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Captain Jesus and Alberto’s Family Vacation

Excited to be going back to Bogota! Civilization! No rooster wake up calls and restaurants with menus!

The departure time wasn’t printed on our airline tickets from La Macarena to Villavicencia, so we made our way to the office of the airline the night before to make sure that we knew what time to arrive for our flight out. When we walked into the lobby the lady behind the counter knew our names without us saying anything! I guess there aren’t that many non-spanish speaking Americans in this town.

“What time should we arrive in the morning for the flight?” We asked.

“The flight out is around 10 am” she responded.

“Should we arrive around 9 am?” We asked again.

“No. Just come around 10 am” She responded.

At the appointed time we walked the few blocks to the airport and arrived at 10:00 am. A group of pilots were sitting around the lobby of the airline office and we learned that our flight wouldn’t leave until 11. We met the young pilot for our flight, Captain Jesus Marin of Aerolineas Estelares Colombia. After a long conversation we learned that his family owned the airline and that he was also a practicing attorney. We also met Captain Hector, the pilot we were originally scheduled to fly with and who had arranged our meeting with Carolina. We talked for another hour or so when Captain Jesus asked, “Are you ready to leave now?” It was now after 12 and there apparently was never a scheduled time for departure.

The flight was quick and comfortable and we were happy to make a new friend in Captain Jesus. If you ever fly to La Macarena you should definitely call Captain Jesus and Aerolineas Estelares Colombia.

When we landed, Captain Jesus suggested that we take a private taxi back to Bogota. The cost would be around $20 a person and would be faster and more comfortable than the bus. At first we were hesitant because the bus had wifi, but it would be nicer to be dropped off at our hotel and save time.

We agreed. Captain Jesus called his friend and arranged for us to be picked up. We got off the plane and before we could retrieve our bags Captain Jesus pulled curbside in his personal car and we hopped in. We didn’t drive five minutes and he pulled up in to an empty parking lot in front of a closed building. The area was unkept and Ol and I gave one another the look. Captain Jesus said, “no, no it’s ok. I wait with you”.

A few minutes later a nice white Bogota SUV taxi pulled up behind us. Ol and I exchanged the “Mucho Gusto” look”. We do this at least twice a day. It usually happens after we order something in a restaurant and we are pleasantly surprised with what we ordered.

I get in and throw our backpack onto the seat. As I start to stretch out, I lean out and thank Captain Jesus, while Ol is saying his goodbyes. I also confirm the price again, as the car is so nice.

The taxi driver leans in and tries to take the backpack. I explain that I want to keep it with me as it has my computer, water, documents, and money. The driver explains that he will have to put the bag in the trunk. I understand enough Spanish to suddenly realize that we are not the only passengers in the “private” car. The driver explains that there will be two more people joining us. Of course it was too good to be true! Just like our “private” car to El Cocuy!

I keep telling myself to follow my gut instead of trying to be polite and worrying about other people’s feelings (I have been living in the South for too long!).

Ol says it will be ok and climbs into the front passenger seat, enjoying the only AC vents in the car. I have the next hour to get even more upset as we then drive all over the city of Villavincencia to pick up my two back seat companions. We navigate gates and doormen and I keep looking at my watch. We should have already been well on our way to Bogota by now.

All in all, the 59 mile, three hour trip (with wifi, movie and AC on the bus) that we took from Bogota to Villavicentia took nearly six hours. For the entire trip, I was pinned under the warm hip and arm of a much larger woman with more than enough cologne for the both of us. Did I mention no air conditioning? This easier option ended up costing us 60,000 more pesos and three additional hours.

Finally arriving in Bogota, our nice hotel and the amazing dinner made up for the adventure in the taxi. I soaked in my first bath since leaving Mississippi. Heaven! We were happy to have fast wifi and we caught up on emails, FaceTimed the family, and got everything ready to head out on the road the next day for Coffee Country! We were also excited to watch CNN in English! The blog updates would be put off for one more day. Sorry!

Before leaving for Cano Cristales we made plans with Alberto and his wife Mireya to pick us up in Bogota for a trip to Coffee country. We met them after mass at the chapel of our friend’s Adriana and Gustavo. The offer to take us in his vehicle with his family was extremely generous and we gladly accepted!

At 9:30 Alberto walked into the lobby of our hotel with his big smile and warm laugh. We followed him to his car. To our delight he had his daughter and a friend with them. Luggage was loaded and we were off.

Ol and I have no idea about the trip details. So as we got underway Ol inquired as to where we are going and how long will it take. Alberto informed us that the entire trip would be about five hours. He gave us a map and explained to us where we would be going.

The plan was to stay two nights each at two different coffee plantations in the heart of coffee country. We were excited to be on our was as the coffee area is a nationally protected area. Of course Juan Valdez and Colombian coffee are very famous, but the area is also known for it’s beauty and perfect climate.

We enjoyed the drive out of the city. It seems that we have left Bogota from every direction and each one is different. After an hour we were winding up and down and through the mountains. Mountains were on each side of the car as far as the eye could see. It was wonderful to have native Colombians explain to us what we were seeing and about the history of the area. We passed through the typical quaint towns and the same magical landscape of Colombia that we have enjoyed for the past month. We shared stories and lots of laughter.

We stopped for a nice late lunch and the time seemed to be going fast. It was at lunch that we learned we weren’t quite on schedule. We had time to explore a church in El Colegio from the 1700’s one of the old Jesuits towns. It was a delightful afternoon.

I wasn’t aware of how many miles we still had to go and I guess we have just gotten used to the traffic and someone else driving. However, the traffic came to a stop more than once and the sun had gone down hours ago and we weren’t very close to our destination. Twelve hours after leaving Bogota we were still not near our destination.

We had to decide if we should stop and get a hotel or try to make it to our Hacienda. Ol and I weren’t much help as we had no idea where we were going or how long it would take. Google maps said we were 45 minutes away and it was now 9:00. We all agreed to press on.

The roads were not marked, there are no street lights, and several times we turned down the wrong way and ended in very bad areas. I could tell that even our hosts were getting nervous. I was tired and my months of research on Colombia told me to avoid driving in some areas at night. There are still banditos who will stop and rob vehicles in some areas of the country.

Alberto pulled into a gas station along the road to ask directions. A man in street clothes with an automatic weapon approached our car. I was more than a little freaked out. My only consolation was that every Colombian was celebrating Colombia’s game against Peru which qualified them for the World Cup. It seemed all day everyone we passed had on their yellow Colombian soccer shirts. Though it was late, and a week night, every home and town we passed was still partying. I would think any trouble makers would be too deep into their cups to bother with us.

Even so, after 10 minutes of driving down this dark, narrow, dirt road I started taking our valuables out of our backpack. I put my wallet in my sock and our passports in my bra. I rearranged my scarf. The shadows of the giant palms and the occasional passing motorcycle had me jumpy. Finally, near midnight we pulled up to the gate to Bosques Del Saman Hacienda Coffee Plantation. Alberto honked the horn and a plantation worker opened the gate to let us in. He showed us right to our room and said that we could check in the next day.

When we saw the beautiful hacienda, Ol and I gave one another the look that said, “Mucho Gusto, this is going to be great!

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