We had really enjoyed the city tour that we done in Rio. Visiting some of the most iconic sites in Brazil such as Escadaria Selaron, The Sambadromo, Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio Olympic Stadium and the statue of Christ the Redeemer, had been a thoroughly entertaining, aswell as fun activity to do in Brazil. Usually Josh and I took a dim view of what we liked to call “organised fun” which included doing day trips with random strangers but since we had enjoyed our tour in Rio so much we decided that it would be a good idea to find another tour to do whilst we were in Colombia.
Tour with Tor’
A walking tour that had been recommended on lots of online blogs was one by Real City Tours. It was a free walking tour that promised to take us around the centre of Medellin to explain the transition of this most formiddable city. We weren’t sure how many people would turn up but as it was a free tour we figured that it would be quite a few. When we arrived we spotted the other participants immediately because they were: Gringo’s. And there wasn’t just one or two of them but a very large (and growing) group of pale skinned Europeans who looked as if they had just stepped off the boat. The realisation that we were going to be doing the tour with so many people didn’t fill me with much enthusiasm as I had no desire to make small talk and worst of all, they were the “backpacking types”.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against people who backpack (indeed my own sister isn’t a “backpacking type” per say but she had been backpacking so I know that there is a difference), but what I mean when I refer to someone as being a backpacking type is the type of person who goes from hostel to hostel, looking for the cheapest accommodation going, a person who is happy to wear the same frowsy clothing day after day, or to live in squallor as a kind of small temporary inconvenience because it allows them to do what they love: travel.
Now of course I also love travel so that isn’t the problem. Alas I am not willing to forgo certain creature comforts in order to do what I love.
Unfortunately, such people who do not care for comfort or cleanliness also occasionally have something else in common: Stench.
They have body odour because they have a limited rotation of clothing and those clothes are not washed very frequently, and because they have become used to not having private access to a shower they probably limit their wash days too. Usually in these type of hostels that attract long term travellers, people not only share the communal areas, including the kitchen and lounge, but they also share the bedroom itself (with randoms of BOTH sexes), aswell as the bathroom. I don’t find the idea of being in such close proximity to bio bodies to be particularly appealing, alas I also know that travelling isn’t cheap. Especially when you’re doing it for a reasonably long amount of time and require certain accomodation standards (as I do).
Some of these people who had turned up for the tour had the unfortunate odour of infrequently washed bodies and clothes. The men looked dishevelled, as clearly they hadn’t been able to shave and their clothes were crushed and dirty. I wrinkled my nose and moved to the back.
The tour guide’s name was Hernan. He had a very strong Colombian accent but could speak perfect English. He told us that his name was Hernan and not Hernando as many people had assumed and that he had been born there in Medellin. He said that he used to be a teacher but that for the past 10 years, after becoming disillusioned with the lifelessness of work with no creativity, he decided to give it up to become a tour guide for his city, which he felt was in need of a sympathetic but genuine account of the history of his city, Medellin.
There were around 20 people in our group. Before we began to walk around he asked us to fill in a form which would tell him our names and which countries we were all from. After we filled it in he asked us to take a seat (on the ground), where he proceeded to welcome each of us individually BY NAME to Medellin. I think we were all gobsmacked because he had remembered each of our names, including the correct pronounciations of them perfectly – it was as if he had a photographic memory or something.
He went on to tell us about the history of Medellin, including a timeline of it’s progress up until this point. He included of course, the story of what he chose to call “the infamous criminal”. He refused to say his name he told us because Colombian people were very nosey (as I had already noticed), and they would come and stand next to you or behind you out of curiosity to try and hear what you had to say (and butt in if they didn’t agree!). When it came to matters regarding the “infamous criminal” people in the city were still very touchy about it. Many of them, particularly those who were around when he was causing mayhem on the streets, still didn’t like to talk about him or hear his name being mentioned in public. They had a very dim view of his “legacy” where over 38,000 Colombian people had died as a direct or indirect consequence of his drug wars. He told us that more people had been displaced then in any other country in the world (bar Syria) as a result of this tragedy, so for the locals, knowing that people around the world were celebrating him like he was some kind of humanitarian via the popular Netflix show Narco’s, when many of them had had friends and family who had died in the conflict made them angry.
