Jul 132010
 

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There have been a few things I’ve wanted to address, but they always seem to cross my mind when we’re twisting and turning through the Cordillera Oriental on some tiny bus.  In between hours of gazing at lush green mountain side and naps (where I pray that my mouth isn’t hanging open, catching flies) is when I seem to have the best ideas.  So, here are some of my random thoughts:

1.  Arequipe-Queso Doughnuts

Who thought to put Arequipe – a caramel or Dulce de Leche (for those familiar with the Mexican delight) together with a meltable, mild cheese, then stuff it in a doughnut?  Weird, right?  But the Colombians have made it happen.  Fresh out of the fryer, then rolled in sugar, the stringy and sweet pillow of goodness was a surprise we had the pleasure of experiencing while sipping true Colombia coffee and watching the World Cup in Chinchinquira.

2.  The World Cup

IMG_3908Part of me is really glad the World Cup is over – I know this is blasphemous and and I´m sure Nico is cringing as he reads this.  The only reason I feel this way is because the World Cup has been dictating our schedule since the beginning of June and it is tricky to work around two hours or more of football starting at 1:30p when we’re suppose to be on the road enjoying all those on-the-road things.  That said, I secretly love this sport.  I love that once every four years the world gets out on the field and battles it out.  I love that, although they didn’t make it to the Cup this time, throughout Colombia the majority of the population was rooting for their Spanish speaking brethren – with a fierce passion.  I love how picking a team dictates who your screaming for and who your telling to piss-off.  I’m also throughly entertained by the trash talk my husband and mother have been slinging back and forth.  Lastly, I love that Spain won.

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3.  Bus Drivers  

When did it become safe to answer the phone while taking a sharp turn on a mountain and switching lanes where there are double-lines?  Yup, this happened…  I was sitting right next to the driver and I wanted to pat him on the back for executing the maneuver with such finesse, but the fact that there were a good 15 of us in the 10 seater van brought me back to reality.  It is good to be alive!  A good intro to the last thought of today…

4.  My New Office

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In Villa de Leyva we decided we should be doing an accounts in/out spreadsheet of our expenses.  I whipped out our trusty Mac and jumped right into Excel (a secret pleasure of mine).  While sitting there crunching away, I remembered that this was exactly what I had learned to do at that other job.  I thanked my lucky stars that being self-employed doesn’t come with a desktop or a roof.

I have a lot more time in buses coming up. Stay tuned for more random thoughts…

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jul 102010
 

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The great state of Boyaca lies on the Cordillera Oriental, the easternmost of Colombia’s mountain ranges which enter the country at its southern border as one massive chain known as the Andes, and after splitting into three separate ranges, gradually climb down to meet the sea down by the beach.  After leaving Villa de Leyva, we have headed roughly northeast to visit the area surrounding the town of Duitama.

IMG_7667In Duitama we are staying with our friend Oscar and his girlfriend Laura.  Oscar is an encyclopedia of Colombian history, geography and folklore.  He knows practically every road, city and point of interest that lies between Cabo de la Vela and Ipiales; and from Bahia Solano to Leticia.  In short, Oscar is just the sort of person we have been wanting to hang out with on this journey.  His travel anecdotes are worthy of their own blog; a big popular blog.

IMG_7598We started the day by visiting the town of Paipa known through Colombia for its natural hot springs.  The town itself is not much to look at, the reason thousands of Colombians visit this town every year is to soak in boiling water that smells like rotten eggs.  Mary insists that it is therapeutic, but at 74 degrees celsius, I’d rather sit back and take pictures of the mud-covered tourists lying about.  Paipa has a lot of places to spend the night, most of which have water pumped in from the hot springs to attract those in need of a hot, smelly pampering.

IMG_3971Across windy mountain roads we sped from Paipa to Tibasosa, a cute little town just east of Duitama.  Tibasosa is remarkable because of its cleanliness and well preserved colonial center.  The church at the main square is very pretty and the benches in the park out front are perfect for a long day reading a good book.  Oscar claims that the reason this town is so well maintained is that for most of the last 40 years its mayors ave been of the female persuasion.  Read: more apt to keep a clean house and less likely to “misplace” the town’s funds.  Tibasosa is good for a stroll or a meal any day of the week, but if quiet little towns are not your thing, check it out on Sunday afternoon when the Bogotanos or “Rolos” as they are known locally, take over every open table in town for the ubiquitous, multi-coursed family lunch.

