our flight back to Bogota.  

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We left with heavy hearts, but with remembrances of so many good friends.  AND, we now have invitations to come back to almost EVERY city in Colombia!!!!  So many people told us “ Mi casa is su casa” (my house is your house).

We checked into our Bogota hotel and went out in search of a few more souvenirs to bring home.   I had found a store called Artesanias de Colombia which carried authentic artwork from all over the country.   We were astounded with the selection of goods that they carried.  After about an hour in the store, we left with two BIG bags of stuff to use to decorate our home.

We walked around in the neighborhood and were impressed with the quality of stores in the area.  We picked out a restaurant and each ordered a roasted chicken dinner (1/2 size).  Little did we know that the 1/2 referred to half of a CHICKEN and not just a smaller serving size!!!  

It was served with a crisp salad with oil and vinegar dressing and well cooked miniature potatoes.

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For dessert, I had a Chocolate Ice Cream bar which was rich and heavenly…..

 

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We caught a taxi back to the hotel (can you say “Bat out of hell”) and spent the rest of the day crashed in our room.

As we were checking out of our hotel on Sunday morning, I looked at our stash of suitcases and carry-on bags and realized that we had turned into one of THOSE people…..

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….you know, the ones who carry large BAGS of stuff onto the plane!!!

———————

As I write this, we are about 3 hours out of Atlanta and are looking forward to getting home and resuming normal life for a few weeks before we head to India!!!

Michael and I have talked a lot about our thoughts on Colombia.  Before leaving the U.S., we were asked repeatedly why we wanted to go to Colombia….wasn’t it dangerous!!!

Instead of danger, we found gracious people who loved their country very much and were extremely happy to show it off.

As Michael wrote in a Facebook post….. “What we most want to say is that Colombia and its people have provided us with some of the sweetest experiences of our lives. It has been safe, comfortable and a magnificent adventure. If you don’t come for a visit, you are missing a really wonderful people and place. Oh, and the food is to die for!”

 

Thanks for traveling with us!!!

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Oops…we did it again!!!

On Friday we had planned to visit a local Coffee plantation, but when it came down to it, we were simply too pooped to go!! 

So instead we started our packing and it was a good thing we did because once again we had bought too much stuff…….

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….and had to go buy a new suitcase…..

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Part of the problem was a largish wooden “Praying Mantis” that we had purchased and it needed special packing!!!   I had measured it earlier in the week and had bought a plastic box that it would fit in, but then I had to pad it out with lots of dirty clothes….

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After we finally got everything packed, we headed for a light lunch at our favorite restaurant (Versus).  The waiter knows us well and immediately brings us two Club Colombia beers!!!

As we were walking back to the hotel, we passed two police officers on the corner across from our hotel.  They appeared to be stopping traffic from traveling on one side of the road in front of the hotel. 

As we looked around, we realized that people were gathering along the street and being good “Sticky Beaks” (Australian for nosy), we sat down on a step and decided to watch and see what was happening.IMG_1813

Michael finally asked one of the security guards who was standing outside and he told us that it was a Bicycle race coming thru.   We checked it out after the fact and found out that it was a race that went thru all of the Departments (States) of Colombia.

As the time grew closer, cars stopped in the middle of the street and cabbies parked their cabs and stepped out to watch as well….IMG_1814

And here they come…..

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It was fun to be part of the festivities and we cheered with the rest of them when the riders came thru……

Colombia Bike Race thru Armenia Video

After that excitement, we spent some time sitting on the roof of the hotel and enjoying the sunshine, except for this rain shower that flew thru…..

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In the evening we met up with Victor and Katherine for dinner at La Fogata (reportedly the best restaurant in Armenia).  I ordered the appetizers and selected sautéed mushrooms and Chunchullo with Guacamole.  Chunchullo is fried pig intestine….I know it sounds gross, but  it  was fried crisply, salted and was wonderful!!!

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I forgot to take photos of our main courses and  desserts, but suffice it to say that the food was delightful and the company was entertaining!!!

 

And in a final note, Nicky Jam and his entourage were staying in our hotel before and after their concert on Thursday.  Although they looked rough, they all seemed to be quite nice……photo 1

Many goodbyes…..

