Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Semana Santa in Cali, Part II

PART II: The Visit and The Return

Welcome! We whipped up a little snack for you.
To be fair, the visit to Cali was a lot of fun.  As usual, we were fed constantly, and it was all delicious. Maurizio's mom and aunt made us things like carrot cake, fish stew, ajiaco, a pepper and meat dish, Japanese eggplant, and some lovely jugos, like lulo juice and limonada de coco (coconut lemonade)!  We usually ate at home, but once we tried out a new pizza place, the name of which I have forgotten.  It was small and relatively quiet (after Maurizio asked them to turn down the terrible music), and the pizza was okay, if overpriced.  But the home cooked meals were the real treat of the trip--in fact, the only photos I took the whole week seem to be of food... 

Presentation is key...

Why yes, I would like some homemade cheesecake!

We didn’t climb the Three Crosses this time, but we did a lot of moving around and visiting.  On the second day, we visited Juan Pablo’s mother and father, and had some cake and brownies with them, and then we went to see some beautiful furniture that is being offered to us by his family.  We met another cousin named Jose David--the brother of Andrés, who is the owner of our apartment in Bogotá--and we had sushi with him and his wife and sons.  Later we met up with Andrés and his girlfriend at a pub.  On the third day I got a mani-pedi, because it is apparently the rule of the house that I have pretty hands and feet whenever I visit, and that night we saw a spectacular tropical storm with fantastic lightning zigzags cracking the sky and making lots of noise.  We spent some of those humid days in the living room, taking care of business and talking to Norella and Nohemy, and we took cold showers because the hot water stopped working one day about 6 years ago, and in true Colombian fashion, they never bothered to have it fixed.  Their logical reasoning was that it is always hot there, anyway, so why waste the money?

I think they need names. Any suggestions?
On the last day, we got two new orchid plants from a world-champion orchid grower whose store was just a few blocks from the house, and which Maurizio had always wanted to visit.  There were awards literally covering every wall, ranging from plaques to ribbons and even a few trophies.  Though the lady running the store (not the grower; just an employee) seemed less than enthusiastic about us being there, and was therefore of very little assistance in making our decision, we finally settled on a lovely white orchid with many blossoms, and a happy orangey-red one, both of which survived the trip home and are now thriving, along with the purple orchid Mariella gave us, by the sliding door to our balcony.  Finally it was time to go, and we prepared ourselves for another long journey. The “ladies,” as Maurizio sometimes calls them, had packed our car with groceries, so our already low-riding car was going to be very friendly with the ground on this trip.  We also had Juan Pablo’s mom along with us, as he was having some medical tests done the following week, and she wanted to be there for him. We had been provided with a sort of tuna fish cake as emergency food in case of another odyssey in the mountains, but thankfully we avoided this. (We still ate the cake, though. Very tasty.)  There were a number of really tall speed bumps and some unfortunate underside scrapings because we were so loaded down with people and food, and our poor German car suffered badly for it.  As my brother in law says, “don’t go off-roading in a Passat!”  (For him, Colombian roads are the equivalent of off-roading. I guess I have to agree.)

Before we reached the traffic, it was a pretty road!
Despite all of that, however, the trip home went pretty smoothly, because we had decided to come back on Good Friday instead of dealing with the inevitable holiday traffic on Sunday.  I don't mean to say that we escaped entirely unscathed, of course.  For some reason it was suggested that we stop at Parque El Cafe, a mere 40-minute detour from our route...but we had not anticipated that the one-lane road leading to it (a winding, leafy affair surrounded by lovely foliage and, obviously, coffee plants) would be blocked by lengthy processions of locals carrying religious statues.  We never got to see them, but as usually happens when there is a standstill traffic jam, some peasants came out and began selling snacks and water, and we got them to tell us what was happening ahead.  After sitting still for over an hour, we were finally moving forward when it began to rain. The Parque is really an outdoor attraction, and at this point the boys decided it wasn't worth trying to visit today.  So we turned around and joined yet another long, snaking line of cars trying to get out of the jungle, and in all we lost over two hours in this aborted adventure.  Not to mention, I really had to tinkle the whole time!

Coffee beans!
Once we got back on the main roads, progress was pretty steady.  We made it through La Línea with no problems, and the boys got out to snap a photo at the very top, where we were once more surrounded by wet clouds.

Happy men, and just look at that view!
We passed through lots of little towns, and in one we observed four young boys jump onto the back of a tractor trailer ahead of us.  They hung on for a long time, and I snapped a few photos.  The tallest one even climbed up onto the roof at one point!  Eventually, some other truckers notified the driver, and he got out and kicked them off.  We were in another town by then, and the boys just went scampering off down the road, probably intending to jump on the very next truck.



One of the coolest things I saw on the way were these sort of road-trains, made of linked cargo trailers all pulled by the same tractor.  I kept trying to get a photo of one, and finally we saw one turning a corner, which gave me a good angle.  I don't know how safe or legal these are, but they are really clever!

Danger: Extra-Long Vehicle

Choo choo!

We finally arrived around 9 pm at our flat, exhausted but happy, and with two days to recover before I had to go back to work.  We reflected that Maurizio had managed not to lose patience the entire week, and I had managed not to cry this time, so the trip can be considered a great success!