Tejo

By Brae:

We went to a place in Colombia called Salento, in coffee region. In the town we heard of a place where you can play Tejo, which is the national sport of Colombia. We learnt about the game before we left England and really wanted to play it. We had tried to find somewhere in Santa Marta but we asked a taxi driver one time and he said the Tejo places in Santa Marta were really just for truck driver, not for children. The place that we heard of in Salento was called Betatown and it was OK for children too.

Tejo was invented more than 450 years ago by indigenous tribes. It used to be that you threw gold discs into a hole in the ground. After the Spanish arrived, they liked the game but they changed the rules a bit. They took the gold away and used iron instead, and they added gunpowder!

Now you play Tejo with a heavy disc of metal which you throw about six meters. You throw it into a box of clay with a metal ring buried inside and little triangles of gun powder touching the metal. You do not get any points if you miss the box of clay, you get one point if you land in the clay and you are closest to the metal ring, and you get three points if you hit the gunpowder and it explodes.

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We played in teams of two and slowly got better, in the end we all exploded the gun powder. The gun powder was very loud and with lots of smoke and fire. We enjoyed it so much that we went to play it again the next day. Here are some pictures and videos of us playing. You can hear the rain at the end, because it was a thunder storm.  It was the first rain we’d seen for nearly three months so it was quite cool.

Another transport update

By Oren:

As we’ve mentioned, transport here is very different from England and we are always trying out new ways of getting around. During our last few weeks in Colombia we have done a lot of travelling as we are trying to explore the country as much as possible before we leave. This means that we have lots of updates about modes of transport to tell you about!

transport2When we went to Parque Tayrona, one morning we went on an hour-long walk through the jungle to get breakfast.
We had discussed it the day before and we had decided that we would walk there and then ride on a horse back again! When we got to the horse stable we hired four horses and we set off. My mum had a female horse and her one had a foal who was only two months old. transport2-2Part of the journey it followed us and pranced around in front of my horse. Mine and Brae’s horses were very confident so they always kept on galloping off so we had to pull the reins to stop them. The track involved some really steep hills between huge boulders but the horses knew what to do because they had done it a lot so we felt safe.

From four legs to four wheels…

When we were in a region near Bogotá called Boyaca, we got to go on quad-bikes through the mountains. Before we went on them we asked if I was big enough to drive them and I was! transport2-3My mum tried it first to find out the controls and then I got to drive it. transport2-7I felt so amazed that I was driving I almost forgot to steer and my mum helped me until I got over the shock. We were sharing the adventure with our friend Diana, her husband Ernesto and her brother, Luis fernando. After a while my mum and I swapped with Diana and Ernesto into a buggy and I was allowed to drive that too.

One of the least well planned parts of our trip was our journey to a place called Guatapé. There is a slight pattern to our modes of transport on the way there (after the taxi bit)  – see if you can spot it. First we flew from Bogotá to Medellín but from Medellín airport we hadn’t decided where to go next or how to get there, so we asked a taxi driver how to get to Guatapé. He told us he would take us somewhere to get a bus there so this sounded good to us and we set off. The craziest thing was the place that he left us because he just pulled in on the side of the motorway in the hard shoulder and told us: “Here you go. If you see a bus with Guatapé written on the front wave your hand at it”! So, there we all were on the side of the motorway with all our suitcases and back packs. We waved wildly at the first bus that came by but sadly, it whooshed past. We had more luck with the next bus and it swerved into the hard shoulder and we got on. I had the nearest seat to the door and the driver forgot to shut it for a little bit so there I was next to an open door on the motorway! When we got to a little town quite a long way from Guatapé the bus driver told us to get off the bus because he wasn’t going any further. He pointed over at some old jeeps across the road and told us to take one of those instead! In the end we got into a jeep, put our luggage on the roof and then loads more people got in and it was such a squish that one of the people had to sit with his leg hanging over the side, but finally the jeep pulled into Guatapé. But our journey wasn’t over because we still had to get all our heavy luggage to our hotel, so the driver of the jeep called us a tuk tuk transport2-6(which is basically a motorbike with a carriage stuck on top of it). I couldn’t imagine how we would all fit in but, as we’re getting used to things in Colombia now (often you have 8 or 9 people in a small car) we just piled ourselves and our bags in a big heap until we arrived at our hostel! Did you notice the pattern? Our transport just kept getting smaller and smaller and we were pleased we’d arrived as otherwise we thought the next thing might have been a skateboard!