The Colombians were relieved now to see that people were starting to trickle into their country on the quest to discover the real Colombia, a country that had long been forgotten in this tale of misery and violence. I sensed their curiosity and enthusiasm when they discovered that we had English accents and at many points in our tour (where it was clear that none of us were from there and were all there to learn more about the city), we had lots of Colombians coming up to us either to stand and patiently listen to what we were being told (no doubt to ensure that the city was being represented properly!), or to actually interrupt us to tell us how happy they were that we were there, ask us whether we were enjoying Colombia and/or welcome us to their city.
The highlight of our tour was when a thoroughly wrinkled granny (who couldn’t have been less then 80), came up to us to express her thoughts on what we should do next after doing our tour (taste some real Colombian food). Alas, we had already looked into the Colombian cuisine and we had found it wanting. On the menu of one of the highest rated Colombian restaurants in the city was a menu that included things like: tripe, porcupine, a dish called”sweaty chicken” (which as I chicken lover I just couldn’t justify eating), and other questionable sounding things. But other then that I found her to be adorable.
I loved the way that the locals felt free to express their curiosity, admiration, give suggestions or advice to tourists. I knew that such a thing would never happen in England in a million years as butting into peoples private conversations was generally considered rude and I could tell that our tour guide Hernan found it to be a little off putting, but I found it quite endearing. I thought it was lovely that they cared so much.
He took us around the city walking around the busy and traffic heavy streets, past the streets filled with every conceivable (counterfeit) product you could imagine. Unlike in Thailand, these people weren’t just selling fake designer bags and accessories, they were also selling blatantly fake clothes and trainers. So many trainers! Nobody had bothered to even try being authentic – each shop was packed to the rafters with every brand of trainers imaginable, so much so that every shop was starting to look identical. What was the difference between that shop full of trainers and the one either side of it? – Nothing much, as in both places you could haggle on the price for the merchandise. But the scale of the shopping area was seriously impressive. I had already noted how much it seemed the Colombians liked to shop as there was seemingly a shopping mall on every street corner but this obviously was for people who were looking for a bargain.
Papaya Level 5
After taking us around the shopping area he took us to a place which looked familiar to me. I wondered whether we had been there before without knowing it but before long he stopped walking and told us about this thing called the “Papaya Level”
Nothing to do with the fruit papaya, but a scale of awareness for safety purposes, we were constantly reminded of the danger still posed by many of the cartels who operated in this area. Despite the police presence being extremely high in Medellin, there was still alot of crime in this city, most of all robbery. Being pick pocketed or just being outright robbed was something that I was very mindful of in Colombia. I had heard so many stories of people who had gone there, most of whom had had some kind of robbery experience or another. Thankfully for us, we were 3 weeks in and we hadn’t had any such experience but I did sometimes sense the low level energy which let me know that it was still very possible so to remain vigilant at all times. Naturally, being the drug capital of the world, it was also still full of people dealing with (and addicted to) drugs. Josh had been approached many times already and though I had noticed each occasion that he had been approached, I still thought that the guys who approached were pretty slick when doing it.
According to our tour guide, we were now approaching Papaya Level 5, the area where we needed to take the most precautions as this was where the criminals targeted unsuspecting people in order to pickpocket them. He said Colombians being Latino’s had a habit of coming close to you as they didn’t understand the concept of personal space as we do in Europe and it was with that that strategy that they were able to take your wallet, phone or whatever. The thing that Josh, myself and my sister found amusing as we walked around was all of the areas that he took us to where he proclaimed that it was a Papaya Level 5 was all of the same areas that we had walked just a few days before. Indeed, the area which he told everyone in the group to simply not go to as it wasn’t safe was the area which I had been so shocked and dismayed with on our visit to Botero Square: the area that had been filled with vagrants, the homeless, drug abusers, the mentally ill, prostitutes and refugees with babies in their arms. The place where people looked so poor and in need of help that I had been simply shocked to my core. I couldn’t believe that all of the transformation that I had seen with my own eyes had not yet been extended to these poor, destitute people. I wasn’t surprised that he considered that to be a no-go zone as I too felt that it was no-go. It was a no-go zone for them too!
