After Guatape, I made my way to Bogota where my cousins, Mike and Evan, are teaching English with a program called SENA.
Bogota is an incredible city full of street art, musicians, and a very strong bohemian culture. Evan and I spent every night with a six-pack of beer in the square, Cazoleta del Chorro de Quevedo, that was directly outside of my hostel. It was a perfect place to catch up, people watch, and hear live music.
My last night I stayed with Mike and his host family who treated me with such overwhelming kindness. My little Spanish came in handy especially over coffee the next morning, when Mike’s host mom and I spent several hours discussing politics, family, and life.
It was such a treat seeing the boys and getting to know them better as adults. It was a wonderful realization for me to know that no matter how much time passes, family is family and there is something that will always connect us.
The next evening, I took a bus from Bogota to Ipiales. It was about 23 hours and was 95,000 COP. I have to stress that it could have been cheaper if I had bought the ticket earlier. I’ve learned that with the long distance buses, it is cheaper if you can plan ahead of time and buy a ticket a couple of days before you want to leave.
This was my first over night bus through Colombia and everything I had read was pushing for caution. I was a little nervous but prepared all the tricks; putting money in different pockets, putting my passport in a secret place, and things like that.
However, a lot of my trepidations vanished when I saw that more than 2/3rds of the passengers were a group of young nuns who had evidently been on some sort of trip to Bogota. Surely this cannot be full proof of some sort of omnipresent protection but then the girl next to me made the sign of the cross about 10 times during the night and I thought,
Well, with this amount of human consciousness there’s gotta be some protective vibrations created!
In every bus I’ve taken, there will be several peddlers who will come onto the bus and sell everything from water to bowls of chicken and rice. My favorite thing on this long bus was seeing the expressions of these sellers once they came onto the bus.
Initially prepared for the usual speech,
“Agua! Arroz con pollo! Jugos! Carmelos!”
The person would stop and furrow the brow a bit while registering all the little ladies in the front rows with their brown and white habits. Then a wonderful grin would appear from the seller, and all the young nuns would giggle. It was great.
I arrived in Ipiales and walked to a hotel I had heard of called Hotel Belmont. 15,000 COP for a single room and the owners are amazing.
Ipiales was such an interesting place. Definitely not as quaint and beautiful as my beloved Guatape, but had a great vibe (during the day) too.
I went to see the Iglesia de Lajas and it was really quite amazing. Sitting in the valley of this undeveloped town is this eccentric cathedral. I went on a Sunday that proved to be especially interesting and crowded.
For a while now I have so many mixed feelings about visiting churches. Especially these elaborate ones where the surrounding towns are so basic and the way of life is poor. I walk into a place like that and all I can think of is the money that was put into making this grand building. Then I think about the people who were enlisted in the building of these places and that the workers were all the poor people in the surrounding areas….
I’ll just say this place was really beautiful and spectacular and I would definitely suggest seeing it if in the area. The museum, on the other hand, is only $1 but that $1 is way better spent on an ice cream on the walk back up to the main road.
On the ride back to town, I saw some really interesting things. In this part of Colombia and bordering Ecuador, it is very common to eat guinea pigs! I cannot not think about the South Park episode about the Peruvian flute bands and the giant monster guinea pigs that attempt to destroy mankind.
Almost every shop has the little guys skewered and turning them over a low fire. A little passed this, I saw three women, one with guitar and playing. The other two were by her side and they were walking and singing. Horses and cattle stood in the roads of the busy city and appeared to be unattended.
What has been very rewarding to me so far has been witnessing the beautiful landscapes. Colombia is beautiful! Ecuador too! And there are small but distinct differences in the scenery. I rode through jungles, forests, over mountains, around lakes, and in valleys.
It is all simply breathtaking.
So, now I am in Quito and I am staying with two of the coolest guys who are friends of my friend Manus…THAT I met in MONGOLIA! This small, amazing, unexpected world is so magical!
Anyways, these hosts of mine have made it to my favorite people list. After a week of long nights of fascinating and refreshing conversations and an awesome trip to the beach town, Esmeraldas, I am feeling fulfilled and certainly more human.
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