Manizales - Volcano day trip

Trip Start Aug 06, 2010
Trip End Dec 20, 2010

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Saturday, November 20, 2010

Today we are up for a 7.30am start for the day trip up to the volcano.  We jump in an old Toyota Landcruiser which looks identical to the jeep we had for the salt flats tour in Bolivia - except for the salt flats we only had 4 gringos in the jeep where here we have 6 of us. To make matters worse we then pick up two dutch tourists on the way.  We complain to our guide and he promises to fix it for us.

So we stop for about half an hour while they sort out transport. There are a bunch of other tourists also doing the trip except they are in much smaller jeeps like the uncomfortable one that took us to the coffee plantation yesterday.  The dutch tourists are moved into one of these jeeps leaving just our group of 6 in the more comfortable jeep - although that is all that can fit comfortably.  Some of the people from the small jeeps ask to swap because they are hitting their heads on the ceiling but we decline because we had the same problem ourselves yesterday.  Unfortunately thereīs not much helping out when you have 8 hours in the jeep ahead of you!

Apparently this trip is normally done in a bus on a standard road but there are too many landslides so today we are taking the back road in the jeeps.  So we head on our way and pretty quickly the road gets really rough & muddy.  The smaller jeeps ahead of us get stuck a few times - it would help if the drivers kept their 4wd mode on but they seem to prefer it off.  We patiently wait and try to avoid the evil stares of the passengers cramped in the back of the small jeeps.

We get to one point where a giant Dodge truck is coming the other way and there is all sorts of mayhem as we squeeze as close as possible to the edge so it can get past.  Finally though we are in the clear and we slowly make our way up through the cloud forest and above 3000 metres.  We stop for breakfast at about 10am.  The super sweet hot chocolate is perfect for waking us all up.

Then we continue up through the Pamero (a type of landscape found at high altitude) and Super-Pamero (ditto the Pamero but higher). These terrain types are only found in 3 other countries throughout the world.  As we climb higher and higher we start hitting snow which is kinda exciting, especially when only a few days ago we were lying on a beach on the coast.  After about 4 hours driving we get pretty high, up to 4700 metres.  Iīve been much higher on the trip but Iīve never ascended so fast.  Our guide has made us keep the windows in the jeep down - apparently this allows us to aclimatize better.  Iīm not too sure on the science behind this but I can say it makes us a lot colder.

Sometmes you can walk to the peak of the volcano at 5100 metres but there has been too much activity recently so today we canīt.  We are surrounded by clouds so we canīt see the peak but its still cool to be up so high and surrounded by snow.  At times the sun comes out and its actually pretty warm.  We walk around a little bit but the air is really thin up here so our walking is really lethargic.  Finally its time to get back in the jeep and we head back down again to warmth and oxygen.

Its much faster on the way down and near the bottom we stop at some thermal hot pools.  Its a strange little place with just one pool that doesnīt seem like its especially hot.  There is a restaurant and dance area that is packed with 50+ year olds but virtually no one in the pool.  We decide its a waste if we donīt jump in so we change in to our swimming gear and get in the pool. Its not the hottest ever and with the cold air temperature its just barely hot enough to keep you warm. Still the setting is nice at night time watching the moon rise above us.

Finally its time to leave and after having to walk through the dancefloor dripping wet in my swimming gear I am back in warm clothes and ready to go.  We arrive back at the hostel and all of us have had a fun day out even if we never got to see the smoking volcano.

Later we head out to dinner.  As typical with a big group its hard to find a place that everyone likes and we flounder round for half an hour - it doesnīt help when there are not many good options available.  Eventually we decide on the pizza pasta place weīve been to the last few nights. Lydia and Marco opt out but the rest of us tuck in - I havenīt been to one place so much since the restaurant in Rurrenabaque where I had 5 meals.

After a nice dinner we hang out at a bar in the bar area Zona Rosa. Its Saturday so we buy some Aguardiente to help proceedings.  Apart from Matty throwing up in the toilets (a strange reaction to something he ate) its fun times.  Before we know it its 1am and almost closing.  Me, Amanda, Lydia and Matty decide to kick on while the rest head home.  Our bartender recommends a bar out of town that packs out so we jump in a cab there.

When we get there it is completely empty but we still go in after the bouncers tell us it will fill up pretty soon.  We order some rum for the four of us but Iīm not really drinking at this stage.  We hang about for a while but only a few people come in.  After a few hours more we are ready to give up but Amanda is on a crazed misson to stay out all night.  I buy another bottle of rum for the table which leaves us effectively stuck at the club for another few hours. Still the company is good and we can watch the locals dance salsa on the dancefloor (well the few that have shown up anyway).

Eventually we decide enough is enough and head home at a ridiculous hour.  I have memories of still being in bed awake when my alarm to wake up goes off in the morning.  One of those nights!
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Dad on

A strang day - still hopefully the rest will have done you good. Remember, only drink in moderation.

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