Friday, Mar 22, 2019

Trip to Jardin

This week a group of us from the Spanish school decided to visit Jardin, Colombia. This small town in the mountains is a 3 hour bus ride south of Medellin.  Some of us left on the bus Friday evening, while others left on Saturday. I was in the Friday night group and, as has happened to me more than once while traveling in South America, the bus broke down!

The locals on the bus were a lot of fun. I started to take a selfie of me, John, and Florian when I noticed a large family behind us wanted in on it. What the hell right? Say queso everyone!

What made this breakdown really enjoyable was the rum an elderly, local man was sharing with us. He apparently carries a plastic shot glass and a box of rum when he rides the bus (note to self of new bus traveling supplies). He kept filling the shot glass and sending it back to us gringos. The people I have encountered in Colombia are so genuine and friendly. I really appreciated the rum too!


The bus dropped us off at the main square in town about 930 pm. The place we booked was a 20 minute walk from town or 5 minute ride in a tuk tuk. Since it was dark and we didn’t know where we were going, we chose the tuk tuk. The driver, however, took us to the wrong place unbeknownst to us.

Now, we are outside of the town, it’s dark, and there is a small, open air reception area in a bunch of trees with two men sitting there. I tell them we have a reservation. One of the men stands up and asks if I want to pay by cash or by credit card. I was confused because it was already paid via Airbnb.

I asked if this was the hostel at Charco Corazon. He said yes. I asked if he was Dario, the owner, and he said yes. We went back and forth over payment without resolving the issue, when he wanted to take us to see the room. So the three of us leave our backpacks at the desk, with the other guy still sitting there, and we follow this man down a dark path into the trees.

There is a term the Colombians use…papaya. It is what they call dumb gringos who put themselves in harmful situations. Basically, it is acting without common sense. In hindsight that may have been a papaya move on our part, but luckily it all worked out. I’m sharing this to illustrate, how in hindsight, things we do in the moment potentially could be really dumb, but they don’t seem like it while it’s happening. A pause before proceeding is usually all one needs to figure out the best course of action.

So we clear the trees and the guy stops in front of this quonset-looking metal hut and opens the door. Inside is a king size bed. John, Florian, and I looked at each other in amazement. Our group will be 12 when everyone arrives. We rented an entire finca. I pull out my phone, pull up the Airbnb reservation, blow up the picture of Dario and show the guy. “Is this you?”, I ask. “No”, he says. Fuck! Why was that so difficult?

Fortunately, we had the tuk tuk stay and wait for us because we intended to go back into town to find some food. We left this wrong hostel, and our driver found the one we made a reservation for, where we met the real Dario. After we dropped our back packs off in the correct place, we headed back to town.

It was after 10 pm and most all the restaurants were closed. As we wandered the softly lit streets we were fortunate enough to find a pizza place. It’s blazing neon sign told us it was still open, and served as a harsh contrast against the warm, yellow glow of street lamps that lit our way in the night.

We were starving. The only thing I had since breakfast was a bag of chips, two beers, and a slew of rum shots. We ordered a grande pizza and it almost covered the whole table we were sitting at.

It was the biggest pizza I have ever seen. I didn’t think to take a pic of it when it arrived, because like hungry lions clawing on a caught antelope, we tore into it as soon as it was placed on the table…red sauce flying everywhere.

John (middle) wondering if we will ever get to eat.

The Finca at Charco Corazon

The following morning I was able to see how truly beautiful the area was we were staying at. The night before, when it was dark, wet and muddy from a downpour, things seemed ominous and dangerous. Funny how light makes a difference on perspective, whether externally or internally.

Have you ever noticed waking in the middle of the night, in the dark, your mind can go to town on fearful imaginations around any issue? I have a rule. I do not think about any challenge or problem at night in bed. I have always found that when the dawn presents itself, nothing is as bad as it seemed during the night.


The area we stayed is called Charco Corazon and it is beautiful. This river ran right outside the gate of the house (above) we stayed in.


Some of us walked up in the hills passing many fincas growing vegetables and fruit. The green rolling mountains are incredible in this region. We asked a farmer if we could try his freshly grown tomatoes off the vine. In the hospitality I have come to know here, he offered us any tomato of our choosing. Juicy delicious!

The Town Square

Like most every town I have visited in South America, life is centered around the town square. As a group we arrived at different times to Jardin. Like the locals, we hung out at a watering hole in the town square until our group assembled. These people are fun to hang out with!

The square has people coming and going all day and into the night. During the day, it seems the church takes front and center attention.  The church was originally constructed in 1872. The priest asked each parishioner to bring rocks from the quarry in weight that was equal to the weight of their sins. Really? I would love to have heard the gossip that day…Did you see the cart load of rocks Gonzalo brought to the priest? His poor wife Lucinda. 😉

However the present construction of the church began in 1918. This is the biggest church I have seen in a small town.


Jardin At Night

At night the energy and activity of the square is completely different. There are many bars along the outside of the square with tables and chairs filling the inside of the plaza. Families and groups can find a favorite table to sit and visit while the bar/restaurants bring food and drink to them.

Men ride their horses on the street around the square. This is a source of great pride for the owners. It is the equivalent of people who get together to show off their antique cars down Mainstreet USA.

The men have trained their horses to prance as they ride. This breed of horse is called Paso Fino and they have a few different gaited steps the owners show off. Personally, I have to wonder if it is good for the horse to walk this way.

Trout Farm and Restaurant

In Jardin there is a restaurant and trout farm combo. The place allows you to catch your trout, then they will clean and cook it for you. We thought this would be an excellent idea for our lunch. It was just me, John, and Florian and we all thought after 30 min we would have our fish and be quickly eating.

John tries two poles at once for a faster catch.

The German comes out in Flo…all about the beer.

I have a theory about the trout in this place. I don’t think anyone actually catches a fish through skill. These fish are stuck in a 20 x 20 foot concrete pool and I think they decide to just end it when they can’t take it anymore. Hence they jump on the hook and say cook me.

I did catch two trout while John and Flo ran into some resistance. We started fishing at 1 pm and by four o’clock we called it. Again starving, we had the restaurant cook the two I caught and we ordered a third.

Language Update

School has been difficult for me this week. I feel like my language ability is going backwards. I have learned a lot, and I know so much more than I did before arriving, yet I am finding it difficult to remember the vocabulary when I need to retrieve it. The good news, I guess, is that it does come forward, just too late for that particular conversation.

I’m choosing to be kind to myself. I will learn this language at the pace that is right for me. Right now I am very happy I have the opportunity to learn it at Colombia Immersion and with the friends I have made here.