Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Buenaventura - updated with photos

It is 6pm on Monday evening and it seems a long time ago since we left Pereira! I have been so busy, I haven't had a chance to update my blog until now. On Friday, we all met at the central Terminal de Transporte at 10am from where all the inter-urban buses leave. It is right next to where I was living last time I was here. Alexander was already in the centre after an appointment for physiotherapy. The previous day, I had made an attempt to book a taxi to buga, our initial destination but I think the driver was irritated by my attempting to bargain with him over the price. Anyway, the bus was much cheaper. In fact it was a mini-bus with about 20 seats. I had hit on Buga because it was at the beginning of a number of tourist attractions along the way to Buenaventura, our final destination. The journey was fine, it was about 2.5 hours and the bus dropped us off slightly out of town because it went on to Calí. There were taxis waiting and we were soon in our hotel. It was very beautiful, a courtyard leading to the rooms which circled a small swimming pool and jacuzzi. But the actual facilities were terrible. No information in reception about buses, excursions. No bar, no restaurant. No information about the town. So we had to fend for ourselves. The town was very boring, I was going to write a title, "Boring Buga" for this post but I can't now because we are in Buenaventura!
We wandered round the shops, bought a bikini for Sofi because otherwise she could not have used to pool. I know you think it is funny, a girl of 4 with a bikini because obviously she has no need for the top. But somehow, she looks complete, very cute!
We slept very badly. Nini and Alexander's bed was very hard and the kitchen with no door was right next to the pool. And the guy started work at 5am. And there was a cock crowing. So, at 9am we were very happy to take a taxi to the bus station. There were one or two destinations that I wanted to see but I quickly lost interest in those, I wanted to go directly to Buenaventura and see the Pacific. And I know that the others were far too polite to say that it was all they really wanted to do also.
The bus journey was truly awful. You think travelling is fun, an adventure? Yes sometimes it is but it is not always so. What affected me most was that there was no perceptible suspension to the mini-bus and we felt every last bump on the road. The driver had put on a disaster movie about a tsunami, so the shocks from the road were bizarrely accompanied by strident music and sound effects of water, screaming people hugging each other. It really irritated me. No one asked me if I wanted to watch a movie for 2 hours.
What affected Nini and Sofi were the constant curves in the road and they began to feel nauseous, not helped by the lack of sleep. They were not actually sick, but by the time we arrived in Buenaventura, Nini certainly was feeling very rough.
Our arrival was truly amazing. We drove along a minor road and then took a right turn into some kind of closed compound. There were one or two buses parked but no one taking a bus. a group of policemen were changing clothes and washing. The whole area was scruffy and dirty, it was totally weird. Then I saw a door marked "Welcome to Buenaventura", so we took that. I had decided to wait till we arrived in Buenaventura in case it was practical to book a hotel in one of the islands but it soon became obvious that it was not a good idea. This guy kept on pestering us. There was nowhere to put my laptop, my small Asus which converts to a tablet. So I had to balance it in my hands using my phone for tethering to the internet. I managed to connect to Booking.com, saw a nice looking hotel but, since we were already here and rooms were available, we took a taxi directly there. And that is where I m writing my blog.
When we arrived, there was a very long wait for our rooms so we had some lunch in the restaurant. The swimming pool is great.
I persuaded my friends that we should book the hotel till when we go back to Pereira and use it as our base, taking a boat to the islands each day. They didn't need much persuading, the hotel is very nice and very close to the boat station. 
I think, that first afternoon, we just relaxed. We didn't do much.


Next day, we took the boat to Juanchaco, the furthest of the three destinations, the others being Bocana and Piangüita. The journey was very fast and the boat hit the waves with venom, I was worried about Sofi because we were towards the front of the boat. I remember asking the driver to slow down when Nini and I were in Cartagena and I think she considered me as rather soft. But maybe she has realised that I was right all along.
We had a great time on the beach but I am always mesmerised looking west towards the horizon thinking about my family in the Philippines on the other side of this vast ocean. Note the colour of the sand, volcanic rather like The Canary Islands.

When we got back at about 5pm we went to the hotel pool but it was quite full. Sofi was very happy!
This was our second beach day, Bocana

We talked about how to go back to Pereira. Nini (and also Sofi, I guess) was dreading the journey although we could take an easier but longer route via Calí but even then, it would have been about 6 or 7 hours. So I looked up flights and Satena has a flight 5 times a week, including Thursday morning. It goes to Bogotá of course, not Pereira, so I booked us onto that flight and then a flight from Bogotá to Pereira arriving at 1.15pm. I feel very much responsible for my "family", one of whom is only 4, because I have brought them out here, it is all new to them. So it is my responsibility also to take them back... in comfort. Both flights for 4 of us came to a little over €400. So that's not too bad, I guess. These three people are in my care. 
Nini and I had a slight argument after I insisted on a printed bill in a restaurant (rather than the total given verbally), she went and apologised for me afterwards which annoyed me. But then, the following night (meaning just now) she explained that they feel embarrassed having me paying for all food and I understand that. (I joked about how many pizzas the air fare would pay for!) So maybe the argument was also connected to that. But I explained that I brought them here, so I expect to feed them also! This evening we ordered a pizza for delivery in the hotel. We spent a long time wandering around aimlessly when the problem was that they were embarrassed to say where they wanted to eat. My family in the Philippines has no such qualms! By the way, the argument went away very rapidly and we are all on very happy terms.

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