The second week of my eighth visit to Colombia started off with a day-trip to my aunt Leonora’s finca (farm) near Santa Rosa, which I’d briefly visited during my first week. It is located far out in the country a very good distance off the main highway, so the drive there was long, rocky and a little bumpy along a mountain-like terrain, and we had to break for a short time in a small village along the way to avoid damage to the underside of the car. Once we did arrive at the finca, however, we were greeted by Nico (who’d already arrived), two dogs named Rufo and Muñeca (meaning ‘doll’ or ‘wrist’ or Spanish, though it’s most likely the former), and a black cat named Coco. We went picking for oranges and avocadoes in the back garden, and I got a little opportunity to draw some new art of the IAmMatthewian Project/Project Canada province and territory characters.

Rufo on the bed
Coco eating her food
New IAMP/PC artworks

We spent the next day shopping in Pereira city centre, mostly eating at a burger bar in the Arboleda mall – I found a surprise in the form of a Legend of Zelda Monopoly board game! Quenching my thirst with a bottle of Sprite at the Victoria mall, I snapped this night view of the Victoria plaza, with flashes of white thunder brightening the black sky at intermittent individuals. That scared me a little, not to mention the heights… and the wobbling high-hung banners inside the mall!

Pereira Victoria plaza at night

The next day, we visited another finca just outside the city of Pereira in the green coffee-growing hills, where we would later be spending the weekend. To our surprise, we found a grey tabby cat in a box with tiny dark-furred kittens, and a brown Labrador dog in a stable (who I would find out later was named Oriana) with small brown and beige puppies. The owners told us both the puppies and kittens were barely a week old, meaning they would have been born when I’d just landed in Colombia the previous week. Maybe I’ll forever associate their birth with me touching down in their country for the eighth time in my lifetime? Later on in the evening, we saw The Secret Life of Pets at the Unicentro Pereira mall (see my review of the film here).

Grey tabby cat in a box with kittens
The farm cat and her kittens
Tiny Labrador puppies sleeping together

The day after, we went on a big day-trip to the small, colourful town of Salento in the neighbouring Quindio region, the centre of Colombian coffee growing (which is why it’s called the ‘Coffee Axis’, and is even recognized as such by UNESCO, who deems the entire region a World Heritage Site). It and the nearby Valle del Cocora or Cocora Valley – home to the largest growing grounds for wax palms (the national tree of Colombia) – attract many tourists, especially backpackers, who come to climb the hills and mountains. It seemed that on this particular day, tourists outnumbered the native Salentans by a great deal, and a bus packed full of visiting backpackers even pulled up in the town plaza, with the travellers pouring out in droves. The Cocora Valley is actually part of the larger Nevados National Park, containing one of the most active volcanoes in Colombia, the Nevado del Ruiz (it famously went through a huge eruption in 1985, which buried most nearby towns in dark grey ash, destroyed many buildings and killed thousands of people, and even almost wiping an entire town off the map). While the volcano may not erupt any time soon in the near future, it still poses a huge threat to those living in the immediate surroundings, just as with any still-active volcano.

Colourful house exterior in Salento
Wax palms in the Cocora Valley/Valle del Cocora

That evening, we drove a short distance to the small village of Filandia, located not too far off from Quindio’s border with the Risaralda region, in which Pereira is located and the capital city of. Its name has a rather poetic-sounding origin, coming from the Latin words “filia” (daughter) and “Andia” (Andes, as in the Andes Mountains, which run through the region) – put together, “Filandia” literally means “daughter of the Andes”. (Not Finland, which is “Finlandia” in Spanish – notice the extra ‘N’.) Though we only spent a little while in the town, we still got to see more colourful house exteriors, a small Colombian jeep, and vast views of the green coffee-growing hills and mountains surrounding the village from the Colina Iluminada lookout. We even ate some coffee-flavoured marshmallows (in the Quindio region, it seems anything can be flavoured with coffee, even biscuits and marshmallows) and bought a coffee bean-shaped box for storing trinkets and other types of jewellery.

Filandia town plaza
Small Colombian jeep in Filandia
Filandia seen from the Colina Iluminada lookout

To end the second week of my eighth visit of Colombia, we spent the weekend at the previously-mentioned finca with the cat and kittens and dog and puppies (or rather several dogs). I went swimming in the onsite pool several times to cool myself off from the heat – although I mostly spent each one of those times trying to clean the pool of stray bugs and leaves – and rode the swings at the onsite children’s play area. Of course, with so much free time away from my computer screen, I had to practise on making more new artworks, including more experimentation in my new art journal:

More new artworks!

Since the Rio 2016 Olympics began during our weekend at the finca, I saw some highlights of the opening ceremony – I cheered when Canada came up in the flag parade. (Even if they don’t do well, I’ll still love Canada forever!) We threw an even bigger party that evening out by the poolside to celebrate my mother’s birthday the previous day, with fizzy drinks, Macarena dancing, Mexican sombrero hats and balloons. Even the irregular rain couldn’t stop our partying.