*Well, if I am not sharing my last name I cannot really share anyone else's, now can I? And, yes he really did call it the Daniel * experience.
December 23rd I show up in Pasto, Colombia, the capital town of Colombia's most south-western province, Nariño. For the next five days I basically enjoyed having a personal guide to a city I knew nothing about before arriving. Daniel grew up in Pasto and knows the entire town - both the places and the people (he got stopped to talk to people more times in a day than my mother does coming out of church...).Before I get into some trip highlights, I should probably try to paint a picture of who Daniel is. Well, picture a skinny rugby-playing Colombian guy who is pretty much bilingual except for the fact that he cannot keep his/her pronouns straight. He's super nice, and seems pretty shy until he starts talking and you figure out he's actually got a lot to say, and most of it is quirky and hilarious. His favorite food is bread, he makes a mean batch of huevos revueltos (scrambled eggs), and is a fantastic moto driver.
Here are some of the highlights from the trip:
- Surviving the nine hour bus ride despite some obstacles. The scenery was gorgeous though, and you can't beat the price of my $20 bus ticket over my $140 plane ticket home.
About 45 minutes from Pasto.
- Looking at Christmas lights around the different plazas in Pasto. Colombians love decorations and they love lights, so every square has it's own unique, yet brightly lit, theme.
Santa Claus/Papa Noel
Enjoying the lights!
- Phone calls from home on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day! Hooray for my parents figuring out how to call my Colombian cell phone from Skype!!!
- Visit to Laguna de La Cocha, a lake about 45 minutes from Pasto that reminded me of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. We explored the small town next to the lake, went for a boat ride on the lake with our new friend Carlos, walked across the small island in the middle, and then had fresh trout for lunch at a hotel on the lake. The hotel had a fabulous playground and lots of gorgeous flowers to look at (& photograph!)
Sign at the entrance to La Cocha
Colombian National Park on the island in the middle of the lake. Colombians make you pay to enter national parks and then you hand-write you name, address and phone number in a log book for God knows what purpose. Under reason for my visit I wrote: Turismo (tourism). Daniel wrote: Find bears. (in English) I am still shocked we didn't get kicked out for being ridiculous.
- Moto ride around the volcano (I know, the word volcano made me nervous too but apparently it hasn't erupted "in a long time") to lots of little towns around Pasto. We spent about five hours on Christmas Day visiting the towns of Nariño, La Florida, Sandona, Consaca, and Yacuanquer. I was struck by the amazing stillness of the mountains and the quiet nature of these towns. I was somewhat terrified to be riding via moto through the Colombian hillside, so thank goodness Daniel is an excellent driver. Favorite Daniel quote from the trip (when discussing how random it is to see people living in what looks like the middle of nowhere): "Look at those houses just on the side of the hill, like what the hell?"
Scenery on the ride.
Overlooking one of the above mentioned towns... I don't know which one.
- Exploring the city of Pasto - including the Plaza Mayor, Cathedral and Cafe de la Catedral (along with its delicious crepes!)
Plaza Mayor in Pasto
Cafe de la Catedral
- Engaging in several hours worth of embracing local customs...with Daniel's crazy friends. This day including watching an official car race through the streets of Pasto (yeah, it was about as random & dangerous as it sounds), lots of aguardiente from Narino, running through the rain to Mister Pollo (aka Mr. Chicken) for lunch, after parties, a trip to Perro Loco for hot dogs and finally a trip to Carrefour...after which Daniel and I may or may not have eaten an entire loaf of French bread in about 20 minutes.
Annnd we're off to Carrefour (the grocery store)
Direct quote about where I should place the baguette in the cart: "I just don't want my baguette touching anyone." You sort of had to be there but the tone of his voice made it sound like this was the most serious conversation we would have all day.
- Learning how to be a pastuso/pastusa (person from Pasto) or Pastusian as Daniel thinks it would be in English. People from Pasto say really obvious things that should not need to be said aloud, but they do anyway. For example when we stopped by to visit a friend of Daniel's, the person at her house told us "You need to come back and visit, but come when she is here." No kidding. They also said -ito or -ita (which means little) for everything!!! On the first day Daniel's mom told me she got some deserts that were grandesito. In Spanish grande means big but adding -ito to the end of a word means little.....so according to pastusos grandesito means not so big, not so small. Isn't the word for that medium?