Friday, November 28, 2014

From Cali to Salento

Yesterday, I had a full last day in Cali. I woke up at 6:30 and started the hike up the hill of 3 crosses. Its highly recommend to start early when all the locals are going before work and when its cooler. Otherwise there could be thieves. Jorge, the man I'd met my first day in Cali, insisted on meeting me in the park near his house to walk me to the start of the trail so I wouldn't get lost. He has really made my time in Cali feel safer. Then he asked a local woman hiker to show me the rest of the way up. She went too fast for me, or rather, I hadn't drunk any water and was feeling dehdrated so had to rest and drink a bunch before continuing slower up on my own, but making sure to stay close behind another pack of people. It was a steep 1 hour climb up. How they got the towering 3 crosses up there a century ago is pretty amazing. When I reached the top, I saw the woman from the start of the trip and, even though she spoke no english, we were able to carry on a basic converstation about travel, family, life in colombia, etc all the way down. The way down only took 35 minutes.

After the hike, I went to the modern art museum. It was very well maintained and a nice community outlet for culture, offering cinema and live music on weekends. Then I was starving, but it was in between breakfast and lunch, so I walked back to my hostel (all in all 3 hours of walking). Awesome you can walk right up the mountain from town, rested then went out again for a delicious vegetarian meal near my hostel. I did a few hours of design work and relaxed the rest of the day.

Today, I again woke up at 6:30 and made my way from Cali to Salento with taxis and autobuses in about 4.5 hours. Sadly, I left my back pillow in the last autobus leg of the trip. Why do I always do that? Its the 3rd time I've left it behind on a trip and I really needed it this time! Oh well, if thats the worst that happens, thats not too bad - I can roll up a towel or a jacket to put behind my lower back the rest of the time and I'll just have to buy another one and clip it to my pants so I won't forget it form now on!. I think the hiking helped my back as it does feel better today.

There is a 5 hour hike I could opt to go on some day in Salento that's fairly moderate. We'll see. It rains a lot here, so the hostel conveniently rents rubber boots, but if its pouring, I don't think I'll want to go, since half the fun is getting to see something.

The hostel I'm staying at is immaculate, minnimilist and right around the corner from the Plaza. Its dutch run. I have my own room for $22/night. Its worth it for my work since I have my own desk, quiet and space. Its slightly quieter here than the other two places I've stayed in Colombia so far, but since its still on the streets, I do have to continue wearing earplugs like all the other places. Latin america is quiet. Even here in a town of only 7000 people, you can hear babies crying, kids on skateboards, icecream truck tunes, marching bands, people calling out selling things, horns beeping etc. The rain is very peaceful though and the hostal itself is quiet and I can feel myself relaxing here, out of the city.

Thanksgiving in Colombia

I woke up on Thanksgiving day not knowing exactly what would unfold. The weather forcast the day before looked like rain. But, I woke up to sun! so decided to go on the 5 hour loop hike through the wax palms and took one of the willies up to the base with some other travelers at 9:30am. I was lucky to sit next to a very nice woman from Tasmania, Australia, and we ended up doing the whole hike together. It was absolutely stunning! and so wonderful to be in nature and hear various birds and insects. The trail was very muddy, criss-crossing streams and lost arc-like swaying bridges, and I was grateful I'd rented wellies for $1.50.

At about the 2 hour mark, we reached a little coffee finca and stopped for a rest and some moca before continuing on up the steepest part. An assortment of brightly colored hummingbirds zipped around the feeders stationed around the finca. As we started to descend on the other side of the mountain, the fog cleared and we had amazing vistas of wax palms. We rested on the softest grass carpet looking up at the 200 plus year old trees. You can really see the height compared to the cows in the fields below. It felt very prehistoric. We caught the willies back at 3:30.

Back at the hostel, we learned there was a thanksgiving dinner happening at 6 that included the 3 course meal for about $16 plus extra for alcohol, so 4 of us from the hostel decided to go. To get there, we walked 20 minutes to an ecohostal where the spread was being prepared. 46 other travelers from around the world also showed up. It couldn't have been easy to cook a non typical colombian meal for that many people. They did a great job - we even had turkey! It was delicious - especially the carrot souflee they'd subsituted for pumpkin pie. We were all stuffed at the end and sleepily walked back another 20 minutes to our hostel and all went to sleep by 10pm. What a wonderful way to spend thanksgiving and the best part was the unexpectedness. I really love Salento and am so grateful I ended up here for thanksgiving and have another few relaxing days here.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Cali a pretty great!

