El Cocuy

The National Park „El Cocuy“is situated in the eastern Andes. 3 departments of Colombia share this beautiful Park: Boyacá, Arauca and Casanere.  “El Cocuy” is mainly dominated by mountains, of which 19 summits are covered with snow, and of course the national park offers 300 Lagunas which are an important water reservoir for the country.  The water in the park is really clear without any contaminations. Well the only contamination could be the feces of the horses or donkeys.

A friend and I stayed one night in the village “El Cocuy”. We were really tired after spending 10 hours in the bus. So we tried to recover quickly in a Hostal there, to start early the next morning.

The next morning we got up really early to search for a transport up to the entrance of the national park. I was reassuring myself, if I’m really fine without bringing loads of water with me. My friend told me that I don’t have to carry any water with me because the national park with its 300 Lagunas offers loads of drinkable water. So we only went with the needed food up to the entrance of the national park. We got there with a Jeep. We had a load of stuff with us and the way up to the main entrance isn’t that great to walk. Well after almost an hour in the Jeep we were at the entrance of the park and paid the entrance fee. Yes you have to pay to enter there, but it isn’t that expensive and it is worth it.

After this payment we went to our next “stop”. For our backpacks, filled up with food, tent, sleeping bags and warm cloths, we hired a Mule (mix of donkey and horse). We only started our way up to the “Laguna de la Plaza” with the most important things like energy food, rain jacket, sun cream and drinking bottle, which we filled up during our way whenever it was empty.

So all in all we were walking around 7 hours and it was really exhausting for me. I wasn’t really used of this altitude of 4.000 m. The highest point of 4.500 m we reached two times. We had to go over the Cusiri Pass to reach the “Laguna de la Plaza”. Between these two high points we had to cross a valley. So it was an up and down, up and down.

But finally we reached our aim. I was surprised by an awesome view. I was really overwhelmed. I was so exhausted and with an awful headache, that I thought, that everything is a fata morgana, but the next morning I was relieved. Everything was so real.

They stay at the “Laguna de plaza” obviously didn’t offer any luxury. So you couldn’t take a shower or something. You could have washed yourself in the Laguna there, but the water was really cold. As well during night time it was really called. I was sleeping with my winter underwear from Germany and still I felt the cold. During daytime the sun was heating you up and you need loads of sun cream, but after 5pm, after sunset, it was immediately very cold. And then you only want to get into your tent or drink something warm.  But every suffering of cold, sun, wind or the headache of the altitude was worth it. The sunrises and the view over the clouds were really impressive. Just really, really awesome!

The days in “El Cocuy” passed really fast. I only had two full days there. After one quiet day of light walking and a relaxing phase we went to summits nearby. I think we almost got to the 5.000 meters. The view was awesome and the walk exhausting but really enjoyable. We went as well to one glacier there. This was an impressive view!

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Celebrating Christmas in Cali

 

It isn’t my first time to be out of Germany for Christmas time. But it is the first time outside of Europe for the Christmas period. And of course I’m suffering a bit of Nostalgia. I’m missing my family, my dog and my friends, but as well, you won’t believe it, I’m missing the wintertime. Without the cold, the short days, the uncomfortable weather I don’t really get emotional in front of Christmas Eve. One aspect is similar, in Germany and in Colombia you can already buy Christmas things in November.  After Halloween the shops fill their space with Christmas stuff. Loads of it!

All the houses and apartments are decorated in the beginning of December for the Christmas period. The decoration is colorful. The illumination changes its light velocity and it’s colours. The Christmas tree as well has this kind of illumination. So sometimes I rather felt like in a disco than in the Christmas period. This kind of decoration I saw in Bogotá, Medellín and in Cali. So I think it’s similar in whole Colombia.

But Cali is special. You have such a warm climate there, that I only thought about summer holidays and not about buying Christmas presents. Another big thing in Cali is the “Feria” where are many street processions, parties and loads of Salsa. Well this starts at the 25th of December. So there is not much time to being in a German Christmas mood. There you are just dancing, celebrating and talking all the time. Well it feels like summertime!

