Colombia 2014 Post 4

Colombia, 2014 Post 4 Feb 7 -8, 2014

Salento

(Deni) Wer’re sitting here in our guest house at 4 p.m. Watching the rain pour down. The rain comes here in the mountains everyday sometime between 3 and 4. It doesn’t last long, however.

Yesterday we wandered around town getting our bearings. Today our major activity was a eight kilometer round trip hike to an organic coffee farm. The hile was lovely – all the flowers and greenery were something special. And it was my favorite kind of hike – mostly flat or downhill with a bus at the end to take us up the steep part. I bought some good Colombian coffee at the farm. Where I’m going to cram it in my luggage remains to be seen.

At least the coffee will not have to compete with other purchases. Colombia hasn’t really got it together yet vis-a-vis handicrafts. This town is a perfect example. I feel as if I’ve fallen into a black hole and ended up in Haight Ashbury in the early 70s. The “artisan” street is full of shops selling tie dye and beaded necklaces and earrings made of feathers and thread. There are clothes from India, shawls from China, and crap from who knows where. But there seems to be nothing really √¨ndigenous. So, I’ve bought nothing. Coop is all hot to go back to the museum store at the Gold Museum in Bogota to get some jewelry. We’ll see.

I have some observations:

Dogs: In Africa, Bangladesh, and SE Asia, we noticed that dogs are, in general, not treated well at all. Most dogs we saw in those places were skinny strays that had to be on the constant lookout for kicks and abuse. Not so in Colombia. Many families here have dogs and love them very much. Although we have seen large breeds such as labs, most seem to be more of the long and low variety of various hues and hair length. I wonder if a wild hoard of dashounds and bassets tore through the country at some point, populating the place with low-to-the ground models.

Smells: In Africa, SE Asia, Bangladesh, Mexico, Central America, Venezuela, and Peru, we have gotten used to the smells emanating from the sewers. Not so here. No sewer smells so far anyplace!!! Although we have inhaled exhaust fumes, the overriding smells we have encountered are coffee, fresh bread, sugar and vanilla, grilling meat, fresh fish, flowers, and the wonderful smell of green plants and clean earth. Love it.

Orthodontia: In Bangladesh I noticed that the rising middle class was all about stylish glasses. Here I’ve noticed that many adults and young people are in the process of having their teeth straightened. A sign of progress? Maybe.

Music: We’re loving the music coming out of restaurants, stores, public squares, and, sometimes, even buses. Ranchera and vallenato are common. And we’ve also been hearing show tunes, 60s and 70s stuff, and, one memorable night in Ville de Leyva, The Sounds of Silence in Spanish coming from a church congregation. What The Sounds of Silence has to do with Catholicism is beyond me, but there you are.

Danger: When we told folks were were heading to Colombia, there was a lot of concern about safety. So far, we’ve felt totally safe wherever we are. Of course, we’re not stupid. We don’t go into the “bad” part of the big cities and we take the normal precautions anyone should take when traveling. But, the place is safe!! They have taken care of the worst of the drug problem. Yes, drug processing and distribution is still happening here. And yes, the FARC is still roaming around in parts of the jungle. But people are not being shot in the streets, families go about their lives without difficulty, and tourists are welcomed with open arms. The best way I can describe the feeling I have as a tourist is “cared for.” People here are thrilled that tourists are coming to their country. They make sure that they let us know how happy they are that we are here. They watch out for us and make sure we’re headed in the right direction and don’t get on or off the buses at the wrong places. They are gracious as we attempt to communicate in halting Spanish. I would urge anyone thinking of visiting South America to seriously consider coming to Colombia.

Food: We’ve had some wonderful food here in Salento. Last night it was a tika masala prepared by a Spaniard who learned to cook Indian and Pakistani food in London! Trout is plentiful because of all the trout farms in the area. We ate fabulous food at a mojito bar – Coop had a steak to die for and I had ribs. And then the height of food heaven happened when I scored some peanut butter at the market. Peanut butter is not a thing here in Colombia. I’ve been searching for it because it works so well as a protein source when we’re taking long bus trips here and there. I looked in Bogota and Medellin with no sucess, and here it was on a low shelf in the super mercado in little Salento. Who’d a thunk?

(Bob) The late afternoon rain was heavy but brief. Everything is drying off quickly now. Many of the high peaks of the Andes are visible again. The lowering sun is shining on the very tops of the few thunderheads in the distance. We’re putting on sweaters or light coats as the temperature drops for the evening at this altitude (6,000 ft). It was about 80 degrees in early afternoon with a light breeze.

It’s the weekend so there are throngs of tourists in this town, most of them are Colombians. They were cruising the town in the early afternoon. They’re gathering again for an evening of perusing the trinket shops and eating at the restaurants and bars. In the main plaza there are many food carts set up. The main offerings are trout and meats fixed in various Colombian ways. We’ll sample some tonight. The bars around the main plaza vie for customers by cranking up their speakers louder than their neighbors. The cacophony is luckily localized to the plaza. The tactic doesn’t seem to work well since the bars around the plaza have few customers. Most of the bar activity in the evening is in local bars along the side streets. The two pool halls should be active. And the teenagers will be down at the sports court playing basketball. We’ll let you know how the rest of the weekend plays out. By Monday the Colombian tourists will all be back at work in their city so it will be quiet again here. The church bells are ringing calling the faithful for 5:30pm service. The church bells here are pretty mild. Back in Barichara two of the churches competed for attention with major striking of their bells which on Sunday started at 5am. Regrettably one of the higher timber bells must have been cracked because it put out more of a clunk. The ringing ended with a major clang at the end of the series. Salento has a ways to go in their call to the faithful.

That’s it for today. More later.

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