Saturday, March 21, 2015

San Jeronimo

The place we're staying doesn't really have an address; it's on "unnamed road" or "unpaved road" high up in the mountains above San Jeronimo (which, despite our mispronunciation, is actually pronounced San Heronimo, we are such gringos). Not having an address made it impossible to use our GPS system, but luckily we had directions from Mathilde, who runs the place with her boyfriend Alexis. So we left Santa Fe pretty confident we would find it.

If ever there were two people who should never be confident about driving somewhere it would be us.

We got to San Jeronimo, turned left at the Texaco, fine! Into the very small town, immediately lost. Drive drive drive, uh-oh I think we've surely missed it, turn around. Uh-oh, we're lost. Let's just head back toward Santa Fe and try the approach again. Back toward San Jeronimo, left at the Texaco, into town LOST. Again. Turn this way -- yeah, this is surely it, uh-oh we've surely gone too far and we're lost. Repeat. Finally we found our way back to San Jeronimo and stopped in the square. I parked along a curb and Marc went into an Internet cafe, hoping someone there might speak a little English. While I waited in the car, a police officer stuck his head in my window.

"No habla espanol," I said. He said something to me in Spanish, to which I held my palms up and shrugged, the universal sign of lost people everywhere. Then I pointed at the Internet cafe and said, "Mi esposa no habla espanol." My wife does not speak Spanish. He laughed and walked toward the cafe, where Marc and three other officers joined him.

They were SO NICE
They looked at our map, asked Marc if we had a telephone number for the Hostal La Finca, where we were staying, and of course we didn't. While Marc was in the car with me, frantically tearing through all our paperwork hoping that surely we had a phone number somewhere, one of the police found the number and called Mathilde. Later we learned that he had said to her, "There are two foreigners here who are wanting to stay with you."

Recognizing how hopeless we were, two police climbed on a motorcycle to escort us to the Hostal La Finca, up a rocky, rutted, unpaved road 7km up the mountain. We bounced along behind them, crawling in first gear, and they rode in front of us sweating in their heavy gear. When we finally arrived, we hopped out and asked Mathilde if it would be appropriate for us to offer them some money for their help. She asked and they said, "We wouldn't say no."

Hostal La Finca is run by a young couple, Mathilde and Alexis. She's from Stuttgart and he is from Munich and Medellin (his dad is German and his mom is Colombian). They are absolutely adorable, and their grace and energy are really what make the place so special. They have a system of volunteers; if you work ~6 hours/day, you can stay for free. Right now there is a tree surgeon staying/working here. An American woman stayed here for a while and cooked for the guests and taught Mathilde how to make bread. It's a pretty cool way to keep the property going and growing. The property includes dorms and one big room with a huge deck around it; that one's ours.

the deck is wrapped around with gorgeous views. We ate breakfast every morning at that little green table and chairs
on the far right, and spent a lot of time swinging in those hammocks, listening to and watching the birds. I did yoga there
yesterday afternoon, with the brilliant yellow birds swooping past and Marc swinging in the hammock.
It's an extraordinary place, in every way. The grounds are just breathtaking.

the view from our deck
Everywhere. Just everywhere.
We could watch the changing sky forever.
They have big plans for their property, which means we'll just have to go back to see the changes!
In addition to the gorgeous scenery, they also have this great pool.
Mathilde's and Alexis's dog, Caña (pronounced Kahn-yuh, like sugar) is such a sweet dog; it's her job to escort the hostal guests and she is very talented. Yesterday morning Marc and I hiked down to the waterfall, and I was scared and timid, requiring Marc to hold my hand as we took a zig-zag path down the hillside. Caña went slowly, took us the zig-zag route, pausing and waiting for me. Later that day Marc and Caña went alone and she just tore ahead straight down the hillside -- recognizing, apparently, that Marc was not scared. We took a walk last night and left her behind as we closed the gate to the property, but several yards down the road she came bursting through the barbed wire fence and landed on the road in front of us, to walk with us. She's pretty great.

There's Caña, at the edge of the waterfalls. Such a great dog -- we miss her already!

Because it's a hostel, there is a community kitchen and if you bring your own food you can prepare your meals here. OR, for such a shockingly small price Mathilde will cook for you, and we can't believe how great her food is. The first night here we had the best sauerkraut I've ever had, a mash of potatoes and beets and carrots, a thick slice of ham, a great little salad with juicy red cherry tomatoes, avocado, and bits of mango, and homemade bread -- plus a smoothie of ginger and something, I can't remember now. Breakfasts are big and include homemade bread and jams; our first morning the eggs were scrambled with cheese and tomatoes, and this morning it was a Spanish tortilla. The jam yesterday was orange, so delicious, and this morning it was mango and banana. Last night she made us a Belgian stew, a salad of shredded carrots and tomato in a fantastic orangey dressing, and homemade rolls -- with fresh blackberry juice (really good, by the way!). Dinner is ~$6.

We're so glad our last few days of our vacation are here, in this remote, beautiful place. We could wander the enormous grounds for days, take walks up and down the mountain, or drive to nearby villages. Or just swing in hammocks, read, nap, walk, listen to the birds and to Mathilde's great laugh.

We took a lot of walks up and down the hill from La Finca. The first afternoon we walked to a church a short ways up the mountain.

look at the top of that tree --
the church also has a school
coffee bushes, banana plants, and mangos
the cattle are MAGNIFICENT
Marc getting a good shot -- one of his art shots, he always says. That makes me smile.
These orchids are just everywhere.
And this -- looks like it's been outlined.
No filters on this picture, just the ordinary brilliance of that red.
What? Don't your chickens sit on swings?
Sigh. Gosh we miss these views.
You would too. The Colombian Andes, so beautiful.
Cows on all the hillsides.
Today, our last full day at La Finca, I think we're going to head out to see the nearby non-tourist town of Sopetran, and back to San Jeronimo (Heronimo, Lori!). We had the place entirely to ourselves yesterday, but it's a bank holiday weekend coming up and lots of Colombians are arriving today so it'll be a very different experience. And on that note, we're off!

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