Now it’s from land to air, because from Medellín we flew to a city called Pereira in the coffee region. The airport in Medellin was closed the day we went there because of hazy weather so we only just got through. When we finally got to our gate we saw our plane and almost laughed.transport2-8 It was a tiny plane with only thirty seats! Luckily it was only a short journey and we didn’t feel cramped, although the take off and landing were a bit strange because the wind blew the plane around (this also kept with our pattern of going in smaller and smaller vehicles).

transport2-4Bogotá also had its own crazy transport. When we went to Montserrate to get chocolate and cheese, we rode up in a cable car and down in the funicular. Just look how steep it is!

I loved all these forms of transport because they were so adventurous and fun, but I will finish this post by telling you about a slightly calmer thing we did because after all that excitement I think it was time for a rest! Take a look at this picture of Brae floating down the river in a tyre again, watching the wildlife, in Rio Don Diego. Half way along the river Brae got hot so we used the umbrella the guide had given us and floated with that on. That day the transport was a bit more chilled – phew!

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Maracuyá

By Oren:

The main reason I am writing this is because this morning we were discussing what things we are going to miss most when we go back to England and three out of four of us think that we are really going to miss a delicious fruit called maracuyá, and then we realised that we still haven’t told you about it yet. It is a bit like a passion fruit but it is bigger, yellow, much more tasty and very sour. When you buy it, it sometimes looks shiny, green or yellow and it is hard you can’t eat it then because it isn’t ripe. You have to wait until it looks all yucky and brown and wrinkly and that is when you can eat it. Here are a few photos of its stages:

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It is a very popular fruit in Colombia and you can get juices and ice creams made with maracuyá and you can also put one on your cereal, which my parents love! This is one of the main things that we are really, really going to miss when we go back to England because you can’t get it there .

Cartagena

By Oren:

One thing we did quite a few weeks ago, which we haven’t had time to write about yet, was go to Cartagena. My mum has always wanted to go to Cartagena ever since she first got a job to do with Colombia.

Cartagena is well known for being one of the most beautiful cities on earth, and when we went there we saw why. All the streets have lovely balconies with flowers on in little baskets and all the squares have amazing churches and brightly coloured buildings. The best thing to do in Cartagena is just to walk around a lot and that is what we did. Whenever we were on a street we thought it was the most beautiful, but then we’d turn a corner and find something even better!

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When we arrived we were really thirsty because of the long journey so we went to get a drink and watch the sunset from the city walls. Cartagena is also famous for being one of the hottest places in Colombia. Unusually, it was a bit breezy that evening and Brae said he was cold and he needed a jumper. When we told our friends in Bogotá that Brae was so cold in Cartagena that he wore a wooly jumper they couldn’t believe it and said he really must have got used to the heat in Santa Marta. I wonder how we will feel when we get back to Norfolk!

The only not so good thing about Cartagena is that there are loads of tourists. As it is so beautiful a lot of people from America and other countries come there so it was very crowded You can see how many people were there in the background when we took this photo on the city wall.

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Where we lived in Santa Marta, there weren’t very many tourists, and hardly any foreign children, so people were interested in us and wanted to know what we were doing there. That meant that everyone was coming to talk to us all the time and asking us questions, but in Cartagena everyone was used to all the tourists so they weren’t that friendly.

One other thing we did when we were in Cartagena as go to Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas. It was named after Felipe IV of Spain who was king when the castle was built in 1657. They built it to protect Cartagena from pirates and from other countries like England who were attacking it because they were trying to make siege on Cartagena. It is a huge fortress and it was never taken even though lots of people tried.