We passed by the Palace of Justice and Botero Square where an incredible mural had been drawn of the timeline of the city. But it was Hernan and his thoroughly captivating way of telling the story of his city that I found to be most appealing. He went into great detail to talk about how the city was rebuilt after the “infamous criminal”, he spoke of Colombian politics and he was candidly frank about the unfortunate realities of crime, prostitution and the rights of the indigenous community (which is basically so minimal as to be almost nonexistent).
As prostitution was legal in Colombia this explained why we had been seeing so many scantily clad ladies standing around on the streets (and outside the church!) obviously touting for business. Many of them looked down and out and so it wasn’t a pretty sight seeing them standing there in their suspenders and crop tops with flabby stomachs hanging out over neon coloured mini-skirts advertising their availability for sex.
We asked Hernan about all of the signs we had seen around the city warning people that sex tourism wasn’t welcome. But when probed our guide admitted that there had been a sickening development: The prostitution of minors had been happening on the streets with disturbing frequency. Apparently people were actually pimping out children! He asked us to report it if we saw anything like that straightaway. I felt sick just hearing him admit such a vile thing was happening here in Colombia but of course I promised to report it if I saw it without hesitation.
There was a road renowned for porn too. Not that people were actually making porn on that road (though they were probably doing that too considering the amount of available prostitutes), but that you could openly buy porn DVD’s on this particular street. For amusement he took us there. On the one side there was fake merchandise for sale, including watches, trainers, jewellery and bags etc, and on the other in a kind of “Deptford market” type setting, with men sitting under partially covered tables and when I looked what was on those tables I got the shock of my life:
Bad Booty 1, 2, 3 and 4, Latino Da Dunk a Dunk, Women who Blow and every other imaginable porn DVD combo and offensive title going was available ON THE STREET with seemingly no amusement or attempt to be discreet by the sellers whatsoever. And this was with the po-po walking around with gigantic sized guns that could blow anyone they saw fit away. The guys were advertising Cum Quest 1 like as if it were the latest best selling Harry Potter book – with complete indifference to the graphic imagery on the DVD’s. Unbelievable.
And this was all despite Colombia being 87 percent Catholic. Which just goes to show you that religion is no guarantee of morality. But then again, you already knew that!
Before we left, Hernan took us to the a place with more Botero’s sculptures that we hadn’t been to before. One sculpture was of a bird, a voluptuous bird of course which was his signature. And the other one was of the same bird but one that looked like it had been blown up. He explained that the other bird had indeed been blown up by one of the drug cartels but that the artist had insisted that rather then remove the statue as if to pretend that it had never happened he wished to keep the statue in exactly the same position as it was left, in order to remind people of Medellin’s dark history with the hope that they could look to the future.
Afterwards, my sister and I bought some earrings from an American lady who was there to help the indigenous peoples who had now been relegated to dancing on the street to earn money to feed their families despite this being their country, one that was colonised by the Spanish pushing them to the margins. The earrings were lovely but most of all I was happy to just be able to give back to these sweet, gentle people who seemed to have gotten the raw deal.
We were happy to give Hernan a generous tip for his efforts as a tour guide as we felt that the tour was not only informative but comprehensive, entertaining and it put many things in context for us, such as the grandad’s that we’d seen standing around everywhere with a gormless look on their faces. He told us that they came there to escape doing chores at home!
We had lunch at a Vegetarian Hari Krishna restaurant (which wasn’t very good), then we walked around the shopping area – a riot of shops and merchandise and I picked myself up a pair of bell bottom jeans and some fitness wear clothes (and before you ask no I do not have any intention of going to the gym, lol), I just thought it might be nice to walk about in as many of the Colombians do. The brand of fitness clothing I got (a black bra top and leggings), are a popular Colombian brand from here in Medellin so I thought it would be nice to have a bit of Colombia to take back with me like I did with my Havaianas from Brazil!
Interesting architecture in Medellin designed by a Belgian architect
A restored Colombian Building in the centre of town
The inside of one of the shopping malls – one of the oldest buildings in the city
Botero’s famous “derriere” sculptures
The sculpture that aims to spark a conversation
The back of Botero’s sculptures, with and without terrorist attack
Joaquin Antonio Uribe Botanical Gardens
We had to leave the house as the cleaner was coming that morning so we decided last minute to go to a place that I had on my list to visit here in Medellin: Joaquin Antonio Uribe Botanical Gardens. Only around 20 minutes by car from our apartment was these serene and beautiful gardens which had been thoroughly manicured to represent the very best of Medellin’s flora and fauna. In this tranquil gardens filled with mesmerisingly beautiful trees which surely much have been hundreds of years old, we passed by a collection of plants including an abundance of cacti in the dessert gardens, palm trees and one of my personal favourites: bamboo trees. Reaching higher then most of the other trees in the gardens these slim, green reeds reached high over my head, swaying gently with magnificent strength and silent beauty creating a most wonderful green cocoon.
