I'm quite intrigued by that last photo. My eyes are telling me "butter in hot chocolate that has already been contaminated by something else" but my brain is saying "it must be some sort of bean dish."
Killer photos and yes, I'm intrigued and ready to see more.
I think Kerouac is right about the bean soup. Those are cubes of some kind of fresh cheese floating in it, right? What's the patty? Bjd, in Mexico there are certain plain soups such as the beef(?) one shown by Mark, but in Mexico they know that God gave us chiles, lime, etc. for a good reason.
It all started I suppose many years ago when Mrs M was born. There would come periodically special birthdays, it’s a fact of life, like your 18th or 21st. This year was one such in that it was a nice round number, but still many, many years before retirement. We’d looked last year at how we could celebrate it in a special way and came to the conclusion that we would return to Colombia, a favourite country of hers and high up in the list for me. I was last there in 2002 and looked forward to exploring it further.
To make it even more special we invited along any friends who would enjoy it, those who already had a connection with South America through work and those that had never been to the continent but had a sense of adventure even though they wouldn’t explore it by themselves. Mrs M has had a connection with Colombia since being in her teens and we did adopt our three kids from there. Using her knowledge and my innumerable travel, group organisational and interpersonal skills (the arrogance of the man is breathtaking) we put together a bit of a tour, the ‘best of’ in a way but still only touching the surface of the country. Long enough and comprehensive enough though to get a taste and to be able to do it in a reasonable length of time allowing for holidays from any work.
In the end there were nine of us, dropping to four on the last day or two. This brought its own complications in that we booked flights and accommodation for us and they could choose to do the same or not, depending on preference and availability. It was a trip with individual flexibility. We organised the transport within the country on the spot apart from a couple of internal flights which each sorted out on our information.
We had a day in Bogota then flew to Santa Marta. From there a drive to Cartagena, a flight to Cali, a drive to Popayan, a drive to Tatacoa Desert and a final drive back to Bogota. The longest drive was eight hours of which over six were on an unmade road, made worse by earlier torrential rain and an earthquake between Popayan and Neiva. In Neiva we than quickly arranged another hour minibus journey to get to Tatacoa where our accommodation was. It was a very long and tiring day. You can get a general idea from the map -
Firstly, I didn’t take my best camera due to the easy possibility due to what we were doing that it would be damaged, so the point and shoot one I have was used, that’s why they are not so clear. Secondly, with not being by myself, I didn’t think so much about making a later report, so I just tended to shoot away at a few things but sometimes forgot my camera completely. That’s why this may be a bit patchy and not so detailed. It’s more a series of random shots than anything particularly thought through.
In Bogota we had a general wander round, the following are at the main square, called the Plaza Bolivar. It has a long and varied history, being subject to name changes, but also the M-19 Marxist guerrilla group (almost certainly financed by Pablo Escobar) played a part when in 1985 they killed 25 Supreme Court Justices at the Palace of Justice -
On to Santa Marta where we had a couple of days. Nice place and we had a day trip to a set of pools and waterfalls and another day where we used large car inner tubes to float down a slow moving river (no photos of that though) -
One of the cafes we called for a stop off was a bit of a chocolate maker. There was a little talk, unfortunately all in Spanish of which only two of our members understood properly. Nevertheless I got some of what he said and I took a couple of photos of the stages of the process and the products that can be made from it. One thing he did say is that the biggest profit for them is not in chocolate as in bars or sweets, but when it is combined with things like butters for skin care -
On the way from Santa Marta to Cartagena we stopped off at a mud volcano. This is where you can have a bathe in the warm mud, an experience I forgoed as did one other of the group. When asked why, I mentioned I was from England where there is a lot of mud and have spent far too long playing rugby or football in it or avoiding it, though it was normally cold, and had no wish to immerse myself to repeat the experience.
You tend to wait for those before you to do their thing, then return down to wash it off (with the help of a convenient lady for a fee) in a nearby lagoon -
Evenings were spent cruising through the old town, stopping off for a drink or a meal. There were many street performers, most good, some bad, these were one of the better ones who did a ‘set’ for about half an hour then they’d wander around collecting money. We gladly paid -
This is what they were like in real life. The couple dancing were nothing to do with the group and it turned out they were Americans on holiday who just came to dance whenever they could. You may hear at 1:38 or so Mrs M drawing my attention to the dancers by calling my name. I acknowledge her and the reason being is that she wants, when convenient, for us to do a Salsa dancing course. I have agreed but can’t seem to find the best opportunity so far, funnily enough -
You have an excuse for not dancing -- that's not salsa music. I always admire people who will get up and dance in public like that -- they have obviously been dancing together for years. Were the musicians American too?
