Saturday, February 28, 2009

Salento Introduction to a new game called Techo - Helmut

Salento Introduction to a new game called Techo

In Salento we were introduced to a new game they call TECHO.
A halfmoon solid 5 inch disk is thrown against a target roughly 50 feet away. The target is a 4 feet by 4 feet plattform placed in an upward angle. The plattform is filled with clay. The game plays similar to horseshoe. Each of two to four players has one disk to throw. The target, instead of the stake in horseshoe, is throwing the disk into a square of the plattform. Two triangular shaped objects, each site measures 3 inches, are placed in the middle of the square, spread vertically about 4 inches apart.These objects are loaded with an explosive substance. If a player hits either of the two triangle objects, it will explode, sounding like a firecracker.

1 point
Disk lands within the square
2 points
Disk lands, explodes and stays on top of one of the two triangular objects
3 points
Disk rests between the two triangular objects
6 points
Disk explodes one of the two triangular objects and rests between the two triangular objects.
21 points to win the game.
The losing team pays the winners a beer.

We tried the game and it was actually fun.

San Gil Rafting Saturday February 28

Tomorrow, Sunday, a trip to the town of Barichara is planned.


A picture from our rafting experience, 1.5 Hours in the water, the easy piece but still good enough for us considering the rest was 20 year olds.

Typical Colombian Music… San Gil by Helmut

The Corner on a Sunday afternoon, with Helmut looking on. This is the party place Friday and Saturday evenings.
Typical Colombian Music… San Gil
We returned to the plaza of San Gil late Friday afternoon and found in one corner of the plaza an unusual gathering that looked like a party was going on.
People had their drinks right on the walk ways, spilling over from the three liquor stores that were next to each other. We noticed that a group was about ready to play impromptu Colombian music. It did not take as long to get ourselves a drink to join the fun.
The music sounded really good. A Colombian next to me started to explain to me that this was the real Colombian music, played with a drum (of African origin), an accordion (of German origin), and a Colombian instrument called Guacharaca. The best way to describe it, picture a round cylinder form looking like a cheese grater that is struck with a steel brush creating a harmonic metallic sound. Finally, there was a singer to complete the quartett. The music had a firm beat. I was told that the song they played was titled ‘’Herencia”. He even gave me text of this song, unsolicited. ..
Para que quiero la plata si me voy a volver gusano.
La plata es para gastarse en mujeres, bebida y parrandiando.
Si dejo una herencia es para que la familia célèbre.
In sum, we enjoyed a great impromptu entertainment in the midst of the Friday rush hour. It is custom that the Colombians celebrate the end of the work week, starting after work. Consequently, the alcohol was flowing. The crowd got more and more excited to the point that even Mister “Do not drink” Meinhard finally warmed up, got a Flachmann Aquadiente, a pack of Pielroja (the cigarettes we smoked in Colombia 42 years ago) and we were right in the party with the rest of the crow. Colombians are very happy people.

Mi Herencia lyrics

---Colombian heritage Song - Lyrics

Eres tú mi herencia, mi porción

Lo que había anhelado, lo mejor
Eres tú la parte que escogí
El mejor regalo que recibí
Eres tú mi complemento, mi mejor momento
Eres tú

Eres el mejor amigo que pude tener
En mi oscuridad vi tu amanecer
Volví a nacer
Es mejor estar un día junto a tu altar
Que toda una vida sin tu amistad
Y en otro lugar

Eres como el viento, como el sol
Has llenado todo lo que soy
Eres paz en medio del dolor
Eres melodía al corazón
Eres sombra en el desierto
Agua y alimento
Eres Tú

-----Rough English translation-----------------------------------
Are you my heritage, my portion
What was desired, the best
Are you the party that chose
The best gift I received
You're my complement, my best time
Eres tú

You're the best friend I could have
In my darkness I saw your sunrise
Born again
It's better to be a day with your altar
That a life without your friendship
And in another place

You're like the wind, like the sun
You have filled out everything I am
You are peace in the midst of pain
Eres ringtone andalusia heart
You're in the desert shade
Water and food

Friday, February 27, 2009

San Gil

Arrived after a great and beautiful bus ride at 6 PM in San Gil, again high over the mountains, landscape changed from dry to lush green. Walked to the hostel Macondo run by an Australian. We had a reservation but were not able to get a private room, only one single room was available, I gave it to Helmut and opted for the dorm room with 4 beds bunks. My first night in the dorm and I slept well, maybe it was because I was on the bottom and had a women on top.
Today we changed to a hostel across the street with a private room but not a private bathroom. A very nice place run by a local couple Click here.

