Well folks, it had to happen. The Andes, like our journey itself, can only go on for so long. Yesterday afternoon we touched down in Cartagena, an ancient city by the sea in northern Colombia. Gone are the cool mountain evenings, replaced by a sweltering lowland heat. Although Cartagena is a beautiful city, this is not the aim of today’s post. First, we must travel back to Salento to cover the last week during which our pithy blog title remains salient.
As detailed in Lex’s post, we had a grand old time in Medellin. I took up company with Igor from Brazil and Federico from Italy for a few nights of obsessing over music and film on the roof of the Wandering Paisa hostal. The hostal was a bit of a noisy place, so I figured if I couldn’t beat them, I’d join them—hence, making the three days in Medellin a little bit of a blur. A highlight in the haze of our big-city revelry had to be a 3 AM stroll through the streets of Medellin, bottle of Aguardiente in tow. Igor, Fede and I stumbled upon a troupe of street musicians playing for an impromptu crowd of Paisas, as the Medellin folk are called. The rhythm section was composed of a guy on a high-hat cymbal, one with a snare drum, and another on a bass drum. These guys were accompanied by another on tuba and, finally, of all things, a basoon! Imagine klezmer music Carribean-style and you are halfway there. After working the crowd into a frenzy, they packed up their stuff and went home, without asking for money. They seemed happy just to be out there playing for the people, who, in turn, put on quite the dance party. All this, a few short hours from dawn, on the side of Calle San Juan.
From Medellin, we boarded the bus south to Salento, where we met up with our Aussie friend, David, and encountered two new British friends from Brighton named James and Becky. Salento is the kind of place that is quite accomodating to people who have been on the road for months on end and need to settle down. We spent the majority of our time on the porch and in the kitchen, hanging out and cooking tasty meals.
A few days later, the ATNM team expanded two-fold with the hard-earned arrival of my brother, Howie, and his girlfriend Marisa. Traveling from New York City, they suffered a cruel start to their journey at the hands of American Airlines, who not only lost their baggage but somehow failed to ever deliver the bags to their hostal. After a forceful interrogation at Bogota’s international airport, the bags were discovered in a locker for lost and abandoned goods, enabling the traveling twosome to board a night-bus for Salento.
We spent our time in Salento wandering the backroads and touring the coffee country. One such expedition was lead by the owner of Jesus Martin coffee. Jesus took us out to his family property out by Montenegro, about an hour away from Salento. There, we learned of his growing and processing techniques before eventually returning to Salento to view his roasting operations. The man certainly has a passion for coffee and is determined to elevate the coffee culture in his own nation at any expense. He is tired of selling bulk-product into the bulk-market, as is his less-restrained elder brother, who seemed to believe I was somehow responsible for the New York Stock Exchange’s irrational price fluctuations. I may be from New York, but I ain’t no futures trader!
The next day, we toured a small farm owned by a Brit named Tim, who also runs The Plantation House hostal we lodged in. Tim’s farm is a small hillside plot with various fruits and vegetables mixed in with the coffee plants. If you ever wondered what a pineapple looks like on the plant, wonder no more! Pineapples are bromeliads, a factoid I picked up reading The Bromeliads Of Ecuador from cover to cover while hiding in our room back at the Bospas Fruit Farm. Ahhh, the memories!
We stayed on at Tim’s farm to chat with a young guy who works alternately on the farm and in the hostals. While we certainly learned a great deal about technique in the field and enjoyed the scenic vistas, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia for the small plots in the Bolivian Yungas. It seems to me that here in Colombia, every farm has a dueno and that very few people who work in the fields own much of anything. Although the industry provides a living to many people in Colombia, I felt much better about the small-scale, cooperatively-owned nature of the industry in Bolivia.
We left Salento on Monday morning to board a flying bus-like contraption apparently known as an aeroplane. After taking the whole of the Andes Mountain range over land, I can honestly say that I no longer feel as though a quick jump on a plane represents a form of cheating the travel experience. Two hours in a plane, as it turns out, is much easier than twenty in a bus.
Here, in Cartagena, we have reunited with an old friend from the summers in New York, air-conditioning! Imagine the hottest, most humid day in New York City . . . and then imagine it never cooling off. Lex and I have slept a few kilometers away from the Ecuator and have not encountered a steamy, hair-frizzing, energy-sapping heat like this. It will take some getting used to, but from what we hear, there is something about the location of Cartagena that makes it hotter and stuffier than other sea-level tropical locales. Over the next few days, we shall wander the streets of the old town making frequent stops to sample the various fruit juices for sale on each corner. Lemonade, anyone?
Your sky shots are just beautiful.
Hey my dearest travelers, sorry about your brother,I stopped flying AA, Copa is the way to go, cheaper, on time and no problem with the luggage .Many places to visit in Cartagena de Indias. Nice breeze at night and lots to do too. You have to taste “granadilla”, my favorite fruit en la costa. Hay que tener cuidado con el agua, y los lugares donde hacen el jugo de frutas. Me alegro muchisimo que sigan disfrutando de las bellezas que mi pais ofrece al turista. No pasan por Barranquilla?. Besos y buena suerte en todo.
Jody ( Mrs. W. friend)