Discovering Ibague

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South America » Colombia » Tomlina
January 25th 2012
Published: January 25th 2012EDIT THIS ENTRY

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We worry about not fitting a plasma in our car, they just grab a friend and stick it on the back of their bike and go through winding mountains.
So I’m a bit behind but I’m going to try to give you the highlights:

1) Jane (proounced Jan-eh) got teeth! She was missing her four front teeth for quite a few years now. She’s already an ex-crackhead, so she’s crazy to begin with and without teeth just completes her nutty character. The Colombians can’t even understand her, and we have to interact with her everyday since she’s the cook! Berenice had bought her teeth for Christmas, otherwise she couldn't afford them. However, I had gotten used to her crazy accent, so now I can’t understand her all over again! But at least I don’t have to worry about meat flying out at me when she tries to use her gums as teeth, which of course doesn’t work. The meat winds up flinging out before her straight at the person sitting across from her! (I suppose using her side teeth would be too sensible, of course!)

2) I went to Prado, aka “el interior del mar”, with Chantal and Yamile a few weekends ago. Chantal is a volunteer from Switzerland (it’s sad, she’s been here for a month now and already leaving next week!). As soon as she got here, I pretty much recruited her for weekend travel! We only went for a night though but luckily, Monday was a holiday for God only knows why. We stayed in Prado, a tiny town just outside of the lake, La Repressa, which is a lot less expensive. Highlights: A) Getting to be on a gorgeous lake inbetween gorgeous mountains with amazing weather (no rain there!). Being on a lake for me is like being at home, so that was amazing enough in itself! We took a boat to these waterfalls where everyone and their mom was. It was great though, the boat ride was kind of long and the waterfalls were warm! B) Getting to and from the lake involves a JEEP ride!! We were the first on and next thing you know, there was 17 of us in and all around the jeep with tons of cargo!! Stellar!! The ride back was even better: there was only room for us to stand on the back of the JEEP! A truly incredible experience as you all know by now that I'm obsessed with them! I can die happy now! C) That night we had hoped to play Colombian-style pool to pass time until it was time to go dancing. But all three places were full as they only had three pool tables in each bar. But when we wound up looping back to the first one, this group of guys who were playing inside whistled at us to come play, so we did (there were no front walls to the bar). We were the only girls in this jam-packed place. Chantal is also ridiculously tall like me, so we were already specatacles to begin with. Everyone pretty much watched our game! I wound up having to make the last shot. The score was close, so we needed my shot to win. And of course, it was a long and impossible shot. Well this older drunk man was sitting in my way, so I politely asked him to move (the bars are small, so everything and everyone’s squished in). He got up and randomly decided to give me his two cents on where exactly to hit the ball. I thought I would humor him and take his advice, there was no way this shot was going in anyway. Well I somehow sunk it, and the entire bar went nuts. They couldn’t
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Chantal's first JEEP ride!!!
believe both that a white girl sunk such a difficult shot and that they lost to a bunch of girls! It was pretty hilarious, I actually couldn't even believe I made it! The guys we played with then took us out for drinks and dancing, but we didn’t stay long since Yamile wasn’t impressed by their Salsa, Merengue, or Bachata skills!

3) The next weekend we had hoped to go to El Rancho, nearby hot springs where you take a bus and then hike up and stay the night in these tiny cabins. Yamile ended up being too tired and we got word a new volunteer was coming, so we thought we would wait to go another weeknd. Berenice and her family ended up entertaining us the whole weekend, since we had asked Friday night where we could go for a day trip or what there was to do around here. Well luckily, the weather wound up being super sunny and warm (I’ve pretty much only seen rain since I've gotten to Ibague. Thanks La Nina). On Saturday, all of us girls hiked up Martinique (the mountain I first hiked up when I got here). It was Chantal, Berenice and her daughter, two nieces, and I (no Yamile, she was too tired). On the way up, we stopped at the same waterfalls we took the kids; which thankfully, was nice and warm instead of bone chilling cold! We took a different hike than I knew, which had even bettter views. We had to cross through farmers' properties though. At one point we ran into a young group of brothers and sisters eating sugar cane they had chopped down with their machetes. Naturally, they shared it with us, a group of random strangers while quietly eating and staring at us foreigners. So ranom! Only in Colombia! The cane was super juicy and tasted like sugar water. I swear Colombians like everything ridiculously sweet! I didn't eat the actual wood/cane though, just sucked on it like a lolipop. We then hiked all the way up, ate yummy tamales we brought with us, enjoyed the sun in this park with incredible views, and came back down. That night, we were too tired to go out but wound up playing hide-and-go-seek in the dark with Berenice’s family, her boyfriend’s two daughters, and Yamile. I forgot how much I love that game!

