We drove for hours around the Andes Mountains from Bucaramanga to Mogotes with a warm breeze rushing through open windows. Everything was alive. Cacti, banana plants, coffee plants, long thick rods of bamboo cutting into a blue sky. Us.
It was mid-afternoon. I hadn’t slept since I woke up the morning before. The flights were long and Bucaramanga was hot, but we were welcomed with smiles and fed a large meal with fresh juice made from a tropical fruit called moras, similar to blackberries. After a quick visit, we hit the road.
People everywhere were working outdoors or sitting in front of multi-colored shop fronts chatting over a beer or hot drink. Most wore jeans despite the heat, and typical Colombian-style hats to keep the sun off their faces.
When we passed San Gil, a massive grey cloud floated above us and it suddenly broke into a thunder and lightning storm with rain so heavy it was difficult to see a few feet ahead on the road, not to mention we were literally up in the clouds so there was already a layer of mist across the winding mountain path.
Wilfredo’s family lives in a house with an open courtyard in the middle. All of the rooms come off of this space, so to walk from room to room, you’re literally going outside. Makes things interesting when it’s raining. It almost feels like camping. The air here is really fresh, there are plants everywhere in the courtyard and a caged pet bird that sings throughout the day.
There is so much food here, it’s unbelievable. For breakfast, it’s soup with potatoes, a banana, an arepa, a chunk of bread to dip in the soup, fresh fruit juice (lulo juice this morning) and hot chocolate after that. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day. Salad, yucca, rice, potatoes, chicken, more soup, another arepa, fruit juice and a banana. For dinner, more soup, chicken and arepa. We had a random snack this afternoon of wood-smoked steak and yucca. People sip on agua panela which is like hot sugar water, throughout the day.
Mogotes is a friendly town and a lot more compact than I expected. I thought it would just be a lot of farms, but there are tons of shops everywhere and the streets are busy with people bustling about their daily business, chatting with friends, leading donkeys through the streets, riding horses, kids playing soccer in groups. Everyone knows everyone so there’s a lot of honking at people when you drive by.
Being the only gringa (white girl) in town and a stranger, I’ve had a lot of curious stares, but they’re not the type that makes you uncomfortable. People are innocently intrigued, and most of them smile at me.
We spent my first full day walking around the town and visiting the family farms. Everywhere you go, the mountains loom in the backdrop. A river flows through the town. We picked fresh guava from the trees and ate while we walked through the sugarcane plantation. Life here is relaxing, unrushed. Time passes slowly.