We ate in a restaurant inside the park, where we had the misfortune to witness a couple sucking each others faces off for the entire duration of our meal. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand raw unadulterated passion but I just didn’t understand why a restaurant whilst people were trying to eat their lunch was the place where they would choose to display it. Talking of lunch, mine was a disappointment. I fear my lack of language skills are allowing people to get away with producing badly cooked food as I cannot properly complain!
On this occasion it was Tilapia, which had been described as coming with a side of salad, plantain and coconut rice. So far so good eh? Well, this tilapia had been fried to within an inch of it’s life. No longer the meaty and flavoursome fish that I was accustomed to, this one had been fried so much that it had shrunk and no amount of digging into it’s encrusted flesh with my fork would release it from it’s crusty crutches. And as for the plantain? Well that was just a joke. A flattened, hardened, fried mess of a joke. I couldn’t saw into it with my knife for love nor money and I was afraid that if I did just pick it up and bite into it then my teeth would fall out. It was a seriously shoddy meal indeed.
Despite it’s lack of historical architecture, a violent past that it’s residents no longer wished to remember, and the severe poverty that lurked within the city, I could still see that Medellin had a lot to offer. A small city, which looked huge to me because from the balcony of my apartment I could see it in it’s entirety, it offered an easy life if you knew where and how to live. Buying property here for foreigners was still very cheap and you could live very well because of the low cost to buy, the price of transport and the standard and abundance of quality accommodation. And then there was the infrastructure, though I could surely attest to the insanity of the traffic, with Colombians driving just as bad if not worse then Brazilians taking serious risks with their lives and others, the abundance of options when it came to getting about the city was impressive. With trams, a metro system (which they are very proud of), lots of buses and even cable cars, it offered a lot of transportation variety and at low cost.
And then there was the weather: Perfect really. They don’t call Medellin “The city of eternal spring” for no reason!
Yes, living here could be easy. If you had good Spanish (or were willing to learn), I think for city living you couldn’t go far wrong, especially since for just a longer drive outside of the city you could have the countryside within easy reach. Alas, danger was still of concern. Many of the people in the countryside had moved from the countryside to the cities to escape the grip of Left and Right wing groups determined to make money from the land that they owned. Many were killed and still many were displaced and there were still many places that we were advised not to go which for a Londoner confident that I could go anywhere in my city, was a bit of a concern.
Thankfully I have managed to improve my hair situation somewhat. I am still debating whether I am going to get it redone as I don’t want her not doing it how I want her to again, and then of course I will have to take this hair out and pay her again too. So we’ll see. But my sister has said that she is planning on getting her to redo her’s so I might talk to her when she next comes (using Google Translate of course!) and see if we can come to some sort of arrangement. But my hair does look better now – and this is for a few reasons:
Time – its not shedding as much now
Braiding – I like to have the ends of my hair out but in order to make it less frizzy I braided a few individual braids all the way down and that has seemed to make it look a little neater
Dipping – Having braids requires the hair to be dipped on completion into a bowl of boiling water to seal the ends. So I plaited it again and dipped it again and now it looks more defined and less voluminous.
However the thing that I cannot improve about my hair is the blonde highlights that are in it. I fear that the blonde may just be a little too light for my personal taste. I wanted it to be subtle but it’s not really and there’s so much in it that it really stands out.
The entrance to the tranquil gardens
Joaquin Antonio Uribe
In Situ Restaurant
Look at the size of this banana tree!
The Coffee Plantation Tour
The one thing about doing tours that I was adverse to was this idea of spending the day with randoms and of course the longer the tour the longer time spent with people you otherwise had no interest in knowing. And the more people in the tour the more the chance of annoyance. So far we’d had a pretty good experience with no overly annoying people accompanying us.
