Mesa de los Santos, Mi Colombia Querida, Bucaramanga

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December 5th 2010
Published: December 27th 2010
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Hi, Friends,

This weekend had us enjoy some rural tourism, which kept me fairly happy as I had been having the unchanged work weekends for such a long time; but this very weekend, I decided to let my hair down a little and have some fun; hence, off we went to La Mesa de los Santos, a popular place near Bucaramanga where you can relax, pray, contemplate nature, go walking or cycling and even paragliding. Although we didn't do everything -there's no way to do it in one single day- here you will find a full account of our adventure and I hope that I might convince you to visit the place ín the future.

Not that we do this every single weekend; as foreigners come to our region, we are acknowledged to make their visit pleasant, that's what we think, at least; so, with this excuse in mind -and such a compelling reason- we were delighted to take Doctor Sandra Cadena, a North American PhD Nurse who came to lecture our future bilingual nurses on Global Health and International Nursing. I'll tell you more about this a bit later.

Given that we are
I know, good photographerI know, good photographerI know, good photographer

But to tell you the truth, anyone could've done it, I just shot
so organised 😊, we thought her visit wouldn't be complete without some dancing. Can you blame us for that? Anyway, to kill two birds with one stone, we went out to "Maria Casquitos", a club in Bucaramanga to also celebrate Virgil's birthday -a French student- while we all danced and had fun. Dilma, Adriana and me danced till 3 am and then we all went to have breakfast at Tony's, what amazing tour guides we are!

I got home at 4 am and the rendezvous was for the next day at 8 am, a bit too optimistic... and yes, I was late as I didn't hear the alarm clock. But that didn't prevent us from taking the pleasant one-hour drive to La Mesa de los Santos. Once there, we had the opportunity to visit some tourist spots such as El Mercado Campesino, El Salto del Duende, la Huerta Biologica, Colombia Querida, etc.

But why is it called Mesa de Los Santos?

That was the doctor's first question and as I didn't know the answer, I felt somehow grilled; luckily, I was not the only one since the secretaries couldn't help me either, and the thing is, there were not many people to help me search out the secret answer on the spot. Dra Olga Lucia Gomez then helped me out: The place is near a village called Los Santos and as it is located in a higher region, then the name was coined. But research on the net, taught me the name was taken from a coffee brand, anyway, the scoop now is peripheral to the credit I want to give to Olga.

El Mercado Campesino en el Pueblito Acuarela

What to say about this Farmer's Market located in the Aquarela Complex? I was very impressed by the very principle of its construction, adobe houses and straw roofs embellishing the little village; images of my highschool years came straight to my mind: given the literacy campaign of the Colombian state at that time, we would go to the countryside to teach farmers how to write and read. Their kindness and motivation would be our reward in those long forgotten moments... I don't think the current situation would allow students to do the same thing now.

Anyway, the landscape is just like a Hollywood film, a brilliantly recreated country village serving as the first stop for tourists heading to the Chicamocha Canyon. Yeah, remember that you can take those cable cars to enjoy the magnificent landscapes of the Canyon; a must if you are around the area, believe me, the place is bound to be bigger as the region is expected to become our third most popular tourist site after the Coast and the Eje Cafetero; not bad, huh? you can find the latter on one on my previous entries.

As soon as we got there, we walked through the village, visited the church and attended mass. It was ""insightful"" to hear the priest linking his coming birthday to a Jesus parable, yeah, that is possible 😊 I must then apply it in one of my classes and see how it works; so far, I just got them to buy me a capuccino but not a birthday gift yet 😊 it seems that the year before, the community organised a birthday party for this priest but as it was meant to be a surprise party, they didn't warn him in advance so that he could make plans. When they called to invite him, he was miles away from the venue, so he was not able to attend. He said, let's not do the same with Jesus, well, I didn't get the religious moral of the story but it might be that I missed the point of the whole tale, who knows...