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Where you catch a boat to the waterfalls.
Sunday, we went with Berenice’s family and her two nieces, her boyfriend, and his two daughters to the outskirts of town. It’s actually super close to where Berenice is from. I had asked where we could go horseback riding on Friday (I’m always looking to go when I travel; and in these mountains, it would be breathtaking!). So Berenice had that on her mind ever since and made it happen! It was insanely cheap too! We then went to a nearby river, but scared away by the ice-cold water so went for lunch instead. These towns are really small but are situated in absolutely gorgeous settings. That night a new volunteer, Carrie, arrived from England and actually lives with me at my place (I live in a two-bedroom). Chantal and I immediately recruited her for weekend travel. This coming weekend, the ladies, plus another new volunteer who just arrived, Yamile, are going to Salento. (Yamile was adopted by a Swedish couple from Bogota when she was 5. She has come to search for her birth parents and re-learn Spanish.) I've actually convinced them to go! I really want to as well, but the following weekend Carrie and I will travel to the coast for 2.5 weeks, so I want to save money.

5) Tejo extravaganzas! We managed to play Tejo quite a bit this past week! We had a big group one night and again this past Saturday day. Carrie and I suck horribly at it, so we just drink and crack jokes about how awful we are! Ren often joins in a lot too. He either jokingly tells me my tejo (the weight you throw) should be brightly colored so I can easily find mine in the mud behind the board, or is speechless and stunned when he watches Carrie horribly throw! It’s strange though, it’s one of the only sports that I’m bad at, and practice definitely does not seem to make perfect! Last Saturday, we played for over three hours and I sucked continuously!! I would go from one shot hitting the ceiling to the next shot hitting the center of the board (worth the most points)! So confused! Chantal, however, is quite good and hit the gun powder quite a few times. Ren and I joked that it’s because she’s a mountain girl (she’s from Switzerland), and this is a mountaineer’s game!

6) The girls and I have been volunteering at the orchid farm. It’s this gorgeous farm with a hilarious and friendly staff. Such a nice change of pace and scenery, but more because they always give us machetes to use! The first day we were killing ourselves laughing as the three of us were sitting around this big round table gossiping while chopping small chunks of bark into smaller pieces with giant machetes. The kind of talking was more for a knitting circle, not so much for giant machetes with flying bark going every which way circle. Obviously, we go twice weekly now.

7) Saturday day, after playing Tejo for forever in this tiny town located just outside of Ibague, Alfredo (the president of our neighborhood) took us through these long tunnels to see more of the countryside located on the side of these mountains. These tunnels go through the mountains and seriously are one-lane roads with buses that fly through them. At one point, we were walking through a really long one and making noises to spook each other out, when all of the sudden we heard a bus enter the tunnel. We all got scared, screamed, and took off running, trying to beat the bus outside of the tunnel!

8) Last Sunday we tried to go to this secret spot on this river about an hour away. Ren knew of it and took us three and Colombian Yamile there, (the Swedish Yamile had just arrived and was too tired to come). We had to hike through farmers' lots, which consisted of more green, mountainous beauty, and then down this small cliff to the river with all of these big rocks and jungley plants. The setting was amazing! Fortunately, it had stopped raining by the time we had gotten off the bus. Unfortunately, as soon as we laid out our food for lunch, the river rose, and we had to immediately scoop up everything and race up the mountain before it got us! We didn’t make it in the river that day, but our alternative site was magical: mountain-side with a gorgeous view! That evening, we played a vicious game of basketball; guys versus girls. Chantal and I, versus Ren and his Colombian roommate for a while until Yamile and some random guy joined in. We had no rules. There was pushing, fouling and Ren would lift up one guy to try to block me whenever I shot. If a girl had the ball, they all would close in on us and try to snatch the ball out of our hand! So much fun!

This weekend the three other girl volunteers go to Salento, and I might go with some of the staff to Honda. Ren is returning back to France in March (if you don't recall, he's the art teacher here and has ben here for over a year). Carlos, the owner of the organization, wants to throw him a good-bye party now....Yes, I said March! Ahhh Colombia!

Additional photos below
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We took shifts of watching our bags and enjoying the waterfalls.
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Prado Group

walking through a tunnel to get to the lake!

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