Earth Hour in Medellin 31 March 2012

The Botanic Garden is getting behind the World Wildlife Fund and the international celebration of  Earth Hour or Hora del Planeta (in Spanish). There will be a bike ride leaving from Carlos E. Restrepo at 6:30 p.m. with arrival at the Parque de los Deseos at 8:00 p.m. That signal the start of a free concert by Medellin’s Philharmonic Orchestra.The parque is located adjacent to the Jardin Botanico and just to the south.

Other Colombian cities celebrating Earth Hour include Bogotá, Cali, Pasto, Yumbo and Mocoa.  Please tun off you lights between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. to remind people we need to be reducing our contributions to adverse climate change. Please think carefully about what your personal responsibility is in protect our future.

In Giradota It’s Lechona on Sundays

We took a trip Sunday down to Girardota and Barbosa to see what these towns have to offer. The towns themselves are not particularly interesting visually. Both have central plazas and reasonably nice churches but they have little of the charm of more traditional locations like San Pedro de Milagros, el Retiro and Helicona. Given we were using public transport we did not have time to explore their surroundings. They are known however for outdoor recreational facilities with pools, lounges, food and drink

We did make one very nice discovery in Girardota. On Sunday’s, lechona (suckling pig stuffed with rice) abounds and both restaurants and street vendors sell this delicious dish. We found it offered at both $COP 7,000 and 8,000. This comes out to about $US 4.00 and 4.50 for a generous plateful + salad, potatoes and a small arepa.

We also chatted with a man in Girardota who told us that in the San Andres neighborhood (vereda) there is a group that performs local traditional dances on demand and serves meals for tourists. We will be visiting there to see what this is all about and will report back.

If you decide to drop in for a Sunday treat you can buy an integrated ticket that includes both your Metro fare to the Niquia Station and a ticket for a connecting bus down to Girardota. These are available at the Metro ticket booth where you enter the system. The bus ride is about 15 or 20 minutes so it is close enough for a comfortable day trip.

If you go, please let us know what you think!

Clarification of Immigration Services

The Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores will assume responsibility for visas, cedulas de extranjeria and other paper work directly affecting non-Colombians.During the transition you can process you documents at he DAS offices in Medellin  at calle 19A # 30 A – 40 Barrio Belén la Nubia.

This is what the ministry’s web site says:

2. Durante este proceso de transición, el DAS  en supresión, en coordinación con Migración Colombia, prestará con normalidad los servicios de extranjería (expedición de documentos: cédulas de extranjería, prórrogas, certificados judiciales, salvoconductos, certificaciones y registro de visas) en los mismos horarios y lugares donde se venían adelantando estos trámites por parte del DAS.  http://www.cancilleria.gov.co/news/publiques/node/1535

 

Breaking News: Santos Liquidates DAS

The President signed an order this afternoon liquidating DAS. The main effect on tourists and non-Colombian residents will be a change of agencies handling visas. This was announced about 1/2 hour ago so I don’t know where these will be issued yet. Will report when I know.

Big Food Event October 20 through 23

The MARIDAJE 2011 Foods Festival (EL FESTIVAL GASTRONÓMICO) will take place at the Plaza Mayor between October 20th and 23rd. They will be featuring 5o local resturants and a wide variety of food and drink related displays. This could be a great way to find out about tasty opportunites here in Medellin. There should be several of the better coffee growers represented.

I did not attend their first event but will be  at this one for sure. There are some really great resturaunts in town but which one to try next?

Pleasures of the Countryside

I headed down the trail to buy some corn fritters (torticas de chocolo) earlier this morning.  A couple of days ago we bought some very good empanandas from a lady who has a small stand near the El Arroyuelo trail head about 0.5 kilometer from the house. I found out yesterday that she makes torticas and Nubia said go, you have a mission. So I went.

Mission accomplished. The walk was beautiful.  The trail leads along a singing stream. It rained a lot yesterday afternoon and last night but the creek was clear and bright. Our forests are mossy and this morning the moss was bright green and gave the woods a rich carpeted look.

The torticas turned out to be among the best we have found. They are made of ground or blended whole, fresh field corn. The batter is given a consistency that allows it to be spooned into deep fat for frying. If you like corn you will be hard put to find a simpler, tastier way of eating it.

In addition to a nice walk, and some treats was an opportunity to greet and get to know a neighbor better. People here are very friendly and they always are glad to see you and pass a few chatting. Good way to start the day. Hummm… later today I just might have to go down and get some empanadas…

Humming Birds at Finca El Arroyuelo (Piedras Blancas)

The humming birds have taken to our feeders in a big way. Sometimes it looks like La Guardia on a busy afternoon.

For years we had just one small feeder hung on the front porch. During a recent trip to the States we got a larger one and set it up in May.  Although there was always action, neither attracted a lot of attention until about a month ago. Suddenly the rate at which the birds are taking the sugar water jumped. Now I am refilling both once a week. It may be that the larger one is hanging next to a sietecueros shrub adjacent to the porch. This gives them a staging area where they can wait for an opening. Some of them are very aggressive towards others wanting to use the feeders.

