Picture it – a bright, multicolored school bus sized vehicle, no doors, no Windows, wooden bench seats, colorful lights flashing, salsa and vallenato blasting, jam-packed with people in every corner, rumbling down an Andean unpaved road. The scenery is a stunningly gorgeous combination of green mountain peaks, trickling waterfalls, and bubbling streams and brooks, the variation in elevation taking your breath away at every turn. I was on that chiva Monday traveling from Aguas Tibias to Popoyán after a lovely long-weekend getaway! Although the majority of the people packed onto that chiva where just getting from point A to point B, for me it was an experience that felt quintessentially Colombian. After the hour and a a half $3.000 peso ride, I was all smiles. In that moment – sitting beside new friends, jiving to the salsa beat as best I could seeing as I barely had room to fit my two legs in front of me side by side, mouth open in awe at the Andean landscape – I knew I was where I was supposed to be. I was in Colombia – this place that a year ago I had just applied to go to, a little nervous and a bit intimidated. Now, I’m here. I’m really here and I love it.
Although the chiva was that moment of brilliance that clicked in my head screaming - ¨this is Colombia!¨, the long weekend vacay included much more. My friends and I spent Sunday wandering through the streets of colonial, white-washed Popoyán. We peeked into churches, popped into museums, and lazed in the tranquil and beautiful central plaza. At night we grooved to some salsa, meringue, bachata, and reggaeton while Monday we headed up into the mountains to wade in natural thermal pools and rush down water slides – all with incredible vistas at over 2.500 meters. All of this, mind you, was accompanied by plenty of obleas, fresh strawberries in cream, candied figs, and delicious guanabana ice cream. I just can´t get away from these Colombian sweets. Now, I´m back to work in Cali caliente, excited to see what the next week might bring. I will also be posting some photos from the weekend soon. Keep an eye out!