Well, after 2 weeks of fascinating but intense work in Colombia I needed a holiday! I was absolutely exhausted when I woke up on Saturday and spent the day trying to get my head around everything we had experienced since we arrived in Bogota 2 weeks previously. So, as Emily left to go back to London, I started planning my travels…
With so many recommendations on where to go, I almost just pulled a name out of a hat. Eventually I made the decision to visit the coffee region in Armenia – Salento to be exact. I am pretty sure I made the right decision. The journey out of Cali was hot, dusty and pretty dull… and eventually I fell asleep. A few hours later I woke up to the miles of lush green forest, and fluffy clouds falling half way down the mountains. Truly magical.
Salento was just as beautiful as everyone had promised. I arrived on the Sunday a bank holiday weekend, just in time to snap up what I think was the last hotel room available. The streets of the small town were buzzing with hundreds of Colombians (and a few tourists) eating HUGE patacones, drinking copious amounts of local coffee and shopping for beautiful tagua jewellery (please see this link for the gorgeous fair trade jewellery we sell at COTA).
The next day I got up early and headed to el Valle del Cocora in a small jeep overloaded with people. Luckily it didn’t topple over as I had feared. El Cocora was, I discovered, the breathtaking forest area that we had driven past on the way down to Salento. What an incredible combination of cloud forest that you expect in the Andean mountains and palm trees that you only normally see along the coast. Apparently the palma de cera (wax palm tree) grows up to 70m high, and is Colombia´s national tree. Stunning. As we hiked across the muddy tracks the scenery got better and better, but the rain got heavier and heavier… Eventually we made the decision to return to Salento and warm up over yet another cup of coffee and a hot brownie. Yum!
Tuesday was another early start in order to catch the bus back to Cali. Along the way we stopped to collect a family of 8. One of the family members must have been the grandmother, a tiny, fragile looking lady in a wheelchair. Having had a break from thinking too much about work, I was taken back to what I had seen with our partners Carvajal and HRBC, who focus on working with children with disabilities. After 2 failed attempts, a boy of about 18 (her grandson I assume) finally lifted the elderly lady from her wheelchair, turned around, climbed unsteadily up the narrow steps of the bus and sat her down. The rest of the family helped to fold up the wheel chair, gathered their belongings, and off we went. The 18 year old remained by his grandmother´s side and propped her up as we bumped along the road back to Cali, struggling to make her comfortable. Aren´t we lucky in London, I thought, to have buses with ramps for wheelchairs and buggies?
I am back in Cali now and off to the office to say my final goodbyes to Barbara and Johanna and perhaps fit in a final bit of shopping!
GRACIAS to all of you that have been reading our blog over the past few weeks. Please keep in touch with our work by adding Children of the Andes to your facebook friends and visiting our new website, with news about all our projects and up-coming events and much more!
Hasta luego amigos…