Saturday, 7 January 2017

Friday 6th - Parque del Café.

A day of fun!

I met the family,  Nini, Mamá, Luisa and her two children, at the Terminal at 8.45am. They arrived by taxi and I paid the driver. Taxis are very cheap here, it was about 4 euros. I told them to wait while I dashed into la 14 to buy some sun cream. Very important because we would would be out all day and, as one would expect close to the Equator, the sun is very strong.

We then looked for a bus to Armenia which is the town close to our destination, the Parque del Café. Nini found one which left at 9.30 (by now, the time was around 9am) but I found one which was leaving immediately so I beckoned to them and we all dashed towards the bus. Nini was unhappy about something but I have no idea what it was. I said that the important thing was to get going!

The bus was a mini-bus, I guess you would call it. The fare for us 4 adults and two children was 24 mils, 8 euros. The journey, about one hour. Now you can see why I am so happy to spend money here, my euro goes a long way. Often the cost of paying for the family is not far from what I would pay simply for myself in Spain, certainly in the UK.

At the Terminal at Armenia, we transferred to another bus to the park. There was a kiosk where I could buy the tickets for the park. There was a choice, either Economy and pay for attractions individually or pay 50 mils which included seven attractions. I bought 5 ticket at 50 mils because it gave a sense of freedom and I could pay one time painlessly with my card and forget about it. Sebastian was over the height limit for a child's price but Estephanie went free of charge because she is little. Mamá said that she didn't want to go on any of the attractions but I gave her a 50 mil ticket anyway. Maybe there were some gentle things to do and, anyway, it would have seemed like discrimination if I had bought her a different ticket from the others! So... 250 mils for a family of 6 in a leisure park. That is around 85 euros! I can't remember exactly what it would cost to take a family of 6 to Alton Towers or Thorpe Park in the UK but I guarantee it would be significantly more. Parents spend hundreds of pounds on a day out like that.

The journey from Armenia was awful, getting out of the town. There were road-works and lots of traffic. Then finally we were whizzing down country lanes and we arrived at the park after about 30 minutes. I guess by then it was a little before 11am. We entered the park, picked up some maps and started down the hill into the main area after spraying each other with sun protection. We were lucky with the weather, all day there was sun with fluffy cumulus clouds in a blue sky. Not like the previous day; that would have been a disaster!

At about 12, Nini suggested having some lunch. That was a little too early for me, I was dying for a decent coffee! So I gave Nini some money to buy the family lunch in the food court and I went off to buy a capuchino and a muffin and I returned to join them.

After lunch, we started off in the children's area. The two children had a ride on a carousel, no organ I am sad to say! Then Sebas went on the dodgem cars. I wandered around, chatted quite a lot to mamá. Shall I use her real name? Omaira. Better to do that because I have been writing "mama" which is breast in Spanish! Mother is "mamá", with an accent.

We spoke about her daughter, but I promised that everything I said to her, she could repeat to Nini. In other words I didn't want to talk about her "behind her back", is the saying in English. That would be wrong. I don't think Nini reads this blog, none of the family speaks English but they can use Google Translate. So, likewise, I am careful what I write here because it is a public space. By the way, her second name is Johanna which she sometimes uses. I prefer that. But Nini is her real name, not a nickname.

We became rather dispirited by the length of the queues, nothing new there! I think some leisure parks have a ticket system so that you don't have to spend half the day in a queue. We joined the queue for the Rapids but very soon, Nini and Luisa drifted off leaving just me and Omaira in the queue. It was only when we got near to the attraction with the sound of rushing water that I realised what they had planned. Omaira started chatting on the phone and stopped to let people pass. Others were doing the same. After about 10 minutes, they arrived, ducked under the rope and joined us. I felt a little embarrassed because I was expecting people nearby to complain, there is a sign saying that saving a space in the queue is not allowed and threatens "sanctions". I am not sure if that means a slap on the wrist or ejected from the park. I doubt the latter.

