I left Baltimore on the 29th of December for Bogota, Columbia. It seems like a lifetime, but I’ve been here a mere nine days. I took no guidebook, no map and didn’t know a soul in the country. The one thing I did know is that my buddy from Cordova, Alaska, Adam, had a cabin somewhere in the mountains of Colombia. Last winter during our motorcycle trip through Mexico and Central America I received an email from Adam telling me about his cabin and inviting us to check it out. As you know, we did not make that far. That darn Darien Gap. I had wanted to continue exploring South of Panama this winter and booked tickets to Colombia. I figured why not shoot Adam an email and check it out.
The directions from Adam were simple. Get to La Enea (about 10 hours by bus from Bogota) and call Javier who has a jeep and will take you the rest of the way in. Don’t forget to call Hector the caretaker and let him know when you’re going to be there so he can get you the keys. That’s a lot of telephone calls for my utilitarian Spanish.
I figured I’d go past La Enea about 10 miles to Manizales and check out the city first. Perhaps I could employ the services of someone slightly more bilingual than myself to assist with the phone calls. As it turns out I arrived at the start of Festival. If you’ve even been in a Latin American city during Festival you know it’s plum crazy. I checked into a hostel and hit the streets. Parades on horseback, dancing, music and I heard there was even a beauty pageant, but I didn’t find that one, sadly.
After a good night of Festival I set out the next morning to reach my contacts with the assistance of the nice lady at the hostel. Javier was no longer around, but after some trying I was able to get a hold of Hector who agreed to come and take me from La Enea to the Casita. I hopped a cab to meet Hector. As planned, we rendezvoused with Hector on the edge of town. I hopped in his Jeep and off we went into the mountains.
Last sight of the paved road.
And eventually the road peters out.
Into a footpath / cattle trail. And finally
There it is.
A little two story casita in the mountains of Colombia. I’ve been living out here for four days now and it’s magic. It’s a good thing I have time because everything takes time. It’s about an hour to hike back to the paved road and the closest services of any kind. If you want something more than a roadside restaurant you’ll have to take a bus from there. Every day involves a trip off the mountain for one thing or another.
So here I am by myself in the mountains of Colombia. I spend my days hiking around, usually back and forth to the cabin, practicing my Spanish at the roadside restaurant and figuring out the local bus system to get myself back and forth from town. Some days are hard. I messed up the buses yesterday and wound up hiking an hour in the dark through mud and cow patties.
There are a lot of different ways to travel. Some people move from place to place and sight to sight. We did a lot of that last winter. Another way is to find a tiny little piece of another country and blend in to it, get to know it, be a part of it. It becomes nice to be a familiar face in a foreign place. It’s a great feeling to greet your neighbors each day and successfully navigate your little area of another country and another language.
The folks at the restaurant down the road help me with my every day activities. I get up in the morning and hike to their little stand. They ask me how yesterdays adventure went and what I’m up to today. They’re patient with my Spanish, teach me new words everyday and help me translate what I don’t understand. Once they noticed they I was just working my way through the menu item by item they just started bringing me things to eat that weren’t on the menu. This is what I got for lunch today:
I have no idea what you call it, but it was delicious.
So here’s to getting along day by day in a little piece of Colombia. I believe I’ll stay a little while longer. There’s something special about making your own way in the places other foreigners don’t go.