Went to the park in San Gil and planning on rafting on Saturday, the #2 difficulty. On Monday back to Bogota. More about San Gil from Hosteltrail 
San Gil is a great stop on the 'Bogota to the coast stretch' where you could happily spend a few days taking in the town and its surroundings. Within the town of San Gil itself, there are several worthwhile attractions. Parque El Gallineral is a beautiful spot by the river with an amazing variety of plantlife and the Colonial streets and the leafy plaza with it's beautiful cathedral should easily provide a couple of days entertainment.
San Gil's real treasures however, lie in the surrounding area. Fast becoming Colombia's adventure tourism capital, the rivers Fonce, Suarez and Chicamocha offer excellent adventure opportunities and the the surrounding area is dotted with caves, waterfalls and canyons waiting to be explored! For the true adventure seekers among us, there's also a number of 'extreme' activities on offer including bungee-jumping, caving, abseiling, paragliding and the most popular activity - white-water rafting.
The beauty of this area is that there's a wealth of things to do independently. The town of Barichara is less than an hour away and is a classic, colonial village well worth a visit and several treks to waterfalls and swimming holes can be made directly from San Gil.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Trip South from La Guajira toward San Gil

Thursday at 11:00 we plan to leave by bus to San Gil, a 6 - 7 hour bus ride.

Our Hotel Feb 25 in Aquachica, it looks like the Honeymoon Suite. 3 more beds upstairs, Airconditioning and a Pool and Spa in the hotel ($30 the Night for the room).
The morning of Feb 25 we left with a real bus South and decided to stop after about 6 hours at 2:00PM in the city of Aquachica.

Our Hotel ($8.50 room/night) in a small town Feb 24.
Our first ride from the street corner was a taxi that toke us more than a hundred miles South to a small town where we stayed overnight.
At times we were 6 in the taxi, no wonder the tires did not last Feb 24.

Trip to La Guajira and Cabo de la Vela

On Tuesday morning we left early at 6:00AM for La Guajira and Cabo de la Vela by Bus and Jeep.
After arriving there at 1:00PM we realized there is NOTHING but a beach and a collection of houses and restaurants, no activity. Maybe a place to Chill-Out but hot and sandy. It can only be reached by Jeep, there are no roads so one has to drive through the dessert for 1 hour to get to this last town. Very few natives to see. We had lunch with the driver and payed him to return us. We ended up at the same place we were at around 9:30AM on a street corner waiting for a bus or collective taxi.

The town of Cabo de Vela.

Tayrona Park - The Boat Ride to Hell ...but a beautiful Park

We visited the most beatiful Park but to get there was a Hell Ride we will never want to repeat. 2 Hours in rough waters to get there with 18 people in an open boat that should probaly carry no more than 12. Waves over the boat all the time, everyone and everything was soaked, out of the 6 passengers only one returned by boat (Helmut) the others walked through the park (2 hours) and toke busses or taxies (1 more hour) (Meinhard), some had planned to overnight at the park. There is much more to tell but that later. It is not a park to visit for one day, one must stay several nights.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Taganga Saturday

Day two in Tagango, toke a long hike to several remote beaches. Helmut in the water.
Sunday planning a trip by boat tothe National Park.
Tuesday by bus up East to La Guajira and Cabo de Vela a very remote area that is a like a desert and inhabited by indians.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Taganga Friday 20 February

Arrived today in Taganga -the paradise!
By accident we woke up at 4:30AM and decided to leave the HOT Catagena.
What a difference from the cities, we have a great hostel (Casa Blanca) on the beach and overlooking the bay. One stepout the door and there is the beach with white sand and blue water. Here is the view from our room ($25 / night).

And here is a picture from our last day in Salenta.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Taganga is our next destination and we have reservations at Casa Blanca:
Check out this place, it is $25 for a room for two.

Tucked into a sheltered bay between Santa Marta and Tayrona National Park, Taganga is a relaxed fishing village popular with backpackers due to its chilled atmosphere and cheap diving opportunities.
Little more than a beach dotted with fishing boats and a shore lined with hostels, restaurants and dive schools, this relaxed spot makes a nice break from the trail.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


We left Salento on Monday morning 7:30 with sunshine after a rainy afternoon, evening and night. The first trip was one hour by small bus to Perera a large town with a big bus terminal, there we changed to a van which toke us to Medellin (a 5 hour trip). In Medellin we waited one Hour until 4:30 PM and toke a bus to Cartagana, a 14 hour overnight trip. This bus was very comfortable with reclining seats and air conditioning and did not make frequent stops to pick up passengers as we are used to with other buses. At 6:00AM on Tuesday morning we arrived at the terminal in Cartagena. Went by taxi to our hotel (hostel) and walked the beautiful old section of the city. It is hot around 85 here but windy so it feels OK.
Wednesday we decided to stay in town and go to the beach in Bocagrande, fresh fish right on the beah taste great. Will be here three nights then to Togonga to the beach.
This is no longer the Colombia we have seen in the South, what a change!
You are at the Caribbean and it shows, everything is even more colorful, poorer (what we see), and the poeple look and act different.