Fashion note:  For a large part of the day, I have been looking at Nini's almost bare back, especially when she is ahead of me in a queue. She is usually ahead of me. She was wearing the same top that she wore at the party on the 24th. It covers her front as normal but there are just simple straps across the back which gives the effect of a completely bare back. Her waist is amazingly thin, so for a guy, it is... I don't know the word. Disturbing, in a nice way. But I would have preferred a tee shirt, to be honest! Oh, and another thing. When we were waiting for the bus to the park, she showed me a planned tattoo design on her phone. I asked the obvious question, "where?" and she pointed her finger to her top, what the English call "cleavage", the top of the breasts. Some women make a big thing abut this, wearing clothes which accentuate this part of their body, it is also called décolletage, I think is the right word. I protested strongly against the sacrilege of vandalising this sacred space with a tattoo. I said that if she sent me any photos, I would modify them in Photoshop! Now you will be convinced that I am obsessed with her body!

So, getting back to the story, after we spun around the rapids, things started looking up. We found the log flume which didn't have a very long queue. We went on that twice.

As is normal, there was someone taking photos as we came out of the highest drop, totally soaked. We bought a mounted photo and they also sent a copy to my email address. That was fortunate because they had not done any red-eye correction so I was able to do it on this computer in Photoshop.

I am wearing my Mulla't tee shirt, I think I mentioned before, it means "get yourself wet" in Catalan!

We also found a daft little attraction which was a scaled-down version of el Cumbre, the tall tower with a circular chair which gets dropped suddenly. This was a very gentle affair but it caused lots of laughter!

By the time we went on the log flume a second time, it was approaching 6pm and getting dark. I never expected to spend so long here - I mis-read the website and thought that it closed earlier - and I really hadn't been thinking about the time. I wanted to title this post, "not so English now". In other words, to have been English would have been to look up the times of the last bus back to Armenia and also to Pereira. But I imagine what would have happened if, looking at my watch, I had said that we have to go now, you can't go a second time on the log flume. There wasn't an attraction called Vesuvius but very soon there would have been one.

The park closed at 7pm and, as one would expect, there was a vast exodus. We spent some time drying out. I had bought a tee shirt so I could change into that. There was a fleet of buses taking us from the park back up to the main entrance and we had to wait about 20 minutes for that.  When we arrived at the main entrance, there was chaos. It was dark of course and people were milling around everywhere. There were shops along by the road. We waited for a bus but none came. I heard ominous words, "last bus... Armenia... 7.30". By now it was past 7.30!

A woman advised us to wait further back up the road from where the bus comes. We walked away up the country lane into the darkness away from the chaos but I was anxious but somehow calm at the same time. I can't explain why I was calm, it was very worrying. What if we had missed the last bus? There were no taxis.

Bu then out of the gloom we saw green lights. And the bus - the last bus - came and we boarded it. When it reached the point where we had waited originally, more people piled on until it was absolutely packed, people standing as if in a tube train in the rush-hour. It was a typical mini-bus, maybe I will take a photo later. I guess they seat about 25-30. Directly ahead of me was a small boy, I guess arond 8. I could see that he was beginning to get tired and he put his hands around the seat in front of me to stay upright. So I gave my seat to him. He spent a lot of the rest of the journey asleep with his head against Omaira's shoulder!

The journey back to Armenia was slow and I started hearing ominous words again, this time from Nini... last bus to Pereira... 8.30. No way were we going to get back to the Terminal at 8.30. Oh, OK I was thinking, at least we are in Armenia. That is certainly a great improvement on being somewhere out in the country with two small children.

Fortunately, when we arrived at about 8.50, the bus to Pereira (I guess it was the last one) was waiting, with seats available. I paid at the kiosk and we bundled in with sighs of relief. (originally I wrote, "a collective sigh of relief" but decided that it was a cliché!) And the rest was easy, an hour later we arrived back at the Terminal in Pereira, had some food in a bar and the family left in a taxi. Nini wanted to go by bus ("because it was cheaper") but I insisted that they took a taxi. Nini had a "float" of money from when I gave her money for lunch, she was just reluctant to spend it. No way was I going to walk back across the bridge to my apartment without making sure they were on their way. By now it was 11pm and there was very little sign of a bus.

And so ended an amazing day. That was the last big splurge before I go back to Spain! Do you know what I mean? A "splurge" is spending money, for example spending a day shopping in the sales. But, as I said before, by European standards, fantastic value for my euro! I am happy with that!