The day of Christmas Eve we started really calmly. We watched some TV and in the evening we had a light dinner. So on the Christmas Eve we didn’t have to prepare anything because already the whole apartment was decorated and since the Colombians don’t have real trees the tree was already decorated and inside. Loads of free time, but I realized that you need this time to relax during daytime because in Cali life is during nighttime. You will see what I mean.

There is one special traditional which I almost forgot to mention. This tradition is a preparation for the Christmas Eve and it’s called “Novenas”. It is a catholic custom in Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador. The last 9 days from the 16th to the 24th of December they pray together in their circle of neighbourhood, family or friends. The prayers are about Maria and Joseph, the time before the birth of Jesus. After the prayers, every person reads a paragraph, they sing together. I as well was part of the reunion. Every one of the family was invited. After the “Novenas” we were siting, drinking and eating together. It was a nice reunion of the family. But this all happened in the night time, around 10pm. For them it was early and after midnight we danced a bit of salsa in the apartment. This was really nice but really different to that what I’m used to do in the Christmas period.  But still I enjoyed it big time to be part of this other culture.

But now back to the Christmas Eve. As I said we prepared I light dinner, what means sausage and potato salad, accompanied with Champaign. Well some of you would think now, sausage and potato salad sound a bit more German than Colombian. No this kind of meal was different. But well I ate it. After the meal we left the house around 22pm to visit the rest of the family which means aunts and grandma. There we got another meal, and guess what it was the same sausage with salad and rice. And it wouldn’t be the last one. As the tradition in Colombia says the presents will be handed out at 12pm. So the kids in the family were really excited half an hour before the big event. Normally the Colombians don’t really put importance to the time, but at the Christmas Eve the presents were handed out at point 12pm. We would be really happy with this punctuality.

After this great familiar meeting (Thanks again!) we went to the other part of family. There we got as well some present and guess what else!? Yes the Christmas meal. And of course it was the same. But it was a great night. We had drinks, talked and danced Salsa. So only at 3am the first guest went home to get some sleep before the „Feria“will start. We did the same and went home „early“. At 4am I was in my bed. It was a pleasure to celebrate Christmas with this nice and friendly family from Cali. Thanks so much!

The next day we didn’t bother to go to „Feria“. The reason for that decision was some changes which were made. They changed the route of the street procession and for some shows you need to buy a ticket. This was new, so we decided to watch the important things of the “Feria” in the TV and spend the rest of the day outside at the river “Pansa”.

For me it was a great decision because the dad of my friend Ale and I went by bike, the rest in car. I was delighted that the family was so great to organize a bike for me. After so much food the day before I was pleased to get some workout. The river is a popular place to spend the day with your family. This kind of things is really in common here. Sunday or Saturday you will go out with your family to eat in the park. The women cook beforehand in the house and then they take all with them.  As well they had really big barbeques in the streets besides the cars. Well I was a bit shocked but they just will say: Keep cool. Nothing will happen.  Anyway we went up hill with the bikes and it was good fun. Unfortunately I didn’t have so much time to take photos. But the natural park near Cali is beautiful.

       

         

The „Feria de Cali” started with the traditional horse riders, which is called “Cabalgata” the following day. Normally it should have started by 1pm, but as usually it has delayed. So we got to see the first ones two hours later. In the mean time we enjoyed the crowed and some drinks. Some impressions of the “horse show”:

      

      

     

       

This procession wasn’t structured at all, at least for me it wasn’t. Some Colombians said later one that the structure and organization of this “Feria” was a lot of better than the years before. But who knows…and of course the male people were very attracted to the female riders.

        

 

But not enough I also had a sightseeing tour in the city center. And I visit my first Zoo in Colombia. I wasn’t really overwhelmed by the city center of Cali but the Zoo was really impressive. The animals are really fascinating. And as well the butterfly garden was great. Many visitors had butterfly on their hands or clothes. So it was easy to take some nearby photos from these nice creatures.