But there’s always a first..
The Toucan Cafe in Medellin was a centre where expects could meet each other, work digitally from their cafe that was open 7 days a week or even do one of their tours (such as the coffee plantation one that we had booked), learn Spanish or how to dance salsa. So it was a great hub of activity and the ideal way for travellers to Medellin to get to meet other travellers. For us, this idea of going to a centre full of gringo’s didn’t really appeal as
1) We already had a pretty awesome place to work from: our beautiful apartment and 2) We weren’t single travellers so didn’t feel the need to “socialise” with other expats. I had decided that I wanted to do a private salsa class but I wanted to do it somewhere that I felt was a little more authentic so I decided that I was going to wait until we got to Cartagena.
The coffee plantation at Cafe De La Cima sounded appealing. We had looked at a few coffee tours online but this one stood out because it had been recommended by the tour guide of the walking tour that we had done, it went further into the countryside and therefore was in a more untouched and beautiful location, was a family run working coffee farm and it included breakfast aswell as lunch. The price was pretty good and we really wanted to have an authentic Colombian coffee experience so we went ahead and booked it. The only problem was that the drive to get there and back was a long one.
We arrived at Toucan Cafe just on time (8:30 am) and before long we were being ushered into a mini van with 4 other people to begin the hour and a half long drive to a town where we needed to pick up another car (a jeep because it was too steep to get there in the mini van), to take us to the farm.
No sooner had we settled down into the clean, air conditioned vehicle then the incessant talking ensued…
Of course I understood the politeness of getting to know who you were travelling with (though that in and of itself is not necessarily important), but what I did not understand was the volume or the length of time that the talking went on for. The 3 in the back (2 Canadians and an Indian girl), yapped on and on and on and on for the entire duration of the drive. It didn’t seem to matter one iota to them that nobody else was doing so, or that the American-like volume that they were talking at was annoying and unnecessary. I was still feeling tired after having a late night and an early morning – I mean it wasn’t even 9:30 am yet, why all of the verbal diaorrhea?
I’ll admit that there is generally a difference between how Canadians and Americans speak – I find Americans to be almost unbareable because they speak so loudly, have an annoying pitch, they love the sound of their own voices, their conversations are usually very base and superficial and they don’t take social cues, but I had no idea that Canadian’s could be quite this annoying.
When I found out that the Canadian guy actually spent most of his life in San Francisco then it made much more sense. These individuals were INTENT on yapping for the entire duration amongst themselves (they didn’t even try to engage anyone else in conversation), and at the end of the drive there I was mentally exhausted by what I had been forced to witness. The Canadian guy had an annoying high pitched voice that made him sound very effeminate but unfortunately for me, because I was unable to block out anything that they said I knew that he was very much hetero. His high pitched cackle which came in 2 second intervals was unbelievably irritating. I honestly didn’t know how I was going to survive the next 6 plus hours with these people. I came here for a coffee tour not nonsense chat!
Once we arrived in the town we transferred into a bright yellow jeep and then began our descent up the very steep, narrow and extremely bumpy mountain paths. Even though it felt uncomfortable to me to be in such close proximity with people and not say a word to them I was so pissed off with the fact that my sitting back relaxing and enjoying the surrounding countryside as we drove through Medellin had been spoilt by their constant yabber. I was at a loss as to why they couldn’t pick up the body language of the 3 Brits (me, my sister and Josh) and the softly spoken Belgian guy who were quite capable of having conversations without broadcasting it to the entire van, to act accordingly.
What is it about that part of the world and their need to be heard??
The Indian girl should have known better as she was from India, currently living in Switzerland and claimed to have many European friends and so should have the girl from Montreal as she had actually been born in France but unfortunately she moved to Canada when she was 6 and Canadian culture like it or not is more similar to US culture then to European and it shows!
Soon we were told by our tour guide that we were going to have to walk the remainder of the way to the farm as there was road works so we got out of the vehicle and along with the Canadians, the guy from Belgium and the Indian girl we began our trek up the mountain in the 30 degree plus heat. Thankfully we had been warned of the heat previously so I had brought a hat with me as I didn’t wish to get sunstroke.