 

As Michael headed out for his last day of working in Colombia, I had one thing in mind……to find out how to make our Cellphones usable in foreign countries.  We had been told that they were “unlocked” so that we could use a different countries SIM card, but they hadn’t worked when we first arrived.  SO, I spent about 2 hours following posts on the internet and finally discovered how to make mine work!!!!

I picked up Michael’s phone at his lunch break and we were both fully connected by 2:00pm!!!   Hallelujah!!!

Over the last two weeks, I had seen an older man standing outside of the University gates, doing a brisk trade selling lollipops, gum, cigarettes (one at a time) and renting cell phones.  I had smiled at him and then spoken to him over the last few days.  Today, he came up and gave me a  packet of Chiclets as a gift.   It was so sweet!!!   I had planned to take a selfie of him and myself when I returned that evening, but he was gone and I haven’t seen him since.  It is interactions like this that make my trips so very special and memorable!!

A group photo was taken after the last talk and I just happened to be in the audience so ended up right in the middle towards the front…..the only accountant at the ColEvol meetings!!!!

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To end off the Symposium there was a special presentation by a dance troupe from the area.   Our friend, Katherine was one of the dancers and I especially wanted to see her talents!!

We were not disappointed!!! 

This is beautiful Katherine….

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The first series of dances were telling the story of the coffee producing process, from preparing the ground, planting, picking and roasting. 

I was impressed that they did it all barefooted!!!IMG_1749

 

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Here is a video of the “Coffee” dance…..

Coffee Dance Video

They then did a series of performances that reflected traditional Colombian dances.  The costumes were gorgeous!!!

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This next dance featured the man who did a flamenco type of tap dance….IMG_1786

Here is a video showing his fancy footwork…..

More Colombian dance video

This woman’s costume was covered with three dimensional flowers….IMG_1789

And the finale was Katherine in a magnificent, colorful dress!!!!IMG_1791

Check here for the video of her dance…..

Katherine’s Gorgeous Dance Video

 

And then it was time to say goodbye to all of our new Colombian friends…

…..Olga….

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…..Fabian….

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…..Henry

IMG_1801…. Camilo….IMG_1803

…..and many others.  Little did we know that we would be seeing most of them one more time as everyone was going to a local bar for a proper celebration!!

The night ended with many hugs and promises to come back to Colombia!!!

School is out…..

When I meet Michael each day at the University, I normally have to wait for a few minutes and  have enjoyed watching the goings on around the campus.  There is a “crosswalk” just in front of the entrance and there are cars, motorcycles, scooters, taxis and bicycles going every which direction.  I put crosswalk in quotes because cars do not stop for you to cross.   You just find a gap and step into it!!

I have seen motorcycle restaurant deliveries from a pizza place, a fried chicken joint, a Chinese restaurant and a Japanese restaurant. 

The most amazing thing are the variety of people riding motorcycles or scooters.  There were Mom’s dropping off their daughters, boyfriends picking up their girlfriends and one vendor who was carrying mops, brooms and other cleaning supplies on his.

The first order of business for this morning was to say goodbye to Juliana.  She was having surgery to remove pins from her wrist on Wednesday morning so was having to leave the school early…..DSC05240

The special course at Universidad de Quindio was winding down today and they were busy getting ready for the Symposium that starts on Wednesday.  The course had about 50 students with  6 or 7 different teachers, each leading 3  sessions…..DSC08237

Michael said that the students were all bright and that it was a pleasure to get to know them and work with them.

He even met his “academic” granddaughter….. image1

….Tatianna did graduate studies with one of Michael’s former students.

To celebrate the end of the school, we were all taken to a local restaurant for a wonderful meal.   It started with a phenomenal soup, however we have no idea what type of soup it was….maybe potato, maybe bean…but definitely tasty!!!DSC05256

It was followed with a breaded fried pork, rice, home made potato chips and salad…..DSC05257

There was much discussion among these biologists as to what type of flower was used to garnish the plate!!!

It was a jovial group with many speeches thanking the organizers.

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We relaxed for the rest of the afternoon, but did venture to stick our hand out of the hotel window to take some photos of a magnificent sunset behind some huge Thunderclouds…..

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The lightning display as the night went on was electrifying!!!

TAXI!!!!

After our quiet Sunday, I was ready to do some sight seeing on Monday so as Michael headed to the University, I caught a taxi to the “downtown” area of Armenia.  I had wanted to do some shopping and the hotel had suggested that the taxi drop me at a “Pedestrian only” street where I could walk and shop.

