During our time in Manizales we enjoyed many things including hot springs, walking at the top of a tower viewpoint, enjoying some local foods, and most of all spending time with their family. We went out to eat with them, took grandma for some walks and to get some ice cream, went out with the cousins, hiked to a waterfall, and on and on. I even helped with some painting work!  

Being useful is certainly something that you desire when you’re out of work for some time, and it’s something I craved at each stop of this trip. From the Galapagos  to painting rooms to just helping friends, it’s all fair game. But don’t let me somber this story up further with my fond recollections of work, and so I digress. 

I really enjoyed being able to spend time with the cousins there, though time was short with a few of them who interestingly were traveling to the US. I tried some new foods including some of favorites, sugar filled desserts. Climbing along the edges of a building as part of an excursion and nearly scaring Vanessa to her wits end was one of the nicer moments shared with some of those cousins, though I might find disagreement there!

When our time there finally came to an end, we enjoyed a delicious cake for Vanessa’s birthday. It was a quiet little gathering but perfectly tranquil for our last night.  The next morning we regretfully made our way to the bus station. Once again, comfort came and we left. But then memories don’t fade and we enjoyed our time there with her family very much.  I hope I will be able to return there someday soon. 

We were then on our way to a beautiful town named Salento. This town is the stopoff point to a tourist spot called Cócora valley. The hallmark of this valley is the vast amount of wax palm trees. As far as I understood, no wax emanated from these incredibly tall trees, sometimes reaching 300 feet, but beauty certainly did. From the start of the road to the makeshift village in this valley, we rode in an old jeep through sweeping views in both directions with greenery and liveliness. It was worth the trip, even if we only stayed for a single night. 

We enjoyed a bit of the town but unfortunately, on her birthday, Vanessa felt a bit sick and so we enjoyed part of the night resting. But that didn’t take away from the beauty we saw, another of the many places I fondly recollect in this treasured country. 

Our next stop would be Cali, a much warmer place than we’d been accustomed to thus far. After a 4 hour bus ride, we arrived to Vanessa’s jubilant uncle who excitedly came to pick us up. It was another example of fantastic hospitality to have him warmly take us in and bring us to Vanessa’s other grandparents’ home. There I was introduced to countless cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. It was overwhelming at first when I tried to memorize all of their names but that quickly subsided. 

I quickly found that there would be a celebration for our arrival and I was very honored. Being even more honored was what followed endless drinks of aguardiente (guaro), which I would describe as a licorice flavored rum-like drink, and plenty of dancing. And I mean plenty.  We danced for roughly 6 hours tiring these quickly aging knees. But it was an unforgettable night, as was the next morning when I felt the effects of a few too many drinks of guaro. 

The next day was no less dull being New Year’s Eve and we celebrated in a similar style with (a few less) drinks and lots of dancing. I definitely accustomed to that lifestyle quickly. We would continue the next few days enjoying hikes, swimming in pools, wading in rivers, and much more. It was in all a wonderful time to be with family, as had been my experience for the week preceding in Colombia. Before we knew it, again, it was time to move to the next place and it was no surprise that it was a difficult goodbye to the last of Vanessa’s family we would see in this trip. 

While it wasn’t easy, leaving was made easier with the good times we expected on the northern coast of Colombia, a tropical paradise. More on that in the final installment of this great place!


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