As usual for me, the further I got from the main cities and main highways, the more interesting my visit to Colombia became.
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My Hertz reservation for a small pickup truck got fouled up, leaving my friend Grant and me driving a late-model VW Jetta through the mountains in the heart of Colombia. It’s impossible not to look conspicuously out of place in rural Colombia in a late-model Jetta. Hertz’s punishment was that their Jetta endured long stretches of dirt-and-gravel mountain roads of the Colombian Andes. Much of our trip was in the heart of Colombia’s “coffee country.” Most of the patterned agricultural landscape you see in the pictures is coffee. Despite the mostly hazy and cloudy weather (and my dislike of coffee), the landscapes were striking.
In the hilltop town of El Merced, the town square was full of old guys – mostly just hanging out. It took a fair amount of bi-lingual cajoling to get some of them to let me make a few pictures. The guy with the scarred face was also toting a machete strapped to his hip – which gave me some insight on how his smile may have become so crooked. (They carry machetes as agricultural tools; not as sidearms). I wished for a photograph with that big knife in the picture, but I was barely able to get him to let me photograph him at all. One of the guys recommended “Asadero La Fonda” as the best restaurant in town for us to have lunch (see picture in the grid); we had lots of meals at places that looked like that.
When you get away from the cities and tourist areas, prices in Colombia can be disconcertingly low. Two meat-and-cheese breakfast pastries, two doughnuts, a cup of (Colombian!) coffee, two Diet Cokes, and a couple of big cookies for the road? COL $8,000 – less than $3 U.S. At Hotel Colonial in Aguadas, I paid extra for a bigger room with three balcony-windows overlooking the town square (and with a couch, table and chairs, big bathroom, wifi, refrigerator, breakfast included). It was US $20; my buddy’s room (without the ‘view’) was US $8. (The last image in the grid below is the view from my room). One regular quandary: What kind of tip do you leave when you get great service and a fine lunch for less than two bucks?
The biggish city of Medellin was the end of our car trip (we flew from there to Cartagena). The plump-looking (and probably familiar-seeming?) statues are by a famous Colombian artist, Botero.
Next stop: Cartegena.
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Images from Salento, Aguadas, and Medellin: