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Old 07-11-2010, 12:39 AM
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Default colombia: paisanos, chicharones, and other cool stuff

We just returned from a 17 day visit to Colombia. This was my first trip to South America. I didn't want to go before because I thought it was unsafe for my kids. Things have changed now. As some people told me: 'Our problems have been pushed to the border.'

One of the main reasons to visit is to meet my wife's many relatives.

We flew into Bogota, which is ~8,000 feet above sea level. It is cooler because of the altitude. This means they grow different stuff there and people dress up.

As promised, here are some pics.

This is the skyline taken from Cerro de Monserrate.



Most meals come with soup in this city.

This also came with a tamale.



This is Simon Bolivar's hacienda on the edge of Bogota. I'm in the pink polo shirt (hey, my wife picked it out).



Police are everywhere. Most of them seem bored. That's a good thing.

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Old 07-11-2010, 12:44 AM
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These flowers are also from Bolivar's hacienda. They are a drug and can make you sleep -- and hallucinate, I think.

There is a recent story of a person who was kidnapped by some guerrillas and was forced to be their cook (or something) while he was in their custody. He took time to put a bunch of these flowers under the beds of his captors. They went into a deep sleep and he was able to escape.





There are all kinds of exotic plants and animals down there.

Personally, I really like the exotic fruits. You can get fresh squeezed juice for real cheap all over the place... like on any street.
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Old 07-11-2010, 12:52 AM
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In Bogota is the Museo de Oro (museum of gold). Most of the gold exhibited is pre-Columbian. That is, it is native.

As you might imagine, it is heavily guarded. Most of the exhibits are within a giant vault. Every room has a nicely dressed guard.

This museum is considered a national treasure. They don't want you to act silly or even talk on the cell phone in there.

They do allow photos, tho.







^^^ That one will be my new avi for a while once I'm done editing it for this forum.

It was more than just an exhibit. They included historical and scientific information on all of this. It was very educational.
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Old 07-11-2010, 12:59 AM
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Amazing!!!
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Old 07-11-2010, 01:04 AM
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Family in Bolivar's garden.

Simon Bolivar is considered a hero in South America... a liberator. To this day they make a big deal of his leadership.



Me with a cannon in Bolivar's hacienda.



Street vendors are all over.



This one vendor came up with this idea to put mountain herbs in a bottle of aguardiente (a local sugar cane liquor) to flavor it. It has an interesting taste. Next to it is a bag of roasted ants. They were not that bad. Had kind of a smoky flavor.

Part of one ant got stuck in my teeth. That was kind of weird.

Yeah, I know. The photo sucks.

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Old 07-11-2010, 01:13 AM
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My wife's aunt/uncle's finca outside Bogota.

We watched the US team lose to Ghana here. Other than that, it was an awesome visit. This farm was cool, but not as cool as La Leyenda outside of Medellin (will post later).

Like many farms, there is someone paid to live on-site and to take care of everything. My wife's aunt/uncle are intellectuals. The person living on-site with his family in their own house knows how to run a little farm and works hard.

They raise catfish in that little pond.





Colombia has EMOs, too, at least in the city.



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Old 07-11-2010, 01:37 AM
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This is the town (pueblo) of Sopó. I so much like the peeps here. They are so friendly. We all stayed in a traditional Spanish house that was converted into a hotel.



On the way to Medellin we had to drop down into a huge valley. We went from ~8000+ feet above sea level to maybe less than ~1000 feet. It got much hotter.

Along the way you will see many soldiers. Every strategic location (river crossing or major intersection of highways) will have them. Some are visible, others are not. This is a point which had armored cars.



Every male must show up for military service after high school. If selected, they must serve for 18 months. They are only fed and paid almost nothing.

My brother-in-law pointed out one strategic intersection between the road to Medellin and the one to San Luis. It was the scene of a major battle between the guerrilla force of the ELN and the army. We could see bullet holes in road signs. The other major guerrilla force is the FARC. They are now mostly near the border of Ecuador and in some of the coca-producing mountain regions.

This is the river fish I ate near Honda. The people running the restaurants really, really want you to visit them. They will run out into the street to flag you down. A yummy meal like this cost maybe ~$8 (with a fresh smoothie made with some exotic fruit and/or cerveza).

Also in this picture is rice and fried smashed plantains.

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Old 07-11-2010, 01:55 AM
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Along the main road just outside of Medellin is Hacienda Napoles. This was Pablo Escobar's huge ranch. Ever seen the movie Blow?

At the gate he showed-off the first airplane he used to smuggle cocaine into the US.





He kept what seemed to be a mix of Jurassic Park and a zoo. There were mock-ups of dinosaurs complete with loud sound effects and real animals.

Most of the animals inside the park died when Escobar fled.

The government has since seized Hacienda Napoles and split it into 3 parts: a new prison, an area to re-settle the families of his victims, and a theme park.

This is a building on the property which was featured in a telenovela.



Also at the park is a new game which allows you to try and use one of Pablo Escobar's known escape routes (which are very creative) to evade the anti-narcotics police. I thought that was kind of funny. It didn't seem done yet, tho.

My wife and family playing with one of the monkeys. They had lions, zebras hippos... all kinds of wildlife. All of it was illegally imported. This was supposed to be the largest private zoo in the world.

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Old 07-11-2010, 02:11 AM
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This is Pablo Escobar's house. After he went on the run it was looted. People stole the tile off the floor and walls and dug for hidden money. He was the richest criminal in the world, so I guess people thought they might find something left laying around.



It was turned into a provoking display of Escobar's influence and violence. There are many graphic and disturbing images. Long story, but in the end of the walk-thru they show life after this guy and it is like day and night.

One of our drivers when to a private grade school with Pablo Escobar and his buddy (forgot his name). According to the driver, the two of them were kicked out for stealing grave stones.

These is his a part of his classic car collection that was burned by the 'PEPEs' (in Spanish: people prosecuted by Pablo Escobar). He made a lot of friends by giving money to poor villages, but also made a lot of enemies.



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Old 07-11-2010, 02:28 AM
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This is a typical paisano dish. I got a little impatient and took this pic before adding other things like arepa con queso. Chicharón is from pig (yes, bacon!). It is way thicker, tho, and mostly includes more meat. The thick fat side will make it curl up, but not like our thinly sliced bacon here in the US.

There is also chorizo, rice, and plantain (platano) cooked a different way. It is sweeter this way. We usually end up just throwing most of it into the frijoles and eating it together like that. Man, I'm getting hungry talking about this food.



They eat this almost everyday in Antioquia, which is a state of Colombia. I remember making a joke about the Antioqueña accent on this forum with DDMALO, who lives in Medellin. I wanted to meet up with him while down there, but I guess in the off-season many of our forum regulars are doing other stuff, so I didn't ask.

Beatrice cooking frijoles on the fire outside La Leyenda. They can cook inside, but an outside wood fire adds flavor and saves room/mess/etc.



The kitchen. They really can live off this land. Everything grows there.



Me with the new puppies. I just woke up.



Ok, it's late. I'll post the rest of the pics when I wake up.
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