A brief trip to Colombia

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Scrubb
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A brief trip to Colombia

Post by Scrubb » Sat Jan 06, 2018 7:08 am

We started in San Andres. We weren't supposed to, but we couldn't fly to our intended island due to a tropical storm that closed the airport there. Because it was mostly raining while there, we didn't take many pictures but here are some ship wrecks that we could have dived if the weather had cooperated. It looks ok in this pic, but was mostly a brief calm between bouts of rain.
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Then we got to Providencia, a Caribbean island that has had a moratorium on new hotels, for 20 years. Our hotel had great decor. I know you can see the toilet, but I still like this pic:
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And here's a sconce in the lobby:
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And the passage to the breakfast room:
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And the adorable house kittens:
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We ate dinner here one night:
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The island had Christmas decorations everywhere, but mixed in with the snowmen and the santa clauses, there were these types:
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A beach bar:
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And another sign on the beach. Lionfish are taking over the Caribbean; although they are toxic to touch, they can safely be prepared to eat, and the idea is being pushed to try to lessen the numbers in the ocean.

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They are beautiful, though:
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Re: A brief trip to Colombia

Post by Scrubb » Sat Jan 06, 2018 7:30 am

So then we left Providencia and flew to Pereira, the coffee region. OUr hotel there was in the old estate of one of the "Fathers of Independence" and it's been preserved with all kinds of maps on the walls and old decor. This is the central courtyard:
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The grounds were gorgeous, with a zillion fruit trees, lots of huge orchid plants, halyconia everywhere, and somehow we don't have many pictures of it, or they don't look as remarkable as it was. But this picture turned out - the reason I didn't walk under any of the trees in the dark (well, after the first time):
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And here's the scenery in the area with lots of coffee plantations:
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Our guide was very, very interesting. One of the things he pointed out is that some plantations - usually the large ones owned by huge corporations - plant the coffee super close together and just try to get the best possible yield. Other farms - the family farms - plant them further apart, and put in fruit trees here and there too. That benefits the soil, and it attracts the birds and the bugs necessary to propagate the coffee plants, too. Plus, the farmer has something to sell when it's between coffee picking seasons. Although with the dual wet seasons, and the constant warmth, the coffee doesn't ripen all at once anyway. They can't use mechanical pickers in this region, partly because of the steepness but more because the coffee pods have to be picked individually because they're not all ripe at the same time. One plant can have several different stages of coffee bean on it.

We visited a botannical garden and saw the "green honeycreeper". The female is green, and apparently the males in some other countries are greener too.
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THere was a butterfly garden too. There were 25 species but I'll just add 1 for now:
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Oh, and the first parrot we saw:
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THe next day we headed up to Parque des Nevados, or Volcano national park. Near the entrance we stopped for the traditional chocolate and cheese. Together. Seriously. A big chunk of soft, fresh cheese and a cup of hot chocolate. And you put the cheese in the chocolate. It was weird, filling, and not really very good. They are weird.
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We got a good view of the (active) volcano crater from just inside the park entrance, but were told we'd have much better views later. Except that the fog rolled in when we got closer, so we didn't see it again. Anyway, the area has a kind of moonscape feel to it. Only plants that look like they belong in the desert seem to thrive, and it was very mysterious in the fog. The volcano killed thousands of people back in the '80s, the last time it really blew, when it sent a gas and ash cloud down the mountain.

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A little way down the mountain there is a hot spring spa. From there we had a great view of the city of Manzales:

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THey also have a hummingbird garden. These are "shining sunbeams", jousting. There were about 5 species of hummingbirds and these ones were crazy aggressive. Mostly with each other, but I saw one take out another, bigger bird that was hanging around. Seriously, it slammed into it from above, knocking it to the ground. I don't know if it was injured or just stunned, but it sort of wobbled (on foot) into the bushes to recuperate. Don't piss off a shining sunbeam.

