Tag Archives: columbia

Holy Semana Santa!!!

(This Post Covers April 20th- May 2nd)

Note for new subscribers (and reminder to others) Whenever you get an email update of a new post its better to click on the blue link above in your email that is the name of the post, for instance in this post where it says “Holy Semana Santa!!!”.  That will take you to the actual website where it is better to view the post than from in your email inbox.  

So my last post left me in Manizales, sitting in the rain and trying to make a plan for the approaching Semana Santa religious holiday.

Two days before the beginning of Semana Santa I still had no plans.  There were a few places I would have liked to go but the mudslides from all the recent rains had closed several highways and eliminated a lot of my options.  So I just decided to take a tour of “Small Town Colombia” and to spend half of Semana Santa in a small town called Quimbaya and the other half in an even smaller town called Filandia.  Neither are in any guidbooks and I had not met any travelers who had been to either town, so it was to be a nice off-the-beaten-path adventure.

Church on the plaza in Filandia

I’ll keep the narrative short but I will say that I made a good choice.  It was so nice to be in some small local towns, not a hostel or a gringo in site, but plently of friendly locals. Both towns had some nice charm but Filandia, the smaller of the two (population 7,000) was my favorite.  In both towns the locals gathered in happy hourds around the central plaza as if it were the Kaaba at Mecca.  The sun came out for the first time in weeks and I spent almost all my time sitting in the plazas, lazily content in people watching.  With the holiday from work, the coming together of families, and the recently emerged sun, there was lots of good energy in the air and it felt nice to spent time observing the whole ordeal.

On the plaza in Filandia

This was the view from a lookout point that was a 10 minute walk form the main plaza in Filandia

The church on the plaza in Quimbaya

The plazas were always full of vendors selling food and ice cream, sometimes there would be music, and always lots of kids running around playing.  Once or twice a day a mass would take place at the church on the central plaza and preceding and/or proceeding the mass there was always a “Procesión”, a procession that always started and/or ended at the church.  A mass of people would, somewhat solemnly, walk through the streets of the town following statues of Jesus, Mary Magdalen, The Virgin Mary, and other biblical characters as they were led down narrow streets accompanied by high school marching bands and church officials.

Street procession in Filandia

Jesus being led out of the church to make his 3rd appearance in a procession that day.

Photos couldn’t really capture the essence of the processions that were such a big part of the Semana Santa celebrations so I threw together a quick little video of what they were like.  Click below to check it out:

 

After Semana Santa I headed back to Bogota where I planned to regroup with my friend Silvia and head to Santender, another region of Colombia.  The bus ride was supposed to be 7 hours but do to mechanical problems (we had to change busses twice) it took 11 hours.  Status quo?  So I hung out in Bogota for a week, made a plan and took off to Santender where adventures in fossils, colonial towns, edible ants, and “international” nature walks awaited me.  Coming soon.

To see more photos (some have descriptions that will explain the story behind them) from Semana Santa click here:  More Photos From Semana Santa.


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Coco Hits the Newstands, Semana Santa Pergatory

This Post Covers April 12th- April 19th

Click below to listen to a very classic Colombian song, it’s from a genre of music called Cumbia that began in Colombia and is now popular all over Latin America.  This song is called La Pollera Colora recorded by Pedro Selcedo y Su Orquestra in 1963

So if I didn’t mention it before, my good friend Jr. who I stayed with in Sao Paulo and who helped me buy Coco is a journalist.  A month or so after I hit the road with Coco, Jr. landed a job writing for the Folha de Sao Paulo which is largest newspaper in Brazil (Bravo Jr.!) which must make it one of the biggest newspapers in all of Latin America.  Well a couple of weeks ago his editor asked him to come up with a story for the Saturday paper, something light and fun for people to read on Saturday morning.  He told him about his gringo friend who bought a VW bus and drove it across the whole country and proposed a story about it, his editor liked the idea, checked out my blog, got even more excited, and by the end of the day he had decided to give Jr. an entire page of the Saturday paper for the story!  So I went to work answering a slew of interview questions for Jr, and his editor and well…it didn’t run in the Saturday paper but it did run in the Sunday paper!  The Adventures of  Coco made big news all across the entire country of Brazil!  Hits on my blog went through the roof!  So below is the article as it ran in the paper. Hope you all have been practicing your Portuguese.