When the taxi finally stopped, the driver motioned both directions to let me know that I could walk either way.

I started walking to my left, enjoying stopping in various shops along the way.  Eventually I came to Bolivar Plaza….I think that there is one of these in every city in Colombia!!

This square was almost empty except for the mandatory statue of Bolivar….DSC05211

….and a very cool statue on the other end…..DSC05212

There was an attractive, modern Church located on one side of the square…..DSC05213

….so I went in for a look……

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The stained glass was very effect in the interior and made for a pleasing, restful chapel…..DSC05217

Back out on the street, there was a small art exhibit, featuring several fiber art pieces.   They were all behind glass and hard to photograph (I got LOTS of photos of my reflection in the glass), but here is one of them……DSC05220

I was drawn to the designs on the sidewalks as they looked as if they were rippling along…..DSC05210

The effect was quite eerie as I walked along.

I loved this vendor as she drove her “Coffee Taxi”.  There were pump pots of coffee sticking out of all four windows…..

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I continued my stroll looking in various stores that I passed.  There were TONS of shoe stores, specialty clothing stores and one largish department store.  Even though it had a lot of different types of goods, it still seemed that it was fairly specialized.

Naturally I found the “Dollar” store (also known as the 1,000 peso store), and checked out several tourist type stores that mostly sold small kitschy items that had “Colombia” emblazoned across them.  I did come across one tourist store that had some nicer things and enjoyed shopping there.  The store clerk was young and went out of her way to help me.  She kept using her IPhone to translate information for me, including telling me that I could by THREE pairs of earrings for the price of two!!

When the Taxi had dropped me off, I had spied this church in the distance….

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and decided to make the 3 block trek to visit it.   Unfortunately it wasn’t open, but the outside architecture was enjoyable….DSC05229

It was right across the street from a huge park that was covered with lunchtime revelers….DSC05231

I had tried to be very careful to make sure that I knew where I was, but I didn’t walk back the EXACT way that I had come and was soon LOST!!

I walked thru several streets that seemed to be dedicated to one type of store, In the pet store street, I passed one particular shop that had a large cage of birds just inside the door, with a very grumpy looking cat tethered under them!!

I passed an area that catered to artist supplies and saw several craftsmen hard at work in the back of their stores. 

The next block contained home improvement stores with many specializing in just one type of product.   One store sold only crown molding and I admired the ceramic tiles shown in this store front….

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I even passed one woman who had a shirt EXACTLY like one of mine…..DSC05237

By this time I was well and truly lost!!!  I finally stopped and asked an old man and young man who were working in a restaurant and they pointed me in the basic direction.  I finally found my way back to the pedestrian-only street and immediately went in search of an ice cream cone to ease my mind!!

Considering how lost I had gotten just walking 3 blocks to a church, I decided not to chance a 2 mile walk back to the hotel so hailed a taxi instead….my first  solo ride in South America.   I showed the driver the name and address of the hotel and off we went.  Almost immediately we hit a traffic jam so he started making turn after turn and eventually I wasn’t exactly sure WHERE he was taking me!!   I was just about to tell him that I would go ahead and get out, with plans to catch another taxi, but he made one last turn and pulled into the parking lot for the hotel.   I shouldn’t have worried!!!

That evening, Michael and I planned to go to the Mexican Restaurant that we had enjoyed last week, but they were closed, so we went next door to the Sports Bar called “Versus” .   I decided to try something different from last time and ordered a “Tino” which was listed under “Perros”.  Now, perros means dogs in Spanish and we were hoping that these were hot dogs and not the four legged kind.  Never to fear, this delicious meal came out and I dug in…..DSC05295

I kept saying that I couldn’t believe how good the Wiener tasted but then discovered that there were two strips of fried bacon underneath it.  THAT may have attributed to the taste a bit!!!

It was served with a sweet mustard, much like the ones that we had enjoyed in Australia.  Likewise, the Ketchup was tangier than what we were used to but tasted great with the meal!!

Another great day in Armenia!!!

A quiet Sunday

On Sunday morning, we awoke and went downstairs for our usual breakfast but the doors were locked and the lights were off.  We went to the front desk to check it out and were told that the hotel had changed owners the day before and that breakfast was now being served on the 4th floor.  We arrived there but found out that the Espresso machine had not been moved so Michael was unable to get Espresso and I couldn’t get hot tea!!

