The third week of my eighth visit to Colombia started off on a rather more mundane event – we simply went to the downtown of Pereira to have our hair cut and some mani-pedicures. While at the salon, however, I managed to come across this piece of street art on the wall of a nearby building, depicting the dove as the traditional symbol of peace for Colombia in the wake of the signing of the peace treaty:
The next day was a rather hot one – Pereira often becomes very hot during the day, while it cools down and may rain at night. We decided to go see the new Ukumari bio-park just outside of the city out in the country (‘ukumari’ is an indigenous word for the spectacled bear, the only truly native South American species of bear). The bio-park is somewhat new, having only been opened in the last few years or so. All the animals in the park are originally from the Pereira Matecaña zoo (very close to the airport), but they were moved over to Ukumari when it recently opened. As of my visit, most of the bio-park is still under construction, with only the Andes Region and African Safari parks opened – the African Safari still needs some more animals, including elephants. Despite this, however, we still got to see many colourful exotic animals and birds, like pumas, tapirs (wild boar-like animals with long snouts), gazelles, zebras, rhinoceroses, toucans and parrots – who reminded me of a certain someone in Nova Scotia…
Later that night, we went up the mountains to the hot springs in Santa Rosa, one of its claims to fame (after chorizo sausages, of course). It felt strange and yet relieving to feel hot water for the first time since coming to Colombia, especially after two weeks of having to use cold water to shower and swim in! The intense heat of the water did make me a little dizzy, however, so I would regularly dip into cool water to refresh myself.
The day after I didn’t do much – only writing more of Life is a Beach on my computer – although I did manage to snap a couple of shots of orchids, the national flower of Colombia:
The day after that one, however, we did go somewhere a lot more exciting – the Parque Del Café, or Coffee Park, near Montenegro in the famously coffee-growing Quindio region. It is at its very essence a huge theme park with a funfair, coffee museum, guadua (bamboo) forest, a Colombian folklore theatrical show, horse-riding and cable cars for travelling up and down the hills. While I was a little edgy about riding the cable cars because of my fear of heights and stayed well off the rollercoasters since I hate them, we had a great but sweaty stroll throughout the park in the sweltering-hot sunshine – I had to drink a few fizzy sodas to keep cool. We even got to see the Colombian folklore show up at the theatre in the bamboo forest and ride the train circling the park, spotting some coffee bushes along the way (it isn’t called the Coffee Park for nothing…) After spending nearly the whole morning and afternoon at the park, we drove through the nearby big city of Armenia, the capital of the Quindio region, on our way back to Pereira. The traffic there was somewhat suffocating.
Having bought tickets the night before, we set out early the next morning on a coach up to Medellin, the second-biggest city in Colombia (after the capital Bogota) and the capital of the Antioquia region. I was able to use the Internet on the way thanks to on-board Wi-Fi, using it to watch a couple of episodes of Pokémon and check my emails. Though my mum had told me Medellin was a lot cooler than Pereira, it still felt sweltering hot when we arrived there, so I tried to drink some water and Sprite with my lunch of barbecued chicken with chips. We were then driven to one of my cousins’ apartment near the downtown of Medellin, where I’m now staying the weekend.