Having made our weekend home in Medellin, we set out the morning after to explore the city and the surrounding towns around the Antioquia region. Our first stop outside of Medellin was the small village of El Retiro (‘retirement’ in Spanish!), where we had a few drinks to start the day off – I had a cool chocolate milkshake – and saw a few pigeons. Next was the slightly larger town of La Ceja, where we had our lunch – I had some fried trout and chips – and briefly watched a parade featuring Colombian folk dancing, trucks and flower displays. Last but not least was the village of El Carmen Del Viboral, or just Carmen Viboral, where we chilled out at a bar drinking apple soda and bought some ceramics to give as gifts to family and friends. On the way back to Medellin, we passed through the big town of Rionegro, and once back in Medellin proper, we had a late-night dinner at the El Tesoro mall, enjoying wonderful night views of the city lights.

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Highlights of my day-trip around the Antioquia region
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Medellin city night lights

The next day, we set off on a little walk into Medellin city centre, stopping at a small plaza filled with bronze sculptures by the artist Fernando Botero (himself from Medellin), easily recognizable by their grotesquely fat bodies (known as ‘Boterismo’, or ‘Boteroism’, in the art world). The Botero Plaza, as the plaza is called, is home to many of Botero’s bronze sculptures, although his art can be found in many places around the world, including New York and Paris. Later on in the afternoon, we went on another coach back to Pereira, where I arrived very sleepy due to coming in the dark of the night.

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Some of Fernando Botero’s bronze sculptures in Medellin

The day after arriving back in Pereira, we went out to Armenia, the capital of the neighbouring Quindio region, to see the inner workings of a coffee factory – the coffee which comes to the factory is, of course, locally grown and picked. At the factory, the coffee beans are picked out of the berries and are packed into heavy sacks – one sack alone weighs 70 kilograms! They are then roasted to the distinctive dark brown colour, with a delicious aroma filling the atmosphere, after which they are packed for retail or further grinding (for instant coffee). The factory even had a few coffee bushes growing outside – and chickens!

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Coffee beans on the bush
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Black chicken with chicks

We went for lunch in nearby Montenegro (which I’d visited the week before to see the Parque Del Café), having some vegetable soup with beef, rice, chunky chips and homemade lemonade, then we went back through Armenia. On the way back to Pereira, we stopped at a roadside restaurant and garden centre to buy some bread and see some colourful flowers and objects from old times gone by.

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An array of colourful flowers
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Retro nostalgia

The day afterwards and the day after that, I only stayed in Pereira at my Nana Stella’s apartment, typing up a little more of Life is a Beach on my computer, but I did get some new coloured pencils. These ones should last many months or even years – I still have some of my older ones even ten years later!

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My new coloured pencils

After staying inside for nearly two days, we returned to Pereira’s Terminal to jump on a much smaller bus than we had to Medellin, on which we were whisked through the Valle Del Cauca region with green hills, palm trees and hot heat. Initially thinking I was going to Cali (the capital of the region and the third-largest city in Colombia after Bogota and Medellin respectively), I was instead woken up when the bus stopped in Rozo, a small village just outside the town of Palmira. We went shopping at a nearby supermarket for food and drink for our weekend stay, then made our home at a tiny finca on a village road, where I met the resident pets – two Labrador dogs named Cacao (brown) and Dakota (beige), a grey-and-white tabby cat named Gatalina (a pun on ‘gata’ – ‘female cat’ in Spanish – and the name Catalina), and a half-blind bulldog named MacGyver. There were also some chickens next door, clucking and pecking away at the ground.

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