Ok, back to Colombia and picking up where I left off in my previous post. During my adventurous bus ride back to Cali from San Cipriano (if you havent seen the video I made about the adventure you can view it here: The Scenic Route Through San Cirpiano.)  I had plenty of time to think about the quickly approaching “Semana Santa”, a holy holiday that would begin in less than a week.  For the Colombians, Semana Santa is kind of the equivalent of the American Thanksgiving holiday, but instead of gathering to give thanks for….what exactly are we Americans giving thanks for on Thanksgiving?  Indians?  Food?    Anyways, like thanksgiving, Semana Santa in Latin America is a reason for people to travel from all over the country to spend a long weekend with family.  Just replace the turkey and stuffing with religious processions.  Statues of Christ and the Virgin Mary being paraded through streets and plazas, the smell of incense mingling with an instrumental version of Simon and Garfunkels “The Sound of Silence” being played by a middle school marching band (Yea, I never quite figured out how that became the official anthem of Semana Santa but I heard it being played and practiced in 3 different cities) .

Everyone travels to be with their families.  For backpackers, especially ones that don’t plan ahead like me, Semana Santa is a big pain in the ass.  It was the topic of discussion in all the hostels two weeks leading up to it “What are you doing for Semana Santa?”.  “I have no idea”, I would reply.  The smart ones would reply “Well, you better figure it out soon…we booked a hostel in Popayan 2 months ago”.  Very impressive.  I did not.  The thing with Semana Santa is that if you planned ahead and booked a hostel in one of the cities that is known for its Semana Santa processions it can be a very rich and interesting cultural experience.  But since everyone travels that week the busses fill up and/or bus prices skyrocket.  So if you didn’t book a hostel in a cool “Semana Santa City”, you’re only options is to pick some other random town or city to hunker down in – wait out the storm.  That being  the option I was facing, I sat there on my overturned plastic bucket behind the passenger seat of the bus and contemplated my plans.

I decided to first head to Buga.  A place that would make every other backpacker or local for that matter ask “Why are you going to Buga?”.  I was going because A.) No-one else goes there. B.) I needed a quite place to catch up on photo-editing and blogging.  And C.) Because it is known as a bit of a Catholic Mecca in Colombia.  It is a SUPER religious town with a huge cathedral that people literally make pilgrimages to visit.  I figured it would get me into the Semana Santa spirit.  So I returned to Cali, woke up the next morning and headed to Buga.

The Cathedral in Buga

"Miraculous Store"

I actually enjoyed Buga. It’s a nice little city,the cathedral is indeed impressive and there are dozens of other small churches scattered around the center of town.  One of the funniest things was the 40 or so (literally) shops lining the streets near the  Cathedral peddling any religious merchandise you can imagine but specializing in the kitsch variety.  Want a figurine doll of Saint Barthalameu  “Claro señor! Would you like the small one, or the large one? Porcelain or wood?  With or without holy water?”.  Isnt there a story in the bible about Jesus loosing his temper with the people selling things in front of the temple?

So I killed a couple days in Buga wandering around and catching up with online chores. With 5 days until Semana Santa, my planning had only taken me as far as my next destination, Manizales.  I figured from there I would make a plan for Semana Santa and spend some days doing what people do around there, hiking around the Parque Nacional de Los Nevados, or visiting coffee plantations.  Instead I found myself trapped in my hostel for 4 days while the wettest winter in the history of Colombia (*literally*) was unfolding beyond the windows of the hostel.  Landslides and flooding killed 300 people in two months.

The day before the Semana Santa holiday was to begin I made a spilt second decision, I had to get out of Manizales before I drowned in torrential rains and my own boredom.  I jumped on a bus and headed to…Quimbaya?

A very holy update coming soon.

Where, What, When, How Much, How Long, & Personal Recommendations

  • Bus from Cali to Buga- 3 hours, 7,500 COP
  • Hostel in Buga- Called *Buga Hostel* $17,000 COP, An American andGerman guy just opened this first and only hostel in Buga…was really nice,they have artesian beer and good pizza.  You can walk there from the bus station, it’s about 8 blocks.
  • Bus from Buga to Manizales- 17,500 COP
  • Hostel in Manizales- Mountain House Hostel, 18,000 COP.  Nice place, I’d reccomend.