Colombian Campfire Stories: Week 241

Lookout tower at Ecoparque Regional Alcázares-Arenillo: Manizales, Colombia

The entrance to Ecoparque Regional Alcázares-Arenillo was hidden at the end of a neighborhood cul-de-sac. Of all the nature reserves in Manizales, this one is one of the quieter ones.

A large bamboo tower stood close to the entrance and contained two small rooms where the park wardens lived. At the very top was a platform with pleather chairs and a beautiful view of the valley below.

Every now and then the park hosts paranormal nights, and this was the reason my friends and I visited the park after work on a Monday. After watching the sunset we moved towards the growing pile of firewood. Twenty-somethings began arriving with motorcycle helmets in hand and many of them had also brought bags of candy and peanuts to pass around the campfire.

Steep staircase at Ecoparque Regional Alcázares-Arenillo: Manizales, Colombia

Once a large enough group had assembled, the main speaker introduced himself. He wore loose jeans and a white shirt that stretched across his belly. Because he had been a priest for twelve years, what followed was a very bizarre blend of mysticism and Catholicism.

After recounting a moment where he had been dragged back to earth after flying through a rainbow-colored tunnel towards the gates of heaven, the speaker turned the conversation to one of the most dangerous markets in Manizales.

La Galleria is famous for its cheap deals and rough atmosphere, but it apparently is also known for its witch market. Concerning this, I learned that casual sex is dangerous because socks and underwear can be compromised. Anyone with bad intentions could wash said items and use that water to make manipulative potions.

And what would be the best method to avoid this? This is obviously where Catholicism came into play as the answer was to avoid sex.

Scopalmine- aka Devil’s Breath- was also mentioned and it’s a much more credible threat because it actually a drug that erases memory and turns people passive and acquiescent. In fact, it was used during the cold war as a truth serum.

Scopalmine resembles cocaine but it need only be blown into one’s face for the drug to take effect and the victim to be susceptible to outside influence. It can also used for the infamous paseo millonario– which is when friendly strangers drag you arround town for a quick visit to all the best ATMs.

The discussion got even more interesting when the floor opened up for a Q&A. I had taken it for granted that all the others were as skeptical as me, but I soon realized I was wrong. Not only was the audience all ears, but they started asking some wacky questions.

Beautiful sunset at Ecoparque Regional Alcázares-Arenillo: Manizales, Colombia

Do babies have a direct celestial connection to God? -They do.

Why don’t the babies remember their direct celestial connection? -They grow up.

What colors are in my aura? -White, grey and red.

About two hours into the evening there was a ten minute break after which the speaker was going to attempt to call up a spirit. My friends and I decided to leave because as a rule of thumb, we only like to raise the spirits on the weekend. And we were hungry.

The campfire stories were not at all like what I was expecting, however it was interesting to experience the superstitious side of Manizales. I don’t think I will ever look at dirty bras the same way.

View from the lookout tower at Ecoparque Regional Alcázares-Arenillo: Manizales, Colombia

How to get to Ecoparque Regional Alcázares-Arenillo: Catch a blue buseta that lists La Aurora as a destination. Get off at Calle 5 & Carrera 22 – this is just outside downtown Manizales and the Plaza de Toros.

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Ecoparque Los Yarumos: Week 229

Yellow Jesus statue at Ecoparque Los Yarumos: Manizales, Colombia

We didn’t quite know where we were going when we set out Sunday morning; we were just heading in the direction of a giant yellow statue. It is quite visible, especially from our apartment in Cable.

It took us about half an hour, but we eventually found our way to a steep street lined with speakers blasting tinny melodies. The home of the yellow curiosity was Ecoparque Los Yarumos. It was early in the morning, so there were only a few families pushing their kids through the turnstile and into the park grounds. I was kind of surprised it was even open and staffed before 9am.

Barret and I had a quick stroll around before we found the cafeteria and bought two pintados. That’s the local term for a cup of milk with a splash of coffee. It comes in a sage-green plastic cup that is so thin the bottom tends to bulge from the weight of the liquid. I like the milk to coffee ratio, but Barret’s not quite convinced.

View from Ecoparque Los Yarumos: Manizales, Colombia

We found a bench near the top of the park and looked out over the city. While the view was great, it kind of felt like you needed kids to enjoy all the activities at Los Yarumos. There was a nature trail, but it was closed till the afternoon and only accessible with a guide.

Neighborhood playground: Manizales, Colombia

Not to worry though- it was a beautiful day and the walk back down was spent photographing Manizales architecture. Many of the neighborhoods are built terrace-style using cinder blocks and red bricks. The front of the house has a finished, painted texture, while the less visible parts of the house tend to be exposed brick.

Green house with purple tile work: Manizales, Colombia

I feel like the architecture is not wildly different from the US, but there are unique touches that remind me that I am somewhere foreign. The most obvious difference would be the bright color combinations. However, the tile work and the dainty decorative metal also catch my eye.

Font on an old public school: Manizales, Colombia

Even things that might seem standard are interpreted in surprisingly different ways in Colombia. Concrete sidewalks have patterns etched into them and I’ve even seen some hand chiseled curbs. It was Barret who noticed that the metal bars on windows tend to be on the inside of the house while the glass is on the outside.

Sidewalk texture: Manizales, Colombia

These are just some of the things that keep me busy during my walks or my ride to work. I might see these kinds of details every day, but I’m not bored with them yet.

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