With a great sigh of relief we exit Bogota, keen to step into the next phase of this trip; it’s kind of like flushing the toilet, that nastiness is all gone and we’re all alpine freshness now. It’s a bit of an arduous bus trip, 10 hours all up (only 309km mind you) before we finally get to Manizales, tired and hangry. We met up with a couple of Dutch fellas on the trip, Rob and Robert, so we do that travelling thing and head out blindly to find some food. The hunter gatherer instinct is in full swing here, the journey to find sustaining food is a primal urge that enters into our oh so very modern lives when travelling. We start off with lofty hopes, a big hearty hot soupy thing would be perfect, maybe even a nice pasta or a steak. However just like going out to the pub to ‘pick up’ we start with high hopes only to see desperation and the passing of time do nought but erode those high hopes to a more self esteem battering reality. As we metaphorically pretend to enjoy dancing to a modern remix of some ancient Kylie disaster watching our dignity catch a cab outside, the sad slide continues. We manage to avoid the food version of $2 rent boy (maccas) and settle on a grilled chicken place which is surprisingly ok, kind of the ‘ok you’ll do’ that turns out to be a fire-cracker in the sack.
Manizales reveals itself as a very picturesque town, set amongst precipitous peaks the tranquil urbanisation clings to the dramatic slopes and peaks like topping on roughly scooped ice cream. as refreshing as Manizales is the true grace, as usual, lies outside the city/ town centre. We take a day trip up to Rio Blanco, a biosphere nature reserve with a great biodiversity of plant and bird life, and at this stage we need some nature like a rugby prop needs a steak: and a big fat rare Argentinian flank steak we are delivered. We take in a nice short walk, watch on as a guide calls from the jungle a rare endemic ground bird, take in a birds eye view of Manizales and visit Chucho, the bear, yes a big black bear.
All this is fantastic in its own right and just the tonic for us, but the show is stolen by a trip to a hummingbird haven. For people at home this is sure to come off as all ‘nature freak’ but geez hummingbirds are the shit! And yes I’m very much an anti exclamation mark crusader but hummingbirds deserve it. We’ve managed to see them randomly at times but this is invariably at quite a distance and for a fleeting moment, they are a genuine ‘white whale’ for anyone that takes an appreciation to the natural world. But here…. we are on a house balcony decked out with a zillion fuchsias and other pendulous flowering flora as hummingbirds within an arms reach going about their business. It has to be said that they’re just about the coolest animals going around. We snap up photos and stare in awe at the movement, colours and above all the speed, we all know hummingbirds are fast but up this close it’s a new type of appreciation, a serious highlight. Here’s a few facts about hummingbirds before you all drift off to sleep or decide that there might be something incendiary on Facebook.
– Are the only bird that can fly backwards (and upside down)
– Are only found in the America’s
– Wings beat at about 80 times a second
– There are 330 different types
At this point we also have to comment on Colombian driving, good contenders for the most aggressive and rude drivers anywhere, holy crap. Allow me to translate a few Colombian driving principles:
Road markings – A type of aesthetic decoration to notate the completion of a road surface.
Indicators – A feature of aesthetically conscious Japanese and European car manufacturer wankers to make a car look pretty.
Changing lanes – A macho contest to see who values the panels of their car less. The more you value your car the more you lose.
Other motorists – An opportunity for you to show your superiority as a road warrior.
A blind crest – A perfect opportunity to overtake an already speeding vehicle.
A blind corner – See above
Centre line markings – The more you drive on the opposite side the larger your testicles must be. Also a curious decoration that no one understands.
Double centre lines – A waste of paint, broken lines would be far more economical.
If someone is overtaking too slowly – Overtake them as well, driving into the shoulder of the opposite lane. On a blind corner gains additional macho points.
Pedestrians – Target practice
A horn can be used in the following instances:
– If someone about 100m ahead is in a space you might want to occupy.
– Signalling that you might want to make a lane choice soon so everyone should be prepared to move.
– In static traffic a horn can cause other motorists to levitate their cars and magically make space for you.
– To express the sad insignificance/ grand nature of your genitalia, same same really pending perspective.
Passing military personnel brandishing assault rifles due to the danger of simply being on southern Colombian roads we are pondering: is it more dangerous due to criminal activity or the nature of the driving? The jury is still deliberating.