Glamping, Lumbre style…

I remember as a child watching the movie “Sound of Music” over and over again.  I shamelessly admit that I’ve also seen it as an adult multiple times.  And every time that I’ve had the opportunity to hike across the ridge of a mountain, my mind goes back to that scene when the Von Trapp family leave Austria and escape to Switzerland.

Lumbre offered that experience, with cows grazing on the hills, open landscape as far as the eye can see, and as a special treat, what seemed like a secret hike through the forest to an enchanting waterfall – our own private escape.  Such a perfect way to spend a beautiful sunny morning just oustide the small quaint town of Salento nestled in the Cocora Valley.

For those of us who think they want to go camping but aren’t quite ready to sleep on the ground, who want to enjoy the simplicity and beauty that nature has to offer, to wake up to gentle breezes and the chirping of the birds, to be pampered and catered to by the most gracious of hosts, Glamping at Lumbre will fulfil all of your desires and more.  With hiking trails just 100m away, horseback riding at your whim and even the extreme pampering of a masseuse, if you so desire.  A treat for bird watchers.

Our short 3 night stay wasn’t enough.  If there’s one place you want to put on your bucket list – this is it.

Salento – Touring the Wax Palm Forest in the Cocora Valley

We arrived in Salento late into the night, in pouring rain, cold, damp and hungry.  What was supposed to be a 5-hour drive from Jardin stretched into an 8-hour journey due to unforeseen traffic and road works.  Needless to say we were tired and after a quick dinner, bundled into our ‘Glamping accomodation’ and fell asleep before anybody could say “Jack Sprat”.

As we emerged from our tents in the morning, the beauty of the surrounding mountains, the sound of the birds chirping and the cows mooing in the distance immediately erased any displeasures we may have experienced the day before. We were on the Lumbre farm in the Cocora Valley situated in Quindio, Colombia, located in the Central Cordillera of the Andean mountains.  What an absolutely beautiful morning view.  And the day had only just begun.

For we were about to embark on a tour of the Carbonera estate known for its Wax Palms and amazing views.  We chose however to do this tour with a local guide (www.salentocycling.com) in what could only be described as an unconventional way – not only hiking through farm lands bordering the Wax Palm forest, but exploring what is known as the Cloud Forest on dirt road bikes.

We met our exuberant guide Eduardo in Salento and once fitted with our gear, climbed into the back of a Jeep and made our way 20 km up to 11000’ up into the estate.  Rumbling along the rocky dirt road we eventually arrived at our first point of decent – an 8k downhill bike ride which took us to the start of our trek to the Wax Palms.

Amazing views awaited us as we climbed up and down the gentle slopes back to the top where we picnicked relishing in the peace and quiet of the nature that surrounded us.  And then the adventure really began as we were carried back up to the top and jumped on our bikes to make the final 20k ride downhill back to Salento.

The cloud forest, at a temperature of roughly 18C provided mystery at every turn as we could see just 10 meters ahead at any one time.  As we descended further the views of the Cocora valley opened up once more and we were treated to the mooing of cows and even accompanied by a couple of young foals who galloped alongside us for part of the journey.  The excitement building, adrenaline pumping as we had just experienced the tour of a lifetime.

The pictures speak for themselves, and the memories etched in our minds forever.

Jardin – A small town with a big heart

We pulled up in front of our hotel perfectly located on the picturesque square, El Libertador Park,  of the small town of Jardin, located in northwest Colombia.  We gasped at the imposing presence of the neo-Gothic Basilica of the Immaculate Conception which towered over the square in all its glory.  The square was encircled by tents with vendors of local food and art, restaurants full to the brim of customers enjoying their Sunday lunch, parents sitting amongst the rose gardens, while their young children ran around chasing the birds, laughing with their friends.

We smiled, and immediately fell in love with the sheer beauty of Jardin, known for its brightly painted houses, colorful floral displays and milk candies.  We too began to laugh and chit chat as we wandered in and around the stalls and shops making our way to the nearest local restaurant for lunch.  A normal Sunday, in a small quiet town.

As the afternoon continued, we began to notice young children in their costumes, likewise teenagers and some adults.  It was Halloween we were reminded, but nothing prepared us for the unfolding events that would take place as the sun set on what we thought was the sweet quiet town of Jardin, Antiquoia.

While relaxing on our balcony overlooking the square, we noticed crowds lining the streets under our noses, music from bands began to play on the other side of the plaza, the stalls that were selling local art and candies filled the air with the inviting smells of street food.  The town had come alive in a way totally unexpected.

