Friday, March 25

El Matuy. Palomino, Colombia

El Matuy is such perfection that it is one of those places you want to keep all to yourself.  Located near Palomino in the Guajira Department of Colombia.  El Matuy is designed to be an eco haven having no electricity, cooking local available ingredients over a wood burning stove all while surrounded by a pounding surf and tropical foliage.  The candle lit meals, the hammocks and bean bags, the delicious food, the beach and company, if you wish, from other visitors are all you could ask for.  Take a look.

Wednesday, March 16

Colombia: Onward we head--Palomino and beyond

Everyone, as in all the online travel talk sites, comment with a resounding NO in regards to renting a car in Colombia.  Surely, that didn't apply to us though.  We've rented a car just about everywhere we've traveled.  We have made dangerous border crossings through Central America with 3 kids.  We've stranded ourselves in the "remote" jungle in Vieques with no cellular signal, during a huge downpour, leaving it up to  9 year old Graham to drive while we pushed.  We've driven a very lousy van down a mountain during a snowstorm with a map covering the space that was suppose to be a working window.  So, yes, we are renting a car.  We felt prepared.  We observed the INSANITY of traffic in Bogota.  And we were armed with what else--the Orbitz app.  So with a few quick clicks we had secured our rental car with a pick up in Santa Marta and a drop off in Cartagena.  We had a new found freedom with  no bus schedules to worry about and no poor Spanish language usage to convey where and what we needed.  

Our flight to Santa Marta included a stop back in Bogota.  Just for reference, if taking the same route through Colombia, you may find that your connecting gate is quite the distance from your arrival gate.  You may also find that you take a random bus that drives you through some airport construction and arrives at a whole new terminal quite the jaunt away.  No, there are no signs to indicate which way to go or even that you are to take a bus.  Yes, you'll have to go through security again. Yes, you go from one waiting room to security, to another waiting room to another waiting area.  No need to stress, just follow along and hope your with the right group.  No they won't announce anything in English. Ever. 

So the flights went smoothly, nearly on time and didn't require several failed landing attempts like last time.  As we landed in Santa Marta, we grabbed our backpacks and headed, as Orbitz instructed, to the Avis counter located in the airport.  Except there was no Avis counter.  And, the address on the Orbitz sheet didn't exist, at least to countless taxi drivers and to airport security we asked for help.  The phone number listed--that wasn't right either but rather the number to a headquarters in Bogota that wasn't even open.  

Great, "stranded" in a foreign country, barely able to speak Spanish and not quite sure what to do while the sun was quickly setting.  Finally with much desperation on our face, a taxi driver says, yes, he knows Avis.   As the miles go by I ask time and time again...  "Tu sabes donde esta Avis?"  He assures me he does, while I picture  the worst of the worst situation playing out. When we arrive to his Avis--IT ISN'T AVIS!!  A car rental -yes.  Avis--no.  I say, Aqui No!  El nombre es Avis!  He replies  with yes, here.  I don't budge.  Eric sits as well, by this point not knowing what I've said or what our driver has replied.   The driver must sense he isn't going to rid us of his car unless he tries harder.  So off he goes to ask this car rental where the right car rental is.  And, thank God, Avis, is one block away.  If we looked hard enough we probably could have found it on our own.

With a sigh of relief, we head into Avis.  Once in Avis, the lovely woman at the desk, starts rattling off the terms and conditions of the contract--in all Spanish.  These are not conversational Spanish words I can make sense of and my brain is already tired from the negotiations required just to find this place.  And, of course, no amounts match anything Orbitz had quoted us.  Not understanding why or what she was saying-we paused both staring at the other with no plan on how to proceed through the language barrier.  Suddenly, she's dialing on her cell phone, talking to a bilingual friend, who then translates to me the issues of bonds, credit charges and insurances.  And, while the total charges didn't match Orbitz, we agreed to it all more than ready to set off to Palomino and El Matuy.

Now thinking, we've conquered quite enough for one day, I enter my destination into Waze.  Waze promptly searches for a signal, verifies where we are and politely changes all communication to Spanish.  Thanks...  

We carry on, stopping at a local ATM, with about 20 other people in line to get cash before continuing on to Palomino, an area of Colombia that is a cash only economy.  The traffic lightens  and the night sets in.  Waze comes and goes, mostly not having enough signal with Avantel to direct us.  Finally, we arrive in Palomino and just have to find El Matuy.  

Oh, no, the fun isn't over yet.  We follow Waze and head down a very dark, dirt road.  The dirt road turns into a grassy path with just faint tire tracks.  We pass houses, some sort of utility buildings, fenced areas, nothing remotely tourist related.  We forge on.  Several long minutes later we come to a dead end.  No resorts, no hotels, no El Matuy.    Do not panic. 
We head back to the main road and try our luck with google which shows us the exact same route!  Do not panic.  

Options:  1 Drive back into Palomino, and pray I use my Spanish well enough and that someone has heard of El Matuy that can direct us.  2  Sleep in the car, somewhere that is hopefully safe,  and search at first daylight for El Matuy.  3 Drive aimlessly about while praying, crossing fingers and willing us onward until we find El Matuy.  4. ...... ...... Driving aimlessly it is!  And, much to our luck with only a bit more driving we see a small sign that says El Matuy and turn to head back to the no electricity, candle lit, enchanting beach bungalows of El Matuy.  Thank you Jesus, it's been a long long day.  

Saturday, March 5

Trek Day 2. Los Nevados National Park Colombia

Today was going to have amazing views across the paramo deep into valleys.  You just had to hike UPHILL to get to those views.  So much for climbing up the mountain to the finca and back down.  Today was another day full of some uphills, steep downhills, a stop at a finca for sopa, a picnic with wine and tapas provided by our hike and a lovely lovely meal in Salento to end our journey.  

The view yet to come!
A frosty cold morning at La Finca Primavera

La Finca Primavera

Full frost covering the ground

Breakfast at La Finca Primavera.  Fruit, eggs, and more

tent campers that joined the group at La Finca Primavera

Another cyclist that Eric met, that NO KIDDING, he's raced with before in the states.  He is Colombian and now a tour guide for the mountains.
Our bunk room

Immediate uphill to start the hike--GOOD MORNING!  

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The ground turned marshy with creeks on the trail

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