While I was working in St. Louis, I met one of the expats from Colombia. He was in the States on a three year assignment, and unfortunately, I met him in his final year. He told me I had to come visit Colombia, but being the planner that I am, I told him it was impossible for me to visit until 2015. (Mind you, I gave him this answer in early 2013 – before I knew about my move to Europe, but after I thought I planned my big international excursions for 2013 and 2014.)
[Here we are in St. Louis with our mutual friend]
It turns out that my new role called for a trip to Colombia. Of course, I sent a note as soon as I knew and coordinated to spend a weekend in Colombia before my meetings. I assumed we would stay in Bogotá, but a couple of weeks before my arrival, he said he wanted to go somewhere three hours away. Since I’m always up for an adventure, I agreed.
I flew overnight from Brazil – arriving at 3:30am. My friend was such a trooper to come pick me up at the airport at that time. His first comment was that I am becoming Swiss, because I walked WAY out of the way to use the crosswalk instead of walking across the street to reach his car. Colombians aren’t quite as strict as the Swiss when it comes to using the crosswalks.
We drove for approximately 2.5 hours down the mountain. In the car, I learned we were going to his family’s home in the countryside – near Nilo. It was dark for almost the entire drive until the final stretch when the sun began to rise. For the final 15 minutes, we are on a dirt road (which we shared with a herd of cattle and a cowboy at one point – no joke). The road had HUGE pot holes (even bigger than those in Youngstown, if you can believe it), but it was surrounded by lush green trees, plants, and grass. I couldn’t get over how green it was!
[A photo of the dirt road I snapped on our return when I was a little more awake. It was SO bumpy!]
Eventually, we arrived at our destination – Finca Cactus (which literally means cactus farm). As you all know, I grew up in the Midwest. There, any home in the country side was probably a lake house, and it was probably seasonal, because of the cold winters. Because this is my only frame of reference, Finca Cactus was a HUGE surprise. For starters, it was almost all open air. When it’s warm year round, there’s no need for doors and windows. Secondly, it was so isolated. You could barely see any other buildings, which made it incredibly calm. Thirdly, the style of the home was very traditional; I loved all of the bright colors! I got to stay in the master bedroom, which had a gorgeous view of the mountains and a small pond. Since we arrived around 6:00am, we got to see an incredible sunrise!
We had to wait a couple of hours for the stores to open before we could go out for some breakfast and groceries. We bought all kinds of Colombian foods for me to try. When we got back to the house, it was time for the pool. The pool was incredible! So beautiful and incredibly peaceful. I was in the midst of the Divergent trilogy, so I was happy to have such a gorgeous place to read. The cook brought us an amazing “picnic” to enjoy while we were lounging poolside. So many yummy things to try, and the shrimp ceviche was especially delicious!
After pool time, it was time for some horseback riding. I have only been on a horse once. As part of my “Last Semester at Miami” goal list, I went with a friend on the Miami Equestrian Team to ride one. (As you can tell from the pictures, he is a real cowboy; I am not.)
While my 30 minutes experience hardly counts as experience, I knew not to be scared. They gave me the nice horse that they usually give to the little kids. He (or maybe it was a she?) wasn’t interested in going fast, and that was fine by me. I was amazed at how the horses walked over the rocky terrain and even through the stream! We were out for maybe an hour, and the scenery was spectacular. We even rode among HUGE palm trees that were over a hundred years old!
We had beautiful meals throughout the weekend! I got my fix of Latin food, and I found a new favorite fruit…Granadilla! Have you ever tried it? I don’t know if you can find it outside of Colombia, but you MUST try it if you ever visit. It looks slimy, but it is really sweet and very delicious!
[Photo courtesy of Google]
The drive back to Bogotá on Sunday was a bit longer, because there were a lot more people out and about (since it wasn’t 4am). But, the scenery was amazing. I also enjoyed seeing all of the small towns and roadside fruit stands along the way.
What a wonderfully relaxing weekend. Such a delightful surprise to not only get to see my friend before 2015, but to enjoy a bit of his country with him. Looking forward to reciprocating his hospitality when he comes to visit Switzerland!