Ruth, whale watching in Iceland. Photo taken October 4, 2012.
Where are Kevin and Ruth right now? Osgoode, Ontario, Canada. Just south of Ottawa.

And where are they going next? We leave November 1st for a six week trip to Romania and Moldova.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Change of plans

Originally, we were planning on going from here (Manizales) directly to Salento. However staying at a hostel means that you're often talking to other travelers from around the world and sometimes that can give you ideas for different things to do in the area.

I had read that Pereira was more of a working class town, and there's not a lot to do there. But we spoke to five young guys visiting from Ireland and they had toured a small coffee plantation near Pereira and they insisted that it was such a good tour that we really should do it.

So we are going to!

Yesterday started off as a rainy day, but by the time we left the hostel at just after 10:30am the rain had stopped and although it was overcast and cloudy all day it never did rain again. Our host Martha had given us directions to take the local bus from the street corner out front to the Los Yarumos Ecological Park.

The local bus cost 1,600 pesos ($0.75 CAD) each. You don't need to wait long for a comes along every five minutes or so. We noticed a sign on the bus that says each bus is equipped with camera and GPS for your service and security. Neat.

Using the app and the GPS on our iPhone, I watched the path of the bus as we traveled and when we got close to the park Ruth asked the driver the best place to get off. He let us know, and another passenger pointed us in the right direction.

As we walked up the hill to the park, we heard a band start playing in the distance. We got a little higher and noticed some kind of ceremony going on. This was not at the park, it was the other side of a valley and quite far away. I zoomed in with the little camera...

Some kind of police ceremony, we think.

We continued to the top of the hill and the entrance gate to the park. There was a ticket booth, but nobody in it and when we walked up to the turnstyle, the guard simply let us through.

The entrance gate to Ecoparque Los Yarumos.

There were very few other individuals there, but there were several buses with school groups. We wandered around a bit prior to looking for a nature trail.

Interesting statue. We notice that here in Colombia, they aren't shy about making sure all the bits and pieces are showing!

View looking back at the city. Manizales almost has two downtown areas. This is the newer area. We are staying in the historical downtown, quite a lot further away.

Another interesting statue. This is made from scrap pieces of metal.

The face even shows expression.

An old pair of vicegrips as part of the arm.

Very cool!

The ecopark overlooks the city, however the area behind the park is jungle.

They have a variety of adventure activities at the park...a zipline, and rock climbing, and abseiling...but we simply wanted to go for a walk. But you're not allowed on the trails without a guide. We found the place where you pay for the adventure activities and explained what we wanted to do and the guy said that there would be a free guided walk taking place at 1:00pm. 

Sounds good to us! And it gave us a half an hour to have some lunch beforehand.

At 1:00pm, we went to the meeting place and we were the only ones there. The guide showed up, introduced herself as Paola, and off we went.

Next thing you know, we were in the Colombia rain forest!

A flower from a plant belonging to the banana family.

Paola was really good explaining things, considering the language limitations. We were actually impressed with how much we really did understand!

There are over 1,850 species of birds in Colombia, the most of any country in the world. 74 of them are found only in Colombia. We didn't see very many birds at the park yesterday, but Paola said you need to go very early in the morning to see the most. We did spot one pretty fellow though...

This is a blue crowned motmot.

And this is the nest of the blue crowned motmot. Simply dug out of the side of the ground.

But before we knew it, our walk was over. The guy who told us about the free walk had said it was about two hours, but I'm not sure we were even out there an hour. And we had read that there were waterfalls to be seen and that there was a lot of altitude gain, so we obviously misunderstood something.

Paola handed us a survey to fill out, and in the comments section we put that the walk wasn't long enough. Oh well...we still had a nice afternoon, and at least it didn't rain!

We walked out of the park and back down the hill. Caught a bus that had "El Centro" written on it, but we ended up going in the wrong direction and before we knew it we were the only ones on the bus and we stopped at the end of the route. The driver looked at us with a "what the hell are you still doing here" look on his face, and we think he explained he would be taking a break before starting his route again. We said we would wait, and he shrugged his shoulders. A few minutes later, he suggested we take the bus beside which was about to leave. We asked if we would have to pay again, and he laughed and shook his head. 

