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Published: September 30th 2017
Perfectly-Situated Juan Valdez in Manizales ...
... in a huge square just below cable plaza, overlooking the streets below. Perfect for people watching. The structure in the middle was once a support for the cable car which used to run to this location.
Geo: 4.6375, -75.5703
Halfway through the night, somebody crawled into bed with me - was it real, or a figment of my imagination in the drunken stupor brought on by the diabolical aguardiente? But no, it must be real as now I'm playing the part of little spoon, and can feel her body on mine, the warmth of her breath as she gently purred and cuddled me. I tried to push her away but she resisted, getting friskier by the minute, playful digging her nails into my back. Such a cute little pussycat the hostel has! I wasn't complaining, as the Manizales nights are chilly, and she kept me warm until the morning ...
Manizales rocks - there's no debating that fact, a fact that makes me wish I had stuck to the original plan of four nights here, especially with all those day trips I never had the time for. But really, there's no right or wrong when traveling - whether you stay in a place you like or whether you decide to move on, the important thing is to take as much out of the travel experience as possible, from wherever you may end up. Manizales is great, but who's
to say that Salento wouldn't be just as amazing in its own way?
Trying to maximize what little time I had left in Manizales, there was only one perfect way to do that while paying homage to the region's heritage - a lazy breakfast while lingering over a cup of fine Colombian coffee! Not really wanting to go, the idea of heading to Salento was still exciting - a small little town typical of the Zona Cafetera, it's supposed to be set in the most beautiful of locations.
However, the journey there was terrible - knowing the reputation of aguardiente for producing the most horrific of hangovers, last night I had enough self awareness to down several glasses of water at the bar, and also a fair amount upon returning to the hostel. Dmitri and Coco did their best to convince me to the join them at Bar C, the big club in town where everybody eventually ends up, but I declined, knowing that aguardiente's after effects would be far worse if I didn't get to bed straightaway.
Surprisingly, the hangover wasn't as bad as expected, but still far from pleasant. The ill effects were exacerbated by some fatigue, giving me
Breakfast at Valentino Gourmet ...
... yet another delicious cup of Colombian coffee, along with a great fruit salad - wonderful strawberries and bananas, awesome kiwi that lacked any hint of the tartness found in the ones back home. The one disappointment is what I think was some flavourless pear - but of course, maybe it wasn't even a pear. There are still many Colombian fruits to sample, after all.
a noticeable headache - not only from the aguardiente, but because I woke up around 4 AM in a daze, and as I stumbled to the bathroom I smacked my face hard on one of the bunk bed's posts. Luckily for me, the amount of aguardiente still in my system dulled the pain - slightly, until I woke in the morning.
The bus ride brought out even more after effects - the roads are windy in this part of the Zona Cafetera and the driver was channeling his inner Juan Pablo Montoya, attempting to corner like a Formula One driver. Any attempts to sleep were foiled, as I was tossed around like a rag doll. Between the heat, the motion sickness, the diesel fumes from the buses in front, and the overall polluted air, it brought out the worst of the aguardiente's effects. Fortunately, it didn't bring out everything, unlike with the poor kid who was puking into a plastic bag halfway through the journey ...
The second part of the journey started from Armenia, the largest centre close to Salento - luckily, this portion of the trip was much shorter, and the air was much cooler and cleaner as we
Breakfast, Phase II ...
... with a long day of travel ahead, a big breakfast was in order, which included this ham and cheese croissant. Pretty sad-looking croissant, which may have been egg-washed before baking. The soft, creamy cheese inside was the highlight of the sandwich.
approached Salento. The area is absolutely stunning - as beautiful as the surroundings of Manizales are, Salento takes it up a further notch. It's a cute little town serviced by cute little jeeps from a bygone era - from the 1950s, it's a miracle that they've been kept running for so long. They make fitting taxis for the area, as they are perfectly suited to the rough dirt roads, full of rocks and craters.
There are numerous hostels in town, but I decided on Finca La Serrana, a farm situated 20 minutes by foot from Salento's main plaza, because I was looking to stay at a place offering some peace and tranquility. That was the single-best decision so far on this Colombian trip - as the jeep pulled up to the farm, my jaw hit the ground. If only the pictures could show how amazing the location is, because words simply cannot do it justice. Mind blowing ... the only rational thought my now feeble mind could form was "Two nights is not enough, I wish I had a few more here ..."
It's a funny thing - as night fell, the beautifully isolated and tranquil location of the Finca was even
more apparent than before, with the only sources of light being the stars on this clear night, the fireflies in the field, and the bonfire's flames licking at the cool Salento night. So it was quite comical to see the other source of light - all the laptop screens inside the farm house! Just another reminder of how no matter how hard we try to escape from it all and hide out in nature, technology still finds us!
After today's long journey, the Finca provided the best backdrop for an evening's rest - no traffic noise, no bright city lights, only the crisp refreshing air found only at higher elevations. The best sleep in a long time ...
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