Saturday, 31 December 2016

New Year's Eve

There were one or two options to coming here: bus, taxi or by air. Alejandra suggested a taxi firm which charged 40 mils per passenger but the journey is 4 hours - 5 hours by bus. When I went to Cartagena I noticed the small French twin engined turbo-prop of EasyFly and, to me, that was the obvious option because apart from anything else, I love flying. It is fun... cool. Chevere.

This picture is made up of two photos as you can see, sorry for the crude clone tooling!
It is a French-built ATR42-500.

I described earlier how that I accidentally booked my return from a different airport, one hour from Medellín, I later discovered. Yesterday, by phone I changed my return to the flight at 5.30pm but there was a price difference and a charge for making a change of 30 mils. This came to about 60 euros. I accepted my error and agreed to pay at the airport when I left on the 31st in the morning.

The EasyFly office is behing their check-in counter and I explained what I had done but they seemed confused. I thought, by giving them my booking reference, they would see the change. After much to-ing and fro-ing, they confirmed that I was booked on the 5.30 flight. But they said that there was nothing to pay! Hey, not only did I get the earlier flight for the price of the later flight, I never paid the change fee. Incidentally, the later flight leaves from the other airport because the one in the city centre closes after 5.30!
The flight to Medellín was on time, full, and arrived at about 11.15 - 40 minutes later. I looked down at the ground below me and was thankful that I had chosen to fly. I imagined that it would have been an arduous journey. From when I left home to my arrival in Medellín was about 3 hours but much of that was wandering around the airport, buying a coffee, writing this blog. Not really the same as travelling by road. It is fun, enjoyable.

When I arrived in Medellín I took a very pleasant walk from the plane to the arrivals hall, under a covered walk-way. Open to the air. Everything here is open to the air because the air is normally around what I would call "room temperature". Outside Arrivals, none of the taxi drivers seemed to have a clue where the hotel was despite my giving them the exact address. One of them said that it was a "bad address". 

"You mean it's dangerous?", I said. 

But the taxi drivers seemed very different from the cheerful, friendly drivers in Pereira. Not at all helpful. I gave up. I was in no hurry, I went back into the terminal and phoned the hotel for guidance and they gave me a couple of landmarks to give to the taxi driver.
I bought a coffee and a cake and sat down to write some more of my blog (offline in Word). The coffee was terrible (see photo 1st Jan). It came suspiciously rapidly and it was a scalding hot watery liquid. It came in a plastic cup as usual despite my drinking it at one of the tables. There was a short straw with which to stir it. Fortunately it didn't melt. Very similar to my experiences in Pereira. Many bars have a cafetiere but obviously they don't use it in the same way as in Spain.
It was impossible to drink because it was so hot so I had plenty of time to write up my blog (about the trek!) Finally I went out of the arrivals door and took a taxi. The driver had difficulty reading the address and - I really don't want to be unkind - he didn't seem terribly bright.
Finally, with the driver asking directions (his Spanish was awful, I am surprised the people understood him), we arrived at my hotel, it is superb. And, before I had a chance to ask what to do tonight, the manager arrived in reception with a suggestion. An evening meal (cena) between 7 and 9pm in the hotel. I went to my room and about 20 minutes later the printed invitation to the meal arrived. It is 2pm now, so I'm going out to get some food. A sandwich would be perfect! This is what I had (photo), I have forgotten the name, but it was like pitta bread with egg and cheese inside.

I am writing this on the morning of the 1st, lots more to tell you about yesterday. Sadly I ended up watching TV in the hotel reception, the same as in Hotel19 in Ukraine last year. But at least Hotel19 provided alcohol in the form of a weak champagne.
But I want to go out now and explore the city. Tomorrow, I have booked an organised tour and Tuesday, I go home. Haha, now I think of Pereira as "home".
I guess you want to know how I spent New Year's Eve. I had the supper which I mentioned before but at 9pm, I was high and dry. No idea what to do. So I walked up the road - it is a quiet residential area - to the main road where there are several bars and restaurants. I had a couple of beers in a bar which had a really nice dance floor at the back. From time to time, a couple would get up from their table and dance a couple of numbers which was really cool. There was loud music in the bar, what I call salsa but I think there are several varieties. I got bored with that and walked across the road to a more lively and modern bar. I recorded a video but unfortunately it is upside-down and I don't know how to reverse it on this computer.
Then I went back to the hotel and watched TV in reception. I complained that there was no alcohol! Fruit tea... for New Year's Eve, it is like Saudi Arabia!
There was a big concert from Bogotá with the usual band with brass, percussion, rhythm. Forgive me, my Colombian friends if I call this salsa. There was a compere who I guess is a national treasure. Rather like Dale Winton in the UK. But he was about 50, a smart suit. But every now and then, he dropped into selling mode and the whole TV event became a TV commercial. He appeared like one of those guys on daytime shopping channels selling useless products such as reducing the size of your bottom who points his finger at the camera to make a point. Just like that.
This is not an insult; it is what he does. But what would not be permitted in Europe is the sudden change from compere to selling. It was as if the blessed and much missed Terry Wogan switched suddenly to selling a headache product (most likely abruprofen in a shiny packet) in the middle of Eurovision (Song Contest). And then this man popped up again later promoting more useless products, pharmaceutical if my memory serves me right. Would you buy Salvatron Plus Pro (I made that up) in a glossy packet from this man when in reality it is aspirin?
And you know the feeling. there is a baby crying close to where you are trying to relax. For a while, it is not a problem. And then suddenly it seems to breach your defences and it drives you nuts. For me it is the same with the music here, it is all the same. Brass, rhythm, a singer usually arond 40-50, same kind of beat. I don't like the music of Adele very much but I long to hear her, if only to make a change. Or Coldplay. Anything but this incessant salsa. It is driving me crazy.
At first, I thought it was really cool - hey, I am truly integrated  into the Colombian way of life. But no. In fact, I would rather listen to the Vaughan-Williams Mass in G sung by a choir of men and boys in St George's Chapel. Or my Schmidt organ music which I use as a cure for depression because I turn the volume up. But this jolly chirpy endless rythym is everywhere. I didn't think I was any hurry to return to cold Girona but maybe it has its advantages! Roll on rock and roll.

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