I've spent two full days in Cali now. Its a fun, relaxing, neighborly and well-cared for place from what I can tell. I am staying in the San Antonio neighborhood at a French run hostal with stained glass windows and tiled floors, near the beautiful San Antonio church. I feel completely safe walking around after dark. There are a lot of little shops, bakeries and a surprising number of international, organic and vegetarian places. People spend time outside enjoying themselves and the great weather (80's but lower humidity and breezy with cool air at night for sleeping and no mosquitos).

Yesterday, I tried to go to the modern art museum (my gudiebook said it was open on sundays) but it was closed. So I stopped at an organic cafe and was immediately befriended by two 60ish colombian men (Jorge and Bill) sitting on the patio with their dogs. They thought I looked lost and started talking to me to help me out. They both lived and went to boarding school in the US - New Orleans, Connecticut, Houston, and San Francisco so spoke English. One sells organic insect repellent he imports here from the US. Bill kept going on and on about how I should start learning Poruguese instead of Spanish, how its a true language and more people speak it around the world than Spanish apparently including 6 countries in Africa. I did not know that. Then, their artist friend, Jorge Calero, wandered over to us. He's lived in Portugal for 6 years and told me the same thing as Bill. I walked over to see Gorge Calero's artwork and it was pretty interesting, abstract/fantastical/themed on the 4 elements. He said I could buy one for $250 and have the canvase rolled and shipped. I have his website in case I want to.
I would like to start an art collection from places I travel and I did like his whimsical work - it was real - not cliche.

The other Jorge (last name Valencia), invited to take me on a walking tour with his dog, Paco. So I went with him and he showed me the river walk, down town and some other cool sites for several hours, so pleased that I liked his city.

I told him right away that I have a boyfriend who works in the bike industry, just in case he got any other impression. He said biking is huge in Cali. Every Sunday, they shut down a major street and it belongs to cyclists from 8-1. Indeed, its bike friendly and I noticed a lot of bikers and better traffic and roads than in Cartagena. Jorge asked if I could ask my boyfriend about getting a discount on a bike from his shop and having it shipped here as bikes cost twice as much in Colombia! I said I would ask. He said he recently moved back to Cali from the states 3 years ago and its his favorite Colombian place, but its changing as not so great people from other cities in Colombia come here bringing crime, poor driving, bad manners.

I met the two men again today for coffee and Jorge gave me 5 Colombian DVD's to watch. So nice and unexpected!

Its a tricky mix between being hesitant, wary, coming across as timid even, guarded with my bounderies up to being open to talking to strangers, coming across as confident, bold and friendly. Traveling around Colombia is a learning experience for sure that takes me out of my comfort zone since I know minimal Spanish and am a woman traveling solo.

Some part of me likes to be pushed out of my bubble that way. Not all the time - I like traveling comfortable places too like New Zealand, Europe. I can't wait to go to Japan. But being in latin America makes me more grateful for what I do have, the life I get to live in Santa Fe, etc. The more time I spend in latin america though, the more certain I feel that its not somewhere I'd want to live myself. I'd like to sometime live in a foreign country, but would prefer a country that has a high level of spiritual awareness. Most of Latin america feels pretty full of young souls more interested in the material consumption. Nothing at all wrong with that, but that's just another reason it pushes me out of my comfort zone and why I gravitate toward Santa Fe. Too bad its so cold and dark in the winter in Finland, sweden and all those nordic countries!

Today, I chilled out more, caught up on work, meditated, talked to my mom and had a long distance energy healing session from her (matrix energetics) since my back is feeling compressed from stress (also had a long distance session yesterday from a woman who does seimei back in Santa Fe so my back is improving again I hope), walked to an artisan market and a local colombian cafe for lunch, lounged around on the hostal terrace, practiced Rosetta Stone. Now I'm back in my room and might watch one of those Colombian movies I was just given.