Michael had planned to skip out on the afternoon sessions and we decided to take a walk to the local shopping mal and look for Espresso!!!  As in the US, the most populated area of the entire mall was the food court!!!

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We bought some coffee and an ice cream cone and sat and enjoyed one of our favorite pastimes ….people watching.

These were our observations….

  –  In a country that has MAGNIFICENT food, the longest line in the food court was for “Frisby Fried Chicken”!!!

  –  The milk that the Ice Cream vendor was using came in a bag rather than a carton.  She put the bag into a plastic pitcher and poured it out that way.

  –  One of the restaurants served HUGE platters of grilled meats, along with a big paper bib to wear. 

  –  This same restaurant would bring your food out into the food court and I saw several confused waiters looking for the sign showing where their customer was sitting.

We walked around the mall and decided to do a bit of shopping in a store called “Olimpica”.  My best description of this store would be a mini Walmart!!

We found bags of Salsa de Tomate (Ketchup)….

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I cant imagine being able to use this right out of the bag!!

We were not so sure about these next two products….

….exactly WHAT is “Gorila Snot Gel”???

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….and we are not too sure about a spice called “Color”DSC05201

I looked at the ingredients, but still don’t have any idea exactly what it is, whether it has any flavor, and is it just for color???

For dinner, we enjoyed burgers are our favorite sports bar…..DSC05207DSC05208

I finally got tired of drinking beer so ordered a Coke, although it is called a “Gaseosa”…..DSC05206

A nice way to enjoy a Sunday!!!

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!!!!

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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….

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There were resplendent Lichens…..IMG_1547IMG_1549

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

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

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

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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….

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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!!!

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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……

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

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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…..

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…..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.

BUTTERFLIES….and other flying creatures

On Wednesday afternoon, Michael sent me a text that said “Hope you are up for Bird Watching at 6:00am tomorrow!”   He should know that I am always up for an adventure so we met about 20 students at the Parque de la Vida, just a few blocks from our hotel.

Before we even got out onto a trail, they had their binoculars out and were scanning the trees searching for the very noisy bird….

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As we walked across a bridge, this duck decided that he did not want any of us to pass, but he seemed to single out Michael and myself.   After a few nips on the ankles, we decided that he just did not like Americans!!!

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This palm was very interesting….IMG_1315

One of the students told me that that was the female plant but that this was the male……

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We could only stay for about 45 minutes as Michael had to teach at 8:00 so we  didn’t see a lot of birds, but there was certainly evidence of them…..IMG_1321

We did see this one bird before we had to leave….

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It was a deep iridescent blue and reminded me of the bird that I saw when I walked in the Parque a few days ago.

As we walked, three of the students (Fabian, Camilo & Mariana) asked what we were doing that afternoon.  I said that since there was a break, we were probably just going to hang at the hotel.  I inquired as to their plans and they said that they were going to a butterfly enclosure.   I looked pleadingly at Michael and said “butterflies!!”.   He sighed and said that it looked like we were going too!!! 

We met  at the University after lunch and walked to the main street to catch the bus.  There was some discussion about which side of the street we needed to stand on.  Fabian said that he was pretty sure that it was one side so we trooped over there.   Then when a bus came by, Fabian asked and we were told that it was the other side….across the street we went again, laughing all the way.

Several busses had to pass before our bus showed up but I was impressed by the willingness of the driver’s  to stop and to answer questions.

When we got on the bus, a young man jumped on at the last minute.  He handed out candy bars to everyone on the bus and then stood at the front and did a spiel about them.  Then he walked down the aisle again and either picked up the candy or money.  He hopped off at the next stop.

The trip took about 30 minutes as the bus traveled out of Armenia and stopped just outside the Jardin Botanico del Quindio…..

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We paid the entrance fee and were met by a tour guide who was at first concerned that the tour would be in Spanish.  The students assured him that Michael could speak enough Spanish to understand and that they would interpret for me.

For the most part, I just let the tour go on ahead of me and I enjoyed lagging behind and taking photos. 