Cartagena looks as though it has received a few coats of paint and some new buildings since we were there at the end of 2009.
I well remember bjd's report about Cartagena many years back, and it was already wonderfully colourful back then. You have confirmed it again.
Most humans have an irresistible attraction to mud, which nobody seems able to explain. Even in the suburbs of Paris a week or two ago, there was a "mud run" at a military camp where it was guaranteed that the participants would get absolutely filthy -- and of course they were paying for this treat.
I suppose that it harks back to our desire to jump into puddles as children.
Mrs M can consider herself lucky. Neither my husband nor I can dance, but when other people are dancing he always wants us to. Many times we've made a spectacle of ourselves. I'd love to learn to dance, which would mean practicing to do the thing right, but Mr Spontaneous would rather just wing it in public.
What a great idea for a celebration. Your photos may not be your clearest ever, but they show all the kinds of fun you're having.
A thousand wows, Mark! Thanks for the map and some background history at the beginning, a reminder of why Columbia has not always been considered a fun tourist destination.
As a major aficionada of Gabriel García Márquez, you would think that I would have gotten myself to his home country by now. I am thrilled that your excellent pictures of Bogotá perfectly match my mental image of the "capital city" in his work. Why do the big public buildings around the main square look deserted -- were you there on a Sunday? What a contrast to see all that water and trees after the city shots. Hmm mud, hmm. I'm still vacillating about whether I would have gone in or not. Did people sit in a bubbling pit atop the cone? Cartagena looks very pretty, although to my eyes not exotic enough, i.e. doesn't look that different from Mexico. Good that you went all the way to South America to see 1920s US jazz! That's a great band and I really enjoyed the video. Hey -- more power to your husband, Breeze. Dancing should be more about fun and 7spontaneity , not always about technical precision.
Very much looking forward to more. Happy birthday, Mrs. M!
The dancing thing will come in time. Not sure when though, there actually used to be salsa dancing classes in Lusaka and they are still advertised but I've been informed they are not on now.
Bixa, yes, the first time it was a Sunday though strangely enough when we went back there seemed to be less people around, then I've just remembered, that was a Sunday as well. The mud volcano was a big pit and each group would sit in there for ten minutes or so and then get out for the next group.
As you sat in a restaurant on a street the performers would rotate through and mainly consisted of hip hop break dancers and and the odd one or two singer/guitarists. None were worth filming but the group shown made a nice change from the normal. Give me a minute and I'll see if I made a note of their name.
The big day, and the reason for us being together, was celebrated by an ad hoc birthday breakfast, a trip on a boat to an island (Isla Grande) where we did some snorkelling and canoeing through mangroves and a meal at night in a women’s prison -
In this last photo, the Alicia Keys lookalike on the left was having her 30th birthday. Her and three friends were from a church group, plus tagging along were two of the mothers, all from the USA. They spent their time singing, very loudly, some religious songs and drinking copious amounts of canned beer. Fortunately shortly after this photo was taken, they all collapsed drunk and asleep -
Moving on, a night was spent in Cali where we had little time for much other than a meal and a walk down to the river where we had a wander through the cat park in the evening. The beautification of the rather sad park was initiated by a Colombian artist, Hernando Tejada, who donated the largest brown one, followed later by others from different artists -
A long ride to Popayan the nest day saw us arrive on a Sunday. The place was dead but it did liven up the next day. It gave us a chance to stretch our legs and have a wander round. A fairly uninspiring town if I’m honest, but it did have a very good restaurant at the Hotel Camino Real and gave access to a further place -
The mangrove place is wonderful. I adore the red & green building with its little selection of produce out front. Popayán does look very pretty, with all that mossy green and the different levels. Looking at that monument and the volcano cap, I get the impression that Columbians like going up small steep hills and coming down the other side.
Thanks for the great link -- listening to St. James Infirmary right now.
I wondered if anyone might pick up on that. In essence there is a prison for women that runs a restaurant as part of the process of reintegration into society. The restaurant is open to the public and is in a small area at the entrance that is easily accessible to the public but still has barred gates - which are left open for us. How far back you have to go to get into the secure areas, I don't know. The food was good, as they said. Best is this article -
Um, mud. We've got that is spades here this time of year, no thank you. It is cold, however.
I have a friend here that was born and grew up in the Medellin area. She thinks I'd love it there or possibly in Bogatá, also at elevation. She is probably right. The coastal areas will be too tropical for my thin viking blood I'm afraid.
Cartagena looks pretty cool -- at least in a figurative sense. Interesting nevertheless. Hope there will be more.