Monday, June 6, 2011

'Mi casa es tu casa'

Salento & Valle de Cocora are two Must Sees of Colombia, according to every Colombian I've met & the Lonely Planet.  Salento's a neat little place.  A strange stillness about it, & a considerable amount of wandering foreigners attached to it.  Saturday midday is a parade.  The marching band & marching firefighters, all with their best we-don't-want-to-be-here faces, followed by a 6 block convoy of fire engines - horns blazing. 

Wandering around on an empty stomach, every restaurant has signs for Trucha.  Trucha with mushrooms, trucha with beans, trucha with rice, trucha with salsa.  Mmmm alright!  Trucha means trout.  Dammit.  I've been vegetarian for going on 6 years.  This gets increasingly difficult on the road, while the reasons & rules change constantly.

The Valle de Cocora is actually beautiful.  Painted in perfect colours.  The trees were forest green, the grass emerald.  The overcast sky touched the tops of the trees, the tallest palms in the world.  Went trekking with the couple who gave me a ride down & a family of 5 - all Colombians.

The family, which is a family of 3 & two friends of theirs, invite me to ride horses with them.  I had some practice on a horse one summer camp when I was young.  Since then I've been horseriding once in Mexico.  Time to master the equine once again!  I was awesome (humble) & way more prepared than before.  My ankles were muddy & my shoes wet from riding through rocky trails slick with mud & through rivers, just to the edge of the primary forest.

This family, my family, has adopted me.  Arriving back to Salento, they said they were going out on a day trip the next day & if I want to come, I can stay at their house tonight.  I am officially invited.

They told me I'm 'the boss of the house' for the night & left me with their two sons, Pablo (12) & Niko (14).
They live in Bogota, & staying for the weekend at their guest house in Armenia.  Very nice.  The sort a lawyer could afford.  The kids are amazing, playing Colombian Parcheezie & falling asleep watching Who Wants to be a Millionaire - in which the highest prize is 300,000,000 Colombian pesos (~150,000$).

I brought a bottle of water, they brought juiceboxes of Aguardiente.  Oh dear....
We spent the day drifting down Rio Viejo on a raft, captained by two dudes wielding bamboo sticks, or floating through rapids.  Rivers here are fairly clean but an opaque light brown.  The waterfall was clear, cold, fresh & beautiful.  A bowl of rock with an explosion of water.  The force creates it's own wind.  Mist, thunder.  Hide, concentrate.  Mud between your toes.  Smile.
So far on this trip 2 people have thought I was Colombian, & one thought I was Brazilian, & 2 Colombians laughed as I showed them around Manizales.  I have never been lost in translation.  Seeing English spoken tours is a reminder how lucky I am.

I was left at the bus station with a request from Oscar & Juan Pedro to call them anytime day or night if I ever need anything.  I have gained so much from knowing Spanish.  I know enough to laugh when I'm called a Gringa, an American, & that Mona (monkey) is more accurate.  We are all Monos.  : /

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