We first entered the “Palmetum” trail and this bright orange flower/seed/whatever it is jumped out at me….IMG_1345

We have seen these flowers in many cut arrangements but this is the first time that I have seen them growing…

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The guide stopped in front of one huge plant and asked if it was a Palm or a Palmetto.  The four Biologists immediately answered….fern!!  This was the guide’s first indication that this might not be a normal tour!!

This fern is enormous!!!!IMG_1357

These aerial roots were interesting……IMG_1363

We came to a gate marked “Laberinte” and found a shrubbery maze just beyond.  We all had fun traipsing thru the path. 

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….although we did stop for a photo of Michael with Camilo and Mariana….IMG_1377

I did notice that the guide didn’t join us on our trek but instead waited patiently from the outskirts of the maze!!

He did give a warning to watch for snakes.  He told the other couple on the tour that it would be better if they weren’t in shorts and then looked at me with my skirt and Chaco sandals and said “Ay-yi-yi”!!  Needless to say, I kept my eyes peeled.

We moved into a bamboo forest and it was interesting to see the bamboo as it was growing….

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It was very soft and furry!!

I felt bad as the Guide and other couple kept having to wait as we all lagged behind taking photos and the Biologists discussing the flora.

At one point our Guide motioned for us to be quiet (not an easy task) as he pointed out a magnificent Hummingbird hiding in the brush….

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This is a huge Strangler Fig….

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Since I couldn’t understand what our guide was saying, here is what Wikipedia has to say about them…..

“This growth habit is an adaptation for growing in dark forests where the competition for light is intense. These plants begin life when their seeds, often bird-dispersed, germinate in crevices atop other trees. These seedlings grow their roots downward and envelop the host tree while also growing upward to reach into the sunlight zone above the canopy.  An original support tree can sometimes die, so that the strangler fig becomes a “columnar tree” with a hollow central core.”

That is what has happened to this one…….

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I did pick up on one thing that the guide would say.  Apparently he kept using the term “what’s happening here” because I kept hearing “¿Qué pasa?” and that is one that I recognize from my teens!!!

There was a deep gorge spanned by a wonderful bridge…..

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Fabian asked if I was scared of heights and I assured him that I LOVED crazy bridges….IMG_1404

We entered a small building with glass windows and enjoyed several minutes of bird watching…..

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Yes, they were being lured in with food but it was still fun to watch them.   This little guy almost disappeared into the background…..IMG_1418

I was trying to photograph this bright yellow bird on a bush when it flew off.  The other couple in our group quickly said “Aqui, Aqui” and pointed to where it had landed….

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As any new species of bird would fly in, the biologists  would get so excited and the noise level would increase.

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As usual, Michael and the other three quickly won the respect of our guide and he started spending more time showing us things around the sanctuary.  We found out that his name was Andres and that he was a 3rd year student with Victor Hugo who is Michael’s host here.

We came to this tower and Andres asked if we wanted to climb it.   We all looked at him like “Are you crazy!!….OF COURSE WE DO!!!”IMG_1428

From the top, we had the most wonderful view of the Butterfly garden that we were heading for….

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Andres took this memorable photo of us with Camilo, Mariana and Fabian…some of our Colombian “kids”!!!

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There were several spectacular water plants just outside the Butterfly Enclosure….IMG_1445IMG_1448

….and this wondrous flower too…IMG_1453

After walking thru a small display of insects, we entered the butterfly enclosure.   It was filled with blooming flowers and superb winged creatures….  

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Marianna was so excited with the butterflies and every so often she would dance a little jig and say “BUTTERFLIES!!!!” in the BEST Southern US accent ever heard!!

These extra large “flutteries” were the most friendly…..

IMG_1485IMG_1494This one was sitting on the edge of a plate of orange slices which were used to “bait” them in, but I thought that his wings were astounding…..IMG_1504

I think that our tour had been longer than normal as Andres spent a lot of extra time talking with Michael and the others about things biological.  Finally he said that we HAD to leave so we regretfully exited the garden.

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As we were leaving, we realized that the garden was actually closed when we left!!  We started walking up the road to catch our bus and we saw it pull up on the road in front of us.   Fortunately there was a guard standing at the end of our road and he yelled and asked if we were going to Armenia?  We all yelled “YES” so the bus waited for us to RUN the last 100 yards!!

We enjoyed watching to see how many stops the bus made.  He really went out of his way to help his riders.  He waited for 2 or 3 minutes for one lady and little girl to get across a busy road so that they could board, and he made a U-turn to pick up someone else!

