Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Explore Columbia – March, 2019
We left Cartagena by bus and arrived in Tayrona Park where we stayed in little bungalows with mosquito nets and little porches outside.  Lunch on the open air outside patio was steamed whole grouper with rice and mashed plantains.  Afterwards, some opted to go to the lagoon to swim but I decided to walk down to the beach which was really lovely.

I did some reading and researching on the patio and then we had chicken/pepper/tomato “stew” with mashed potatoes and crème caramel for dinner. 

After a nice hearty breakfast with a lot of fruit we took a bus to the entrance of the pork and then walked through rocks, over planks, up and down hills to reach the first of three beaches.  We stopped where kids were cutting open coconuts for the juice and meat.  Lovely.  We also stopped at a little house where they were making delicious chocolate and cheese breads, hot from the oven.  Stopped at the last beach where you could swim if desired.  There was also a little restaurant there where you could order lunch but the cheese bread was enough for me. 

Tayrona is a magical slice of Columbia’s Caribbean coast and a large protected area covering the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta with stunning stretches of golden sandy beach backed by coconut palms and thick forest.

I swam a bit and relaxed by the water until it was time to go and we headed back the same way, stopping for more cheese bread, this one had tomatoes as well!!

Back at our bungalows, we showered off all the sand and sat outside on the patio talking with the other travelers.  Fish and vegetables for dinner.

Up early and flew to Bogota.  One of the travelers had a lounge pass and invited me in.  What a treat.  We had a delicious lunch, i.e. pasta salad with quinoa, mushrooms, cheese, etc. and a nice selection of cookies with coffee.  It was lovely.

Flew on to Cundinamarca where we picked up a bus and drove over the canyons to Barichara, stopping for the best cheese arepas ever in a little village along the way.  It was here that I had a room to myself for three nights – heaven!!!

We all walked through this charming village, up past the Cathedral to Igua Nauno for dinner.  Very cute little restaurant where we all enjoyed our food.  I had a warm vegetable salad with mushrooms, caramelized onions, etc.  Most everyone had margaritas which were awesome!!!

Delicious arepas and cheese, fruit and very nice coffee for breakfast and then a nice long walk to Guana, a little town nearby, very small and quaint.  Visited the Archeological Museo with its 700 year old mummy, went into some churches and wandered a bit before a few of us took the bus back to Barichara for lunch. 

Walked up to Restaurant Shanti and had a vegetable salad with tomatoes, quinoa, cucumber and lettuce.  Nice but a bit bland.  Will have the ceviche tomorrow as it really looked good.  Walked up the hill to the Santa Barbara Church and then up and down the little hills to look into the shops.  Had the same delicious salad at Igua Nauno that evening with one of the travelers.  Excellent.

Had a free morning so I walked around this very unique and cute little town.  Delicious ceviche at Shanti, i.e. shrimp, mango and corn nuts.  Met at the home of our guide to Guana yesterday and had an “ant” class!!!  She had harvested some very large ants in early spring and had frozen them.  First we pulled off the heat wings and tail and then soaked them in water.  Drained and dried we sautéed them in a dry skillet with salt until they become crunchy and they were actually quite nice.

Wandered over to Las Cruces, a cooking school, and sat in the garden and read a bit, eating a brownie and drinking coffee.  A few of us met there later for dinner prepared by the students.  It was nice to sit outside and the grilled trout with plantains was delicious.

Long bus ride back to Bogota, stopping for a quick bite at a very busy restaurant along the way.  Arrived about 7 p.m. and had dinner nearby at Rafael, a very elegant restaurant with nicely presented dishes.  I had octopus grilled and served with white beans and gold Yukon puree and a chocolate fantasy dessert, i.e. chocolate cake, churros and chocolate and chocolate ice cream.  It was very peaceful inside.

In the morning we took the funicular up to Cerro de Montserrate, a hill dominating the city and considered sacred in pre-Columbian times with a gorgeous view of the city.  Many people walk up to the church on top where there is a shrine devoted to El Senor Caido.  Behind the church were lots of food stalls and cafes selling tamales in plantain leaves, kebabs and all sorts of desserts.  The church is beautiful inside. 

Walked over to the peace monument titled “fragmentos” for which Colombian sculptor Doris Salcedo used metal melted down from the weapons handed over by FARC guerilla fighters to make the floor.  It marks the end of Colombia’s half century-old war.  To help make and pound out the floor tiles, Salcedo recruited women who had been sexually assaulted by guerillas and soldiers.  It was very moving…Stopped for delicious potato corn soup nice and thick at a little café and then we stopped by the botero museum again.  It was more meaningful this time with our guide explaining some of the nuances of the paintings.  Walked over to the national museum, one of the oldest on the American continent and enjoyed its extensive collections from the realms of art, archaeology, history and ethnography.  The building was a prison at one time which made it even more interesting.

Took the tram back to the hotel and later walked to Cantina y Punto for dinner.  Really love the food there.  Had grilled octopus with plantain chips and a chocolate cake with mole – great atmosphere and delicious food.

Had the morning the wander around the area a bit more.  Stopped for a chocolate croissant and coffee at Maison Kayser, a French bakery.  Had an early lunch at Cantina y Punto, i.e. pork confit tacos and the chocolate cake with mole and then took a taxi to the airport.  Flew to Lima and had planned to arrive in Santiago, Chile in the early morning but with many missed and delayed flights I didn’t arrive until 4:30 p.m.  Was sad to leave Columbia as I really enjoyed the country so much but am looking forward to a couple weeks on my own in Chile where the wine is supposed to be excellent!!!

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