Pueblo Hopping around Medellin

Trip Start Dec 10, 2011
Trip End Sep 29, 2012

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

To not visit the pueblos of Colombia is like not visiting Colombia at all. Here lies the essence of the people, culture, food, music and dance. The pueblos capture the spirit of Colombians in their raw state, in it´s purest. Peublo is Spanish for town, but for me they feel like small villages stuck in time preserving the history of society here.

The first one I visited since my second return trip to Colombia was also the second time in Santa Fe de Antioquia. Situated North of Medellin about one and a half hours by bus from Caribe North Terminal. You arrive to a hotter, stickier climate. This time we returned to a hotel we visited earlier to pay a day rate to enjoy the swimming pool, three course delicious lunch and wonderful views from my sun lounger. I went with the ten volunteers from the project, from the UK, Australia, USA, Colombia and New Zealand. I swam sunbathed, talked and read very little of my book. It's been a long time since my bikini and I have been acquainted, but it felt like old times. How I miss the beach and sea. It was a beautiful day with good company. We were also blessed to see a natural phenomenon I´ve never seen. A halo, a natural circular rainbow created by salt crystals, around the sun. I made about six wishes in my head for love, health and happiness. I hope the rainbow halo brings me good luck. After a delicious big lunch and lay in the hammocks with a book, but I fell asleep waking up dribbling, nice!

Our return journey cost 20,000 Colombian Pesos and was a good chill out. You can visit the Puenta (Bridge) which I did last time I visited, by a little 'moto-taxi' (something like a tut tut, motorised bike/car taxi), some of the group went to see and take some snaps.

I then went to a different pueblo Quinchia, four hours by bus south of Medellin along very bendy roads bouncing left to right in my chair in the hot heat feeling sick. I visited this unheard of pueblo about a job I´d been accepted for, but I wanted to meet the coordinator of the foundation and see if I could be happy in this town for three months. The bus on the way there dropped me in the town, but normally you get out at the top of the hairpin road, about two kilometers down to Quinchia

The main street lined with tall palm trees is an impressive entrance to the pueblo. With any pueblo here in Colombia, there’s the parque principal and a beautiful church. I was met by the local coordinator and local volunteers and I quickly found out I would be only speaking in Spanish and that combined with the sickening bus journey was quite exhausting, trying to also understand the 'campesino’ (people from the countryside) Spanish and ask questions about the job.

Another thing about pueblos are people are very welcoming and friendly. I was made to feel very welcome in Quinchia. After a beer and a ‘milo’, (popular hot chocolate brand) in a wonderfully hand-carved wooden bar, I slept pretty hard after the tiring journey in the, I think, only hotel in the town.

A couple of friends in Colombia texted me to check up on me, which was really nice. We walked around the town a lot of visiting cafes for well, what else, coffee. I kept saying no I know I don’t like coffee and I am in the coffee region. I also kept asking for tea, which was responded to consistently of ‘no hay’, (they don't have) only the aromatic type which for me after being in Colombia a while now is literally like drinking flowers in hot water! I stuck to water. In one café I spotted the UK supermarket Sainsbury’s packaging and the coffee is sourced directly from coffee farmers of Quinchia, I told the ladies working in the café who had no idea this was a UK supermarket and looked at me like I was a bit bonkers as I proceeded to take a photo of said coffee packet.

We visited the sports centre with kids playing football, a TV signal station and a local artists studio, in each the people inviting us in, chatting to us and mostly with the older generation, me not understanding a single word they said. My lunch was a typical Paisa lunch, in this region Risaralda I was pleased to find out they are still known as ‘Paisas’, (paisa is the affectionate name for people from the Antioquia region) it made me feel at home like Medellin. 

I had a good bean soup, chicharron (pork fat and rind), rice salad with avocado and patacon (green banana coated in corn flour and fried) with a guava juice drink. It was then time for me to go, in some communication confusion I was taking the last bus of the day back to Medellin. I had earlier said I didn’t want to take the last one, they told me to relax, not to worry I would get it. I told them I have been in Colombia a long time, I know what can happen and that until I am on the bus I won't relax.  The coordinator arrives smiling and grabs another helmet for his bike, I ask him if he wants me to go on his bike, yes he replies. I say no thank you. I saw the hill he wanted to take me up, no way. Now is not the time to take, maybe, my third trip on a ‘motorciclet’ (motorcycle). We take a taxi and really two minutes later, the bus turns up, it is fifteen minutes EARLY and as I board the bus and get on, it speeds off. Wow I really did nearly miss the last bus of the day. I spend the next three hours bouncing left to right again around the many bends feeling positiviely sick, but at least I had wonderful mountain views to look at. A man sits next to me, well I should partially, on me, he is a little large but at least now I have a cushion to stop me as I bounce around the bus. It only took three and half hours and I was able to jump out at my stop near to a metro station and got home early evening. One thing that works really well here is the vast bus network, you can take one almost anywhere in Colombia.

