You can buy fruit in the supermarket here but we have discovered that lots of people people sell fruit at the side of the road on little wheelbarrows or stalls made out of wooden boxes. Sometimes people only have one kind of fruit (which makes me think that maybe they only have one fruit tree in their garden and that’s the only fruit they can sell), but sometimes they have a whole variety. In these photos the man is selling avocados and he was carrying them on his head.
Sometimes from our balcony we hear the sellers shouting through a loud speaker: ‘AGUACATE, AGUACATE, AGUACATE, PAPAYA, PAPAYA, PAPAYA’ (‘Avocado…papaya…’) to get people to come out of their apartments and buy them.
We have started to buy lots of fruit from stalls and sometimes we buy fresh fruit juices too. Recently, we have discovered that mango cut up with salt, pepper and lime is super delicious (it sounds weird but it’s yummy). Our favourite juice is a local speciality on the coast of Colombia. It is called ‘limonada de coco’ and it’s fresh coconut and lime with ice. It is exquisite. In my last fruit post I talked about ‘piña dorada’ but I didn’t have a photo because I ate it before we could
take a picture. We have eaten LOTS more golden pineapple since the first one so here is a photo of one we had last week.
When we went to Minca we saw lots of birds, as we mentioned in our last post. But we didn’t explain it very well so I am going to explain it to you now. Minca is famous for its amazing birds of all different kinds. Even though Minca is only a very small town, you can see 162 different species of bird just in this small place! And when you explore the mountains around Minca, you can find 320 species of bird! Altogether, there are almost 2000 species of birds in Colombia – more than any other country in the world. So now you know what I mean when I say we saw lots of birds in Minca!
To see toucans and parrots and other fascinating birds, you need to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning or even earlier. We got up early to go bird watching two mornings in a row. The toucan is a bird that everyone wants to see and we were lucky enough to see one, but if a toucan hears or sees you they fly away so that’s why we couldn’t take a picture of one in the real wild.
I did get some good photos (on my own camera) of some other of my favorites, like wonderful macaws, hummingbirds which flap their wings at an unbelievable speed, and an amazing black and yellow bird called a crested oropendola that makes a nest in the shape of a bag hanging from a tree.
The blue headed parrot is a incredible bird of all different colors. But it is given its name by its amazing blue head. The males don’t even have blue heads. The reason it is given its name is because of the females amazing blue stipe down the center of its head. We also saw woodpeckers and parakeets and lots of other birds that you won’t have heard of.
My favourite group of animals is primates but my second is definitely reptiles, and in Minca I saw the most amazing reptile I have ever seen! It was a three-foot long green iguana (that is its species’ name but they have different colors as well) climbing slowly up the tree outside our window in Minca. When I spotted it I thought it was a dream at first but then I got back to my senses and called my family. It was one of the best experiences of my life.
I have one other small animal update (in both senses of the word). When we were doing one of Niall’s tours we saw some amazing luminous colored bugs, one on our bag and one crawling on the path we were walking along. Here are some pictures:
The first Colombian animals post can be found here
The other day we went up the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. This is world’s highest coastal mountain range and we went there to see the sunrise and the rare mountain birds. We had to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning! The mountains are so high and steep the only way to get to the top quickly is in a jeep. I got travel sick. So on the way down the mountain Oren and I went on the roof of the jeep! We enjoyed it more than when we were inside because we didn’t get travel sick. It was scary at first because the road was super steep and full of great big holes,
but after a while
we got used to it and we started to concentrate on what was around us. There were loads and loads of coffee trees planted in between the tropical fruit trees and jungle plants. We were surrounded by them. Everywhere we looked there were coffee trees.
We didn’t only go on a roof of a jeep but we also went on a motorbike taxi. They took us to a waterfall in the mountains. Each bike had a driver with me and Mum on one bike and Oren and Dad on the other. It was a bit squished but we got through. The ride was very bumpy but fun at the same time. It was amazing watching all the birds. There were all sorts of different kinds. We saw bright yellow fly catchers and scarlet tanagers.
