Sunday, 18 February 2018


Chevere is unique to Latin American Spanish and it means "cool". So try using it in mainland Spain and you will get blank looks! I came here on a business class ticket which gave me some Life Miles. I spent some on my sector to Bogotá when I went to Santa Marta last week and I find that I have just enough left for another trip to Bogotá. So that is what I will do because I am rather bored in Pereira and I'm not seeing my friend Nini (don't ask!) I booked three nights in the Ibis Hotel by the National Museum as before. I go to the airport in Pereira on the Megabus using my Mega-card and I still have journeys left on the card for Bogotá. So this trip will just cost me three nights in the Ibis Hotel, about €160. I can see the airport on a plateau from my apartment, it is so cool. Jump on a plane and in less than an hour, I'm in Bogotá, for a $10 admin fee for my ticket.


Friday, 16 February 2018

Santa Marta

There are three towns close together along the Caribbean coast, from the west, Cartagena de Indias where I went last year, Baranquilla and Santa Marta. I went to Santa Marta because I was interested in the history of the place as well as wanting to enjoy the beaches.
The hotel was superb, 4 star but I felt like an honoured guest, I didn't see any other residents. It was a little way back from the sea front where there is a rather dubious looking beach. By that I mean that I don't think the sea was very clean and there were dark streaks on the beach. But the area around Plaza de Simón Bolivar (who else?) was full of life and, this being Colombia, vibrating with loud music. Each day, I took a bus (or if I was feeling lazy) a taxi to Taganga which is the nearest beach to the town. There are many other beaches further away but I was just interested in swimming, so this was fine for me.
The centre of the town comprises a grid of streets which cross each other with absolutely no indication of who has the right of way. And being built-up, the junctions are totally blind. The solution, beep your horn as you approach the junction. The taxi taking me back to the airport did this at great speed, at times cars appeared at the side, only to stop just short of the junction. I was fully expecting a collision, it was crazy.
And, because this beeping goes on through the night, the hotel kindly found me a room at the back of the building.
I visited two sites of interest. One was the house of Simón Bolivar, el Libertador of the south American countries in the early 19th Century. The other was the House of Aduana next to Plaza Simón Bolivar where he died. I don't have room here to describe the history of the countries around Colombia when they became independent from Spain but it makes for a very interesting story. They can thank Napoleon because his invading Spain in the early 18th Century caused instability in Madrid which in turn led to the freedom of Colombia, Venezuela, Panama (which was part of Colombia at one stage), Peru and Ecuador. Well.. it wasn't quite as simple as that, you will have to look it up online!
The hotel had a jacuzzi on the 5th floor and I used to go there with a beer before having lunch. Very hedonistic!

In the House of Aduana, there was an exhibition about the indigenous people of the Sierra Nevada and I bought two mochillas made by the indians, for me and Nini.

There isn't much more to tell you about Santa Marta, I went swimming, I visited a couple of nice restaurants. And then I came back to Pereira on 14th. Being St Valentine's Day, I exchanged heart emojis with one or two of my girl friends!

I would guess the sun is setting over Panama, more or less exactly west (an in-joke with Frisky Geezer, one of my faithful followers!!)

This is a monument which marked the 100th anniversary of the death of Simón Bolivar


Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Morning in Bogotá.. afternoon in Santa Marta!

My friend Mayerlin recommended that I visit the Biblioteca del Banco de la Republica but I couldn't find it, I was using Google Maps on my phone and the scale kept on changing.
So,on my last day, I looked it up on my laptop and made a note of the street. I am very glad I went. On one side of the street is the biblioteca (library) and on the other side is a museum and art gallery with many rooms. The whole area is full of life: artists, musicians, arts and crafts.

There were several rooms dedicated to pictures by Botero, so I don't need to go back to the museum in Medellin! And there were rooms full of sculptures by him. I wish I had had more time but I had to go back to my hotel to check out which I had calculated at 12.30 in order to get to the airport on time. Here are some more photos.