The fun of taking public transportation in a different country! It's all part of the adventure.

Back at the hostel, we left all of our gear inside and went in search of a bank machine (ATM). Our original stash of Colombian pesos that we had bought in Canada was running low and we needed to refill. I had read that a lot of Colombian banks don't like foreign debit cards. Also, that the most you can withdraw is 400,000 pesos ($196 CAD) in one shot. So we might have to try more than one.

The machine right across the street was out of order, so we went to a BanColombia branch where they had a row of five machines. It was fairly busy, and there was a security guard. The machine gave the option of taking out more than 400,000 pesos, but I didn't want to risk things so that was all I withdrew. It worked fine and spit out the money, however next time, I'll try for more.

Back at the hostel, I checked my bank account.

I got robbed in Colombia.

The thief was my Canadian bank who rips me off for $5 every time I use a foreign ATM. On top of that, they charge a foreign exchange transaction fee. In total, I was charged $196.85 for 400,000 Colombian pesos. It cost the bank $184.29. 

Of course I knew all of this ahead of time, but with bank regulations in Canada, we have very little choice or competition. All the major Canadian banks charge pretty much the same way. Crooks.

Anyhow, another good day in Colombia. Today is another travel day and we're headed for the nearby city of Pereira and are booked into another hostel for three days there. Apparently it's only about 60 kms (36 miles) away but it takes about an hour and twenty minutes on the bus!

A big selection of women's boots are on sale today only at 50% off...check it out...

And in Canada...all nine seasons of M*A*S*H...the complete collection...33 DVDs.


  1. Very interesting to read about Columbia. Thanks for posting it.

    1. Thank you Norm, hopefully we will have a lot more interesting experiences to write about.

  2. Taking the local busses sure is part6 of the experience, sounds like a fun day.

    1. Yes, we really like to get the local feel of the places and this is definitely the way to do it.

  3. Replies
    1. We were just saying today what interesting art and statues we have been seeing since we have arrived in Colombia.

  4. I was disappointed too about the nature walk/hike....would have loved a longer hike and seen the water falls. Anyway, you've got a few more weeks in Colombia perhaps you'll hit the best trail ever. I'm really excited about your visit to the coffee plantation. I too had read so much about with coffee tasting stations. Enjoy your travels...I certainly am.

    1. Us too Rita, we really thought we would have gone much further, oh well, we know we will be getting in some good hikes so this was just a warm up! Hoping to do the coffee plantation tour tomorrow so it will be in the post after tomorrow's hopefully.

  5. When walking around about a new city in a foreign country, I look for exchange rates and go to get money at the best one. Of course that required research before I even left the USA to see what the average rate is and then go from there.

    1. You will almost always get the best exchange rate getting local cash directly from a local ATM. Also, this avoids the big problem of having to carry around loads of your own home currency for your trip. I was just trying to show everybody just how much the banks make off every small transaction. Some of the American banks (Schwab?) offer much better deals for their traveling customers. We have a lot of banking regulations in Canada so don't have the same options.

  6. Banks ripping you off? Hard to believe... ;c)

    1. We have the same problem with our US bank when we get money at ATMs here in Playa del Carmen. Fees! However, we always take out the very maximum they allow us to minimize the charges. And with the peso so low on the USD right now, we're making out like bandits, even with the service charges!

    2. We always take out the maximum too when we can but in some countries the maximum really isn't that much in reality. Now that we know our bank card works well with this bank we will try to take out more if it will allow us to next time.

  7. I think a sunrise hike in the rain forest would have been wonderful.

    1. Unfortunately, I don't believe they are open at that hour. I am pretty sure we will have many more chances at seeing more bird life.

  8. Loving reading along on your journey. I'd love to to Columbia one day. :-)

    1. Happy to hear that you are enjoying our adventures.So far we would highly recommend at trip to Colombia, the scenery is absolutely breathtaking.

  9. First hand information about destinations is always nice to have. The park looks like a good place to spend time.

    1. We think so too. We often search the Internet for information or other informative blogs to help us with our travels so we like to also add as much info as we can to our blog to help out others.

      The park was lovely we just wish we could have spent more time hiking in it.


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