I loved watching him make change while he was driving, even though the street was in the middle of  a small town and very narrow!!  At one stop a dog tried to get on too but was shooed away. 

All of the bus drivers honk at each other when they pass….it is cute!!

Fabian asked him to stop near our hotel and he stopped right in front….cant get any better than that!!!

We had a wonderful time with Fabian, Camilo and Mariana and will always be thankful for them allowing us to “CRASH” their outing!!!

A whole lotta eatin goin on!!!

Our first Wednesday in Armenia consisted of a lot of work time for both of us and a LOT of eating!!!

Michael taught his second class at the school and I spent most of the day doing some accounting work.  I LOVE the fact that I can keep on working even when I am not at home and I really need to be doing that right now since I will only have 2-1/2 weeks at home before we leave for India!!!

We did find out today that Michael was shown in one of the local newspapers…..

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DON’T ask me to translate!!!

A group of 10+ met for lunch today and we went to a lovely restaurant that had an open air dining room…..   DSC05130

By the way, almost every restaurant has tables that are out in the open!!!

Once again, there was a very fast, very confusing recital of the foods available and I decided that Chicken and vegetables sounded good.   This time, it came as a tomato stew that had a wonderful flavor…..DSC05125

Dessert was a cute LITTLE bowl of jello….DSC05127

As I am always on the lookout for a good design I found the table runner to be interesting…..

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The afternoon consisted of more working time and then, of course, there was dinner!!!

We met up with a group of others and headed to Mi Cuate, a Mexican style restaurant.   I thought that the table decoration was cute and a good omen for the meal to come….

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I was very excited that I actually understood the listings on the menu…..Enchiladas, Rellenos, Frijoles, Tacos, Burritos….you get the idea!!

Michael ordered an Enchilada plate that looked yummy…..

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….and I close a platter that had “mini” versions of a taco, burrito and quesadilla…..DSC05137

One of the other guests ordered tacos and we were impressed with the manner in which they were served.  It is sort of hard to see, but they are wedged into a large wooden block with 3 slots cut out……DSC05139

Anyway, it was a FULL day of eating and we waddled our way back to our hotel.   We have GOT to stop this!!!

Transport….5 different ways in one day!!!

This morning we were picked up by Katherine in her “little red taxi” and driven to the town of Salento which one of the first settlements in Quindio.  We had been told that it was a beautiful city but weren’t really sure what to expect.

The drive was magical as the mountains and coffee plantations expanded before us…..DSC05076

We passed various landmarks, including this giant cow marking a milk bar….DSC05094

I especially enjoyed talking to Katherine about  the area and appreciated  when she said that she loved showing us the “Magic of Colombia and the beauty of Quindio”!!

The city of Salento is quaint and all of the houses are decorated in the historic colors.IMG_1119I loved this small street with it’s brightly colored doors and windowsIMG_1122

You may notice the Hostal (hostel) sign on the right.  This is an area that is filled with backpackers and other young people touring the country and I am sure that Hostel space comes at a premium!!

Katharine had told us that we needed to hire a jeep and take a ride but we didn’t really know where to.  We just trusted her judgment and did as we were told and we were SO glad that we did!!!

Here is our jeep with the old people in the front and the youngsters filing the back…

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The jeeps here are produced by a company called “Willy’s” and they are often called by that name.   Each one had a different hood ornament and we thought it was appropriate that ours was a bulldog..IMG_1124

They put as many people on each jeep as they could which meant that there were always one or two people standing up in the back……

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Two of the young women sitting in the back of our jeep actually stood up in the back for most of the trip, even though there was plenty of sitting room.

As we traveled down the road we passed  amazing terraced hills, fields of cattle and endless palm trees….

We arrived at our drop off point and, still not knowing exactly where we were, followed the throngs to the start of a hiking trail in the Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados.  We hadn’t dressed particularly well for hiking  but we headed up the trail to see what we could see!!!

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The first thing that we noticed were the  Palma de Cera (Wax Palm) tress that skirted the top of the ridges.  These are the National tree of Colombia and are mystical to see in such profusion….IMG_1146

Evidently they can grow to 200 feet tall and are considered to be the “Skyscrapers” of the palm family!!