If you know anything about Botero, you will recognise his style immediately!

 I forgot to make a note of the artist but this reminded me of the style of Picasso.

 This was a rather quirky restaurant near to my hotel in Bogotá. The food was great but what I didn't notice was a couple of candles dripping wax onto my jacket. The restaurant managed to remove the wax!

This is the cloister in the Museo Nacional de Colombia
 I then walked back down Caraterra 7 to my hotel, checked out, collected my boarding pass which they had printed out for me and took the number 86 bus to the airport. It is a huge 3-section articulated bus and in fact only goes as far as the Terminus del Transporte El Dorado which is near to the airport. There is then a small "feeder" bus with the same number but different prefix which goes on to the airport. I had left plenty of time, I had a sandwich and the inevitable mango juice - my favourite!
I was due to fly with Viva Colombia for the first time, I chose them in favour of Avianca because it was cheaper! About 30 minutes before boarding, we were summoned to the desk to had our cabin bags checked for size (but not weight). Then a label was attached to show that we had passed the test. I was annoyed because my small mochada bag in which I had put a few things for the flight was not allowed and I had to stuff it inside my main bag. But women were allowed a small bag. Hey! This is discrimination. When I got onto the plane, I took the mochada back out of my main bag, filled it with my Kindle and my music and took my seat. The main bag went in the overhead locker. On my return flght, I will insist that I take my mochada in the cabin, or maybe I will say that I am a trans woman!
As we boarded, the flight attendant was for ever urging us to take our seats, take the one allocated etc.. etc. I was getting the impression of a fussy airline!
Then, on the flight, even before the seat-belt symbol went out, the guy in the seat in front of me went into full recline mode. Suddenly, the back of his seat was inches from my face and, worse, the back of his head was far too close to me. I complained to the flight attendant and, of course, the guy heard me. The girl suggested that I also recline my seat which I thought was daft, imagine it! But I have heard stories of it happening. My neighbour was quite happy to return to vertical - there was no middle setting and we ended up very amicably. I said that it was not his fault, it was the design of the seating - a small seat pitch but full recline.
Then I got chatting to the flight attendant and mentioned Ryanair in Europe. "Same group," she replied. The chairman is Declan Ryan and it was set up by Irelandia Aviation, as was Ryanair. Ah, that explains a lot. But now that I understand, I am happy. I am a fan of Ryanair because it is so cheap, even with "hidden" extras which in my opinion are actually visible options.
The flight passed very pleasantly, I listened to my forbidden music and we were soon approaching Santa Marta. It was funny, because from the left of the plane it seemed that we were landing on water, the runway being very close to the sea. I took a taxi to the hotel, 30 minutes. I made a note of that because my return flight on Wednesday (tomorrow as I write this) is early at 7.50. But I normally wake up with the sun at 6am so it is not a problem.
In my next post I will write about my three days in Santa Marta!


Friday, 9 February 2018

Bogotá - more photos from Friday!

Yesterday, I travelled from Pereira to Bogotá! It was easy.
I left home at 10am, went to the centre of Cuba in order to print out my boarding pass for the flight, I had a coffee and then took a bus to the airport for my flight at 13.40. I had to take two buses to get to the airport, one is the big articulated bus which goes to the centre of Pereira and the other is a "feeder" bus. There is a bus terminal called "El Viajero" and it is like a hub between routes. The journey on the feeder bus to the airport was awful. The airport and runway are on a raised plateau and the bus coming from the airport takes a clockwise route which I know well, having travelled by taxi. But the bus going to the airport goes around the west side of the runway and the road is so bad the bus is going at about 15 - 20 km/hour. 
Anyway, here I am in Bogotá and it is great! I visited the Museo Nacional de Colombia which is right next to my hotel until closing time at 6pm, then had a beer in a local bar and then had a meal in a restaurant next to the hotel. I will explain the photo of the wine.. I was very close to people at the table to my right. A guy leaned over, knocked over the menu with his elbow which in turn knocked over the wine rather like dominoes. But the waitress seemed to expect me to buy another glass of wine to replace the wine which was now on the floor. I am afraid I resorted to English. "Hey, come on!" I said, hands outstretched in a French style. She conferred with a colleague and they generously replaced my half-full glass of wine. Note that I said, "half-full," because I am a glass-half-full person!
Today (Friday) I went to an immigration office to enquire about getting a visa and cedula extranjero but it is all done online these days. Then I took a leisurely walk down Calle 7, from which I took the photos. The indian guy singing was brilliant, he put his heart and soul into his music. Now (3pm) I am going back to the National Museum because I didn't have much time last night. They have a special exhibition about indigenous people in Colombia and I want to re-visit that. I added some more photos from today to the end of this post.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Lots of Photos!