My last latest pueblo hopping adventure was to Jerico, to a coffee plantation owned by Colombian friend Sara’s family. It was similar bumpy and bendy curves trip to get there, with me feeling quite sick again. Jerico is south of Medellin about three hours by car, you can also take a bus there. I needed some peace and quiet from Medellin, a holiday from a holiday someone told me!

I arrived to a beautiful ‘finca’, (farm), outside of the pueblo on top of the hill overlooking valleys and beautiful mountains around. It was a little cooler than Medellin, but still very warm. We ate very tasty soup called ‘Ajiaco’ from Cundinamarca, Bogota region (it was made of potato, whole piece of corn, chicken, spinach) and I then slept very well.  I woke up to the sound of nothing, it was precious and the most beautiful views. Breakfast was a delicious paisa assortment of arepas (this is a crispy tortilla made from corn) spread with butter, queso (white soft cheese), eggs with olives and real hot chocolate. I had my second bowl too!

We went for a walk still in our pyjamas through the coffee plantation and saw the pyramid shape hill, 'Serro de Tuza'. They have seven thousand coffee trees, some re-planted some two years ago.

The views are fantastic here and I see hummingbirds, eagles, all different types of birds. I visit around the finca, (farm) and see beautiful flower called ‘trigidia’ which flowers only in one day. I see corn drying out, bananas, plantanos (larger bananas), we pick fresh bananas and tangerines from the farm and they taste so sweet. We hear grass hoppers and birds singing, it’s very peaceful here and after a long break from writing, it’s flowing again.

We eat rice, vegetables, and pork with plantano, (banana) before leaving to visit Jerico, with its eighteen churches, beautiful coloured houses, wooden doors, walkways, old street lamps and men sitting with sombreros on watching the world go by. We walked through the botantical gardens up to the viewpoint over Jerico and sat and watched the local kids flying hand-made kites or ‘Comitas’ in Spanish, I love this translation. I saw people horses tied up outside many bars, still a well-used form of transport here in Jerico and the pueblos. We saw a whole group of family and friends, men, women and children ride up on their well- groomed horses, tying them up at the bar to order their drinks. I love seeing this and some of the women were very well turned out, wearing traditional Colombian sombreros (cowboy style hats). The horses I thought at first were either also drunk or not coping well with the cobbled stoned streets, turns out they were meant to be trotting along on tip toes, it was a special breed of horses called ‘Pastino’ / ‘Trottones’.  We talked over a beer overlooking the main ‘parque’ and then continued on a food tour of Jerico. First sampling my second ‘Obluea’, ice-cream wafers filled with my Colombian favourite arequipe (equivalent of caramel here) and crema de leche, (like condensed milk). We then tried two sweet breads from the panaderia, (bakery), the selection of breads here was vast. We then visited the ‘Empanadas de Iglesia’, (empanadas are all over Latin America and are pocket filled delights with meat, chicken or vegetables either deep fried or baked in a corn coating), next to the church, well one of the eighteen of them and ate delicious crispy small empanadas filled with potato and adding sweet or spicy tomato salsa and/ or guacamole. Mmm, then to my complete surprise I tried ‘torta de chocolo’ a small ball resembling maybe an onion bhaji, I ate all of it after asking if my hosts wanted it! We then ate warm arequipe pastels (caramel filled pastries) on the way home; I was positively stuffed with the delights of Jerico and some Colombian national food favourites. 

What a a wonderful weekend getting away from it all and being at peace and visiting another one of Colombian’s enchanting pueblos.




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greekcypriot on

Thanks for the virtual tour Charlotte. What a lovely break this was!
A very interesting destination yet people think of Colombia as a country to be avoided. You give the positve side which is lovely. The entrances of the buildings are impressive with all these colours. As I was reading your entry I remembered several words from my Spanish lessons. I reached up to elementary level but then I stopped because of lack of time. The time I was having my audio private lessons we travelled to Spain 3 times that year not only because I am in love with the country but mainly because I wanted to practice my new speaking language. I wish I had time to continue.
I guess the people speak English well here don't they? I mean a person who does not speak Spanish can easily travel here (?)

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