Monday, March 23, 2015

Sopetran and our last full day

There are a couple of small towns in the area around our hostal, and Alexis and Mathilde both said that Sopetran was the least touristy one of them all. Although they gave us a map showing us how to get there through the mountain roads, of course I missed the turn and we ended up taking another route. That was OK -- every route is gorgeous there, and our mission was to see Sopetran, have some lunch, and enjoy our last day.

The GPS we rented with our car wasn't always good about knowing whether a street was one-way or not, so as we wound our way into Sopetran, sure enough it sent us the wrong way down a one-way street. I turned on the next possible street and ran into a traffic jam getting into the square; a man who was trying to sell DirectTV said something to me, I said my usual (no habla espanol, lo siento) and he immediately smiled and helped direct me through the mess. So friendly and warm and helpful, nearly everyone we encountered.

We were there on a busy Saturday morning, and the square was filled with music, trucks, buses, cars, and people.

A big church anchors the square, as always
inside the church
paintings of Jesus lined the ceiling
After we did our little bit of ATM business, we rounded the square a couple of times to find a place we wanted to eat lunch. We settled on this one:

Hi honey!
As always, we had no idea what to do, exactly, and couldn't ask anyone. Should we go inside to the counter and place our order? Take a table? I found a young woman who worked there and just kind of pointed to a table, so she followed us and stood there, waiting. I said, "Menu?" And then my standard, no habla espanol, and she started listing dishes. We had no idea what the different options were, but pollo asado seemed like a good bet given the name of the restaurant. She rattled off what were apparently options, and we pointed at a plate on the table next to ours and nodded. Yes? She said something, I think she was asking this or that? And I said si, si. She smiled and took my hand and we went into the restaurant, to a case with a big chicken inside. Si, I said with a big smile. Again she asked me this or that, and again I said, si! She smiled again and apparently gave up on me, and waved me back to my table. We'd get whatever we got, and that would be just fine with us.

Here's what we got:

Pollo, arroz, frijoles, plantain, papas, y lettuce. I don't know the word for lettuce.
Also, a couple of arepas. 
Again, I say: Colombia is a very tough place to be a vegetarian. Given my own choices, I would only eat vegetarian, but I also don't want to be a pain so I go along. I'm also grateful when someone cooks for me so I do the best I can. And I have to say: that chicken was good.

The darling waitress had our number, and when we were finished and it was time to pay the bill, she didn't bring the check. She brought the actual kind of money we needed to pay her:

She just held one of these in her hands. It's ~$7.70 US. For both our big lunches, plus two drinks and a beer. Good food, cheap.
I laughed and wanted to hug her -- so adorable she was. So we handed her the money with a smile, and we went on our way. It still makes me happy to remember that.

We walked around a bit more and kept hearing very loud music. Each little place was blasting music, one place after another. Restaurants, cafes, shops, billiards, and even people's homes. We were standing on a corner, trying to figure out where the very loud music was coming from, and then we noticed the large speaker in the open window of someone's home, facing outward to the street. Lots of music everywhere.

a random street corner in Sopetran; we always had to take pictures of the places we parked our car,
something like leaving breadcrumbs along the way so we could find our way back.
To say that Marc and I are both directionally challenged is an understatement.
There were all kinds of buses -- some big with dark windows and air conditioning, and some like this:
brightly colored, open sides, and used to deliver both goods AND people.
We headed back to La Finca with an increasingly heavy heart, because our time there was winding down. We swung on the hammocks, Marc took a dip in the pool (I was still too sunburned), and before dinner we took a last sunset walk:

Back at La Finca; we usually ate our dinners at that little table.
A family with three kids and two other couples arrived in the late afternoon, so the whole vibe was very different than it had been. Mathilde made dinner for everyone, and afterwards Marc and I spent the evening on our deck, listening to the birds, the conversations, and the music blasting across the mountains from some house on a ridge opposite ours. At its most booked, I think 18 people can stay at the hostal; with the 11 of us there that night -- and people weren't obnoxious at all -- it made me appreciate so much the couple of days we had the place to ourselves. Mathilde and Alexis were so gracious, having easy and friendly conversations with everyone, and hosting with apparent ease.

The next morning, after breakfast, we packed and piddled and enjoyed the views and felt increasingly reluctant for the hours to pass. When it was time to say goodbye, I kept crying and feeling sad to leave that beautiful, beautiful place. We hugged Mathilde and Alexis and I pulled out of their driveway with eyes full of tears. What a beautiful place, what wonderful people. I can only smile when I remember them both.

I had been dreading the trip back to the airport; getting through Medellin the first time was very stressful and I kept getting lost, and I anticipated it would be the same in reverse. And it was. The GPS system kept us from being eternally lost, because when I'd miss a turn it would at least shift gears and give us a new route, but it always seemed to be confusing right when I needed clarity the most. Right when I most needed to see the route on the little map, text would pop up over my current location and I couldn't see the intersection. We did get lost a couple of times and then we hit really terrible traffic and road construction, all on the uphill climb. I spent a lot of time riding the clutch in first gear, stopping and pausing and inching ahead and stopping. By the time we got to the airport and turned in the car, I was exhausted.

Our flight left Medellin at 6:45pm for a quick trip to Panama City. We had a short layover, and left for NYC around 9:30pm, and arrived at JFK at 3:30am. By the time we got home it was 5:30-ish, and 27 degrees. The beautiful, warm loveliness of Hostal La Finca seems so far away. Of course this is a thing to love about travel -- now we carry that place, those beautiful people, with us wherever we go. Now we know what it's like there, and if we need to, we can close our eyes and revisit Colombia, Cartagena, Medellin, San Jeronimo (Heronimo, Lori!), Sopetran, the Hostal La Finca, Mathilde and Alexis.

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