I have been counting down to this moment. DaVinci returns and the holidays are here! The apartment has been thoroughly cleaned, I have prepared oodles of food and Christmas presents are wrapped.
It’s a little weird to have DaVinci back, since the apartment has been all mine the past month and a half. I have settled. And now I have to get used to the space with another person. A man. My amante. I try to calm my fears and look forward to our vacation, hoping it wipes away the mess that is my life.
In true Colombian fashion, we end up renting a car a mere 3 hours before we wanted to leave, paying millions of pesos extra for our tardiness and the fact that I need an automatic in order to contribute to driving.
As 2 o’clock rolls around Tuesday afternoon, the Hertz representative is finally showing us the features of the car we will be driving for the next 8 days. This is after our taxi ride to the airport, after filling out all the paperwork, after realizing our car was on it’s way to Medellin, instead of being at the airport and after a hefty fried chicken lunch at one of the airport restaurants. I never thought this moment would arrive.
Weeeeee and we are on our way! Coffee country, here we come! Manizales is up first, then Salento. The roads are immediately winding and mountainous. I would expect nothing less of Colombia. About 2 hours into our drive we conveniently meet up with Davinci’s clown friend, his wife and daughter. We chat for a little too long (letting go of control…) and get the house keys and directions from him.
Manizales is a town on top of a mountain. Literally, the main part of the city is on the only flat part of the peak. As we drive through beautiful neighborhoods and apartment complexes, we eventually find the clowns house down a dark and desolate road with only two houses on it. Whatever, they have a dog, so I’m happy. Matias, the plump golden retriever, is adorable and excited. I love him.
I run in the house to use the bathroom and am immediately greeted by the black widow of the house. Why does there have to be spiders?! I try to keep tabs on it while I am in the bathroom with her, but of course she disappears before DaVinci gets inside. Manizales is quite cold, so I change into all the pants and long sleeve shirts I have to keep warm and protect from creatures.
I barely get much sleep, but I’m not sure if it’s because of the looming existence of spiders or because I am feeling a little under the weather. The next day, we make breakfast and I unsuccessfully try to be productive, so we head out to try and go to a nature park with lots of birds, butterflies and hummingbirds. Surprise! It’s closed since it’s Christmas Eve after all. On to Salento!
The ride is beautiful and DaVinci points out all of the fruits and plants in the landscape. We stop for treats and snacks wherever he sees something new I haven’t tried 🙂 Everything is perfect. Successfully arriving at The Plantation House hostel ($28/night/2people), where I made reservations, I am quite disappointed. Jusssstttt a bit too “rustic” for me, so we decide to try our luck with other options in the city, finding Tralala House ($23/night), which doesn’t have a private bathroom but is an acceptable sacrifice.
Tralala is super cute and comfy. The large open forum is filled with flowers and natural light, and the rooms are pretty spacious and bright as well. However, upon their recommendation to park our car at another place around the block, we found that hostel to be even better! Hostel Origen Colonial ($30/night) had private bathroom, room with a view and breakfast included-oh, and the parking!
We took advantage of the daylight to take a drive to the Valle de Cocora, but I realized there was more to do there so we decided to come back early the next morning for the 5-hour hike. Yeah. We woke up. Had breakfast. I doped up on meds. We began the trek.
Boy, was it a trek. Five hours is an understatement. It was more like 7. Yes I am slow as a hippo and was sick, but this hike was hard. The winding, hilly trails were relentless. I never thought there would be a moment of relief. Until the hummingbirds. Even though it was December 25, this small farm, the Acaime Reserva Natural, was open to visitors who were strong enough to reach it, ready to welcome us with hot chocolate or hot aqua with panela.
Switching between fever sweats and fever chills, I stood amazed to be so close to a whole colony of hummingbirds. Zooming in and out to the different feeders and playing around with each other, it was easy to hear the actual humming that their wings make. This guy captured it perfectly in this video. It was complete heaven. Then we met Alyssa.
Alyssa’s friends apparently left her behind to fend for herself on the 7 hour hike and she was viscerally upset. As the tears streamed down her face and she gulped deep breaths of fresh hummingbird air, she asked if she could walk with us back down. Of course we obliged. She was a good match for my slow ailing pace and only interjected her bits of anger a few times: “I hope they fell off the cliff” “I’m going to push them off the cliff when I see them.” Etc.
Reaching the bottom was such a relief. DaVinci and I dropped misery off to where she thought her friends were and we found a warm table by a fireplace to try the trucha (trout). I have no idea what the restaurants name was, but I had the most delicious aromatica (hot water with fresh fruits and herbs) and we even got dessert to go.
My only Christmas wish that evening was to watch Love Actually in bed with my love, eating our maracuya and chocolate dessert.
The next morning, after probably 15 hours of sleep, we packed up our things and headed via car to the coffee tour. Don Elias’s coffee farm was quite small. We waited on the porch while mom cleaned, sitting in some raggedy armchairs. Unfortunately, Don Elias was not present, but a nice young man who spoke English quite well told us all about how coffee grows best among other types of fruits. The tour ended with a delicious cup of coffee and back on the road again within about an hour.
Next stop. The DESERT. I have no idea what to expect.