A Navidad Colombian Style
21.12.2011 - 25.12.2011 25 °C
The bus ride.
So there we are in Medellin's busy bus terminal. It's 9.30am and our bus goes at 10. Ricardo has booked us the tickets and has baggsied the best seats, one back from the front. It's a flashy bus with big comfy recliner seats. I'm transported back to 2008. But it is so nice doing a bus with a boy you can snuggle up to and I have the window seat because I asked for it.
We have bought a couple of chicken empanads (still warm) and Lina gave us some fruit. We set off, the journey should take 5-6 hours. We leave Medellin climbing steadily. The bus winds around the road, skinny single lanes with obstacles, 'PELIGRO!' signs warn, with a graphics of a head-
on car crash. On a few occasions I'm looking out the window and straight down into a cloud forrest oblivion. I hope the bus driver knows what he's doing, as we turn corners so close to the edge gravel shunts off into oblivion.
We are quite high up and my ears keep popping, and I'm glad I don't get car sick. There has been lots of rain in the hills of Colombia and large mudslides have closed half the road in at least 5 places. This means horrendous traffic jams of up to a hour or two. We're traveling the main road between two cities so there countless huge American style dodge trucks hauling livestock or steel girders or covered loads, narco traffic? My favorite loads are covered in black tarpaulin and have hecho en Medellin printed on the back. I imagine trucks full of cocaine. Sitting at the front we have prime position for the on-board entertainment which is two films. The first one starts...explosions, gunfire, shouting, blood, more machine gun fire. Unintelligible Spanish grunts. "the marine" in Spanish with no subtitles. Brilliant. Interestingly you don't really need any subtitles. It's quite awful but I find it difficult to tear my self away (the fact you can't hear yourself think above explosions and gunfire doesn't help). Apart form the landslides which consist of reddy brown earth slumped across the road or huge boulders (yikes!). There is also the problem of wide lorries like I mentioned before passing each other on narrow stretches of road. Some corners are so tight, long vehicles have to take turns in going round them. In one incident we get stuck on a wobbly bridge over a Rio which has burst its banks, it is brown with sediment and raging below us. Again i look out my window straight into the rapids. I caluclate if we fall in, we die. There'll be no breaking of bus window with tiny hammer and swimming free. We have to pull in our mirror for the trucks going the other way to get past, it's that tight. We finally pull off. There is an announcement in Spanish. No comprende. A horrible smell, the toilet is broken. I hope the smell is temporary? We stop 30 mins later at at rest stop everyone piles off for the bano. It's so hot! R explains that were now down in the valley and that's why it's hotter. I'm talking 10degrees difference. We all pile back on, and I'm now grateful for the freezing aircon. I don't drink anything else for fear of needing another wee. The second film starts. The zoo keeper. What? A nerdy fat guy asks his girl to get married, she says no, his life crumbles, he gets a new job at a new zoo, there's a beautiful woman he has to work with (but she's wearing a dowdy uniform, has her hair up and wears glasses, so he doesn't notice she's beautiful). But he still carries a torch for bitch ex-girlfriend, anyway then the animals start talking to him and sorting out this love life. The dubbed spanish animal voices are ridiculous. I can't watch this, except i do. I fall asleep. 8.5 hours later we arrive in Armenia. We jump out and hail a cab to Ricardo's parents.
We're back. We have our room back with all our washed clothes folded on the bed and the mini bar stocked full.
The next day we head out to see a coffee plantation.
Me, Ricky, his dad, brother and niece. Buenavista. It's set in the rolling countryside, honestly some of the most beautiful landscape I've ever seen. Lush tropical quite hilly hills. We learn all about the coffee process. Ending with a delishious cappuccino with an indescribably beautiful view, oh that'll be the buena vista! We get eaten alive by the evilest Mosquitos known to man. They are huge and hover over every cm squared of open flesh. Innocent skin piercings turn into raging itch fests (later). The motherf£ckers.
Nearly Christmas. I've been bigging up ricks cooking prowess to all and sundry. We therefore offer to bake an apple crumble for Christmas day. I'm intrigued at what were going to eat? It seems no roast pig ;(
The hair situation is dire. The water, heat, humidity turn my hair into a frizzy oil slick. It's disgusting. Nothing is working. I hate it.
We head over to a young friend of r's one evening. He is a Colombian and has found an English girl like me. They have both moved from London where they met, to Armenia. I use the term 'girl' to describe the girlfriend. She's only 24 and has that sparkle of new love and adventure in her eyes. She speaks ebthusiastically about the love of her life (ricardos friend) and how exciting it is to be in Armenia.
They have set up a home which they proudly show us around. It's a spacious top floor flat with Indian hippy aka student throws over the sofas. A huge throw is pinned to the ceiling above the bed with ganja leaves all over it. They have a chill out room! There is a graffitti wall which we're asked to autograph. There is a distinct aroma of a not so unpleasant a herb. Oh to be 24 and have it all in front of you again!
It's Christmas eve! It's warm and it's humid. We go for a drive to a village called solento. It's up in the hills outside Armenia. A beautiful colonial village set into this incredible landscape. Then we drive up a valley to a place called Cocura. R tells me this is the most beautiful place on earth. I think it probably is? There are spooky palm trees called wax palms. I feel like we have been transported back in time to the land of dinosaurs. We stop at a restaurant near a campsite young R used to stay at, and share a huge patacon crisp with caper mayonnaise and salsa oh and a cerveca. Club Colombia is my fav.
On route to the grandmothers that eve we stop to buy her a poinsettia in a pot. We also buy the ingredients for the apple crumble. Not as easy as it might sound.
I have to report that Christmas eve celebrations are not really that christmassy. Well not like my world. It's a big family gathering. You may have read the list of peeps? Of course I'm in my bubble so I really can't compare. Also it's warm and I realize it's only my 2nd hot Christmas! The grandma is the chief bunuello maker and sits in her chair fashioning balls of a cheesy dough mixture. These are then deep fried. Dinner is a cold buffett. Four generations of the family are there. Tia Olga informs me that the 48th great grandchild has just been born! R and I get asked about when we will start a family! I'm also informed by r's mother she wants a son. I want to say 'he's only just got divorced!' and 'we've only just moved in together'. It's so different here...
Basically we eat and drink too much, not so different.
A Rosario style stuffed chicken. A deboned chicken. Stuffed with pate, ham, and boiled eggs in the middle.
Club Colombia favorite beer.
The apple crumble is made guessing weights. It's good, but no fresh cream.
No Christmas tree.
The jardin is officially gorgeous though.
Love Olga and the family. Olga speaks English!
Have to learn Spanish.
R has tourettes sneezing. He swears every-time he sneezes.
Vegetables I miss you.
I haven't had the internet for over a week.
Finished the glass room. Great book.
About to head to the beach!! Finally.
Car journey ahead. R wants us to leave at 5am christmas day!
Sorry for delay xxxx