I usually have a class every Saturday morning at Colombo. The Saturday before last was a break in between courses, so I decided to take advantage of my time with a little trip! A French friend of a friend named Charles wanted to travel also, so we headed to Curiti. It’s a small town that’s about 2 hours away, right before San Gil. Our trip didn’t quite get off to a great start when the both of us nearly got carsick as our bus driver flew over the curvy mountain roads. The last two times I had traveled that road were on holiday weekends with lots of slow-moving traffic, so I hadn’t anticipated the fact that a motion sickness pill may have served me well. We arrived to Curiti in one piece though.
We walked around the town, which is about 12 blocks by 5 blocks, and found a hotel room. A little hungry, we went to a small cafe full of antiques for some arepas and juice. Our next plan was to hike to the famous lakes that sit above Curiti, but we got caught in a fierce rain storm and returned to town.
After lunch the main event in town was a local soccer game on the brand new astroturf field! When we decided to spend the whole weekend in Curiti we weren’t quite aware of just how small it is and were regretting the fact that we hadn’t chosen to spend the night in San Gil, a much larger town 15 minutes away.
The evening was spent hanging out in the plaza downtown. We were excited by signs we had seen for both a discotech and a hostel, but both businesses were found to be no longer in business. It was a quiet, early night.
On Sunday morning we successfully reached the lakes above Curiti. It felt magnificent to go swimming in the cool water on a hot day.
Whilst I was bathing myself in these refreshing waters, I suffered the loss of my Chacos. Unfortunately it seems that getting robbed is nearly an unavoidable experience in Colombia. I can feel lucky though that I was neither threatened with a big knife in the process nor robbed of something more precious than my shoes. Since there were a bunch of police officers standing around I thought I would inform them of the loss of my shoes, especially since a lengthy walk laid ahead of us to return to Curiti. Their response was to half-heartedly ask 2 or 3 people of they had seen my shoes and then tell me with a snicker that “You’re in Colombia.”
As proof that most of the people of Colombia are entirely lovely, a family noticed that I was looking for something and asked me what I had lost. When I told them that someone had stolen my shoes they offered me a pair of flip flops so that I could walk back to Curiti. Since we were both feeling a little grumpy with Curiti, Charles and I high-tailed it back to Bucaramanga on the first bus that we were able to catch.
This past weekend turned out to be much better than the trip to Curiti. On Saturday night I went salsa dancing at Calison with some other professors from Colombo. It had been too long since I’d been out salsa dancing! The next morning I woke up early to join a group of hikers named Rastros. There are something like 12 groups of hikers in Bucaramanga who plan trips every Sunday and I’ve been making the rounds of the groups. Three weeks ago I went to Cascada Salto del Mico with the group Oxigeno.
This weekend’s hike started near Rio Negro – a pueblo about 20 minutes north of Bucaramanga. Undoubtedly the best part of the hike was the initial crossing of the river in a basket connected to a rope and pulley system.
We climbed up a mountain with lovely views of the valley and pueblo below. So far every hike I’ve done takes you straight up a mountain with unrelenting amounts of climbing. Hiking here is a much different experience than what I’m used to in Colorado. Just when you’re walking through a thick forest, feeling very far away from civilization, you start to hear reggaeton or vallenato and come across someone’s house. We stopped at a few houses to rest along the way. One family made us lemonade and sold us mandarins – 5 for 50 cents.
After about 4 hours of hiking we returned to the river and soaked ourselves in its natural jacuzzis. (Fact: Nearly every hike in Santander ends with a dip in a waterfall or river.) Our fun was cut short though by a rain storm which got us running towards Rio Negro and brought a quick end to the hike.
Tonight I am bracing myself for tomorrow’s soccer game. When I was a student at CU I couldn’t stand football game days when drunk meatheads created a ruckus all over campus. I didn’t think sports fanaticism could get worse than that, but indeed it can! Every soccer game Colombia plays is a huge event, especially now since they’re on their way to the World Cup. Last Friday they played Ecuador and none of my afternoon students could be bothered to come to class since it was so crucial to watch the soccer game. The whole town, in fact, comes to a stop when Colombia plays soccer and the sound of noisemakers and horns coming from the streets is deafening. In Boulder I could at least flee to the northern edge of town on game day and be left in peace. Here the hysteria is completely inescapable. Tomorrow we play Uruguay and luckily the next game isn’t for another month.