When we got to the farm we were all pretty knackered and we hadn’t even started yet! The family welcomed us warmly to their home, which was located on the precipice of the impressive Andes mountains which surrounded the city. The views stretched out for kilometers with densely covered forest, mountains and the valley below. It was an incredible sight, just what I had imagined Colombia would be like.
Here everything was quiet apart from the sound of the animals that lived there as aswell as being a coffee farm it was also a working farm with cows, pigs and chickens. The son of the coffee farmer Humberto, was very friendly and extremely knowledgeable about coffee, but he couldn’t speak a word of English so the tour guide that was with us translated his words. Before taking us around we had breakfast, which consisted of Arepa’s de Choclo which was basically corn that had been fried and a type of Colombian cheese that was produced there on the farm. To drink: Coffee. I loved the idea that we were eating produce that had been made there on the farm and it was all pretty tasty.
Afterwards Humberto took us around the farm, showing us the full process from seed to bean of how the coffee was made. Not only was it very fascinating, but it was educational too. I never had any idea the level of labour and processes that were involved in making the coffee that we enjoy everyday and most surprisingly, I never knew how little these farmers were getting for their efforts.
Colombian coffee is well renowned the world over for it’s body and taste yet these farmers get next to nothing in return. I couldn’t believe it when Humberto explained how one bag of coffee produced by them would only yeald around $20 US dollars profit. Considering how much we pay for a cup of coffee, it seemed criminal to me to think that this mans work for the year, taking into account how many bags of coffee beans he sold in the year and the profit he made on each, would come to less then $1,400 dollars. No matter which way you look at it ,that is OBSCENE.
After explaining to us the harsh realities of the coffee business, which was becoming more and more competitive because of the highly competitive and big commercial coffee corporations (like the dreaded Starbucks for instance), he and other Colombian coffee producers were being squeezed and many had decided to stopped producing coffee altogether because there was no longer any profit in it. Hence him doing these tours: To educate tourists and to make some money from the coffee that they could sell at the end removing the middle man.
He took us onto the farm located on a very steep incline on the mountain and then he asked us to pick the coffee beans. Though it technically wasn’t picking season he told us that we would still found some beans. We were told to pick only the red ones. This coffee bean lark wasn’t as easy as it looked. For starters, it was bloody hot. Soaring well beyond 30 degrees, not even my sunhat could protect me from the intense rays. And then there was the mosquitoes. 3 weeks in and I still hadn’t been bitten once yet here mosquitoes were everywhere and they were seemingly ravenous – biting me on every piece of exposed skin available. Then, the terrain: Dangerously steep. And we were required to stretch up on this steep mountain in order to pluck the red berries from the trees. After having a little slip in my determination to get the most berries from a tree that was located in a very awkward spot on the mountain, I set about my task of picking the red berries for around 20 minutes until Humberto told us that our time was up. I was quite pleased with my little coffee bounty but I was left in no doubt of just how physically exhausting this work was. He told us that a coffee picker could expect to earn around $2 per basket they filled up which seemed like pittance to me when you considered how long it would take to fill up a basket.
He then showed us how to remove the fleshy skin from the seed which we did to find a slimy, honey like syrup underneath. Once the skin had been removed you would then need to wash the honey from the seeds and leave them to dry. They used a kind of drawer that could be pulled out and be exposed to the sun to dry them quicker. The drying process took around a day. Afterwards the outer shell for the coffee bean needed to be removed (goodness knows who and how this process was worked out btw), and then usually the beans were selected for their grading based on colour and condition and then sold oversea’s. Apparently the Colombians themselves didn’t yet have a taste for the coffee they produced (even though Colombia is the third largest producer of coffee in the world after Brazil and Vietnam), so all of the “good” beans were shipped oversea’s where they were roasted to their preference and then sold.
Since the whole process was so time consuming and most of the farmers didn’t know how to, the Colombians didn’t do the roasting process themselves. They were just in control of growing the beans and then preparing them for sale. However Humberto’s Dad, who was a bit of an entrepreneur, had seen a gap in the market and had recently started roasting them and selling them himself, keeping in control of the entire process from seed to bean. They showed us how the roasting and cooling process was done too which was pretty cool.
After having lunch we had a tasting session with some of the grades of coffee that the farm produced being offered to us. Humberto explained to us how we should all, now that we know what was involved in coffee production, be more mindful of where our coffee was coming from and only purchase good quality coffee from official fairtrade companies like themselves.
