Monday, October 17, 2011

Ibagué, Colombia (dos)

Saturday morning with the whole weekend ahead of me is one of my favourite times of the week. I'm normally alone in the flat, and I sit listening to all the music I left behind in Manchester and that I miss more than I thought possible. It doesn't help that my mp3 broke in Bolivia so all I have is one CD that I bought in Argentina of this great performer I went to see at La Catedral, and of course the reams of vallenato, reggaeton, etc that is on the Colombian radio, which I enjoy but it's not quite the same.

That's how I spend pretty much every Saturday morning here, listening to music, reading the Guardian online and skyping my family, it's quite a peaceful start to the weekend and it really puts me in a good mood. This weekend is particularly nice as today (Monday) is a holiday too, and even though I enjoy my working at my project, I enjoy a three-day weekend even more.

Plus we have visitors from Bogotá so we've been showing them all the delights that Ibagué has to offer. They arrived on Saturday and we all headed up to the Museo de Arte del Tolima, our one art gallery here in Ibagué and which I am yet to vist, which was closed. So we decided instead to go for a coffee, but the café we chose had run out of coffee and wouldn't be getting any for some time. Then it started to rain.

-- Autumn has finally arrived here in Ibagué, the temperature has dropped (although it's still warm by my standards), and there has been a lot of rain, with streams of rainwater running down the roads, forming massive puddles, and rain filling up the river and playing havoc with our water supply. There is a strange irony here that when it's absolutely pissing it down there is a lack of water as the river we get it from is too full, of water, rocks and other debris, that they can't get enough water out of it. So I had the bizarre experience the other day, of getting in absolutely soaked, wanting a hot shower and not being able to get one as we had no water in the building. --

So anyway, Saturday; it started to rain and we headed over to another café for coffees, and then as we couldn't think of anything else to do and the rain had got even heavier, putting a stop to my tour of the centre, we went home. We met up again later though for dinner, which was nice. Then I went home and the others went out, and from all accounts had a pretty good night, but it wasn't quite the 'interesting day in Ibagué' that we'd planned.

Luckily yesterday was quite wonderful and made up for the ups and downs of Saturday. We were invited to the finca of a friend of Carole's host brother, way out at the end of Via Restrepo, the road that leads out of Ibagué and towards the Nevado del Tolima. This is the road that my family's finca is also off and it's full of restaurants and street vendors selling lots of traditional Colombian food. The finca we were visiting however was very much off-road, so much so that it can't be accessed by car, only by foot or on horseback. So, we rode up! On horses! Well, horses and a mule. And guess who got the mule. The safe, steady, and oh, so slow, mule.
I didn't mind too much though, as I've never ridden, and we were going up a fairly steep slope, and our pace meant that I had time to look around me and realise:

I'm riding a horse, (OK, fine, a mule), but still; I'm riding uphill, surrounded by beautiful forested mountains swathed in cloud, in Colombia.

We passed several other fincas on our way up, all brightly-painted with gables and porches and gardens filled with flowers. There were lemon trees, streams, blue dragonflies, it was lovely.
And the view! Once we reached the actual finca, we dismounted and I went to look down the slope we had just climbed up from: I could see and hear the grey, rushing water of the river that runs through the middle of the valley, the rocky outfaces of the hills peeping out from under dense greenery, I felt like I was in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, I just wanted to fall down into the landscape below and float away.

After the excitement of the ride up we all just hung out, playing with the dogs, enjoying the scenery and drinking tinto. We also helped prepare lunch, the standard Colombian fare of steak, papas and guacamole, which was simple yet delicious.

Afterwards we went for a walk further up the mountain to pick mora and passionfruit, but the weather was too misty to climb much higher and it was starting to rain and get dark, so we headed back down to the house, and then further down back to Via Restrepo and where our car was parked. I walked down with a couple of others, not feeling particularly confident about riding downhill in the rainy half-light, not even a mule! But some of the others rode down and looking back up at them, coming down the slope on horseback with their hoods up against the rain, I felt a little like I was in a fairy-tale, specifically The Hobbit, and that I was watching Bilbo, Gandalf and the dwarves riding through the wilderness. It was quite something, and a fitting end to a rather magical day here in Colombia!

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