Caffeine high

Trip Start Sep 28, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Monday, March 26, 2012

I have no idea where I am when I open my eyes.  Then it dawns on me I've got to be up to look around a coffee plantation.  Finally I'm doing some touristy stuff.  The cold shower doesn't dampen my spirits, because I don't get in it.  I'd rather smell for the day.

I'm picked up by a chap in a 4x4 and driven round other hostels to pick up fellow travelers.  New people.  People keen on seeing and doing things and not languishing in bed recovering from a massive night out.  Boring people.

Not a word is spoken as we drive twenty minutes outside the city to Hacienda Venecia, a coffee plantation nestled in the hills surrounding Manizales.  Perhaps everyone is as sleepy as I am, but it's nothing several cups of espresso isn't going to sort right out.  Colombia really does love it's drugs.

We're joined by several more folk from other accommodations and gather round a table to listen to the story of coffee.  Maybe it's because I'm starving that I don't really pay much attention, but I guess you could call it interesting.  Other people become more involved, chiming in with their own knowledge of the bean.  I'm left to question what I must have been doing to miss out on such information.  Everyone nods their heads in approval when someone mentions a particular roast.  A heated discussion arises as to the best brands and which country makes the best coffee.  I sit there totally dumb and feeling like a heathen.  A coffee virgin.  I'm half tempted to say I enjoyed the Gold Blend adverts, but it would probably get me thrown into a grinder.  By the time I'm told about the variation that is fed to a cat and comes out of it's ass, I've already been suckered into sniffing beans and pretending to know what I'm talking about.  I stop short of saying I prefer tea.

After I've crunched my way through handfuls of beans I've sneaked on the sly, shot back several strong espressos and sniffed various aromas, I'm needing scraped off the ceiling.  I'm pacing up and down and talking rapidly, attempting to be funny and making ill informed coffee jokes that fall on deaf ears.  It's not unlike inviting an atheist to a bible study.  It's a wonder a hand doesn't lift me by the armpit and tell me I've had enough.  I've no doubt it's happened before.  "Don't forget to drink as much coffee as you can" it exclaims on a blackboard.  Are they insane?!  They'd have a riot on their hands.  At this rate they're struggling to contain the result of my mammoth caffeine intake.  I wonder if they have access to a defibrillator.

Returning to base I start to calm down.  With lunch in my eager belly and the altitude of the city, I'm feeling totally shattered, and it's only mid afternoon.  I'm wondering if my system is having a bit of a crash now it doesn't have it's booze crutch to hold it up.  It's been four days since I had a beer.  It's just a shame I've substituted that for coffee.  I didn't realise I had such an addictive personality.

I force myself to sight see round the Chipre neighbourhood of the city.  Manizales is built on the ridge of a mountain, with steep streets and roads leading off the main drag.  It is actually incredible to behold, scattered and balanced precariously like a giant Jenga.  The views of the surrounding mountains and villages are stunning, but the pictures do little justice due to the fact you're basically inside a cloud.  At every turn there is another wonderful vista, with some of the best coming from petrol station forecourts.  The layout and structure is actually a little difficult to get your head around and comprehend.  It's certainly not a tranquil place to clear your mind of troubles.  With six universities here and intensely busy, unfathomable streets, it's more taxing than relaxing. 

I visit the very gothic and imposingly dark Catedral Basilica.  At 370ft it stands as the tallest in Colombia and is a pretty impressive sight.  What terrified me the most however is the corner store selling catholic paraphernalia.  In particular in the window was the petrifying (and I emphasize the word) effigy of Jesus, whose eyes follow you as you walk past.  I double back to check it again.  I wanted to take a picture, but I didn't want to offend anyone and I knew that he was watching.  Truly, truly horrible.  I wish I'd bought it and sent it home.  My sister would have loved it, and then sealed it in a box in the attic.

I manage to negotiate the bus home.  Usually I opt for the ease of a taxi, as I'm always a little apprehensive using public transport in a foreign environment.  I'm basically terrified of looking like a twat.  The buses here have a turntable in the doorway.  Is there a slot for your money?  Do you give it the driver?  Does your total ineptness take place while the rest of the packed bus looks on in mirth and impatience?  In a word, yes.  Still I'm chuffed I found out the hard way and hide the beamer on my face when I sink into an empty seat.  Regardless of pushing the turntable the wrong way for five minutes and not paying the driver, I've still grown some balls.  One in the eye for cowardice.

The hostel is still devoid of life upon my return, which means I'm not tempted to get off the wagon and I have pick of the films.  Tomorrow I depart for Salento, a mountain paradise apparently.  Tonight I'm content with Avatar, coming down off caffeine and repenting my recent sins to Jesus.  Those eyes...those horrible plastic eyes...

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