The coolest thing about the castle was the tunnels. They were designed to carry sound so that if an enemy was approaching they could hear them cartagena-12coming and be ready. You could go down the tunnels and I thought they were really cool and it was really fun exploring. We went down and down, often in the dark, until the tunnels started to have water in them. We found out that because the sea level is higher now than when the castle was built the lower tunnels have started to fill with water. We spent a long time exploring the tunnels, sometimes coming out in a completely different place from where we planned to be.

Even though we loved Cartagena and thought it was very beautiful, we all agreed when we got back to El Rodadero that we were all glad to be back there, where everyone is so friendly.

Medellín

By Brae:

This week, we went a place called Medellín and it is the second biggest city in Colombia. We went to do a tour around the middle of Medellín to learn about its history. Twenty years ago Medellín was known as the most violent city in the world. The man who gave us our tour said when he was little he had ten friends and eight of them got killed. It is hard to imagine thousands of murders every year in a city. There were so many murders that it wasn’t even in the news.

One of the violent things happened one night in 1995. There was a party in a square and one person brought a bag with explosives in and put it under a statue by a very famous artist and it exploded, killing lots of people including a seven year old girl and a ten year old boy. They were very young so I felt sad thinking about it. The person that made the statue was called Botero and he said he would make another one if they did not take the damaged one away because he said if they took it away it would come out of peoples memories. Now there are two bird statues. Here are some pictures of the old one and the new one.

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medellin-6I think you will be able to guess which one is old and which one is new. Botero came from Medellín and we saw his statues everywhere in the squares around the city. He is one of the most famous artists of South America.

Now Medellín is very different from the dangerous times and there are nice museums and parks and squares everywhere. We went to Parque Explora which is a science one and something very strange happened to Oren there!

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Also we went up a mountain in a cable car and if we looked down we could see the entire of Medellín. Medellín is in a valley between two mountains and on both mountains there are houses clinging onto the steep slopes and the houses on the mountains look poor.

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medellin-13  It used to take hours for the people who lived on the mountain to get to the city but now they have cable cars they can get down and back up quicker and they’re not really tired when they go down and up.medellin-8

 

 

 

 

In the cable car we saw a sign that said in Spanish ‘don’t jump or make sudden movements in the cable car’. It had a translation in English but we’ve noticed that often the translations in English are different and quite funny. You can see how they translated it in this photo. The other photo is a cool balcony we saw in the middle of the slum. Can you see the cow head?

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medellin-14As well as the new cable cars there is a metro train. The people of Medellín are very proud of the metro and you can see this as it is very clean with no graffiti but the rest of Medellin has lots of graffiti. Some of the graffiti is messy but some is very nice, here is a picture of a monkey you can see from our window.

At the end of the tour our guide said that Colombians try not to always think about the bad history. He gave an example to say that if someone was sinking in a swamp and they had all the horrible swamp stuff nearly drowning them and then they found a branch and grabbed hold of it and pulled themmedellin-5selves out and then they would celebrate because they nearly died but they didn’t. He said it was like this for Colombians. They had a terrible time in their past but they have survived so they are really happy people. He also thanked us for coming to Colombia and hoped we could tell people that it is now a very nice place in Colombia and it was a long time ago that it was a bad place. I agree that people should come to Colombia because it is a brilliant country.

 

Weird stuff update 4: Chocolate, cheese and cow hoof

By Brae:

In Bogotá we went up a mountain to a place called Monserrate with amazing views over the whole city.

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First I should tell you that Bogotá is already in the mountains. It’s in the Andes mountains and the city is 2,620 meters above sea level. That is nearly eight and a half London Shard skyscrapers on top of each other! Because it is so high, some people like Oren get altitude sickness just walking around. There isn’t as much oxygen in the air so high up and your heart beats faster. We’re lucky that no one else in the family gets it but Oren has had it which is a shame, but he still wanted to go up to the top of Monserrate which is 3, 152m. At the top we went to a cafe and had hot chocolate and cheese.You might think it was a bit weird but it is a thing that Colombians like so we wanted to try it. We broke up the cheese and put it in the hot chocolate and left it to get soft then we ate the chocolatey cheese with a spoon. It was a bit strange but we liked it. My dad did not really like it because he does not like sweet and savoury combinations.

