Monday, August 31, 2015

Santa Rosa de Cabal hotsprings

This is Desi...
We are really happy to be here and having the chance to join this great trip for a few days. Today we went to some hot springs. The water was just lovely and the landscape really beautiful. The girls really enjoyed the water and seemed to have big fun though. It's great seeing them having a great time. The Colombians around were impressed by their beautiful blond hair and couldn't stop watching us. Maybe they were also wondering if Mike has three wifes and two kids :).
Even though I've just met these four, it really feels like family. They really make you feel welcome and are really special people. I'm so glad we decided to come here and I would love to travel a bit further with them. What they are doing is just amazing and you really can learn a lot from their experiences. Hopefully we can meet the Stock family another time,different place.
Thanks to the four of you for letting us participating in your adventure and providing such a pleasant stay for us!
Out for a nice walk, up the valley to the cascades and hot springs. Elise decided to stay home because she was tired from driving the day before.

Our girls liked the scenic walk and the water falls

We adopted Daisy into our family, now we are all cousins :)

Zoe and Dani saying, "We like it this much!"

There was a restaurant at the top which made it convenient for when the kids got hungry

Just a relaxing afternoon in the warm springs.

Daisy and the girls at the entrance of a small cave

I enjoyed looking up the cascades for a different perspective

Flower children :)

My kids passed out on the way home. You know they had fun when they end up like this.

The girls decided to Hike a trail less traveled

We had a great day together 

Chillin' with Zoe

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Cocora Valley

This is Dani...
When I heard about my cousin Mike and his family planning this trip I knew I wanted to go and see them. Luckily my friend Desi wanted to give me company on this spontaneous trip to Colombia. We had passed Colombia for a short visit some years ago at the end of 5 months traveling in South America and we were excited to return to the most hospitable Latinos and of course the Stock's on their trip. We were surprised though that the bus trip from Bogota to the coffee zone (280km) took the same time as flying from Europe to Bogota - 11 hours. Now we could really understand how tiring driving must have been for the family. There were hundreds of trucks on the windy steep road and I could not believe that is is the main road connecting the two biggest cities of Colombia, Bogota and Medellin. We were so happy to be picked up by Mike, Sierra and the landlord of the recent accommodation at the bus station and we did not have to bother any further with taxi drivers and looking for accommodation at night.
The next day we were rewarded when we woke up overlooking the beautiful coffee zone with endless shades of green and high peaked mountains in the horizon. I was so astonished by the beauty of the landscape. Mike and we, the 5 girls, went on a drive to Salento and Cocora valley which is famous for the highest palm trees in the world (they grow about 60 meters). We went for a nice walk through the mixture of jungle and forest and crossed a small river barefoot. I also really loved the variety of flowers and birds. It is so good to be back in nature and far away from daily office life again!
By the way from this valley it is possible to hike into the national park Los Nevados with mountains peaking up to 5300 meters.
We headed to Salento, this beautiful historic little town on top of a mountain for some lunch. Here you get the freshest food for little money, this makes traveling so much fun! I was also impressed by the variety of handcrafts offered in the shops of Salento, a lot of hand made jewelry and creative little things so that I could have spend hours exploring the shops. I really enjoyed spending the afternoon in this laid back cute town!
Time is running fast and I knew our few days are just too short to see the Stock's but it is enough time to adore that they are making this dream come true! Especially seeing the kids exploring new landscapes and animals every day shows that  they learn more than they ever could back home in school and on TV. Elise and Mike, thanks for being a role model to me when it comes to making dreams come true and exploring this beautiful planet!

The picturesque solitude of an imperfect bridge 

Daisy and Dani enjoying the views of the foothills near Salento

Old cars are cool in this hippy artistic area just before Salento

The wax palms of Cocora valley can grow up to 200 feet (60 meters) tall. Their size is much more noticeable when you can compare them to the home below.

No matter the age playing in the water is fun

Hiking on the trail was good exercise for all

Hallo Kassel, viele gruesse aus Kolombien 

Watching the puffy clouds pass us by

The palms grow to amazing heights surpassing the forest canopy below

Bridges here are always missing something important but that doesn't bother Daisy and the girls.

