Another good night of sleep and waking up to feeling like a real human being. I’m cured! I woke up at 5:30am, and went to the kitchen. No cleaning lady! I was seriously starting to feel like she was being held hostage here, because no matter when I’m in the common areas, there she is, working away. I was supposed to take my laundry to Allison’s and do it there, but since the cleaning lady had escaped, I figured I might as well make use of the washer! Took me a few tries to figure out the right combination of Spanish buttons to make it work. I came back to the room to blog for an hour, then hung all of my clothes up neatly in the window to dry.
Today was another trip out of the city. The last adventure. 🙁 John picked up Allison and Haley at 8, and then was at my place a few minutes later. I told them, “Hoy hablamos todas espanol porque necesito practicar para El Salvador!”. We spoke in Spanish for about 10 minutes before English took over again. 🙂 We drove out of the city into the hills again, which soon turned into very large mountains. Going AROUND mountains takes a lot of time. So what do Colombians do? Go THROUGH mountains! The Occidente Tunnel was completed in 2006 and is the longest tunnel in South America! The tunnel is almost 3 miles long, and cut a little over 1 hour off the prior 2.5 hour trip from Medellin to Santa Fe. Honestly, that seems like a LOT of work and money to shave off 1.5 hours of driving time when my foreign eyes see a lot of other things that money could be spent on to improve people’s lives, but hey- welcome to the world. Happens everywhere.
After the tunnel, we stopped for 2nd breakfast (we have kind of been eating like hobbits on this trip!). Haley wanted a chicken empanada thing, but explained to me that if they have beef inside, they are an empanada, but if they have chicken inside, they’re called “chicken cake”! Ha ha (Ja ja!). I let her order one for each of us. They were HUGE! I finished half of mine, and it was very, VERY good!
We continued through really beautiful country with VERY high mountains all around- not like the hills on the way to Guatape. Along the way, John was telling us about this bridge we had to cross to get into Santa Fe, and basically making it sound like it was ready to fall into the drink at any moment. After researching the El Almirante, I didn’t doubt that that was a distinct possibility! I joked with him that he should call his business “We Might Die Tours”! Honestly, I was building it up in my mind to be MUCH worse than what it was. It was kind of like a “Golden Gate Bridge”- yellow and similar in structure, and looked really strong to me. We made it over alive, so apparently it’s at least “strong enough”! I wanted to get pictures of it, so we pulled over and walked through an empty vacant lot (another stop on the We Might Die itinerary!) to get down to the river. John asked a guy if it was ok for us to go down and he said yes. There’s a quarry on this side of the bridge, and there were a lot of big trucks coming and going. The river is the Rio Cauca, and it’s a big, muddy thing. Not particularly attractive. Haley has a rock hunting hobby, which for someone who travels so much and having to keep bag weights to a minimum seems a little counterproductive! She looked for rocks, I snapped a few pics, and we headed back to the taxi.
We didn’t go into the town immediately. We went to the right of town down a very pretty narrow road that wound through some beautiful trees. At the end, there was another bridge. And oh boy, but was this a bridge! This is the Puente de Occidente (Western Bridge) and it has quite a history. It’s a wooden suspension bridge that was built in 1887, and at the time was one of the 7th longest suspension bridges in the entire world (way out here in basically the middle of no where over 130 years late!) at almost 1000 feet long! Currently, it’s the 8th longest in the world. Not bad! And it’s up for potential UNESCO listing, which is cool. It spans the same Rio Cauca that the other bridge does. It has three parts to it. A middle part that cars can drive over (none of us thought that was a good idea in the least!), and on either side is a walkway for pedestrians (I wasn’t so sure that was a good idea either!). Here I am again, on a high- VERY high bridge. Oy. I couldn’t see through the wooden slats though, and it didn’t shake at all, so I could deal with it by focusing carefully on each step and not looking down. We walked all the way across and all the way back and I did way better than I thought I would! Allison did notice that I held on the to the sides while I was taking a picture though!
And now, we come to the part in our story where Mary reaches her height limit… The guards said we should climb up to see the statue of Mary. “Climb” translated into Maryese was “Hey! Why don’t you take your life in your own hands and walk up those uneven, small cement steps we’ve placed into the side of a super steep hill with nothing to hang on to so you can easily topple down the cliff to your death!” I got to the top of the first set of stairs, realized the error of my ways, told the rest of the crew to go on ahead while I sat down and took a rest to take in the view (translation: sat down because I my legs were shaking so bad I couldn’t stand, and butt scoot my way back down while trying not to flash the guards below all my goodies since I was wearing a dress!). I made it back down and waited for the rest of the crew. Allison informed me that it got really sketchy higher up and I made the right decision.
Next we went into the town of Santa Fe. It’s hot here. Like about 20 degrees hotter than Medellin’s perpetual 75ish and humid (which Medellin is not). This town was founded in 1541 (as in a mere 50 years after Colombus declared this side of the world the EAST Indies, as in South/Southeast ASIA.). Why did the Spaniards like it here. Gold, duh. It used to be the capitol of Antioquia (remember, that’s the state in Colombia I’m in) until the capitol was moved to Medellin in 1826. So what’s so cool about Santa Fe (since it isn’t the weather?). The fact that the city has preserved its colonial history by putting strict guidelines into place that maintain the historic nature of the center of town’s buildings. White walls, huge wooden doors, cobblestone streets- it’s like going back in time and is so completely different from Guatape!
We first headed to the Santa Barbara Church, which dates back to 1728. Inside, they were preparing for Semana Santa (Saint’s Week- basically Good Friday/Passover).
Next up, the religious museum, where for like $1 we got a guide who toured us around (in Spanish, but I hung in there enough to get the general idea). Most of the art here was from the 1700’s!
Had a delicious lunch, then walked around some more. It was really hot with all of the sun reflecting off the white buildings. We visited a couple of more churches, one of which was also preparing for Semana Santa, and a beautiful town square with a gorgeous fountain and a really peaceful, chilled vibe. We were all getting overheated though, and decided we had seen enough churches (I think there are 7 here and we saw 4 of them!). So back in the taxi for a rainy ride through the mountains, back to Medellin.
It was pouring by the time we got to Medellin. I jumped out and headed up to my room, where I found that the cleaning lady had taken all of my clothes off the window and put them on a drying rack in the room so they wouldn’t get wet. HOW NICE! I had a couple of hours to work before I was to meet up with the Shermano crew (and the Cate crew minus Jamie) for our last supper (see my play on Semana Santa? Aren’t I a clever girl?!). By the time it was dinner time, the rain had stopped. I walked to Crepes y Waffles, which is actually a Colombian owned chain, to meet everyone. I was there first. Uh oh. I asked if the hostess spoke English. Nope. Ok. I can do this. I had to put my hand on a table to remember the word, then busted out with “Necesito una mesa para ocho personas, por favor”. And BAM! She and another lady set it up! I was quite proud of myself when the other 7 wandered in to a prepared table for 8! We all talked over a FANTASTIC dinner (I had chicken, mushrooms, and asparagus in a bread bowl and it was to die for!). All too soon it was time to leave my friends for the first last time, because as Allison said, this is just the first of more adventures! We will meet up somewhere in the world again as soon as we can! In fact, Haley might join me in my solo travels one day! I had an unbelievably fantastic visit with Allison and the girls, and am so glad I took the leap of faith to head off to Colombia to meet people I had only known online previously. I’m proud to now call all of them my “real life” friends (a moniker few attain).