Sunday, 14 August 2016

OTNTourLA - Final Sight Seeing

Alexis' wife Clara, sat next to me at dinner Thursday evening and was telling what a beautiful wider area Pereira was part off, and how I should explore it. Then Pablo who had done so during the day showed me some photos and I was determined to do something on the Friday, as I was not speaking.

Alexis asked me if I wanted to go with him to explore, and that Deiby was going to come too. Most other speakers were leaving directly so it was a small but fun group of us.

Deiby, Alexis and I

First we went to Cocora Valley to go horseback riding through the most amazing scenery. I am not a brave person but I wanted to do this despite knowing I would probably pull out once I got to meet a horse. However there was a sign showing a local leading a horse for small children, so I got Alexis to ask if someone would lead me? Once they stopped laughing the horse people agreed and we set off on our little tour, Deiby, just his second time on a horse, nervous but determined, Alexis who it turns out is quite the master horseman, and me, being led by a very amused local.

After leading us along the road for a few hundred yards we started on the track proper, through the most amazing scenery. The wax palm tree is the national tree of Colombia and each one stands about 45m high; Amazing and so beautiful.

After a while I was able to release my death grip of the saddle a little and start to enjoy the gentle pace, until that is we started on a steep hill down towards a river. I have to say anti natal breathing classes were quite useful at this point. Crossing the river was simple it was actually a concrete path under just a few inches of water. Then we came to a stop and my guide offered to take a picture of the three of us but as he let go of the lead my horse wanted to move and I was almost hysterical. Then we turned around and came back again.

I had my go pro filming time lapsed attached to the saddle and although you can't see me you can see some of the lovely scenery. Once we got back to the stables and I had elegantly (not) dismounted from the horse, I gave the guide what was probably his best tip ever. 

Then we had lunch nearby, a wonderful outdoor area. We were so lucky with the weather, in the hours drive to the valley it had rained heavily and yet cleared just in time for us  to arrive.

Then we drove to Solento which we had driven through on the way, a beautiful town much like Antigua in Guatemala, very colourful and a magnet for visitors both foreign and Colombian. In fact Alexi and his wife were staying here for the weekend.

Like Antigua there was a cross on a hill overlooking the town, and like the Mexico pyramid, there was almost 250 steps, but these were all equal and not too steep so with my trusty Nordic stick, not too much bother. Again well worth it for the views. We then did a little shopping for gifts in the Main Street, stopping for peeled mango strips with lime juice, a wonderful combination I shall be trying again. I also tried chontaduro with honey and sugar; which was nice but not my favourite.

Coffee was next in a lovely little shop. This is the coffee region of Colombia and even a philistine like me has to admit it was very good. We walked back through the main square to where we had parked the car; parking is an art in Latin America with skills I certainly don't process, to get cars into the smallest of gaps. I then realised I had lost my camera with the only proof that I had sat on a horse available, but luckily Alexis sprinted back to the coffee shop who had my camera and all was OK again.

We then drove the hour plus back to Pereira to collect Clara who had had to work all day from her hotel room, and set off in the other direction for another must see attraction of hot springs. This sounded very appealing after bordering and step climbing,

The road (viaduct helicoidal) to the springs was quite new and included a loop that appears from the mountain and has the most enormous drop. Luckily it was dark and I couldn't see it. I would have had my eyes closed anyway.

 Santa Rosa de Cabal is the town before the springs, which is famous for its chorizo or sausage. No lie, we must have seen 40 roadside cafes serving chorizo. Men with flags would wave you into their establishment and we did stop at one only to leave when we saw no one eating there, only to stop a few hundred metres later at one with a queue. It was lovely and another local thing to try. Did you know the they hold the Guinness record for 1917 metre chorizo

Then we arrived at the hot springs (Termales), a series of pools, first filled with a thermal waterfall and the last from a more normal cold waterfall. It was just what my body ordered and then with a rum drink I was in heaven. This was the most amazing way to finish the day.

Clara drove home, Alexis had found an ACE beer he couldn't turn down and when we got to Santa Rosa de Cabal Google maps sent us down the steepest hill ever, where we all thought we were going to get stuck and we could certainly hear the number plate scrapping the ground. I felt so sorry for Clara, but Alexis talked her through it and I switched between silent prayers for help and relief I wasn't driving. After that we got to the main road and it was quite straight forward all the way back to Pereira.

Another late night but Saturday was only for travelling; the long trek home.

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