Our place:
It looks MUCH MUCH better than it is, the hostel Casa Viena where we wanted to stay was full. Seija and specially Rocio would NOT stay here.

Cartagena is an unforgettable city which was once the main Spanish port in South America. Surrounded by a wall built to keep out pirates seeking native treasures snatched from the Indians to carry back to Spain, Cartagena looks every bit the part of the fairytale. Protected within the walls of the old city is a maze of cobbled streets and grand colonial houses as well as former slave markets, plazas and churches. It's exciting and colourful history is well documented not only through the sights of the town, but in the excellent museums in the old city. From:

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Salento - Sunday

Last day in Salento, tomorrow (Monday) begins the trip to Cartagena, about 20 hours by bus.
Today we try agaa trip to -
Cocora Valley Trek is a landscape of rolling green hills, traditional farms and diverse scenery. This is a great day trip which begins with a jeep ride to Cocora village (3,000 Pesos) where you set off on foot to visit Acaime nature park. This 2 hour section follows a forest trail winding uphill to the park where you can get refreshments and spend a while admiring the hummingbirds. From there, the best way to return is via Finca La Montaña which involves an initial one km uphill followed by a couple of hours on a good road winding through groves of Wax Palm Trees up to 60 metres tall. From:

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Trip to Silvia - Helmut

Trip to Silvia (8310 feet altitude, south east of Popayan).
Silvia is the center of the Gumbiano Indian region. The Indians live in small mountain villages around Silvia. They wear colorful clothing and head covers .
On every Tuesday is Market Day in Sylvia, to which many of the Indians come me to Sylvia to market their hand made crafts and agricultural products.
The Indians travel to Silvia by Chiva bus. These unique buses are almost distinct. We came to see these buses in action. These buses where once Colombia{s main means of transport. The body of the bus is made almost entirely of wood, have benches across the bus. Each row of the bus is accessed from the outside. Each Chiva is painted artistically. No two Chivas look alike.
Chiva bus

Cali visit - Helmut

Cali Visit
We visited Rocio’s relatives in Califor 3 days. We had a very nice stay at Rocio’s cousin Esneda Canizales with her parents Fanni and Bertino. Her cousin and my cousin politico took his time to show us Cali and surroundings. What a change since I was there the last time over 20 years ago. The city has grown from 2 million to 4 million habitants, becoming the second largest city in Colombia. The street scene has changed: the big American cars are now virtually absent, replaced by small Asian cars and here and there a few American small cars. A metro is about to be operational. In a month it will run on dedicated lanes from one end to the other. Also, a lot of recreational activities are taking place; Primarily biking and running.
After a delicious lunch (we had trout…delightfull) in an outstanding restaurant, Humberto showed us his beautiful Finka (Ranch) where he has now cows and horses. Then we visited Candelaria, the village and house in which Rocio grew up.
Topping off a great day we had a barbecue at the home of Humberto with his wife Doris and their two daughters Viviana and Adriana. Unfortunately we missed their son Humberto Jr.
The next day we went together on a day trip to Salento, a small town about a four hour drive north of Cali. Salento, altitude in the 6000 feet range, is surrounded by deep green mountains. It is known for the “Palma de cera”, one of the highest species of palm trees in the world, and a national tree of Colombia. We went to the best place to see these palm covered hills: In the valley Cocora, about 6 miles from Salento.
A very big thank you goes to Rocio’s family for taking us in and for a great time.

Salento Saturday Morning February 14.

Breakfast at Lucy´s a favorite place for Gringos in town. $1.50 gets you a full breakfast with eggs, rice, bread and drink.

Our Hostel on Saturday morning. It is raining so coffee at the hostel. Helmut is standing and watching the rain.

We are paying $20 night for two, room with 2 beds and privat bathroom. It is rustic, no glass in the windows but very nice.
Swiss, Irish, English, Italian, Canadian, American at the hostel..

