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Cascadas de Baikal

As usual, I awoke at the crack of dawn this Sunday and headed to the park to meet my fellow hikers. The leader of Caminantes de Santander, Manuel, brought us some freshly picked oranges to snack on while we waited. The bus first took us to Rio Negro where we had empanadas and the freshest orange juice for breakfast. I’m already thinking about how much I’ll miss the juices of Colombia when I one day return stateside… From there we drove up a winding hill to a tiny pueblito called Llano de Palmas. After a group photo and some stretching we were off!

Our hiking group in Llano de Palmas. [Photo by Manuel Guacaneme Franco]

The church in Llano de Palmas.

The church in Llano de Palmas.

The beginning of our hike was pleasantly gentle and took us through lush, open fields. We took a break at a beautiful old house along the road.

The beginning of our hike. [Photo by Manuel Guacaneme Franco]

Photo by Manuel Guacaneme Franco

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Hiking buddies! [Photo by Giovanny Lizarazo]

Hiking buddies! [Photo by Giovanny Lizarazo]

Photo by Manuel Guacaneme Franco

Photo by Manuel Guacaneme Franco

The last part of the hike was a bit of a slippery scramble with the sound of roaring falls in the distance. There were two waterfalls – a smaller one above and a larger one below.

Upper waterfall. [Photo by Manuel Guacaneme Franco]

Upper waterfall. [Photo by Manuel Guacaneme Franco]

Looking down from the top of the lower falls. [Photo by Manuel Guacaneme Franco]

Looking down from the top of the lower falls. [Photo by Manuel Guacaneme Franco]

The lower falls. [Photo by Manuel Guacaneme Franco]

The lower falls. [Photo by Manuel Guacaneme Franco]

We spent the day lounging, snacking, chatting and swimming. The water was super cold and super refreshing.

Photo by Manuel Guacaneme Franco

Photo by Manuel Guacaneme Franco

Photo by Giovanny Lizarazo

Photo by Giovanny Lizarazo

Like any Colombian swimming hole on a Sunday afternoon, this one was full of families hanging out and cooking over a fire. A few folks made sancocho for our group. Sancocho is one of the most typical dishes from Colombia – a thick soup made with vegetables, corn on the cob, yuca and plantains. It had a delicious smokey taste from being cooked over the fire. Mmmmmm.

Getting ready to serve the sancocho.

Getting ready to serve the sancocho.

We had a short hike back down the road to the buses and got back to Bucaramanga in the evening. I stepped off the bus and into a giant crowd at Parque San Pio. Everyone was out looking at the Christmas lights. Every park in Bucaramanga has a display of lights, all made from recycled plastic bottles. Despite all the lights, it doesn’t feel quite like Christmas without cold weather.

You can almost get a sense of how ridiculously tall this Christmas tree is.

This picture almost gives a sense of how ridiculously tall the tree in the park is.

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The logo of Bucaramanga next to the silly outdoor gym equipment in the park.

The logo of Bucaramanga next to the silly outdoor gym equipment in the park.

This week I’ve been busy getting ready for my epic tour around Colombia. Next Wednesday I’m leaving to visit Bogota, Villa de Leyva, Manizales, Cali, Choco, Medellin and a few places in between. I’m also super stoked because my dear friend Tyler Broeren is coming to meet me in January! I won’t have my laptop with me on my trip, but hopefully I’ll find a few chances to write updates about my travels.

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