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 bus...one 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 maps.me 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.
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.