I wake up to the sound of two birds talking. At least that is what it sounds like. When I come out of my room, Rosa explains to me it is time for bird school. She is teaching the birds to talk. They are a beautiful pair of parrots. They are very tame. They coexist with the 3 dogs and the cat.
Rosa has rescued all of them from the street. The dogs were hit by cars and abandoned. The cat found its way here. For Rosa they are her family. She says that not everyone loves animals so sometimes she has to lock them up in the back. It is a shame as they are all beautiful, well groomed, and well behaved. La Demonia should come down here and take a lesson.
Rosa has made me another one of her famous breakfasts. This time with chicken sausage. I try to eat as much as possible. She shakes her head as she watches me. She lectures me about not eating with all the walking I do all day. I tell her not to worry, I won't fade away.
Francisco comes for me. We are going to go look for coffee beans. I have a list. We go to the first place. The beans are all in bags. I am not intererested. I apologize to the young woman and explain to her I am looking for the beans. She has no recommendations.
We go across town to the next place. The same thing. When get back into the car, Francisco says to me "Cafe Luz." He talked to one of the secretarys and she told him who the "tostador" was for the beans and gave him the address. Off we go to the central.
We pull up to a doorway. It doesn't look like much, but when we enter, I am thrilled. The room is filled with beans and a toaster. Like everyone else, they think I am crazy. I explain myself. They are thrilled. They let me see the green beans which are excellent quality. I taste the roasted beans which are good. I buy 2 kilos. They give us a cup of coffee which is wonderful.
Back in the taxi Francisco insists that I see the Mariposero and Jardin Botanico. I want to go to the aguas termales in Santa Rosa. He says I have plenty of time. Famous last words. We head for the Jardin Botanico in Calarco.
The place is spectacular. Francisco tells me he will come get me in 2 hours. I enter. I pay the 12 pesos. I am greeted by a girl who gives me a lecture about how no one receives a salary and they only work for tips. What is this? MENTIRA! Tips are not common in Colombia. This is the first time this has happened to me. They tell me I have to wait to go into the garden. I am the only person there. It is a little confusing.
The girl then asks me "Would I like to buy a tshirt?" No. "Would I like to buy a cup for a memory?" No. "Would I like something to eat or drink?" No. I sit a little longer and then finally I am introduced to another young girl. I am told that she is to be my guide. I am once again told that she does not receive a salary and that I must tip her for her services. Now I am annoyed.
We start out into the garden which is spectacular. We get about 20 feet and the voice of this young woman is A) annoying B) unnecessary. I ask her if I have to have a guide. She tells me yes because the garden has so many plants. I ask her how many species. She tells me 3,000. I tell her the garden in Buenos Aires has 5,000 and I have never had to have a guide. She then tells me I will get lost. I ask her if there is a map, she tells me no. I am angry by this time. I tell her I want to walk in this garden, in nature, in tranquility, not listening to some voice rattling on and on. She tells me that she will then walk with me and not talk and at the end I will give her a tip.
Now I am furious. I tell a tip is not mandatory. It is something you give when you receive good service. I tell her that I have had enough, I want my money back. I refuse to enter this garden with her or anyone else that demands I pay them when they receive a salary.
We go back inside and I receive my entrance. I call Francisco and sit outside. I am hounded by vendors to buy papaya, mango, chocolates. It is annoying. At one point I do tell a woman in a dress who asks why I am sitting so long outside that I am very upset with how this place is run. She goes inside and never appears again. My first negative experience with Colombia. Now I know what it is like to be a tourist.
Francisco comes for me. He is shocked I have spent so little time here. I tell him what happened. He cannot believe it. He is angry. He tells me that I am correct. They are paid a salary and there is no need to have a guide. He feels bad that I was treated this way. This is the first time I have been treated as a tourist. Not nice.
I ask him to take me to the bus station. I want to go to the aguas termales in Santa Rosa. I know that I need to take 3 buses to get there. He drops me off and wishes me luck. I will see him tomorrow morning at 5:30 when I leave for Medellin.
I buy my bus ticket for Pereira. This ride is uneventful. I get there and buy my ticket for Santa Rosa. This ride is also uneventful. Beautiful, but uneventful. The bus leaves me in a small town that is something out of a movie. Everywhere I go people stare at me. I think I am the only blond in the entire country. Santa Rosa has unpaved streets. It looks the wild west. We are to take a chiva to the aguas termales.
A chiva is one of those old fashioned buses. It is four or five brightly painted different colors. I love them. They are so Latin American. The chiva is waiting outside a pool hall that is clearly all men. I ask a guy standing outside when the bus is going to leave. He tells me in 10 minutes. He says I can go inside and get something to drink. I am tired of people staring at me. I decide to go to the bakery across the street and go to the bathroom.
Those women look at me like I am a cockroach. I don't know what is worse. They are shocked I speak Spanish. Lots of people are. It is like having blond hair means you don't speak Spanish. It's OK. I feel so relaxed here, I just take it all in. Even if they think I am a cockroach with blond hair that speaks Spanish with a bizarre accent.
I get on the chiva. The ride up to the aguas termales is wonderful. I meet a woman from Cali and a man from Italy. The driver lets us off. This is a mistake on my part. I should have continued up to the hotel and used the baths up there. It would have cost more, but I think in the end it would have been a better choice.