The cloud photos are of the central square in Cuba as the sun sets after a very warm Sunday. The others, the street scenes and the plaza are all close to El Lago and Plaza de Bolivar.

El Lago

A restaurant in Plaza de Bolivar.

El Lago

Monday, 5 February 2018

Time for a holiday!

It's a Monday morning and I'm looking ahead to the week. On Thursday I go to Bogotá for 2 days and then to Santa Marta for 4 days. I bought my tickets for the flight to Bogotá with my Avianca LifeMiles so it cost me just the admin fee of $10. I plan to visit the Immigration Office to apply for my visa and Cedula (ID) but I'm getting cold feet about buying or renting a place here. Maybe my best plan is to wait till October and see how I feel then, there is no hurry. But I am very happy here. I've met lots of people but I've only really made one new friend, a young girl called Mayerlin (like Madeline in English). We went out a couple of evenings ago and ended up in one of the oldest bars in Pereira (photos). Mayerlin chose a small upstairs room. A "space" would be more accurate!

Actually it was getting dark outside, the photo gives a wrong impresssion.

She seems to like my company and we're going to Santuario, her home town, when I come back from Santa Marta.

I have never been to Bogotá before so I will have the opportunity to visit one or two places such as galleries and buildings of interest. I booked into my favourite hotel, Ibis which is in the centre and close to the museum.
Then I booked a flight with Viva Colombia from Bogotá to Santa Marta which is on the Caribbean coast not far from Cartagena de Indias where I went with Nini last year. I will tell you all about it here. The flight was very cheap, about €90 return. Avianca was more expensive. Santa Marta looks far more interesting and beautiful than Caratagena which is basically a port. Santa Marta is the oldest town in Colombia, where the Spanish first landed. So it is sure to be steeped in history, I'm looking forward to that. And also spending some time on the beach, of course! It will be a nice change to indulge myself without my "family" of Nini, Alex and Sofi in tow. In any case, I have virtually lost contact with them after Nini's last tirade against me. So it is bye-bye, sadly. And that certainly influenced my decision to remain in Spain. So Nini did me a favour! In any case, the money that I give them stops this month because it is now up to them to sink or swim. Neither of them has a job and there is no help from the state.
I have no regrets about sticking with Nini for so long, despite her angry rants. In a way, I have used her. And she clearly has some kind of problem -full of bitterness and anger about.... I know not what. I have come twice to this beautiful country and I would never have done so without first knowing her. And now I am feeling much better, maybe I had a mild dose of flu during January, I don't know.
And on the subject of feeling better, I went on my longest bike ride so far. By the standards of Girona with my 75km round trips, it was not far. The sensor for my bike computer fell off in the bag in transit and it needs a couple of nylon straps to fit it again. And then yesterday, I lost the computer itself, it fell off the handlebars without my noticing (it connects wirelessly to the wheel sensor). So I will have to buy a completely new set. Or maybe I won't bother. I have attached one or two photos.
Before I came here, I noticed the main road which goes around Pereira and I looked at in in Google Street View. It is called Variante Condina. But it is not easy to get to. All the roads in the region of Cuba go down precipitously into the centre rather like spokes in a wheel, there are no cross country routes because, in between there is a deep ravine. That is Colombia for you! So I have to go down, hands gripped tightly around the brake handles and then I have to climb back up the other side. My objective was the roundabout which I can see clearly from where I live. From there, I take a very steep but short climb (photo) up to an area called Montelibano, Mount Lebanon, I guess. It is like a plateau. Then I take another short climb (I am very near to Cardal where Nini lives) and then finally I arrive at the interchange with Variante Condina. I went a little further up the hill but it was mid-day and very hot, so I turned around and went back home.