At one point we could hear whistling and a dog barking up  on the slopes.  We searched to find the generator of the noises and saw a gentleman and his dog moving a herd of cattle.  It was great fun to see the dog running back and forth keeping them in line.

We stopped often, taking many photos of the flora….

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As a matter of fact, we took SO many pictures that we were barely moving up the trail.  We had a good laugh when we realized that if we do this on our  Annapurna trek, we will never make it to base camp!!!.

We soon heard the clomp of horses behind us and belatedly realized that we could have ridden up the trail rather than walked….silly us!!

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Each group of riders was accompanied by a Vaquero (cowboy) who followed dutifully behind the horses.   If they started going too fast or got too far away from him, he would whistle to them and they would respond.   These guys were wearing rubber boots and must have been unbelievably fit to jog up and down these trails many times each day!!!

Michael’s sharp eyes found this fascinating plant growing in a tree…..

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We couldn’t get close enough to be able to tell exactly what it was but it could have been a type of Orchid or a Parasitic plant  (any help from the Colombia students would be appreciated!!!)

I know that this photo makes it look like Michael is dutifully photographing bare ground…..

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….but he is really enjoying this delightful dragonfly……IMG_1185

It was hard capturing his wings, but his body color was fantastic!!!

We followed the trail further along and ended up basically in a ditch with 5 foot walls on each side.  I guess that this has happened over the many years of people walking this trail. 

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We came to a pasture housing milk cows…..IMG_1201

I loved the intricacy of this dead fern leaf…..IMG_1211

….and the texture in these leaves….

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We found this TINY (maybe 2 inches tall) plant on a rock ledge.  I am assuming that it is a fern of some sort since it has spores on the leaves…..

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We crossed this CRAZY wooden bridge that swung as we walked…..

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As we neared the village again, we cam across this cute pup and told her that our Granddog (Marley) said hello…..,IMG_1250

This pack horse/mule was apparently glad to be off of the trail….

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A number of horses came walking in without riders and obviously knew that it was time for their siesta.  They ignored everyone else and headed on down the road to their pastures.

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We had a good giggle as we watched one of the Vaqueros head out of the barn with a new group of riders.  As they left the gate, he crossed himself as if to say “Please let us make it back again!!!”.

We organized a ride back to Solento in a Blue Willy this time and loved when he used a rock as a chock under his tire….IMG_1269

This time we opted to ride in the back of the jeep and met a lovely young woman named Miriam.  She was English but born in Belgium and is now living and teaching in Thailand…wow!!   She has been touring South America for the last three months and plans to be gone for an additional three months!!IMG_1275

There was a man, woman and young girl who were standing along the road and the driver stopped to pick up the Mom and daughter.  They said quick goodbye’s to the Dad and climbed aboard.  We stopped again to let them off just inside the town.

We passed a large group of school kids out for lunch and I was astonished to see that most of the boys had Mohawk haircuts….haven’t seen those for a while!!

We were dropped off at the center of the town square and decided to check out an interesting church…….

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The interior was very beautiful with a modern style that was pleasing….

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I particularly appreciated the mixture of wood and fabric in the décor and found the use of balloons on the alter to be a fun touch.

I was also happy to see that they had traditional candles rather than the electric ones that light up when you put a coin in a slot.   This was much more satisfying!!IMG_1282

Michael pointed to this banner and asked if I knew what it said.  It took me a few minutes but then I figured out that it was the Apostle’s Creed.   Between us, we were able to recite it in Spanish!!IMG_1289

Our last task in Salento was to hit a few of the shops in the area.   Most were filled with typical tourist stuff but then we ominously found one that had wonderful, well crafted wood carvings.   Michael walked out of the store looking like this…..IMG_1297

Now I am trying to figure out how we are going to pack all of this, PLUS the things that I have bought or plan to buy!!!

We found the bus back to Armenia, drove 500 yards and stopped so that the driver could get coffee!  We enjoyed a leisurely trip back to the Armenia Terminal and then found a taxi back to our hotel. 

I ran across the street to the grocery store to pick up a few things and then witnessed a sweet interchange.  There was an older woman trying to cross  a busy street at cross walk but without a light.  Many cars had whizzed past as she waited.   Finally, a taxi stops, puts on his emergency flashers and sticks his hand out of the window and motions for other cars to stop as well.  She (and I) crossed safely!!!