Knowing what I know now I will never see coffee in the same way again!
We said goodbye to the family and thanked them for a really enjoyable day and we went on our way to commence the almost 2 hour drive back to the city.
In the van on the way back, utterly exhausted from having to walk again down the mountain in the heat to get to the local town and then do another 25 minute ride down the bumpy, narrow, pot hole filled roads in the jeep, Josh, my sister and I were ready to relax on the way back, maybe even get some shut eye. My body was feeling drained from physical exertion after a day spent listening to the laborious process of coffee making in the heat.
And what I was certainly not expecting, but what I received much to my utter horror, was a continuation of the conversation that never ended at full volume and with complete disregard to anyone else being present, of the 2 Canadian’s and the Indian girl, who waffled, gossiped, prattled, babbled and cackled their way for the entire duration of the ride back. I was absolutely fuming.
They spoke about:
Operations: The Canadian girl had had an operation on her shoulder. The Canadian guy had had an operation on his arm after an accident in a snowboarding session where he developed concussion a few days prior and couldn’t remember anything . He had to have physio for a year a half after hurting his arm and it’s still not 100% better.
Relationships: The Indian girl was single and wasn’t currently looking for a relationship right now. She wasn’t even on Tinder, and she didn’t have Instagram. The Canadian girl was divorced but was now dating a guy called Max, who was friends with the Canadian guy, which was how they met. The Indian girl said that she did not care for the institution of marriage.
Work: The Canadian guy had been running a startup and was now just travelling around. The Canadian girl worked in the medical field and gave the Indian girl advice about the growing, painful corns that she had on her toes. The Indian girl works for the UN in Geneva, Switzerland.
Health: The Canadian girl had some stomach problems but it wasn’t so bad today.
Politics: The Indian girl does not like her current president but she doesn’t think that he will ever be voted out of office.
Travel: The Indian girl was here for 10 days in total staying on her own after visiting Bogota and she had previously been in Goa (where she was born). The Canadian girl was here with her boyfriend Max but had not long come back from Katmandu, Nepal which she found to be unbelievably noisy and busy. The Canadian guy had just been in Thailand and was planning on moving to New York after his travels in Colombia.
Family: The Canadian girl’s family were originally from Algeria and she was an ethnic minority in her country. Her family were very conservative as was the Indian girl’s. The Canadian guy had previously lived in San Francisco but his Mum and Dad (who were of Irish descent) spent most of their time in Trinadad.
Countries of Birth: The Canadian girl was actually born in France so she has a French passport but her sisters do not have a French passport as they were both born in Algeria.
Languages: The Canadian girl can speak French because she was brought up in Montreal, a French speaking city in Canada. She can also understand some Spanish and of course she is a fluent English speaker (as are they all).
Drugs: They have all tried drugs especially the Indian girl, who has had marijuana, mushrooms, ecstasy and acid. Acid is her favourite because everything seems more vivid, like colours, shapes and sounds and the high lasts for a longer time (around 6-7 hours).
Brexit: They all had an opinion on Brexit which they didn’t bother to consult the only actual Brits in the vacinity on (us!)
Harry and Meghan: They all had an opinion on that too.
In short: If you are as shocked as I was to learn that all of this very personal and intimate information was exposed in the course of a few hours then you will understand how absolutely furious I was to have been subjected to such low level nonsense against my will.
To think that people can talk incessantly like this with no awareness whatsoever of their surroundings is quite a shock to the system. No, Canadians aren’t as bad as Americans but after that mind numbingly dull episode I think that I might be growing an aversion to them too!
P.S Once we’d left the vehicle (and I was far too vexed to say goodbye to any of them), the 3 of them then went on to yap some more at a local sushi bar.
Goodness gracious me!!!!
The beautiful surroundings of the Cafe de la Cima residence
Getting ready to pick some coffee!
My and my sis working hard on the plantation!
Josh earning his keep 🙂
Views for days
The process in stages to make Colombian coffee
A small coffee seed
The flowering coffee plant
Josh imparting his “expert coffee knowledge” to Humberto
Drying the seeds in the sun and removing the bad ones
Grinding the seeds to remove their outer shell
Grading them by size and colour
The roasting process
The end result: Delicious Colombian Fairtrade Coffee!