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During our week in Bogotá we also went into a really nice town called Villa de Leyva and we saw a man who had some strange sticky white stuff and he was turning it round on a stick. choccheesehoofOur friend Luis Fernando told us it was made from sugar cane (panela) and cow hoof! At first we didn’t really like the sound of it but then our dad told us that lots of sweets in England are made with gelatine that comes from the skin and bones of pigs and cows (like jelly babies, haribo and marshmallows)! We decided to try some and at first we liked it but the more we had it the less we liked it.

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Weird stuff update 3: Signs

By Brae:anteater-2

Here are some unusual signs we have seen.

We saw this sign on the side of the road warning of ant eaters. In Tayronaka, I spotted an anteater walking through the bushes just beside me. He was about the same size as a big cat or small dog with a very long nose. It was cool to see it but we didn’t get a photo.

Caiman 2When we were in Tayrona we saw another strange sign saying not to feed the caimans. My dad thought was a bit obvious not to put your hand in its mouth!

We spoke to a lady who was selling cakes that she cooked in a little hut by the lake where lots of wild caimans lived. She said the caimans in the lake were 3.5-4m long (that’s twice the size of a human grown up!). She said she saw a dog go down to have a drink from the lake but then a caiman came and swallowed it whole! We kept a good distance away from the edge on our way past.
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You can find more weird stuff here.

Colombian animals update : MONKEYS!!!

By Oren:

A few weeks ago we went to “Parque Tayrona”, one of Colombia’s national parks, so we could see some extraordinary landscapes and wildlife. They don’t allow cars in the park so we had to walk to where we were staying. It was an hour and a half’s walk but we got a horse to carry our heavy bag so we were able to really enjoy the hike.

We walked for about an hour up some steep slopes through the jungle without seeing hardly another person. We were quite lucky because it was early morning and a bit misty and cool for the first time in months. Suddenly, we turned a corner and my Mum spotted a little monkey clambering around in a tree! tayrona-7

If you know me, you will know that I LOVE monkeys and have been dreaming about seeing them in the wild for my whole life. I managed to get a glimpse of it and I thought: ‘it’s going to go now but at least I saw it!’, but instead, it stayed right where it was! It was sitting in a tree and picking and eating berries when I spotted another one near it, then another, and another, until there were twenty monkeys hopping around in the trees above our heads!! I felt so overwhelmed I basically couldn’t speak. I felt so happy right then and I will never forget that moment when I first saw them. We stayed there for ages and the monkeys seemed really calm and they came very near us and carried on picking and eating the berries. After about half an hour of watching them, a few more visitors caught up with us and saw us watching the monkeys, but when they arrived the monkeys started jumping up and down and running off to hide. When the people left, the monkeys became more relaxed again and carried on eating and came back close to us! I think that the monkeys didn’t mind us which made me feel very special. tayrona

We spent three more days in the park keeping a look out for more but we didn’t see any. We asked people working in the park and they said we were really lucky to see so many and maybe it was because it had rained the day before for the first time in months. The monkeys we saw were capuchin monkeys but there is also a kind of monkey in Tayrona called the ‘mico Titi’ and they only exist in that jungle in the whole world! Because they don’t live anywhere else in the world they are critically endangered. The third kind of monkey in Tayrona is a howler monkey.

After seeing the capuchin monkeys I thought things couldn’t get any better and I knew that I would leave Colombia knowing I’d completed a dream. But during our last week staying on the coast we decided to go to a place called “Don Diego” because we wanted to go down the river on a tyre again, because we enjoyed it so much the first time on a different river. The other reason that we went was because we had been told that going to Don Diego river was the best chance to see some howler monkeys. Even though I had seen monkeys in “Parque Tayrona” I still wanted to see some more (obviously!).