And then we realized that we were about to witness a parade of Halloween bands, not unlike the Carnival parade of ‘Ole Mas’ bands we are accustomed to in our small twin island of Trinidad and Tobago. This parade however not only featured the well orchestrated bands as they marched or danced pass but also included a large contingent of motorcyclists showing off their road skills.   The revving of their bikes, intermingled with the sounds of the orchestra, the costumed participants of all ages and the varying methods of expression, made for a highly energetic display much appreciated by all.

We were thoroughly entertained and left this sweet town with its unsuspecting vitality imprinted on our hearts.

La Piedra, Guatape

675 steps up to an altitude of 200m to witness what is claimed to be the best view in the world.  A panoramic vista as far as the horizon towering above the town of Guatapé Antioquia.  Fresh water lakes formed by a hydro electric dam interrupted by small islands, dotted with what you can only imagine to be vacation homes and the odd boat speeding from one island to the next.  You can almost see vacationers tanning on the decks with children splashing in the water enjoying the brilliant sun shiny day that it was.

It is known as “La Piedra” and has been the reason for many rivalries between the towns of El Peñol and Guatapé over the years.  This is highlighted by the letters “G” and an incomplete “U” (leaving the letters GI) painted on the western face of the rock.  The two towns had long disputed ownership of the rock and the residents of Guatapé decided to settle the matter by painting the town’s name on the rock in huge white letters.  It did not take long for the residents of El Peñol to notice the work and a large mob was assembled to stop it, leaving behind the unfinished graffiti.*

According to geologists the rock is approximately 65 million years old.  The indigenous Tahami, former inhabitants of this region, worshipped the rock and called it, in their language “Mojarra” or “Mubarak” (rock or stone).   The landform is a granitic rock remnant that has resisted weathering and erosion.

Climbing the rock is not for the faint hearted.  Yet it’s a challenge that many take on as the view literally takes your breath away.

* Wikipedia

La Comuna 13

Children should not be working in the streets, but on their dreams.

Comuna 13 was considered one of the most dangerous communities in Medellin if not the world.  Many may remember our fear of even so much as visiting Colombia due to the rampant drug trafficking and the violence that surrounded this trade.  Stories abounded with kidnappings, drug lords taking over small communities, the crime rate soaring.  After the death of Pablo Escobar in 1993 however, the government decided to intervene in the ongoing destruction of its youth in Comuna 13 one of the hardest hit communities where a life of violence and crime seemed to be the only option open to its residents to climb the social ladder, or so they were led to believe.

Investment was made in the infrastructure of the community allowing everyone access to schools and public transport instilling in them not only a new vision for their future but a sense of pride in themselves and their community that has transcended from generation to generation.  A community that truly embraces the spirit of ‘each one help one’.

Today Comuna 13 is considered one of the safest districts in the world, its walls covered in graffiti art depicting not only the struggles faced by their inhabitants and the evolution of its community, but also embodying messages of peace and unity amongst its people.  As you walk the streets, you are entertained by self made dancers, hip hop artists, singers – all intent on making an honest living while promoting a life of honesty and integrity.

We thought we were going to visit an exhibition of the finest street art Medellin has to offer.  Instead we were silenced by the beauty and humility of its people, the exuberance of a new culture of youth who look out for each other and who understand the value of community living.  We felt safe and secure exploring the ins and outs of the many shops and thoroughly enjoyed the talents of the local artists who performed on demand for our voluntary contributions.

You can visit on your own or with a tour guide (Aeroturex).  You will be welcomed with open arms at all times.

An overhead view of la Comuna 13, courtesy our Tour guide Aeroturex

Beauty just around the corner…

We’ve been hiking the Paria Trail for very many years now, enjoying our treks with the rainforest on one side and the waves crashing on the north coast on the other side.  The pelicans and parrots accompanying us on our journey.  A lovely hike with its fair share of challenging inclines.  A trail well-travelled by many an adventure seeker.

And just like that, with a glint in her eye, one of our neighbours living on the trail let out a well-kept secret of a hidden waterfall nearby.  Not far off the trail.  Around some rocks.  Crossing a beach covered in pebbles.  Look to the right and follow the river.  And right there, without any fanfare, a small but pristine waterfall, welcomed us.

Happiness for any hiker.  Clear refreshing pool of water.  A gem found.  Just around the corner.

