Colombia – Part 4

8th March 
Santa Rita cascades.

We went on a circular walk to a waterfall area called Santa Rita.
It took us down the valley along a tarmac road with jeeps carrying tourists to somewhere and several groups of horses being led in the same direction. I checked this out later and the road is a dead end leading to Vale de Cocora, a trip for tomorrow.

The views are pretty good of the lush green valley and opposing hills, a fast running stream at the bottom and several buildings built to take advantage of the views.
We left the road to make our way along farm tracks, we thought we had gone wrong as eventually the track led straight to a ranch with a steel locked gate but as we walked away a horseman came and pointed back to the ranch and we could pick out the words Santa Rita. At the gate a mother with her baby in her arms met us and asked for 5000 pesos each (approx £1) and led us through her pretty ranch, then a farm hand led us through the stables to a track behind the house, this was all very novel and the people friendly but Nets eyes were itchy for a short while.

Net spotted a dead Tarantula on the path and there were a few birds and butterflies around but we didn’t spot any other wildlife other than cows and horses.
We had to cross a stream then make our way up hill to pass through Santa Rica ranch.
The waterfall area was actually quite good, we have seen better waterfalls but there were 4 different ones to view and the track to get to them all was steep and adventurous with several rope bridges to bounce over one at a time. We even had a cave to walk through.

The area was popular with locals and there were several groups sitting around having picnics, no beer in sight and quiet music playing. Even a group of teenagers were sitting around and looking peaceful. We reflected on whether the same would be said if theses were all Europeans groups.
Ginette – no mobile phones in sight, it was like going back in time..
Making our way back down through the Santa Rica ranch it was clear to see that this ranch was reaping the benefits of tourism, we had avoided passing this on the way up as we came in the back way but now we had maps, signs and a cafe plus two guys collecting the entrance fee to the walk we was leaving. We managed to get by without having to pay as we explained we had come from the other route.

We continued back up to town, taking a path off the main road. This was a path mainly used by horses, it was a deep cut through the muddy banks and looked like it would be a stream In rainfall. It was a muddy adventurous route and we was glad when we passed a coffee plantation because the path became better cared for.
Ginette – we arrived back at the hostel at 2.30pm and instead of using my time constructively, I spent two frustrating hours getting lost in the internet machine-  reading on line newspapers, flitting through facebook and looking for jobs. I did try looking for volunteer opportunities in Cali, our next destination but other than helping out in a hostel there wasn’t a lot of offer. On a positive I did talk on line to my best friend and to my sister.
Tonight we treated ourselves to a meal out as we had see an Indian style restaurant and hadn’t had Indian food for a long time.

9th March 
Valle de Cocora.

We took one of the many open jeep taxis that operate from Salento plaza to the start of the walks in Cocora valley.
This walk is well known so lots of info was available on line so we knew where to head. We had a nice 5 mile walk beside waterfalls in the forest with many rickety rope bridges to cross, then up a steep climb up one side of the valley to rest and take in the views.
The walk back along the valley side gave some great views, we stopped at one as there was a trio playing guitars, drum and windpipes with native music. One of the band was sharing his large local fruit called a Guanabsna, it tasted between pineapple and passion fruit and looked like a green large melon with spikes.
Ginette – I could have stayed in this spot all day, it was beautiful and the music made it feel almost magical
This valley is famous for it’s beauty and the Quindío wax palm tree, a tall slender palm tree that grows to 200 feet tall. Once in danger of extinction they were named the national tree of Columbia and efforts have been made to save the tree and this valley has a load of these trees now flourishing.
We took the jeep back, this time squeezed in like sardines with three standing on the tail step and hanging onto the back.
Chilled for the rest too the afternoon.

10th March 
Cycle then bus to Cali, city of Salsa.

We had considered cycling to Cali, it’s only a couple of hundred miles.  However we had several reasons why not to cycle.

