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Published: September 10th 2013
For our last week in Colombia, we were staying with Alex and Claudia, friends from back home who had kindly offered to have us stay with them at their house in Pereira. We took a bus from Medellin, that traversed over steep mountain ranges with magnificent views over the valleys beneath. In places there was only the road, a few houses, and then sheer drops of many hundreds of metres on either side. We had opted for the front two seats, which made for some interesting viewing, not only of the vistas, but also of the overtaking manoeuvres employed by our driver. As the majority of the road was single lane, the bus driver had to overtake numerous slow trucks, many times on blind corners as there was not a straight stretch of road for more then 30 seconds at a time. Somewhat nerve racking at the beginning, we soon got used to it, as every driver on the hair pinned roads did it. There seems to be a common understanding amongst the drivers, as in the opposite lane they all slowed down to either let the bus overtake, or if in the originating lane the driver would slow down and
let the bus slot back into traffic. We did see the result of when it goes all wrong though, when we came across a recent accident where a bus had collided with a truck, not much was left of either driver cabins.
We were making good progress until we hit a protest and road blockade about an hour from Pereira. The coffee growers where upset about something and there was a lot of angry farmers burning things in the road and not letting anyone through. Our driver tried to get through, but was met with an angry mob, who forced him to reverse the bus back up the mountain and park alongside all of the trucks and cars that had been stopped as well. We were stuck for nearly 3 hours until the protest was stopped, probably so that the protesters could go home to dinner, as it was dark now. Luckily the bus had wifi, and i was able to contact Alex and let him know about our delays.
Arriving in Pereira, we were greeted by Alex and Manuela, Claudia's youngest daughter, and it was a nice feeling to see a familiar face from back home and
catch up on recent happenings. Arriving at Alex and Caludia's finca, we were presented with a fantastic meal on arrival by Claudia, and a ready made bed in their lovely house. It was a strange feeling being back in a house after so long, as we have become accustomed to small, damp rooms with dodgy dunny's, and if we are lucky hot water.
Over the next few days, the four of us (poor Manuela had to go to school), swam and sat by the side of their pool, ate great home cooked food and went into town a couple of times to sample some local cuisine and drink at some of the numerous open aired bars. Pereira is not really on the gringo trail (i don't think we saw one gringo during our week's stay), but it has a lot of similarities to Medellin. With great restaurants, bars, climate and scenery, i don't think it will be too long until word gets out that it is a great base to explore the zona cafeteria area of Colombia.
On the Saturday night a birthday party was thrown for Claudia's eldest daughter. There was plenty of booze, so mojo decided
to make a cocktail herself; mixing beer, wine, champagne, rum and aguardiente in the space of a few hours and then jumping around wildly dancing and singing to mix it all up. Predictably the results were an early night, and a rotten hangover the next day for her, but she did have a great time, not that she can remember most of it. Meanwhile Alex and I safely paced ourselves on beers while manning the BBQ, and then hit the spirits later on. Resulting in us in the pool at 3am, drunk and trying for an hour to figure out how to get onto one of the inflatable airbeds. It was a great night.
A few days before we left, Alex and Claudia took us out to Salento, a beautiful little town further up in the hills with original colourful colonial architecture and great views over the cafeteria region. We spent the morning walking around the artesinal shops, playing pool and having coffee. Followed up by a great meal of Bandeja Paisa, a dish we have loved during our time here in Colombia, and one we will bring back home with us. It is essentially, kidney beans, shredded pork,
sausages, chicharon (crispy pork belly), rice, salad and plantain - an amazing combo that goes wonderfully with a cold beer. All this was eaten whilst watching ManU vs Chelsea, although two teams i have very little love for, it was a perfect spot to watch a game of football.
Below Salento is the Cocora valley, a valley that is shrouded in low cloud and is full of tall Quindio wax palms, the national tree and symbol of Colombia. We went as far as we could along the muddy road, until it got to dodgy to continue. Up in Salento, there are numerous old and colourfully painted Whilly's jeeps that will take people further into the valley. It is a beautiful site seeing all of these tall palms poking up through misty clouds from either forests, or from farm cleared land. Another different landscape that Colombia keeps producing.
Sadly our week came to an end, and we had to say goodbye to Alex and Claudia, but hopefully we can catch up with them again on our way back from Central America before we head home. Once again guys, thank you ever so much for your hospitality.
also sadly the end of our stay in Colombia, what a fantastic country full of amazing people, food and landscapes. Vale, we will miss you.
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