We have four species visiting our feeders. They are:

White-bellied WoodStars,

Bronzy Incas (?)

Greenish Pufflegs.

Green Violetear.

REALLY GOOD COFFEE

I just got back from the Sustainable Coffee Growing Fair and Seminar* in Sabaneta. What a lucky find!  This trade show and conference was wrapping up but the growers were still present and displaying their products. It is a little embarrassing to say but I really had not tasted great Colombian coffee until today.  I only sampled three of the 18 different sustainably grown coffees but what an eye opener.  Flavorful differences ranging from subtle to bold,and all three were among the best coffees I have tasted.

I was especially impressed with San Julian’s product. Ms Maria Victoria Mora, one of the principals, was representing the farm and serving samples. She is a charming and very knowledgeable rep. These folks are in Ciudad Bolivar in the western chain of the Andes. Their coffee was rich and mild at the same time. Very easy to drink. I am going out to visit them in December when their processes are in full swing.

I also sampled the Cafe Turquesa.  Mr. Jaime Valencia serve up their product as expresso. It was rich, mellow and I was thinking seriously of asking for another sample. I also will see about visiting the Turquesa finca.

I can see several trips out into the Southwestern Region of Antioquia on the horizon. It is a beautiful area with lot of things to see and do. I now know another substantial reason to visit there. I think I am going to visit a lot of these fincas (farms) and will be reporting back in both words and pictures.   The story of this coffee deserves to be widely known.

* III Feria Y Seminario de Caficultura Sostenible

New at Piedras Blancas

A few observation on new recreational opportunities at Piedras Blancas. If you are unfamiliar with this area it is a must visit when you are in Medellin. It is easily accessed via the Metro to the Acevedo Station, there you take the Metro Cable to Santa Domingo and transfer to the Cable Arvi which rises above the Medellin Valley and crosses several kilometers of the highland forests,  including some very nice patches of native high elevation woods.

At the Arvi Station you can get guided tours along some very nice trails. There is currently no charge for this service. These give you a chance to see the native vegetation at close hand. When you arrive be sure to take a look at the folios in the shelter just in front of the station exit. They provide photos and information (in Spanish) on the local flora and fauna.

If you chose to walk down to el Tambo (less than a kilometer) there is a very well designed sidewalk with kiosks where the locals sell all manner of snacks  and some fairly nice folk art. This is all monitired by the development agency and I think the food is quite safe. Near the station there is a restaurant called el Punto de Rojas. It is very typical and the food is good. The Rojas family have been in the area for a long time and form a colony not far from el Tambo.

Down the hill in el Tambo will find a very good restaurant and store run by Mariano. He is a local fixture and his meals are excellent, quite large and reasonably priced.

Recently I have see a horse and carriage taking people on rides along the road from el Tambo to Chorro Clarin. I talked with the driver this morning and he offers the service at 6,000 pesos (about $US 3.33) for a half hour and 10,000 pesos ($US 5.55) per hour. I am pretty sure that he will take you where you wish to go and this would be a great way to see the sights if you don’t wish to walk. The local roads a lined with beautiful forests and are well worth seeing.

If you decide to go to Chorro Clarin you will find very nice picnic facilities with roofed kiosks which have fireplaces for barbecues and such. There are vendors who also are monitored by the the development group. They sell typical snacks like empanadas, and tortas de chocolo (corn fritters) that are delicious. These people are our neighbors and are very attentive to tourists. The area is named for a water fall that is very popular with people for wading. It spills in to Piedras Blancas Creek near the vendors kiosks.

Further down the road you will find the new Comfama facility. It features picnicking, and various recreational opportunities including a suspended exercise “trial” up into the the trees. I have not tried it yet but it looks like fun.

Finca El Arroyuelo

An arroyuelo is a small stream or brook. In Colombia it has a special meaning rooted in the love of natures beauty. A finca is a country property which may be a farm or residence. We named our place Finca El Arroyuelo for the beautiful brook which forms our northern property line. Located in a hollow at about 2400 meters ( nearly 8000 feet) in the Andes it is rapidly becoming home to us.

The view from the porch is dominated by slopes covered in pine and cypress. Patches of native woodland also contribute to the local mosaic and we are honored to have and care for one that graces the west side of our little dell. This woodland is now tinged bronze with the new growth on the arrayan trees and here and there purple and lilac of siete cueros flowers make bold highlights. At the edge of the wood, the gigantic leaves of Gunnera form a frieze that contrast nicely and create a very tropical feel.

This patch of forest attracts many brightly colored birds including several tropical tanagers, green jays and emerald toucanets. This habitat also support at least four different hummingbirds. These sally forth to use the feeder hanging on the porch and provide constant entertainment.

The woods are mossy and full of beautiful plants of all kinds. Orchids, bromeliads, philodendrons, brightly colored mushrooms to name a few. In the landscape fuchsias, hydrangeas,  roses and begonias bloom year around. Our mostly organic garden is coming along very nicely and is beginning to produce very tasty vegetables.

I highly recommend a visit to the  Andes here above Medellin!

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