Thursday, March 27, 2008

Pereira and back to Medellin

From the park we drove the opposite direction from Montenegro to Armenia. This is a modern city of a half a million people built around a river valley and very attractive. The road from there to Pereia followed this lovely river with levels of mountains marching off into the distance in paler shades of blue. Farms with grazing horses and cows made us think of Vermont. Pereira is the capital of Risaralda, 1400 meters and also home to about half a million people and 8 universities. This drive took about one and a half hours, arriving at sun down again.
We drove through the streets looking for a hotel amid throngs of people. The first hotel was full but thoughtfully called and found us the Soratama Hotel on the Plaza de Bolivar. The streets were packed for a huge parade for Easter Thursday. The music and parade lasted for four hours; lots of bands, religious groups, military and retinues with their statues on platforms carried by penitents. Several groups gave us quite a scare with full Klu Klux Klan outfits of white or black, but as they were carrying big wooden crosses, we hope it didn’t have any of the same significance here. I'm sorry that these photos, taken necessarily from a distance and in the dark are not very clear. They do look better if you double click on them and enlarge them. The third picture shows the "Roman" soldiers in full regalia.
This 3 star hotel cost $80 each with a big breakfast buffet (more local foods than in Medellin - how about meat soup for breakfast!).
Our rooms unfortunately varied wildly. We had a two room huge suite (with a exercise bicycle no less) and Sue & Roy had a small room with twin beds. One really nice thing was that valet service for the car was included. We were really glad to turn it over to someone else to park! After checking in at the hotel we watched the parade from a second floor restaurant across the plaza in a very nice shopping center. Again a Columbian gentleman who worked in Westchester, NY came over to visit with us for awhile.
We were up early and walked around the Plaza, amazingly clean after the thousands who were there the night before. That's our hotel behind the statue above right and the cathedral above left. A huge earthquake devestated this area in 1999 and the top half of the church is being rebuilt in wood.
We left at 7:45AM that morning and found the driving much easier and still very beautiful, following a huge fast moving river with occasional standing waves. Later we joined our original route and went back over the steep mountain and into Medellin. There are plenty of places along the road both directions to have a nice lunch.
On the way down we had a terrific fish soup followed by fish or chicken dinner (huge boneless chicken breast or an entire trout) with all the trimmings and drinks for $5 each. On the way back we waited until we were less than 1 kilometer from the airport and then stopped at a big restaurant on the right with a BBQ that served big portions of local type dishes and meat. They had a salad bar too. We got to the airport at in plenty of time for our 6:10 PM direct flight back to Medellin (an hour and a half flight).

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