Crossing over to the other side
11.09.2007 - 21.09.2007 0 °F
After a good time rafting and hiking in San Gil and Villa de Levya, we decided to cross over to the western side of the country to Medellin. Originally we only planned to spend a day in Medellin, and then head of to the coffee region. Medellin is the second largest city in Colombia and only 15 years ago it was virtually prohibited to visit. The city sits in a valley with the majority of the poor population stacked on top of each other along the hillsides. Many people recognize the name Medellin as having been associated with the drug empire of Pablo Escobar (the Godfather of Colombia).
Medellin is an extremely interesting city with a dynamic mix of people. The natives of Medellin call themselves paisas and take great pride in occupying what they say is the heart of Colombia. After years of Organized crime and guerilla warfare the city and its people have been left permanently marked by the distress. The main center has a park called Botero Park. There you can see dozens of the most famous sculptures of Fernando Botero. Botero is famed for having created all of his works to over exaggerate the obesity of his object. In San Antonio Park he placed the famous "bird of peace." In 1996 it was partially destroyed by a Guerilla bomb, it was left damaged and a replica was placed beside to express the damage and futility of violence.
Some good films to give you a bit of a feel for what life was like just a few years back in Medellin are Rosario Tijeras and the documentary The Sierra or La Sierra They both have a lot to do with the violent hillside slums of Medellin. If you take a ride on the subway, your ticket includes a cable car that takes you up to the top. You get a view from the window, although walking around is not recommended. A young Australian who was with me told me he just loved those types of places and wanted to walk around. I enjoyed the view from the top and headed back. Overly cautions? Maybe, but if you see La Sierra you`ll understand.
After 5 days (it was supposed to be 1) we were finally ready to head of for the coffee region. A kilometer and a half worth of landslides turned our 4 hour journey into 13, but we arrived safely to Manizales. Manizales as a town/city leaves a lot to be desired, so we didn`t stay long. Instead we decided to head to the small town of Salento.
I did however, like the attitude in Manizales about kidnapping translates say no to abduction
Salento is home to the national tree of Colombia, the waxed palm. The trees grow to up to 200 feet and tower high above the forest. The trunk is coated with a thick white wax that protects it from insects and gives it the strength to withstand the high winds and its top-heavy nature. A 30 minute jeep ride takes you to the Valley of Corcora where you can set of a 8 mile hike through a nature reserve and finally to the peak where the palms grow. A Dutch biologist discovered the trees and said that they formed a canopy above the canopy, unlike any other in the world.
I’ve placed a few photos here because this place is spectacular.
Here’s one of a lonesome palm just before sunset
Here is a field of them that reminded me of a windmill farm in California
The hike takes you up to two small farms. These farms have their own trout ponds, cattle ranches, fruit orchards, and coffee fields. The finca Montaña has amazing views of the nearby central mountain range and the snow capped volcanoes. They offer lodging and if I had been better informed I would have taken them up on it. We tried to go back a few days later, and arrived on horseback. However, catching a 7:30 jeep is harder than it seems for a couple of travelers and we had to make other plans.
Our next plan was get a move on to the nearby city of Pereira and look for an opportunity to stay for a while on a coffee farm.
Befoire leaving the center we were treated to a marching band in the center. The buses are called "Chivas" and are really traditional Colombia transportation. They all have names, and some sort of painted theme. Pasengers can be seen riding inside, outside, and on top. Everything is transported this way in most rural parts of Colombia.