We had been floating down the river for a while and we were just getting over seeing about ten kingfishers when we went under a bridge and the guide pointed out some shadowy shapes sitting in a tree. As we got closer we saw that they were monkeys!!!!!!!!! We stopped the tyre and got out on the bank just underneath them so we could get some photos, without disturbing them.
don diego-10don diego-13 Howler monkeys are completely different to capuchins. They are much bigger, dark red and they were just hanging around quite lazily, instead of rushing around like the capuchins. We got a great view because they were on a bare branch without leaves hiding them. We carried on down the river and found out that it wasn’t just that tree that had monkeys in it, and it wasn’t just one more, it was that nearly every tree we passed had monkeys in! Around the next corner, we spotted a huge group sitting in a tree (there must have been about 15 or 20) and the guide, who had been doing this for years said that he hadn’t seen that many monkeys in one tree ever before!!!don diego-16

Of all the nature experiences I have had in my life these two will be the most memorable, and no one can guess how happy I was to see them.

You can find more Colombian animals here.

More Colombian animals update

By Brae:

As you can remember in Minca we saw an amazing lizard that ran on water. But in parque Tayrona we saw even more amazing lizards.tayrona-3

For example we saw a lizard that was black with yellow stripes! We also saw a lizard with a blue head yellow body and green tail and we saw one that was black with a bright blue tail!

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We did not manage to get pictures of all of them but here are the ones that we could. We promise we have not changed the colour lizards were! Me and Oren spent hours watching them and seeing where they went.

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You can see more Colombian animals here.

Kogi

By Brae:

In Colombia lots of people have magical beliefs. For example, lots of indigenous tribes believe a kind of God lives inside the earth that’s called mother nature. The Kogi people are an indigenous tribe that live in the mountains around Santa Marta. They have lived there since before the Spanish arrived in South America hundreds and hundreds of years ago. They were the only tribe not conquered by the Spanish who took lots of other tribes as slaves and killed lots of them. They believe that Earth is the great mother and it is their job to look after the planet. minca2a-2They think that lots of the other people living in Colombia are not looking after the earth well. The Kogi is also called Kágaba which means jaguar in Kogi language. We have seen lots of Kogi people walking around in the mountains and in the jungle (but we haven’t seen jaguars yet!). The Kogi are a bit different to other people we see. They live in huts in the mountains in the wild, and they all only wear white and most of them carry a special kind of bag made out of a kind of plant, with the strap over the top of their heads. The men live in different huts than the women in their villages.

Most Colombian people don’t believe the same as the tribes do but they listen to them and respect them. For example, they closed the amazing national park called Parque Tayrona for a month before Christmas, so that the indigenous tribes could come down from the mountain and give Tayrona back its magic. They cleaned it and said special prayers in it and did some things that they thought would give magic from mother nature and when all the people went away and the tribes gave it back the magic all the animals came down from the mountains. Maybe that meant that when we went to Parque Tayrona we saw all sorts of amazing creatures.

When we went to Minca again we did a tour to learn about Kogi tradition. We got some special red mud. We got it wet in a special Kogi place by a waterfall and rubbed it on our selves. Then we got some leafs and stuck them on us. After that we took the leaves off and let them go in the water. Next we climbed up a rock and washed the mud off in the waterfall.Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 19.13.56Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 19.11.50Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 19.05.37minca3minca3-2minca3-4

This is a Kogi tradition that would make them well. The red clay is only found in one place in the whole of the forests around Minca.

This week, we also went to find a special village that was made by an ancient indigenous tribe more than 500 years ago. It was called Tayronaka. For centuries it was overgrown by jungle, then it was discovered and they cut down some jungle and so you can see what it was like. While we were there, we leant some things about the tribes and did some special breathing and listened to the sounds of nature and thought about the things that the tribes believe like mother nature. It made me think about all the things in nature and how amazing it is.

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