Friday, November 18, 2011

Boyacá, Colombia

Colombia is made up of 32 departments and Boyacá is one of these. Located about 10 hours (by bus) north-east of Ibagué, I took a trip up there last Friday to visit some friends. Boyacá is very different to what I’ve seen of Colombia so far. The buildings in Tibasosa, the village where I stayed, were all old, conquistador-style buildings, and it was very pretty and quaint. The house that my friends are living in has a open courtyard in the middle of the house with rooms leading off from it, wooden shutters on the windows and a sloping roof made from terracotta tiles. In short, it was lovely.

We explored quite a bit in Boyacá - Saturday we took a trip to the Lago de Tota via Aquitania, where it was raining quite heavily but we managed to get some snaps of the imposing church there. From Aquitania we took the bus round the lake to Playa Blanca, known for it’s naturally white sand. It was very scenic but also very cold, we were 3,000m up after all and the sky was filled with grey, scudding clouds threatening rain. We took shelter inside the only restaurant, known for having terrible food. We thought we’d be safe with a hot beverage, we were wrong. Apparently this restuarant can’t even mix together hot milk and chocolate powder successfully, it was undrinkable.

Afterwards we walked up from Playa Blanca and back onto the road circling the lake, the weather had cleared a bit by this point and we could flag our bus from any point on the road so we kept walking for a while, taking photos and enjoying being the only non-Colombians probably for a couple of hundred miles! Eventually we got on the bus and headed to Iza, a small village famed for its picturesque parque principale and its many dessert stalls. The vendors offer you a taste of any dessert you ask to try and after trying four or five we picked out our favourites and enjoyed them sat down in the sun. Then we got on the bus and headed back to Tibasosa, to Italian food, beers and card games.

Sunday and the weather was still pretty grim, very unusual for Tibasosa apparently, I obviously just got lucky (!). We spent the day helping to decorate some carts for a procession later on in the day - they had a festival going on - and by coincidence we ended up decorating the Tolima cart (the department I live in), cutting out paper flowers and blowing up balloons. Then we had lunch on the balcony of one of the resturants my friends’ host family own, (the Italian restaurant being the other), overlooking the parque and the procession. We had the traditional lunch of Ajiaco chicken and potato soup which is absolutely delicious. The soup is served with rice, a slice of avocado, capers and cream. You pour the cream on to the soup and season with capers, and have the rice and avocado alongside it. ES MUY RICO.

After a bit of a relax and recuperation in bed we went out dancing in Duitama, a small city half an hours drive away from Tibasosa, where we drank a bottle of aguardiente, on top of the beers and other bottle of aguardiente we’d already had, and so we got quite drunk. The lie-in this drunkeness resulted in the next day put a hold on our trip to Nobsa (I laughed every time anyone mentioned the name of this place), known for its ruanas, the Colombian equivalent of a poncho, now been postponed until the next time I visit Boyacá, which I hope will be in February sometime, as I had to get the bus back to Ibagué.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Ibagué, Colombia (cinco)

So our travelling plans fell through for this weekend but it's actually turned out really nice, and I spent most of it out and about on my own, which is quite unusual for me here. I finally managed to make it to the Museo de Arte del Tolima (MAT) on Saturday, our only art gallery here in Ibagué, which is teeny-tiny! But the exhibition they've got on at the moment is actually quite likeable despite the fact that it's based on football-related images. The artist, Demián Flores, is Mexican and in the main body of the exhibition he's taken photos of footballers training, from the 70s it looks like, and added traditional Mexican designs to them so that the positions the footballers are holding look kind of weird and macabre.

MAT also have a weekly cinema club and the genre for this month just happens to be science-fiction, which as you can imagine I was pretty happy about
! So after the exhibition I sat in a café for an hour or so watching the world go by and scribbling down some thoughts, and then returned to MAT to watch George Lucas's directorial debut THX 1138. I wasn't overly impressed, I have to say, I can see why I'd never heard of it until the day before yesterday.
The film I saw at the cinema on Sunday (solo cinema trips twice in two days might help you realise quite how small my social circle is here
!) was much better; In Time, has a pretty interesting and original premise - a society in the future where money is literally time, and people are paid in and pay for items with minutes, hours and days, unless they're super-duper rich and they're paid in months, years or even decades - although it was let down a bit with the dialogue.

(A photo of MAT from their monthly newsletter and my observations scribbled around it.)

Then this morning I woke up (before 8am as bloody usual), started a crossword and had breakfast, then Olga Lucia (the lady I'm living with), suggested a bike ride, first down the ciclov
ía (every Sunday most cities in Colombia close off some of their main roads for the sole use of cyclists, joggers and walkers) and then onto a cycle route down near the airport.
So off we went, freewheeling through the city and out into the countryside, and it was just beautiful. The weather was perfect: warm and sunny, with a light breeze, and we were cycling
! And surrounded on all sides by the brightest greens - lush rice paddies and verdant pastures filled with cows and horses grazing, and in the distance the mountains marching off towards Bogotá. I felt blissfully happy!

The bliss soon faded however and I was feeling a lot less appreciative of cycling and the scenery on the way back, our carefree coasting on the way out replaced with pedalling. Lots of it. Uphill. In the 25 degree heat.
After six months of not cycling my body was rebelling and I had to stop many, many times, close to fainting at one point
! When we finally made it back to the flat (I wasn't sure that I'd ever make it) and had a chance to glance in the mirror, my face looked like I'd been boiled alive. (Dad, Mum and Shabnam - remember the steps in Dubrovnik? This was so much worse.)

Despite the complaining though it made me realise how much I've missed cycling and I want to do it again, although next time I will be venturing out much, much earlier and I will be avoiding the midday sun