Having just sent her off into the Bogota wilderness to board her first of two long flights back to the UK, I think it’s time to reflect on Mum’s unbelievably varied experience here that couldn’t have been more Colombian!

Sunday 13th, Mum’s flight was early which had me frantically rushing with images of her arriving with no Spanish and being lost and confused but luckily I got there in time!  It was so lovely to see her and hear about her trip to Peru, seeing George and trekking the Inca Trail to knock Machu Picchu off her bucket list.  Awesome!

We immediately cracked out the much anticipated (from both of us!) G and T and Lorena and I made sushi.  Not a particularly Colombian welcome but very civilised!

Monday was my birthday and we had a lovely day in Choachi – the village an hour over the mountains from Bogota.  After a beautiful scenic walk into the village, Mum had her first tinto (watery and very sweet black coffee served in a polystyrene cup with a straw to stir) and engaged in the first of many bouts of people watching in the central square.  We headed to a picturesque Swiss chalet for lunch where the owner, in a most Colombian fashion, seemed completely bemused by the fact we were looking for lunch in her restaurant, but eventually brought out some beers and a sort of rice dish.

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The beautiful walk down to Choachi!

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Salsa birthday crew!

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Taking Mum and Lorena out to a very posh restaurant with some vouchers I got!

Back in Bogota we got dressed up and headed to one of Lorena’s favourite spots in the city – the oldest, but recently done up bowling alley with people physically picking the pins up and re-positioning them each time they’re knocked down!  Mum met lots of my friends and we then headed to one of my favourite salsa spots where Mum was officially crowed Salsa Queen and was spun across the dance floor (fuelled by shots of Aguardiente) all night!

After spending Tuesday showing Mum around Bogota, we left the city on Wednesday morning for los Llanos Orientales – the flat planes South of Bogota traditionally dangerous and attracting very little tourism.  Suffice to say no others foreigners, let alone gingers, were spotted on our trip!

Mum, Mike (an English friend from Bristol who’s been travelling around Colombia for almost three months) and I had an almost seamless journey winding through the stunning Colombian countryside to Villavicencio then onto Acacias and even further to our hotel in the middle of nowhere.  Quite simply the most bizarre place I have ever been to! 

We were greeted by another woman who seemed bemused and almost angry that we had come to stay in her hotel – the act of welcoming guests obviously disrupting her otherwise uneventful day.  She showed us through the Alice in Wonderland-esque garden full of plastic chairs of a variety of colours, statues of birds and the compulsory Mary and Jesus, past the optimistically named ‘lake’ with a Disney Land-type bridge and cages of birds and rabbits, to our room.  The bathroom was covered in orange cushiony mats and had no door, just a curtain….

However, despite the unorthodox nature of the hotel, we cracked open the first beers and had a hilarious time!   We spent the next few days walking through the stunningly different landscape of los Llanos, picking mangoes, bird spotting, swimming in rivers and visiting cacao farms.  In the evenings we played a lot of cards, again fuelled by Aguardiente and punctuated by tejo explosions.

On Saturday we headed to an indigenous community, Uitoto – originally from the Amazon, this community of around 30 people (6 families) were displaced due to guerrilla violence and have been living in los Llanos for 10 years.  Santiago, the head of the community began telling us the harrowing stories of the plight of the Uitoto who see no value in money or Western ideas but have had to enter into the capitalist system for their own survival as their traditional forms of food, building materials etc from the Amazon can’t be found in los Llanos.  However, this move has meant that opportunities to share their culture with visiting tourists and further study options for their children have presented themselves.

Being the official translator I took great pleasure in watching Mum’s face as I relayed the information that this community used to be cannibals!  They are a very spiritual community (who also believe in Catholicism due to missionaries heading to the Amazon in the 30s) and have very strong ritualistic culture which we were fortunate enough to witness.

Mum was well and truly pushed out of her comfort zone as we canoed up rivers in the pouring rain, were welcomed into various families’ shacks for sips of Chicha (a fermented maze drink – as Mum said, it’s amazing what you’ll drink when there’s no beer is on offer!) and finally sleeping in hammocks surrounded by frogs and the sounds of nature.  I was unbelievably proud of Mum for throwing herself into everything and in her usual infectiously positive manner, making the absolute most of every situation.  I’ll miss her masses but I’m confident her tiny taste of Colombia has whetted her appetite to see more…

In other news I have had a few more articles published and have finished with a lot of my English lessons in the afternoon which is nice so I’ll have more time to spend at CPDH. 

This article is about Colombian women and their international reputation… http://thecitypaperbogota.com/opinion/selling-the-belleza/

This is on the horrendous trend of acid attacks we have seen recently in the city… http://thecitypaperbogota.com/news/bogota-acid-attacks/

This is on the 7th World Urban Forum which took place in Medellin earlier in the month… http://thecitypaperbogota.com/news/medellin-hosts-the-world-urban-forum/

Not much more to add, hope everyone had a Happy Easter!