Friday, February 13, 2009

Silvia, Popayan Pictures and short notes

A short recap - the last day in Popayan we left our luggage in the hostel and took a bus to Silvia to see the local market. In the afternoon we left Popayan by bus to Cali, about 4 hours to get there. - In Cali we stayed 3 nights, viviting Helmut´s relatives. Lunch, Dinner and driving around to see the surroundings of Cali. - From Cali we left Friday the 13th to Salento a beautiful place. Coffe and wachs Palm trees.See notes below from the Hosteltrails web page of the places we visited.

Nicknamed the White City,
Popayan is a beautiful colonial town of white-washed houses and grand churches encircled by rolling green hills. Although the capital of the Cauca region and the former capital of Southern Colombia, Popayan somehow retains it's relaxed small town feel.
Silvia Indigenous Market - This beautiful Andean market town is absolutely bursting with colour and energy on Tuesdays. Guambiano Indians from the surrounding communities make their way into Silvia to sell their produce and socialise with friends from neighbouring towns.
Salento - When you imagine the Colombian coffee region, rolling green hills, sunlight glinting through the vegetation as you wind along the country roads - the real thing doesn't get much closer than Salento! Set amid a magnificent landscape lies this friendly and hardworking community of 10,000 formed mainly for the purpose of cultivating and processing some of the world's finest coffee.
Salento itself is a beautiful, Colonial-influenced town with lively multi-coloured buildings against a green, hilly backdrop. The large plaza with it's regular market and relaxed outdoor restaurants is a great place to sit back and soak up the atmosphere, but as nice as the town is, the real attractions lie in the surroundings.
Check out more details at the HostelTrails WEB.

Popayan, the city with the white houses. Stayed here at Hosteltrail.

In Silvia at the Market on Tuesady morning. 1 Hour + ride from Popayan.
The native indian come to trade their goods and get dressed up.
Not many tourists here it is off the beaten path.

Not our Bus but one of the famous ones the locals use to get to market and back home. Everything goes in or on top including livestock.

------------------------ check it out or more details.

In Salenta - the Coffe region, a beautiful city and surroundings.
Friday February 13, 2009. Here for 3 nights at the
Plantation House.
Our Room and view from room.

Our room.

Our Bathroom, YES a first class set-up.

Helmut and relative Humberto drinking the fresh milk from the cow.

Thursday driving around Salenta, Helmut with Humberto.

Meinhard and Humberto outside Salento.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Helmut's Food

Arepa with Cheese fresh from the bakery, also Rocio's favorite food. But she is not here so we eat for her.

Pasto to Lake Laguna de la Coche by Helmut

Trip from Pasto to Lake Laguna de la Coche:

Trip Pasto to the lake Laguna de la Cocha (altitude 2400m, approximately 15km long with the island Isla Corrotal less than one hour ride easterly of Pasto.

Isla de la Cocha has a prestine jungle vegetation. I was amazed about that kina of vegetation in the high altitude. A walk through its jungle was like being in the Amazon jungle. It reminded me somewhat of the island “Mainau”, located in the Lake Constance in Germany with tropical vegetation, highlighted by red wood trees imported from California, or the palm trees on the Isle of Man, located in the Northsea between Ireland and Scottland.

The travel book Lonely Planet calls it Columbia’s most beautiful scenic lake.

Trip Pasto to Popayan by Helmut

Trip Pasto to Popayan notations from observations peaking out the Magdalena bus:

Pasto is 2,530m above sea level. Its highest mountain is the 4,276m Volcano Galeras. The numerous other mountains are nearly as high.

One must see the panorama we enjoyed looking at throughout 200 plus miles trip.

Looking in any direction we could see never ending peaks and valleys with a lash green vegetation. There was not a 100 yard straight road, winding its way through the chiselled out Pan American Highway. Here and there were earth movements that made passage as little bit challenging for the driver (since this is an earth quake prone are, the cause could have been from a recent earth quake, or just from heavy rains, as I could not see much of rocks in the soil).

The most amazing part was that in spite of the high altitude, anywhere I looked, the slopes always reflected a deep green, whether is was on the hills or in the valley. The cows looked fat and happy, ready for being milked.

With ever changing altitudes, the vegetation was mostly fat green grass, mixed in with palm trees, banana trees, bamboo trees. There were countless other trees that I could not make out.

In sum, this 8 hour bus ride was a spectacular treat.