Tibasosa lies on the road to Sogamoso, a large town that takes its name from the Muisca sun-deiy its first Spanish settlers worked tirelessly to replace with the more widely known, Jesus [Hey-Sues].  Nowadays Sogamoso is the gateway to the more charming small towns that surround it like, Iza and Firavitoba.  Otherwise, “famoso” Sogamoso is a perfect place to practice the national pass time of tossing back a few “Aguilas” with the boys.

IMG_7653The most beautiful place we visited today was the Laguna de Tota, a cool mountain lake that can be smelled before it is seen as a result of the vast onion fields that crowd its shores.   The fragrance is almost as delicious as the view.  Dark green stems surrounded by the black earth, surrounding the lake which in turn is surrounded by vast green mountains.  An utterly surrounding experience!The specialty is fresh locally caught trout with caramelized onions cooked slowly over wood.   Drool people!  The onion capital of Colombia sends out a hundred fully loaded trucks from its lakeside fields each day to Bogota, Cali and even Cartagena.  This beautiful area even offers a white sand beach for sun-deprived Scandinavians brave enough to test its chilly waters.  It is just a 40-minute bus ride from Sogamoso up a newly paved road.

IMG_7692It was dark by the time we headed back to Duitama.  The onion and cattle trucks sped unsafely down the two lane highway passing horse-drawn carts and cyclists by swinging into oncoming traffic around blind turns: yes, driving in Colombia is C.R.A.Z.Y.  Stop signs are routinely ignored, vehicles will turn from any lane in any direction and the general understanding is that when it comes to car crashes, dead men don’t sue.  It is no wonder then that truck and bus drivers, the “Transporteros”, take divine protection very seriously in this region.  The whole month of July is dedicated to religious festivals in honor of the Virgen del Carmen, protector of all truck and bus drivers in Colombia.  Boyaca is alive with the sound of fireworks, church bells and religious processions.  Every weekend one or more towns in Boyaca is converted into a truck and bus parking lot by hundreds of drivers wishing to have their rigs (and themselves) blessed by the local priest; this divine protection is believed to be more effective than seat-belts, speed-limits and low blood alcohol levels combined.  Last weekend the truckers took over Duitama, and tomorrow they will congregate in Paipa for an afternoon of blessings, fireworks and binge-drinking in honor of their beloved Virgin.

And now, I must get to bed because soon the rockets will be bursting in air in time with the tolling bells that announce first mass and last call.  Buenas noches!

Jun 302010
 

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Back in the city of my birth or 8,000 feet closer to heaven.

We landed yesterday and aside from a quick walk around the neighborhood today, we have spent most of our time in our friend Nubia’s apartment.  We are planning our journey around Colombia, catching up on some reading and of course re-visiting our semi-neglected blog.

We have one scheduled event coming up in a month: the Medellin Flower Festival.  Between early next week and the end of July, Mary and I will be traveling up towards Bucaramanga in search of our place.  We’ve already received a ton of great ideas on places to visit from Nubia’s never-ending stream of visiting friends and family.  The road is open and the list is long!

Nico

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Globetrotters out there should know what I’m talking about when I say that there is a certain smell that comes with visiting a country many times over.  Just like catching the scent of cologne an ex used to wear, the smells of a country can take you back.  As I walked out of the airport in Bogota the mix of diesel, freshly rained on pavement and toasted arepas reminded me that, although this country is not my own, it is not completely foreign.  Despite our 3:30 am wake up call, I did what I could to keep my drooping eyelids from completely closing until after we made it to Nubia’s apartment.  I wanted to be fully present to appreciate where we had come from in the past few months and to absorb that we had finally made it.

This dream of ours was born in Nubia’s apartment, so it is just that we make our plans for the coming months of our adventure here.  The key word in this planning has been SLOW.  While we had a fantastic time truckin’ with Jamie across the US, it was way too fast.  We don’t want to repeat that pace and burn ourselves out before we even get started.  The idea is to gather our thoughts, close any loose ends, get a phone, open a bank account and relax a little in the next week before we hit the road again.

As more and more Spanish flows from my lips, my feelings of uncertainty dissipate.  While I know that there are many challenges ahead, today I am confident that I can adapt to my new surroundings and appreciate my experiences to come – for whatever they may be.

Mostly, however, I’m super excited about having easy access to Colombian empanadas.  I was telling Nico that if it weren’t for empanadas, we may never have followed through with this plan.  All manner of tastiness such as cheese, fish, or – my fav – meat and potatoes are stuffed inside a dough made of yuca or corn then deep fried to crunchy, crispy perfection.  It is up to the lucky person eating the empanadas whether or not to dunk in the accompanying aji – a vinegar based sauce with chopped onions and herbs.  Hmmm…I’m hungry!

Mary

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