1. On Ioverlander the route shows a trouble spot where a cyclist was mugged and a motorcyclist wasn’t robbed but was forced to turn around at gun point for some reason.
2. We are waiting to hear back from jobs we have applied for so need internet
3. If we get interviews we may need to return to the UK so want to cover more ground in Columbia
4. Although we set off with 4 bank cards we are now down to one (one lost, one bank withdrew service, one stolen) we can’t risk losing the only one we have left. We have ordered another but there is some confusion as to where it is.
5. We enjoy the cycling but you can get too much of a good thing.

Research showed if we took the bus from Salento to Cali we would have to change buses at Armenia which is 14 miles away, so we cycled this bit.

Plotting the route showed it mainly down hill route which was great but it didn’t show that 9 miles of this was on mud and broken lumpy stone track. It was slow going on our laden bikes.
We past several small horse riding tour groups and although we were off the main road we past several coffee farms selling tours of their farms.
The views were great and I enjoyed the cycling buy I know Nets not keen on these off road section.
It was a popular route with mountain bikers as we past several groups slogging their way up the hill.
Ginette – it wasn’t too bad a route, but it was very bumpy, my technical riding skills have improved immensely on this trip. If I had encountered this off road section at the beginning of our trip I would have probably walked it. Instead I got to appreciate the admiring looks we got from the locals as we cycle along a road probably not used by many touring cyclists.

We had the usual grief at the bus station of the driver trying to overcharge us for the bikes, I had loaded them and the bag into the bus so he didn’t have to do anything but tried to charge us 40,000 pesos which an angry Net got down to 20,000. This was on top of the 44,000 for the standard tickets.

11th March 

The hostel we stayed at was pretty noisy, it offered dance lessons so the music carried through to our room. There was a Japanese guy that thought the whole hostel should enjoy his music and he was worried that anyone, hard of hearing, may miss out so he played it very loudly.

The kitchen was filthy, some of the guests had clearly only had lesson one from their mums in cooking, ie they learnt how to cook but lesson two which includes how to wash up and clean sides and oven surfaces had clearly not been given or had been completely forgotten. It’s a real pain sharing these spaces with other who don’t give a dam.

We had a wander around the city, it has some nice churches and Plazas but is a working city with no real appeal to tourists, at least that’s our first impression.

We had a free Salsa class in the hostel in the afternoon, now my feet are even more confused as we have been shown a load of different moves.

If you sense I have had a bad day that’s not really true. I have done a work out, several Spanish duo lingo sessions and a session on the ukulele. It’s just the small things have irritated me, like putting my prawns out to defrost in a plastic bag on my bike only to find the nice cleaner lady had seen them and put them back in freezer for me so no prawns for dinner tonight.

12 March
A quiet and clean apartment.
The hostel was really noisy again with dance classes close to our room, but at least it all goes quiet after 11 pm.
The kitchen was in a state again this morning, we only had to boil water but the hob had been left with whatever was spilt over from the pan with no attempt to clean it up, dried and caked on gross.
We moved a mile down the road to an apartment which is only £13 a night, it is great to have our our room and kitchen, the silence is deafening and it’s clean enough to eat off the sides. We have a roof terrace to share which also has an open air gym. This place is great and it’s times like this that I really appreciate the amount of time and research Ginette puts into finding these places.
Ginette – for any one who has booked accommodation abroad you will know how time consuming it is to find somewhere, in your budget and in your location. I read the reviews to try and avoid booking somewhere noisy or dirty but this does not always work. Our hostel had a rating of 8.6 on and guests had been really complimentary. The deciding factor for me was price £11 per night and free dance classes. I hadn’t factored in that private lessons would be offered as well and that these would be right outside our room from 08.00am – 10.00pm. 
We had a Salsa dance lesson at a school about a mile away, it was a group session and I enjoyed the format but the 2 hour lesson was too long and with different moves again has managed to only confuse us more. The whole class was made to wash their hands and also use hand steriliser before we could start the class, Coronavirus precautions.
 Ginette – I think because i worked in Public Health and had a role in health protection I am fascinated by the Corona Virus.   I am really pleased Colombia has imposed such measures, they’re putting people in isolation who arrive from countries with high rates of the Corona Virus and have banned all large gatherings of more than 500 people. These seem like sensible actions given what is happening in Europe – at present Colombia has only reported 8 cases.  However I am shocked that the UK seem to be doing so little, it is an island, it would be easy to put people in isolation from high risk countries and ban large gatherings. Instead appear people have been allowed to arrive from Italy without being tested and the Cheltenham Festival is taking place while I write this blog from the comfort and safety of my apartment. Rant over.
Close by we have a locals food market and cafes and bars with some cheap offers that we may take advantage of sometime. I bought a load of different types of fruit, some I recognised others not.
The Guanabana fruit is a large green knobbly fruit which we tried in Salento, It has an interior the texture of snot with seeds in each snot packet. I had to open the fruit up and pop all the seeds out individually so I could mix it in the blender to make a smoothee, however the snot is pretty thick and nearly burnt out the blender. The result is a semi, lumpy, snot, textured liquid that taste a bit like passion fruit.  Looking at Ginette’s reaction to me drinking it, I think it is now up to me to drink it all.
Ginette – On our travels we have tasted lots of exotic fruits, I am willing to try them but I haven’t found many I like. My favourite to date is probably papaya.
Friday 13th March
Not a lot to report day.