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They also kept chasing off these much, much bigger hummers:
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THe fog cleared for our drive down from the mountain, although of course, we didn't get a view of the crater again. It was gorgeous scenery:
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Re: A brief trip to Colombia

Post by Scrubb » Sat Jan 06, 2018 7:42 am

Next stop was a lovely little birding sanctuary where we had a great little cabin for a few days. The people were insanely friendly but didn't speak a word of English and our Spanish doesn't really exist either. The day we arrived, a couple hours later a police officer showed up and started asking if there was anything he could do for us. We were wondering if it was some kind of shakedown at first, and I was worried that the people at the lodge had to pay them off or something... but it turned out that this cop, Alejandro, (about 25 and really, really nice) was a good friend of the owner, and the owner had called him to say "hey, there are English-speaking guests - please go talk to them to find out if they need anything!". I wish we'd had a chance to talk to the owner as he sounds like a real character. Alejandro told us that once he got this super urgent call "Hey, we need you! Get here right away!!" So he rushed out in a panic, only to find out that the owner just wanted him to pick up some beer for some guests.

The property was a coffee farm but 30 years ago the owners stopped cultivating coffee and let it go back to nature. They opened it as a birding reserve jsut a few years ago.

Along with the birds there were butterflies:

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And purple dragonflies:
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And katydids:
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And lovely murals on the cabins:
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I already posted a bunch of the birds on a different thread so won't repeat them, but I didn't post a motmot before:
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The lodge had 2 women that did all the cooking and cleaning, and a few men who maintained the paths and buildings. There were several kids around and this girl helped out in the kitchen some:
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Re: A brief trip to Colombia

Post by Scrubb » Sat Jan 06, 2018 8:03 am

Then we went to Bogota for a couple days. OUr hotel was close to the old, colonial centre and not far from the backpacker ghetto, and it was sort of an artsy area too. There were incredible murals everywhere - here are a few of my favourites:

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We went to the main market. Apparently these fruit baskets are a traditional Xmas gift (it was Xmas eve)

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Then up to Montserrat, a basilica overlooking the city from the mountain that is RIGHT THERE.
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INside the church- it was very catholic, but with the light colours of the tropics instead of the dark, gloomy churches in Europe:

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The whole complex had amazing Christmas decorations:

The traditional Christmas anteater:
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Flowers adorning the stations of the cross:
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You gotta have Christmas hummingbirds:
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And tropical fish:
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Back to the city, we went to the Gold Museum. All artifacts are pre-Columbian.

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Got an obleas because Mick says they're good:
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The main pedestrian street is full of buskers and artists and sellers. Here's a busker
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And our last evening, a view of our hotel (the orange building - the little balcony was off our room) and neighbourhood. The hotel was all about art deco. It had huge graphic reproductions of parts of famous paintings by modern artists - kandinsky, Muro, Picasso, Klimpt in particular, and really funky furniture in the breakfast room.
https://scontent-sea1-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/26230645_10155652752190073_4732639317923744842_n.jpg?oh=872d8d802b9c029b2e3c4bb1cdc5ff65&oe=5AEFA71D

At some point I'll put a thread in the politics branch about the country. OUr guide told us a lot about the last 50 years of "civil unrest", and the current peace process. But overall, people there want to improve their international reputation and they are friendly and generous and wonderful hosts. The food is not bad at all (especially compared to central america).

We have to go back to see more of the country - as should be clear, we're into nature tourism, and Bogota has a huge variety of ecosystems, more bird species than any other country in the world, and animals I"ve never heard of before, like "night monkeys".
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Lincoln
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Re: A brief trip to Colombia

Post by Lincoln » Sat Jan 06, 2018 4:33 pm

What a fantastic trip report!...you take great pics.

Talking of coffee plantations,I visited one in Panama (bocquette) and they also grew fruit trees next to the coffee plants ....it really could be tasted in the coffee.