         

              

          The city center offers  as well nice places to visit and there in the older part I really find some great artwork. What I liked most in Cali is the way of living, the salsa, the feria and its crazy and friendly inhabitants. But here my impressions of the city:

              

                               

         

         

      

 

Medellín

Medellín is a popular City in Colombia. It is „famous” as the drug-capital of the world, as well it is known for other negative news like guerrillas and bomb attacks.

But this has changed. Nowadays Medellín is one of the most modern cities in Colombia. But the life in the department of Antioquia is very different to the life which I got to know in other parts of Colombia. The life there is more modern, structured and from my point of view the city seems to be European.

The first white people who came to this region were mainly interested in the goldmines there. After the big boom of Gold, in the end of the 17th century, the region was used for agriculture and Medellin was founded.

          

The People of Antioquia are called “Paisa” and are very different to the “normal” Colombians. They have a really white skin with black hair. This is because the “Paisa” didn’t intersperse with the Indians and the blacks.

In the mid of December I arrived after travelling 10 hours in the bus in Medellín.  From the bus terminal there I took the metro. This is one thing of Medellín which is really modern. They actually do have a metro system. I was impressed. I went south to Itagüí. From there I got into another bus which took me straight to “Caldas” where I found my sleeping place during my stay in Antioquia. Caldas is a really sweet “Pueblito”, which is surrounded by mountains in every possible direction.

   

         

The climate in Medellín is great. You feel like in springtime. For that reason Medellín is as well called the city of the everlasting springtime. Caldas were I slept and spend my evening times is not well known, but some outsiders do know that you can buy the best tasting obleas with homemade Arequipe there. Ohh it is delicious indeed!

Medellín I visited in the evening time, so I could see the amazing illuminating which they usually have in the time for Christmas.  The botanic garden of Medellín is amazing and unique with its illumination.

   

   

There you find other typical Christmas decorations. For examples they like to use butterflies and flowers, all the things which are present during the Christmas period in Colombia. But for me it was really weird because in Germany we have other decoration traditions and of course another climate. Wintertime not the everlasting springtime.

         

As well the way through the park “Berrio” with its statues of the famous artist “Botero” is impressive.

         Then I passed the park “de las Luces”, the park “pies descalsos” and then I walked beside the river of Medellín. Over the river there were many figures which were illuminated. It was fantastic.

  

But it was weekend time, so everywhere, especially the way beside the river, it was really crowed. Not all the time I could enjoy the impressive illumination because I was worried about my stuff.

At the next day we went to the park “Arvi“ in Santa Elena. The park is situated at an altitude of around 2.500 m. So we had to “climb up” almost 1.000 m. But this we did in the bus. The climate in the park is colder than in the city but this is obvious because you are around 1.000 m more up in the air.  It reminded me a bit of the climate in Bogotá but of course the air in the park “Arvi” is much better.

         

         

You can reach the park in bus or with the cables. Up we got in bus and the way back we went in the Metro cables.

From these metro cables you can have a good look at the quarter there. The quarter belongs to the poorer people region of Medellín. There are living mainly black people.

After this trip we went to the famous cemetery, which is called “Cementerio de San Pedro”. It is a cemetery which is very different to a German one. A description is difficult to make, but my pictures should be enough to get a good impression. But the atmosphere of a cemetery is still the same, no matter in which country you are.

  

The last day I got introduced to the child author „Rafael Pombo“ in the „Casa barrientos“ which is a library for children.

  

Afterwards we went to the modern art museum. Before we went inside we had a look at the park nearby where you can find a skate park, playing ground and a climbing wall for the kids and teenagers. This quarter really seems modern and I like the idea of offering activities to the youth during their free time. As well in this quarter you could find a lot of amazing graffiti.

   

                

The art exhibition of Beatriz González in the modern art museum was impressive and moving at the same time. The artist assimilated her experience of the time of guerilla, abduction and politics in her pictures and handwork.

   

The evening we spent at the station. This sport place is really huge and every kind of sport has its one sport hall. It is really modern and new. The roofs of the sports hall are built in a mountain shape, so it fits into the natural surroundings of Medellín. The city applied for the Olympic games of the youth in 2018. I think it would be great if they receive that honor because they seem to be well prepared.

    

Some other impression of the city…..