There is access to Variente Condina here.
One way is to Armenia. The other direction, back to Pereira.

to Armenia, 50km

back to Pereira

My Scott carbon-fibre bike which I brought from Spain
A typically steep incline!

I know... I've used this photo before!

A change of subject... I remember writing about this but maybe I never published it. A couple of weeks ago, in the centre of Cuba I saw an Indian woman carrying her baby to her chest. She was wearing the most beautiful red dress, as if to appear at some special event. She was small and very beautiful and very Indian. I was very struck, very moved by seeing her and I asked Nini about how they were viewed in the community. She replied that it was very low because "they don't work". Maybe I asked the wrong person, I want to learn more, to meet some of the people who were the original occupants of this country.
And then I started thinking about the arguments that are flying around the UK about the British colonies. And I thought about the Indians in the USA, Aborigines in Australia. My problem with the students (because it is mostly students who are kicking up a storm) in the UK is that one can't re-write history and there have been many benefits from colonisation, not only Spanish and British. However, it was their country and much land was stolen and thousands killed. But it was a different era. I feel that they should be held in high regard. Unfortunately what tends to happen is that the original occupants of the country have no work, they live in settlements which are subsidised by the government and in many cases descend into alcoholism. But judging by the woman's dress, it is obvious that she takes great pride in her appearance.
Another encounter......
Then today, I was in the centre of Pereira meeting an American couple, about my age I would guess. They signed up for my Meetup group meeting this evening but, since they were the only ones who said they were coming, I cancelled the meetup and met them for coffe in Lucerna which is a beautiful enormous coffee shop and restaurant near to Plaza de Bolivar. Also there is a patisserie. I didn't know it existed so I am grateful to my friends for discovering it. Afterwards, I spent the whole day in the centre, firstly in Plaza Victoria, then I went to Parc Arboleda which is a shopping mall. I bought some clothes in Stradivarius, my favourite shop in Girona. Basically, it sells women's clothes but many of them look fine on me too. Er.... well some are borderline!

On my way back to Plaza Victoria, there is a pedestrian bridge with a strange aluminium walkway and sitting by the side were two Indian women with 2 children and two babies. They weren't actively begging, just sitting there on the ground. One man walked by with a cup of mango slices and one of the children ran up and begged a slice from him. But generally they were ignored. So I sat an a concrete block nearby and watched them. And then a young guy walked up to them and opened a plastic box with cakes and one or two other items which I guess he had planned to give them. As he walked away, I approached him and asked him about them. He said that they were helped by the government and lived in settlements as I already knew but he said that the women on the bridge were displaced but I didn't understand him very well. It didn't sound too good. We chatted for a short while and then parted company. I asked him about the forthcoming elections in March but he was very sceptical about any change. Juan Manuel Santos cannot stand for re-election as President because he has already served two 4-year terms. By the way, as part of his education in his youth, he attended the London School of Economics.
Later that afternoon, I bought two cups of fruit slices, just over €1, and gave them to the women. I usually ignore people begging or at least give a blessing but, firstly they weren't holding out cups or asking for money. And secondly, these are the direct descendants of the people whose country this was. Maybe I am getting a little too idealistic on this subject, but it moves me that they have maintained their integrity and culture. Many of the people passing by are also descended from them of course. I often think about the mixture of European and native descent in modern Colombians but I don't think they give it much thought. The guy I spoke to said that Colombians have a short memory about their cultural heritage! Mayerlin, if you read this, put me right if I am mistaken and I will change the text!