The 4Runner is a nice ride and can take us anywhere.

Cattle pasture area that was once amazing forest.

Truly beautiful spot here in Cocora valley. The wax palm is Colombia's national tree.

Dani and Daisy shopped and walked through Salento town after lunch

Every hiking adventurer needs hiking shoes like my cousin Dani wore. Oh, and the nicely painted toe nails are always a plus when crossing muddy hollows and slippery mossy rocks :) 

I believe we all had a fun day out in the woods

End of the road for us hikers

This docile goat snorted and turned his head spooking out Sierra in this perfectly timed picture.

Los Primos :)

Nature is amazing

Salento is so inviting and not pressured

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Shadows of war

This is Mike...
Elise and I have noticed a surprisingly high population of amputees here in Colombia and have recently discovered many are victims of landmines, left behind by decades of war. The indiscriminate nature of those injured is just heartbreaking. Children, women, men, animals absolutely nobody and nothing is safe when it comes to landmines. Though peace has come over most of the country, the rural areas are still heavily mined. Some FARC members (communist rebels) and the Colombian military are working together in landmine removal efforts. The joint effort is in the right direction but is wholly insufficient for the need. Far too many innocent people playing soccer, planting a garden, or strolling with their loved ones looking for berries are seriously maimed or killed.
The Colombians, we have met so far, are the sweetest people looking for good laughs and happiness. Every time we go out over here someone is welcoming us to their country. The people here approach us with overwhelming optimism and warm spirits, which makes it all the worse, that they should be the ones to experience such hell. If you, or your organization, are looking for a worthy way to help others, please consider helping those maimed to walk again.   


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

My cousin and friend are visiting

This is Mike...
My cousin and her friend, both from Germany, are coming tomorrow to visit us for 4 or 5 days. We are looking forward to their visit and like any company staying with us we want to make sure it all goes well. We were searching for nice places to stay that were close to the attractions and of course with facilities that can accommodate 3 women, 2 girls, and one very outnumbered man. By chance a unit became available here at the B&B we are already staying at so we know it will work out great. My cousin and her friend will have a nice condo-like unit all to themselves, just outside the cute town of Filandia, and right next door to us. We couldn't be happier, it is a win, win, win for all.
A horse following his master, without a lead, in the main square of Filandia

Elise enjoying one of the many artsy restaurants in the coffee growing area.

The exterior of a supermarket on Filandia's main square

Horses still move coffee and other supplies in this area.

Even the vehicles are colorful here.

This cute building operates as a disco and bar at night.

Our family ate a decent dinner here last night for $18

The cathedral marks the gathering spot of the square.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Salento Colombia

This is Mike...
Quaint towns where the majority of the people follow a similar theme and architectural expression are where fairy tales become towns. That's how Salento, in the coffee triangle, and arguably one of the more touristy spots earned it's reputation for one of the cutest coffee villages in Colombia. The town felt old western and yet colonial at the same time. We had a blast and hopefully one day you can make the trek here as well. I am certain the Colombians will welcome you, as they do us, with wide open arms.
Walking in the town where all wood is colorfully painted.
A "Willy" taxi for the short distances within the town.
Salento had an almost Alpine village feel about it.
The center of the square with the town cathedral
Even the Banco de Colombia building is festively colored.
It looks old western yet colonial at the same time.
The colors go right up to the verandas and overhangs above.
We bought yummy sugar free and milk free ice cream here.
Older gentlemen stopped visitors in their tracks with the beautiful traditional music. 
The beauty and friendliness of the town will be remembered.
The lucky few enjoying delicious cappuccinos perched above the crowds.
Even inside the buildings, like this restaurant we ate at, are well decorated. A half hour after we sat down for lunch there was not a table to be had.
We had American comfort food - total lunch with drinks and tip $20 
Throngs of mostly Colombian visitors dine, shop and stroll in the quaint village. Some of the visitors take gondola rides (seen in background) for panoramic pictures of the town.