For some reason the Italian man does not come with us. The woman from Cali and I pay the entrance and head towards the baths. She is a little annoying. Every 5 steps she wants me to take her picture. It is incredibly beautiful here. The air is so fresh. I cannot wait to relax in the hot mineral water. Famous last thoughts.
We get up to the top. There is a sign saying that children must use the pools to the far left. There is to be no running or yelling. We go to the changing house. Marieleana, the woman from Cali, asks how much it costs to rent a towel. I brought my swim suit but not a towel. The girl tells her you have to buy the towel and it costs 20,000 pesos. It is a crappy, little towel. I go over to ask. The girl looks at me, and suddenly the towel becomes 30,000 pesos. I ask her why it was 20,000 for my friend. I am told "they are out of those towels." I tell her no thank you. I prefer to drip dry.
I change my clothes. Marieleana is driving me crazy. She wants to take pictures before we check our stuff. We go out to the pools. I almost have a major heart failure. There are 9 million kids running around screaming and yelling. They are jumping in and out of all the pools. Cumbia music is blaring out of cheap speakers. I feel a bad mood coming on.
Marieleana is not bothered. She is nagging me to take pictures of her in a million places. I want to kill her and camera. Finally I tell her enough. I am going into bad mood mode. I walk away. I am hungry and go look for something to eat. The cafeteria has meat, meat, meat, and two chicken dishes. I ask about one of them. I don't recognize the word. Of course I say po-sho instead of po-yo and the stupid idiot girl goes, NO ENTIENDO. She drives me crazy. Then she asks me if I am from Argentina. She never explains the chicken to me. By this time I so frustrated I decide to just order it. She tells me I have to go pay for it first.
OK, I go to the cashier to pay. Another smart ass, with my accent. She rolls her eyes several times. I finally pay and go back to the other girl who takes my order. It is a miracle when I get my food. I am amazed at this treatment. Being a tourist here is no fun.
I take my tray and sit down. The food is great. Basically it is a chicken leg, arepas, rice, and salad. I watch the children running around screaming. I wonder how long I am going to tolerate this. I don't know what is worse, the screaming children or the blaring cumbia music out of bad speakers.
After I eat I walk around the mineral baths trying to figure out which ones to go into. I do not exactly fit in here. I am a single very white woman, with blond hair, in a bikini. Everyone around me is dark. If they are not in a couple they are children. So, you can imagine my situation. It is a little wierd. This is a family place and I have no family. Maximiliana is back in Argentina with her paseador.
I go into one pool. The children seem to multiply like cockroaches. The situation seems to get worse. I am not happy. Marieleana wanted to share a taxi back. I am not sure I can wait. I get out of the water and walk around. I know I am being stared at. So much for a relaxing time.
When I go back to the pools Marieleana is talking to a young man that works there. I tell her that I am probably going to leave. I tell her I am not happy here. The screaming children and blaring music is not my idea of relaxation. The young man tells me I should come have a massage. I politely decline. I tell him I do not want to spend one more peso.
He agrees it is out of control today. He doesn't know why. He says it usually is not that way. At that moment a kid comes up next to me and with an ear splitting yell right in my ear he screams. I want to kill the little fucker. Instead, I tell the guy "Chau, me voy." I don't even say good bye to Marieleana . I get my things, I change my clothes, and I walk down the hill.
I ask for a taxi. I am told it is 20,000 pesos. I am furious. The idiot calls me Mr. I tell him "Yo no soy "Mr." He argues with me. This is not a good day. I tell him I am many things, but Mr. is not one of them. I am a Señorita or a Señora, but not a Mr. because that is a Señor. I also tell him that I am an English teacher and if he wants a lesson I will be happy to give him one - for 30,000 pesos.
I am really beginning to hate this place. There are no buses back. You have no choice but to wait for a taxi that is overpriced. Even if a taxi comes to drop people off, they go back empty. I tell them they are a mafia. I don't care. I have turned into a rabid Porteña. I am sick of these people. I tipped the girl who had my clothes. There is a bigh sign that says tipping is not mandatory and she complained I didn't tip her enough. I brought it to her attention that I was the only one who tipped her.
Finally my taxi comes. I have a nice conversation with the driver. Like many Colombians they want my opinion of their president and their country. They all hate Chavez and they cannot understand why the President of Argentina would choose to align hereself with Venezuela. I tell him we ask the same.
We get to the bottom of the hill and he tells me he will take me to the terminal in Santa Rosa. I ask him How much. He tells me 30,000 pesos. I ask him if I look stupid. He tells me no,that I am a very intelligent women. "Then why would I pay you 30,000 pesos when I can take the bus for 1800?" He doesn't have an answer. I throw 20,000 pesos at him and jump out of his taxi. I see the bus coming. I am glad to be getting out of this city.
I get into the bus. Two buses later I am on the way to Armenia. Thank God. This has not been the best of days. My cell phone rings. "Donde estas?" It is Henry. I tell him I am near the terminal in Armenia. He tells me Rosita is worried about me. It is almost 9. He tells me to wait for him at the terminal where the taxis are. He will come to get me.
My time is Armenia is coming to an end. Tomorrow I will be going to Medellin. Another adventure.