Popayan Monday February 9

Arrived last night in Popayan after a 7 hour bus trip in a great comfortable bus.
Roads were paved and the scenery spectacular again over several mountain passes of 10,000 + feet.
Staying at Hoastaltrail one of the best Hostels so far, many private rooms and very clean in center of town. Owners are Scottish travelers that got stuck here, Hostaltrail web.
Check out their web pages of Colombia and other South American countries HOSTALTRAIL.
Explored the city this morning.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Friday January 6 - we left the Hostel around 9:00AM after a good breakfast then with taxi to bus terminal. San Augustin is a small town about 2,000 people. From town we toke a one hour ride in a collectivo truck (8 people 3-4 in front the rest in the back sitting side ways) to Pitolito, another town. With luck we got a Van to the half way (Macoa) of our next destination Pasto. Macoa was 2.5 hours with 10 people in the van. We had two stops by military, one to get out and be searched (very common in this area). The driver was very good maybe too good since one passenger, a young pregnant girl, got very sick and had to use the "Bag" unfortunately she missed a few times and the bus smelled. it is very curvy road and the driver just had to go as fast as possible. At the military stop he cleaned the floor and sprinkled coffee on the floor to take the smell away.
Arriving in Macoa around 2:00 PM we decided to continue to Pasto, only another 140 miles but it takes 7 Hours driving as fast as possible. You don't want to start the drive in the evening and drive too long in the dark, because of the mountains. The bus was large a combination School Bus - Hummer. We had to get over two mountain passes. It is the highest we have ever been around 10,000 feet, and all on un-paved dirt roads most of them only for one vehicle and all switch-backs. Too many crosses on the side of the road. But the driver was very alert you can say like a good pilot, he probably drives in a higher altitude than Tim is flying his planes!
5 stops by Police and Military on the way 3 of them out of bus searches and one pass control. All for terrorists, I believe. Two young American kids from Denver were with us until Pasto.
Arriving in Pasto at 9:00 PM we headed to the center of town the Koala Hostel, had a 4 bed room the first night (last room available) and shared it with the two Americans, this night we are in a 3 bed private room with bath for $12 total for the two of us.

Walked half way up the mountain this morning (to 11,00 feet ?). Lunch in a BBQ place. A Colombian picked us up at the mountain, Lawyer and Farmer, showed us around and the Lunch place very happy to help and meet two foreigners a great experience for us. Tomorrow morning to a lake (4 hour trip) then by bus to Popayan, about 6 hours away.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

San Augustin Day 4

Walked from Hostel to the Archaeological Park with religious monuments and megalithic sculptures (100+). Afternoon invited a young English fellow for beer and dinner, he has been for almost a year in South America and is living on very little money. Good evening with music and drinks at the hostel.
Next day toke a full day trip by Jeep around the area visiting more tombs and stone figures, water fall and scenery. Stayed the evening at the Hostel and had dinner with others. Packing for the bus trip to Pasto.

Check out on the web San Augustine .
The largest group of religious monuments and megalithic sculptures in South America stands in a wild, spectacular landscape. Gods and mythical animals are skilfully represented in styles ranging from abstract to realist. These works of art display the creativity and imagination of a northern Andean culture that flourished from the 1st to the 8th century.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

San Augustin day 2

First night we slept in a 3 bed cabin w/out bath ot toilette.
We arived one day early so we had to wait for our delux cabin with 2 beds and own bathroom, cost 18,000 pesos or $9 per person / day. Not very busy 2 Suisse, 1 Australian, 1 New Zealander, 1 English and 1 Dutch here right now. Beds are hard and almost on floor, roofs are out of grass and wood. An interesting place Seija would like it Bob would not go near it!
Had a nice ice cold shower this morning and a great breakfast (extra $2). Town is small 2,000 and not many tourists. Nice wether walked the town and explored some stores.
Tomorrow walk towards the statues and other sights.
After 3 more nights to Paso (6 hour bus ride?) for 2 days then Popayan 2 nights then Cali.

Monday, February 2, 2009

San Augustin

Went by Bus on Sunday from Bogotar to Melgar, great place to Chill Out at the pool and nice small town.
Monday we toke two busses (Vans) for 7 hours to San Augustin. A very nice place staying at the Finca El Maco Hostel, a Swiss owner.
Rooms are like huts you can see the stars, lots of fun.
Will stay 4 nights and make trips, no horseback for these old guys, too dangerous.
Actually horses in town doing work and for riding.
Great scenery on way the mountains but tough to enjoy with crasy drivers.
Slow connection here so no pictures. but here is the Hostel Web. 

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Bogota - Sunday

All packed and ready for breakfast. Taxi ride to Bus terminal and then bus to the next place Melgar, about 5 hours. It will be warmer there. It rained a bit last night but now it looks like the sun is up.

Saturday in the City Helmut and ?

Saturday - always have to stop for a beer in the afternoon.