And just like that, the rest of the family is already back in Germany 🙁
So what have we been up to over the last week or so? Our third destination was Salento, and in short – it was awesome! Salento is a small village in the mountains surrounded by plenty of cloud forest and most famous for the tall palm trees in Cocora Valley. Everything is centred around an open square with a nice church in the middle of town. Lots of nice restaurants and small shops and plenty of small alleys to explore.
Our accommodation was basic but with beautiful views across a small valley with loads of opportunities to view the local bird population. For a start we went up to a central “mirador” to enjoy the sunset and views across town which was still in full Christmas decoration and lights. On top of that, and just by accident, we/I found a nice craft beer bar. It even came with great views over part of the forest to view more birds. Kids had also fun playing at the kicker/football table. We might have had a few nice beers in that place over the few days we were here…
Our first trip was of course to Cocora Valley, and it didn’t disappoint. The tall palm trees look absolutely beautiful in the mountain landscape. It is very touristy in the valley though and by lunch time it was packed. We were very lucky to see another Condor. Even our Colombian family didn’t believe us (condors are not common in this area) until I showed them the pictures. Lots of other interesting birds including more hummingbirds, followed up by a nice trout dinner wrapped up a great day.
The difficult and sad story around the valley is though, that it has been cleared for agriculture and just by accident (they didn’t know what to do with the palm trees) they left the palm trees standing – creating this beautiful valley. The original cloud forest is now lost, the palm trees slowly dying and lots of money made through the tourism – until the next lot is cleared to create the next attraction. A bit of a sour taste but overall we learned a lot about the restoration efforts in the area as well.
The Oma got sick. She had a quite nasty sinus infection and was pretty much out of action until the wedding. That’s the only good news around this really, she was pretty much nearly back to normal at the wedding and fit for the long flight back. Well, as fit as you can be for a 20 or so hour journey. Talking about bugs, this took the tally up to two tummy bugs for us, one sinus infection for Oma and one decent cold for one of my sisters at the end just before the flight back… Fingers crossed, this is it for some time now.
But before we get to Bogota and the wedding, we had one more day in Salento and we on short notice decided to join an eco tour through the local cloud forest. It was absolutely interesting and the guide did a great job explaining the special circumstances of the forest and how they try to restore it. Will be interesting to see what the kids remembered and will write about but for me it was that the seed bank contains everything to regrow the forest but it will be completely destroyed after 70-80 years of time the forest has been cleared. We even saw a white armadillo on the tour and a few lemurs high up in the trees sleeping.
Our last day in Salento was New Years Eve and I have to say that we were all pretty buggered after a few full on days. We celebrated NYE on Greenwich time which was 7pm for us and then headed to bed early. At least Jennifer and I stayed up to midnight but the fireworks display was disappointing (it was raining) and overall it seems that the Colombians prefer loud bangs (plenty of them!) over visual fireworks. Anyway, fair to say that 2020 will be a bit different for us – let’s see what it has in store!
The next day we flew to Bogotá and suddenly the wedding was only a couple of days down the track. The dress code changed from casual to formal and Jennifer bought a new dress and I a suit. Good thing we did, otherwise we would have stuck out a bit in our very casual travel gear. Even Jannik got a new shirt and so we all looked pretty smart for one day. Pretty sure that this will be the last time for a year though.
The wedding was very nice! Great location, good weather, good music, good food, great games, lots of photos and even more laughs. Well done to Gela, Juan and our new Colombian part of the family for getting this organised! I had the honour to walk in my sister Gela and Jannik was part of the duo-ring -delivery-team. I even had to give a small speech which went ok and the locals gracefully laughed about my attempt to speak Spanish (thanks Google translate). As said, a really nice day overall and plenty of good memories.
Our last day together we spend visiting the Gold Museum in Bogota and also took the cable car up Monserrate for nice views across Bogota. Then it was time to say good-bye to most of the family, very sad but we know we will see them again in only a few months back in Germany.
That’s it really. This morning we had a nice walk with Gela, Juan and his mom up to a waterfall. It was very interesting and lots of parallels to our environment in New Zealand. I guess the police escort for the walk is something special as well, different countries, different rules.
We now sit in our hotel in Bogota and wait for the taxi to the airport to fly to Guayaquil to then head over to the Galápagos Islands tomorrow! One highlight after the other at the moment and we are all very much looking forward to it!