It’s been an experience. For someone who’s never travelled alone until this trip, I’ve done a lot of new things on my own. I’ve also never been happier than when I saw Brian’s taxi arrive at the AirBnB in Cartagena and I knew the alone part was over!
The volunteering was really great – and really hard. I have a lot of respect for all teachers, and day care workers and babysitters. And parents. But day care workers? Wow. 26 2 year olds. In 33 degree heat and humidity and no air conditioning. Impressed. Next steps? Knowing I will never be a child care worker but still love to play with kids and having the utmost respect for those who do that every day.
The home stay was also great. Warm and welcoming people and a different world for me. I definitely got to use my limited Spanish. Next steps? Spanish classes or a tutor back in Toronto. I went to a couple of language exchange meet-ups, in Cartagena and Medellin, and will seek those out in Toronto now.
It’s almost the end of our trip to Colombia, and we had another “Must do” – a coffee tasting! Fortunately, we found a great place in Medellin: Toucan Café and Tours, only a 5 minute walk from our hotel in Poblado, hosts coffee tastings every weekday at 4PM.
We not only got a coffee tasting from our guide Juan (Not Valdez!), we got a master class in coffee origins, preparation, and the smells and flavors of coffee! We also got lucky and had a private class of just the the 2 of us! Both David, the organizer of all the tours offered by the company, and Juan speak perfect English so it was an easy and fun experience for us from the booking to the class.
Guatapé is such a pretty town and I took so many photos I had to do a separate photo post. It’s not called Colombia’s most colorful town for nothing!
The decorations on all the buildings are called zocalos, and as I mentioned, every building has different ones. Some are very specific to the business inside, and some? We don’t know, but it was really fun wandering around looking at them. Another reason to visit Guatapé!
People from Medellin know where to go for their weekend breaks: Guatapé. This beautiful lakeside town is located just a short 90 minute bus ride from the city. We took the bus yesterday afternoon and it was relatively painless and on time.
Guatapé sits on a man-made reservoir built in the 1960s by the hydro-electric company, so there are a lot of water sports opportunities in the area, and the town itself is beautifully decorated with colorful art. There is also a giant rock called El Peñon which is a popular climb offering beautiful views of the water and mountains.
I took the bus again this morning and this time it was totally worth it! Brian and I went paragliding in the mountains outside of Medellin and we both loved it.
It helped that the bus ride was under an hour! We left the city at around 9:30am and by 11am we were flying!
The mountain locale and weather and air climate of the region makes for perfect conditions for paragliding. There are a number of businesses offering the service for a really inexpensive price. We paid $95,000 COP each for 10 minutes plus $10,000 COP for a video. For $87 Canadian two of us paraglided and we both got video and photos from the gopro they gave us to use on the flight. How could we NOT do it?!
We flew with Zona De Vuelo because they were the business who confirmed with us online. We probably could have just taken the bus to the drop-off point where all the businesses are and any one of them would have accepted our money. They all charge the same amount and they all fly from the same point of the mountain.
We had a nice afternoon exploring gardens and wildlife – and our minds! – today. The Universidad metro stop has a lot of options for tourists – we enjoyed both the Botanical Garden and the Medellin version of a science centre.
The free Jardin Botanico is huge and amazing. Seconds after walking into the park, we heard loud birds squawking, looked up and saw 4 large toucans in a nearby tree. We had to zoom in quite close on our cameras but they were brightly colored, large and beautiful. We even got to see them fly over us. I was already hooked!
Our first day in Medellin and we saw a lot! This morning we did a self-guided tour of Medellin’s fancy metro system, including the cable cars (more cable cars!)
Things I have heard about Medellin from Colombians: It’s the best climate; the people are very impressed with themselves; they love their subway; they like plastic surgery. Things I’ve noticed: the climate is pretty good!; the people are very nice (like everyone across the country); their subway is very nice and clean!; I have not noticed plastic surgery. It’s certainly not like Beverly Hills where you can’t avoid it.
I hated it. I am not a bus person to begin with. I need gravol for my motion sickness. This bus ride was supposed to take 4 hours and it ended up as 6 1/2. Plus it was 6 1/2 hours of windy roads. Non stop windy roads through mountains.
These roads were filled with trucks. Trucks that can’t handle windy roads up and down hills, so have to stop and wait at every single turn until there is enough room for them to navigate. Some of these waits lasted 15 minutes. Some felt like they were taking 30 minutes.
Brian said it was going to be worth it for the views. Nope. This wasn’t Big Sur or the Ring of Kerry. Not worth it. Hated it. Should have flown.
After a 3 hour tour of Hacienda Venecia today, I am impressed by all the labor that goes into one cup of coffee.
We learned a lot about coffee today! I admit, I didn’t know very much to begin with so anything is added knowledge for me!
Colombia coffee production is high because the region isn’t troubled with seasons. They have sun and rain all the time in the coffee zone and the plants need both so it works out in their favor.
We got to see a lot of the production at the farm: from little seedlings to a walk through the growing plants and more. We saw the flowers and fruit and got to watch as the farmers unloaded the day’s pickings. We also saw where the fruit gets sorted – the premium beans are reserved for export and the worst/3rd level stay domestic as cheap coffee in Colombia.