After the mass, we then proceeded to taste the very famous corn arepas. Served on the corn skin, they are always fresh and delicious. While we ate them, we observed some of the nice plants decorating the lovely restaurants. The food you can eat there varies a lot, the most recent popular delicacy is quail eggs, but we didn't taste them as we headed to Colombia Querida to have something more filling.

Colombia Querida

A very colourful place I had never been to, lovely shops featuring the colours of our Colombian flag: yellow, blue and red. The original idea of the place is to recreate the charm of a typical Santander village and they did a good job as it now looks very homy, it somehow reminded me of El Pueblito Paisa in Medellin, only that the former is bigger and has more to offer. The restaurants there are quite good, I had some exquisite salmon, the only regret is that although they advertise "guarapo" on the menu, they only had one glass for me, such a shame as it was delicious! Regardless of that, I think we are now ready to cater to European tourists for you can have everything you want there, by the way, I was very surprised to find a Mercagan restaurant there, NICE!

As for the leisure activities, apart from the normal relaxing walks, you can sit and taste different kinds of "ponchecrema", a drink made of milk, eggs, sugar and some alcohol, play a football game, have a haircut in a very particular barbershop and for those good singers, you can even do karaoke. You can also find a small museum depicting a handul of tools from the Guanes and some old photographs from a couple of celebrities who have travelled there. The Guanes, as I described them in my previous entry, are the indians from our county.

On another note, recycling is the word at the farmer's market, the urine, for example, is used as a fertilizer and together with water, is to be used to produce energy; that's right, something I learned that day is that thanks to the chemical components of the urine, farmers actually mix it with the rainfall to improve the watering of the plants, Nice idea, isn't it? that will give me a sense of purpose when peeing 😊 They are also insect-friendly as they keep destroying the plagues and viruses, so they figure out ideas to encourage them into the farm.

La Huerta Biologica,

After a short discussion about the price -the driver was requesting the customary food that tourists used to get after paying for the entrance- the tourguide explained that rules had changed and now for the 3,000 pesos ticket, you only get the tour. Unlucky us, damn it! Although, in hindsight, I think it is a fair price for the amount of information you get while you pleasantly walk. I found the lady tour guide very knowledgeable and personable, my only regret is that there were too many things to take in, a bit difficult to translate everything specially when I don't understand much about agriculture ;(.

I hope Sandra enjoyed the natural tour on this area free from chemicals, fungicides and pesticides. Yeah, that's where we were, an area of organic products, which apart from tasting better, help us to prevent cancer or getting younger, something handy for me... at only 22, I am already worried about getting bald :0 yeah, I know, the same monotematic joke.

First stop on the visit, was the seedbeds to look at different seed orchards of lettuce, onions, cauliflower, chard and others which were largely covered with plastic for different practical reasons, namely to protect the young plants from the sun and insects. We also saw different animals such as veals, goats, the non-Colombian ostriches, ducks, rabbits and donkeys. We were scared by an angry male goat which was not happy as we were looking at his herd, not very friendly, I must say. So, I conclude, it wasn't a Colombian goat either.

Something that caught my attention was the fact that the tour guide told us that there are people who actually misunderstand the whole point of the biological orchard. Primarily intended to avoid cancer, the orchard aims to sell their products to supermarkets or private customers from Bucaramanga. However, some folks have decided to change their provider as they have had some members of their families dying from cancer; they state, it is not worth it to keep buying these products; but according to what the lady said, those who died were previously affected by cancer before buying the products from the farm. Difficult to prove, I guess, and it seems, the battle for getting customers continues...

Did I mention the ""Colombian"" Ostriches?

If I were the owner of the farm, I would've thought to have purchased some animals from the very region instead of just importing them from Peru, I believe people travel miles of distance to find typical stuff indigenous to Santander; or else, they might as well go to a zoo where they can get the whole package. Don't you think? Although they are exotic to us, it would've been better to exhibit something from the region, or am I being too critical? Just a thought...