Turn your week around…

… with a midweek escape.

There are so many simple pleasures in life that we dismiss.  Not enough time.  Too much of an effort.  The weather isn’t so good. Maybe next week. 

Take this on as a challenge.  The next time you have an opportunity to do something different in the middle of the week. Jump at it.  It may turn your week upside down.  It may delay some of your deadlines.  And then again it may not.

I promise you that the time you spend will be rewarded with a great sense of appreciation, relaxation, and accomplishment.  For you would have done something out of the ordinary.  You would have shaken up your routine.  Your busyness will be put on hold for just one day.  And the rest of your week will fly by with a smirk on your face.

Go ahead, I dare you….

Good Friday Paria Challenge

Even before we were lucky enough to lease and now own Manixia, our home away from home, my family and I, and close friends have been hiking to Paria Bay (click here for my blog The Paria Trail), a secluded beach along the North Coast of Trinidad, on Good Friday. It was a simple gesture for our kids to do something challenging in commemoration of the significance of Good Friday itself.

Needless to say, this gesture, some 25 years in the making, has become a tradition. And has come to include many friends and friends of friends – anyone willing to join in the challenge of what I consider to be one of the most beautiful hikes in Trinidad and Tobago – (we can discuss this point at another time). It has become a day of sharing, a day of camaraderie, a day to relax and maybe reflect, but certainly a day when like-minded outdoor enthusiasts get together for a good time.

Then 2020 happened.

And then 2021, when a small light at the end of the tunnel lit a spark, albeit a small spark, and the Good Friday hike was on again. This time with a difference. And as if we needed to inject any amount of enthusiasm, my husband decided that the hike should include a mental challenge as well. These challenges took the form of simple questions related to the location, the environment and of course Good Friday.

Not surprisingly, the participation was infectious, the enthusiasm at its highest, and the day a splendid one.

Thanks to all for being there.

Touring Tobago… the unconventional way.

It sounded like a cool vacation-type day, exploring the coastline, dreamily driving through the quaint villages, stopping to take some pics, experimenting with the local cuisine, and finally dipping your toes in the ocean, relaxing on some secluded beach sipping on your favourite beverage.  Life in the tropics.

That’s one way to tour Tobago – Trinidad’s charming sister isle.  But I met a bunch of determined, strong-minded, never-give-up, leave-no-man-behind kind of tourists, who took Tobago by storm – on their bikes.  Oh, and I am quite sure there must have been some level of ‘crazy’ in them as well – but that’s another story.

Before the sun could rise, vital supplies were packed, bikes prepped, minds set and off we went.  And by ‘we’ I mean, me donned with my camera in a vehicle, and the rest of the group on their bikes (just to be clear). What initially seemed like a cool, slow, leisurely ride around the island quickly turned into a gruelling test of will, strength, preparedness and sheer gut.  They pumped their way up and down, up and down some of the steepest hills, with sharp hairpin corners, in the hot midday sun.  Stopping only to refuel, regroup and start all over again.  Their minds set on the finish line and the oh so rewarding moment when you realise that you have just completed a 102km ride, climbing 2,700m, some sections with a gradient of 15-18%, 5-7 hours of riding your heart out.

I learned a lot on this tour.  I learned that your mind is probably your most powerful tool.  I learned that your body can endure far more than you give it credit for.  And quite unexpectedly, I also learned a few choice words to add to my ever-expanding vocabulary.

Who won? They all won.  If nothing else, they won my complete admiration.

The day did end with the ‘sipping on your favourite beverage’ part, near to a body of water. Not to mention the telling and re-telling of the many personal stories of the day.  There was laughter, camaraderie, relief and most of all a great sense of accomplishment.

You people are all my heroes.

(I’ve included a short video for those wishing to see the heroes of the day)

The Paria trail…

Over the past few years that I’ve had the privilege of occupying a modest space on our north coast, I’ve witnessed hundreds of hikers brave the Paria trail.  It’s not a hike for the faint hearted.  It has its fair share of hills which meander gently down to small creeks.  Views of the coast tease you from time to time.  And the cool breezes that waft through the forest beckon you on to your destination.

It is challenging and well worth the effort.  And over the years that my husband and I have trekked the trail for our early morning exercise, I’ve always threatened to take my camera with me.  To stop from time to time to truly enjoy the views, the flora, the breezes, the birds awakening, the butterflies flitting.

Now that I have nowhere to be and lots of time to get there….. Guess what…. My camera came for the hike.