Mick Jaggerr gets every where doesn't he! We were in a place called Bathsheba on the east coast of Barbados in December and we ate in a small beach hut bar that had pics of Sir Mick on the wall,the owner had taken them and was really proud of his visit.

I really want to visit Colombia after reading your report,great stuff.

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Re: A brief trip to Colombia

Post by polardude1 » Sat Jan 06, 2018 4:59 pm

Wht a great trip. I love Colombia
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Re: A brief trip to Colombia

Post by Bill Barilko » Sat Jan 06, 2018 5:07 pm

¡Orale!
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Re: A brief trip to Colombia

Post by NorthAmerican » Sat Jan 06, 2018 5:16 pm

Your brief trip to Colombia would have tired me out, but the photos were beautiful. Thanks for posting them.
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Re: A brief trip to Colombia

Post by Scrubb » Sat Jan 06, 2018 6:42 pm

My husband is the photographer (except the pic of him drinking the chocolate and cheese). He puts his name on all the photos (ever since he found someone using one uncredited in a for-profit situation) but I cropped it out so the freaks here wouldn't know his name.

We saw that obleas cart with Mick's picture two days in a row, and bought an obleas the second time. The picture is out of the newspaper - he really did have an obleas in Bogota. However, another cart a little further up the road had his picture too, so it's anyone's guess which cart is the actual one he endorsed.
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Re: A brief trip to Colombia

Post by Klara » Sat Jan 06, 2018 8:50 pm

Excellent trip report, Scrubb. Love the pics!

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Re: A brief trip to Colombia

Post by ceylon_tea » Sat Jan 06, 2018 9:59 pm

Looks great! Tell me more about the food.


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Re: A brief trip to Colombia

Post by Scrubb » Sat Jan 06, 2018 10:57 pm

For the most part it wasn't fancy, but it was well done. One exception was San Andres island, where it was pretty mediocre, although a Swiss guy we met staying there said their beef filet was absolutely fabulous. The fish dishes we ordered were very ordinary.

On Providencia, the other island, I think we had seafood at every meal and it was always good. Best was on the beach, served out of a canvas tent, at plastic tables. They just served what they had fresh, I think. Lobster was widely available and well done.

The place we stayed with that stone fountain /courtyard had a well known restaurant and we had chicken, salmon, and beef tenderloin there, all well cooked and tasty. They made excellent sauces from local produce (like a passionfruit sauce for my fish). Another place we had trout, which was nicely cooked too. It's easy to dry out fish and no one seemed to do that.

You can get all kinds of empanadas and other stuffed pastries super cheap and some of them are good, some boring, but none were bad. The sweet pastries were excellent.

The birding lodge had "home cooking" - delicious legume soups and always a big chicken or pork cutlet in a really tasty gravy. And once a chicken and vegetables in coconut milk sort of thing that was really good. When I compare it to the equivalent sort of meals in, say, Guatemala or Belize, it was a lot better.

We didn't have particularly good luck with food in Bogota, though. We kept finding ourselves in places that served crepes and they were all pretty good, but nothing special.

They have a lot of different kinds of ceviche - I recommend sticking with Peruvian style. The Colombian one is in tomato sauce, and it doesn't taste like what I think of as ceviche.

Every single meal came with rice, fried plantains, and a bit of salad.

Oh - the juice! They have fantastic juice, everywhere. All kinds, whipped up fresh from whatever fruit they have handy that's ripe. I've never drunk so much juice, but it was the best I've ever had.
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Re: A brief trip to Colombia

Post by Homerj » Mon Jan 08, 2018 4:43 pm

Great stuff Scrubber.
Tell Mr. Scrub he takes good pics!
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Re: A brief trip to Colombia

Post by DCComic » Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:35 am

Wow.
Especially the big close-ups.
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Re: A brief trip to Colombia

Post by 5waldos » Thu Jan 11, 2018 12:43 am

Great trip/ put Columbia on my list of trips.

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