"Stop your moaning, Frank", you might have thought, so... if you want, you can also stay the night at the farm, hooroo! I don't remember the exact price for a sleepover but it might be fun to stay one night, that is, if you wish to be surrounded by nature and have pleasant dreams of being totally detoxicated, besides, your room would be protected by snowhite and the 7 dwarfs, not kidding, fancy giving it a shot? For those who want to stay even a bit longer, let me tell you that as lots of people from Bucaramanga bought houses there, it is common practice for some of them to rent them out, which is worth it as there is more to see. I've been to a couple of them, they are spacious and very comfortable, just what you need for a relaxing encounter with nature while you have the commodities of the city.

The owners of the farm used to sell their products to Mercadefam but now that the chain has been taken over by Carrefour, things have changed. To fill you in, International chains are buying our supermarkets, which is a shame sometimes. Anyway, it seems that Carrefour requires farmers to open a new bank account with them and charges some rate for the purchase that people believe to be unfair. And let's continue on the same note or else, I'm afraid I will digress this time...

I also heard some customers complaining from the service at the new Carrefour; the old Mercadefam was known to be very customer-friendly in every sense of the word; the service at Carrefour, on the other hand, is very impersonal. They should train their stuff the way they do in France so that shopping becomes a pleasure and not a burden, if you know what I mean.

Well, that's all, now it seems that I'll turn up the tempo so that I can enjoy my Christmas holidays and if you, my friends, are nice to me with new year's wishes, I might write an entry on it; let's pray that it stops raining so that my vacations are not spoiled.

After Christmas

Well, the prayers were not enough and most of the roads in Colombia are blocked, lots of people have suffered the consequences. Anyway, I stayed with my family at home: After the usual hangover, which I got for mixing wine and beer, I am now back to finish this entry...

Why Bilingual Nurses?

As I mentioned above, La Mesa de los Santos is part of the big tourism project in Colombia. To be honest, the ESP Nursing course grew out of this project; as the city expects thousands of tourists to flock to the Chicamocha Canyon, we are bound and determined to cope to the upcoming needs of an even flourishing health tourism.

But there is more to it than this. Thanks to the visit of Dr Sandra, and the brilliant professional image she projects, I even want to become a nurse 😊 no, too old to consider a change in career, but seriously, we are thinking of carrying new projects. On her own initiative, She is currently helping two of our students to travel to the US as exchange students for three months, which is awesome and a ray of hope for the rest of them, thanks Doctor. Let's hope that we will get to do what we discussed.

The course was a success, Dr Sandra is such an excellent lecturer that students were extremely inspired and are looking forward to her next lectures. Not only did she bring invaluable pieces of professional advice to them, but her humour and patience captivated us all. She ended the course with a delivery of certificates to all of them, these look very professional and they will be an important credential for the students in their formation. Personally, I am indebted to her as she gave me the drive to learn more about health and nursing, which I have already started to do.

Well, I think that's all for this entry. I hope you have enjoyed it reading it as much as I did writing it. If you ever want to experience what I have described here, come to Bucaramanga and enjoy this bit of rural tourism, if I may say so, I did it and it is gorgeous. By that time, you might even enjoy riding on the cable car that they plan to install so that La Mesa de los Santos is connected to the Canyon of Chicamocha; if you are even braver than me -it is not a secret that I wouldn't take up extreme sport at all- you can even do some paragliding that I am sure Sandra did enjoy. And, if you behave, we might take you dancing so that you can have the whole package.

Good, so now back to the daily grind of enjoying my holidays, what an effort! I am so happy that now we're having some brilliant sunny spells. Let's hope this new year will bring lots of happiness and success in everything you endeavour, lots of love to you all from your eternal friend,


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El Pueblito has its own doorEl Pueblito has its own door
El Pueblito has its own door

Dilma, we finally did it, hooray

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