Weekends Away (en)
First of all – apologies for a delayed post. There are a few reasons (excuses) for it – I got sick which was not fun. Being sick in hot weather feels so much worse than in our moderate climate. Then I needed to find a place to stay and actually move there. Then the Internet at my places (both old and then the one was down) and then there were weekends. And they were really great!
Valledupar has a lot of places which are relatively near when you take into consideration the actual size of Colombia. Everything that is within 5-6 hours of a bus ride is considered near. The buses are reasonably priced and very comfortable. Nothing like the buses we know in Europe. But Colombia doesn't have any trains so I guess they need to compensate for it.
Well, back to my weekends. A week ago a Colombian family invited my friend and me to their 'casa del campo' – something like a weekend house – usually in another town or village. They wanted us to see a bit more so they planned a few stops along the way. The first stop was an open air museum called Makugueka. If I hadn't been there with the locals I think I wouldn't have found it. The road leading there was just a dirt road and there was no sign referring to it at all. The place itself was interesting but for me as a European the nature surrounding us was even more interesting.
Our next stop was Patillal – a small village where our 'guides' bought meat for lunch and dinner from the local butcher's meanwhile we checked out the monument dedicated to Vallenato music. On each of the coins there is one famous Vallenato composer with his most famous verse on the back side of the coin. Once again, I was more fascinated by the nature and the mountains around us.
Finally we got to their casa del campo in the village of La Mina. There are other houses where people live permanently and they usually have their fincas there. Finca, Spanish word for a farm is one of my favorites. You can see pigs and piglets, ducks and chicken and donkeys and even cows happily roaming around as they please. But it's not for the farms why La Mina is a fairly popular weekend destination. It's the river and beautiful smooth white boulders in it that make the place so special. It's really spectacular. However, I think my photos don't do the place justice.
When we got back in the afternoon, we ate super delicious 'sancocho' soup. The best is to compare it to our goulash. Not so much for the taste but for the way they prepare it – you need a big pot, some kind of meat (can be chicken, beef, pork) and then you add yucca (root, tastes similar to potatoes), squash, plantains (giant green bananas) and you let it cook for hours. In the meanwhile you can enjoy a drink or two with your friends. Time flew by and it was time for dinner. We had 'asado' which is basically grilled meat. So I had goulash party and a barbecue = 'grilovacka' on the same day. The only difference was that then we danced or in my case tried to dance salsa, vallenato and reggaeton.
The next morning we went to a small picturesque village called Atanquez. It was interesting to walk in the streets and observe the local way of life. Probably the most curious was a visit in a local sweet shop. Once again it would have never ever occurred to me that there was a sweet shop hadn't I been accompanied by Colombians who knew their way around. So all of a sudden we were in a living room of a man selling sweets. But it was chocolate or candies as you might imagine. The sweets he sold looked like soap and it tasted super sweet. I know they were made of various fruits but I cannot explain it better (see the photos below).
The next weekend was not just ordinary one but 'puente' (literal meaning 'bridge', but here it means a prolonged weekend). On Monday was a 'festivo' (holiday) but nobody could remember what the occasion was. Colombia is one of the countries with the highest number of public holidays so no wonder they cannot remember. I guess the more important is to enjoy it to the fullest.
For me it was a very 'gringo' weekend with a bunch of new friends I made. At the crack of dawn we were well on our way to Santa Marta where we made just a quick stop to hop on another bus heading to Rioacha. After about an hour a bus stopped and we got off in the middle of nowhere. My friends had visited the place before so I just blindly followed them. We crossed the road and walked on a dusty path surrounded by plantains and coconut palms. In the midday heat we walked for about 2km (the other option was to take a mototaxi but we voted against it for various different reasons) and arrived sweaty and dusty at the reception of our hostel.
And then there I was! I found myself on a perfect beach – the one you imagine when you hear a phrase 'tropical holidays'. White sand and blue water stretching as far as you could see with numerous coconut palm trees and exotic plants and bushes on the other side. Secluded and tranquil with only a bunch of people dozing off in hammocks or enjoying a refreshing drink at the bar. I didn't need more. Even though I came there with a group of people, I didn't feel the need to socialize much. I was enjoying the Caribbean Sea not only swimming and running on the beach but also listening to the lulling sound of the waves as I was falling asleep. In the evenings and early mornings I was amazed by picture-perfect sunsets and sunrises.