At home, I have to be in a booster seat with a seat belt so I can’t believe what we are doing in Colombia. Perhaps my mum and dad have gone a bit mad. But they say that we are on the adventure of a lifetime so the rules are very, very different. I think that this is the kind of school trip that Mr Brown would like to take Emerald class on!
On Monday I went to a mountain town called Minca, where we stayed in a very nice house called Emerald Green. We had a cozy room with a big double bed and bunk beds. We also had a balcony, which had a lovely view of the river and an enormous, ancient tree. The host of our guesthouse was a man called Niall who was the best! He was Irish and he was very kind and fun and made us do things during our four days in Minca that seemed scary but they turned out to be really thrilling and we didn’t want to stop. Niall has been living in Minca for six and a half years because he went travelling there and didn’t want to leave (don’t worry, I do like it here but I will come back!). When we arrived we dropped off all our possessions in our room and found out he had a dog and two cats who were all adorable and mostly really friendly (but one of the cats was a bit scratchy!).
After a while my family and I went on one of Niall’s tours to the lost waterfall, which he and his friend had discovered, with his dog Ishka running ahead. When we had been walking for a while Niall spotted a kind of palm tree that had very vicious looking spikes all over its trunk, which Niall said were poisonous and we definitely should never touch one.
Then we hiked up the mountain through the jungle for a little bit more and we came to what looked like the most ginormous clump of grass you’ve ever seen. It was more than ten meters high and Niall said it was bamboo and it was a grass (so I wasn’t wrong thinking it looked like grass).
This kind of bamboo is a very useful material for constructing houses and scaffolds in Colombia, and also when they plant it by the side of the road on a steep bit of mountain, the roots act as an anchor preventing land slides and erosion of the road or path so it doesn’t get destroyed. It was fascinating to discover that houses, which were made out of bamboo, have been known to survive earthquakes when brick and concrete houses have been falling down. We also discovered that the only time you can harvest it is after a full moon at four o’clock in the morning because it makes all the water go to the bottom of the plant, and when it gets cut it can re-grow itself! It is against the law to cut it down at any other time.
We continued to trudge up the mountain path, higher and higher, feeling sweltering hot and sweating all over. Finally we emerged through the jungle and saw an incredible waterfall. We slipped into the freezing water. It was like swimming in a bowl of ice! Niall said we’d get used to it though. We also leaped off a huge rock into the pool.
Then it was time to follow the river back down the mountain so off we went. When I say we went, I don’t mean we walked. I mean we were swept down the river for a long distance, down waterfalls and mini waterslides with Niall. We climbed over rocks and my mum and dad had to get washed down a really powerful waterfall and Brae and I went down a smaller one. That’s when Niall gave us the nickname chickens because Brae did the funky chicken when we were supposed to be tucking our elbows in while we were going down a waterfall! Then Niall told us to clamber across some rocks and we stood under an amazingly strong waterfall and it was so strong that my trunks almost came down! ☹ When we finally reached the house we were soaked! After that we had a very laid back afternoon because we were exhausted.
So far I bet you think Colombia is amazing because it is. But there are a few annoying things.
First, we have to have 3 sun creams every day (1 at the beginning of the day, 1 in the middle of the day and 1 at the end of the day). We don’t only have to have 3 sun creams. We also have to have 2 mosquito sprays (1 at the beginning of the day and 1 at the end of the day).
Another quite annoying thing was when we went to Palomino on the Caribbean coast, in the night we had to sleep under mosquito nets to make sure we didn’t fall ill. They kept us really hot, which was annoying, but kept us safe from malaria.
Malaria is a very serious disease. To keep us safe from malaria we have to have some malaria pills every day after dinner. When we very first started it was quite annoying but we have got used to it now. Mosquitos also carry other diseases that have quite funny names like chikungunya and Zika. You might have heard about Zika as it is in the news.