The apartment is great, clean and a quiet night sleep other than a thunderstorm and lightening storm in the night.

I woke rested and restless, there were no plans for the day and I was irritable and after searching the internet I couldn’t find anything I wanted to see.
So I used the gym on the roof which gave me an hours entertainment and my body and mind felt a lot better.
On maps me I could see a swimming pool around the corner, I tried to gain access but having walked all around the block, the only entrance was through guarded steel gates and the guards said no.
Ginette I spent the morning doing an online course, I have been out of the NHS for 5 years and I am hoping by updating my skills I will increase my chances of getting a job back in the UK.  Gary was a royal pain in the bum, he was restless and very moody,  I dread to think what would happen if they imposed a curfew in Colombia…

We attended a Salas free session in a club which was closer to our apartment, which we both liked. We have now settled on this club so will be doing private and group lessons with them. The salsa is hard and easy, some of the basic foot work is simple but when you try to combine this with spins together and still keep the feet in the correct timing then it all becomes a tangled mess.

At least we now have a focus for this week.

We had both Hayley,  Shaun and Kez call us today which was really nice. Coronavirus was one of the conversation points, here in Columbia we are not seeing much of an effect on people but watching the news we can see how the world is being effected.

We will need to monitor this as we could end up being trapped here if all flights are cancelled, this will be Ok whilst we still have tenants in our home but after May we will have no revenue coming in so need to back in the UK by then.
Flying home now is not a great option but we are not keen on being trapped here either.

Ginette – my worse fear is Hayley catching the virus and being alone, I’m not sure we’ d be much help to her but at least we’d be there. I don’t think we are at risk here but the thought of being ill in a country where we struggle with the language is not a pleasant one.

On balance at the moment it makes sense to stay here, our apartment is £13 a day, food is cheap and freely available and we even have an endless supply of toilet roll. 
However I think a trip to the seaside might be on the cards soon….

3 thoughts on “Colombia – Part 4

  1. david dutson

    Hello you two sorry i missed you last week but we have had a death in the family and my best mate passed away on the same day but enough about me. I see you are still having a good time out there and seeing plenty the pictures you are providing are a good insight to what you are doing and seeing as for the virus i think all hell is gona brake lose hear in the uk soon with it if it continues spreading like it is so my advice it to think about coming home sooner rather than later before we end up on lockdown but while you are still out there have fun and enjoy it
    stay safe and well and i look forward to the next blog.
    from Dave Dutson


  2. Jan Bond

    Hi guys. UK government is advising all British travellers to return home NOW.
    Guidance issued tonight 18:15

    I hope you are well and can return safely


    1. ggcorr Post author

      Hi Jan – thank you for your message, we arrived back in the UK on Saturday – we will post an update on the blog later today. Hope you are well?


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