Saturday, 10 December 2016

Wake up and smell the coffee in Colombia

It's morning and the town square is buzzing. Not as much as it was last night, mind you, when there were stalls, music and plenty of rain.

Today, there is a large cockerel crowing in the ramshackle garden next to my hotel. A caged bird sings five notes, over and over again, and not necessarily in the right order. The smell of coffee wakens visitors from their slumber. A new day begins.

Here in Salento, Colombia, the town is making the most of Advent. At night, this little place west of Bogota, on the verdant coffee growing slopes of the Andes, literally lights up. There are candles in the most inspired cardboard holders in front of shops, bars and houses. Strings of white lights delineate doors and window and a decorated palm tree stands in the middle of the square.
In the church where I light a candle for family I have lost, the nativity scene is resplendent with sparking lights, a little town of Jerusalem covered in tinsel.

Christmas is coming.

Out in the hinterland, Willys Jeeps take hikers to their starting point, below the tall wax palms, the national tree of Colombia. Cows graze on the lush, green grass.

While the rest of our tour slogs through the beautiful scenery of the Los Nevados National Natural Park, Mr Grigg and I soak up the atmosphere of Salento, preferring to make a more leisurely acquaintance with this country which, for so many years, was a no-go area. Parts of it still are, and don't get a mention in the Lonely Planet guide because they are not safe.

Its capital, Bogota, I did not like.  Busy, edgy and sleazy, smelling of urine where men line up to do their business against graffiti walls. Streets bustling with people, night and day, and yellow taxi after yellow taxi plying their trade.

But there is solace in the main city square, Plaza de BolĂ­var, and serenity on the Monserrate mountain that overlooks this sprawling capital.
Back in Salento, men play a form of bar billiards where the tables have no holes. An exceptional bongo player outside, who is too loud for these streets, is moved on by police.

(Visit my Maddie Grigg Facebook page for video. I can't seem to upload it here.)
A black storm cloud hovers over the town.
And the beat of Salento goes on throughout the day.

I like it here.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

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