The last frustrating thing that I can think of is that we can’t drink water from the tap because it is not clean enough to drink. So we have to carry heavy bottles home every day. We can’t even use tap water for brushing our teeth.
Colombia is still an amazing place because you find annoying things wherever you go. The sea is warm in Colombia all year round, whereas in England the sea is pretty cold even in summer. Also, it never gets dark here really early like in the winter in England. Things are just different around the world!
When we went to Palomino we had an incredibly friendly driver called Javier (pronounced ‘Havier’) and as we were going along I spotted what looked like some old fashioned milk bottles hanging in a small, wooden stall under a roof of cloth, standing by a MASSIVE banana plantation. I asked him what was in the bottles thinking it might be something to do with bananas but he said that it was shark oil!
Shark oil is an oil made from shark liver, and people sell it in their little stalls by the side of the dusty road. Colombian people believe it cures asthma and flu. I thought nobody would get flu (because it is a type of cold and it’s really hot here) but they do.
Lots of Colombian medicines are made out of plants and animals, and many of them were discovered by the tribes of Indians living in the mountains. People from all over Colombia use these medicines instead of, or as well as, buying them from pharmacies.
On the way back from Palomino we tried to buy a jar to take picture of it, but all the stalls hadn’t got any left. But as I mentioned Javier is really nice so he sent us a photo of a jar he bought, for our blog. Here is the picture he took of the oil:
In Colombia the transport is different. For example, the buses drive with their doors open, there are no bus stops and you just tell the driver when you want to get off and on. The buses are blue.
The taxis are yellow, so Rachel [Hare], Mae and Lily will understand that the ‘spot the yellow car’ game that my family plays in Norfolk is a very different game in Colombia, because almost half the cars are taxis! Also the taxis don’t have seat belts.
There are not only normal taxis in Colombia, but also some of the motorbike riders offer to give people a lift so there are also motorbike taxis here. I can’t decide whether to go on one or not because it doesn’t look very safe to have something like three people on a motorbike.
Sometimes, a horse or a donkey with a cart comes along the road. We’ve figured out why they have those covers by their eyes. It’s so they can’t see the cars, taxis and buses all whizzing by. If they did, they would become scared and then it would be chaos.
There is a lot of beeping everywhere as the cars beep their horns a lot.
The roads are normal mostly, but in some places the road is completely made out of dust, like the road our school is on. Here is a picture of it.
If you’ve ever eaten a coconut you might think it grows like that. But really, in the palm tree, a coconut grows inside a big, green case and it falls to the ground when it is ready.
We collected lots of newly fallen coconuts and we tried to open one. My dad had to use all his strength (and some sticks) to crack the shell open. We found out that underneath the green skin there is a thick hairy layer to protect the coconut. Here are some pictures:
In Colombia there is a huge range of animal species ranging from exotic birds to monkeys. Colombia holds the biggest range of butterflies and the second most of birds in the whole world! The national park ‘Parque Tayrona’, near where we live, is home to hundreds of species of animals. Today my family and I went on a trek up a mountain and then floated down the river on a tyre. As we peered into the jungle canopy I was amazed to see a huge king fisher sitting on a branch acting still, staring down at us. It was the first one my mum and dad had seen in forty-one years, and I spotted it!
In Colombia everyone wakes up really early. In Palomino (where we stayed this week) at about six in the morning you can see little red squirrels scurrying in the trees. They are adorable! You can also see lots of interesting birds and hear their calls. There is a bird that looks like a black bird with a really long tail, which has an amazing amount of calls – it is squawking at me right now.
My dream is to see a monkey in the wild and I might be able to see one in ‘parque Tayrona’. We also saw a Portuguese man-of-war (it looks like a jellyfish but it’s actually something called a siphonophore!). For humans their sting is excruciatingly painful but rarely deadly, even dead ones can sting you. On the way back from Palomino we saw two massive green iguanas basking in the sun but they ran away before we could take a photo.
This is a good time to tell you that I’ve always felt passionate about animals, so having this opportunity to see so many new ones is unbelievably awesome!