A Weekend at a Finca: Week 234

The patio of Finca La Cristalina in Santagueda, Colombia

In Colombia it is very popular to rent a finca for the weekend, especially around the warm coffee-growing regions of Caldas. Fincas are country houses, often with pools, that are rented out to large groups of people.

There are several agencies in Manizales that deal specifically with finca listings and one of the most important things to consider is the capacity of the venue. It is much more common to rent the entire finca than it is to rent a single room- so you want to find the right place for the right number of people.

Santagueda is a popular destination for sun-seekers in Manizales. Although it is only an hour west, the lower elevation makes for a huge temperature difference. The drive down through the green valleys and moss-covered trees is beautiful. In the center of town we stopped at a supermarket to load up on ice and alcohol.

Since our finca had a pool, we were planning on lounging around it all weekend. While fincas are fully furnished, it is important to bring your own soap, dish washing implements, and extra toilet paper. And even if you did want to pay someone else to cook, you might still have to supply the food- so always bring enough food.

A motorcycle vendor selling ice cream at Finca La Cristalina: Santagueda, Colombia

Although, if you didn’t stock up on enough dessert, in Santagueda there are men on motorcycles that drive onto the fincas with ice cream-filled styrofoam boxes. My favorite flavor was the cheese and bocadillo.

Fincas are also very popular for family reunions and other special events. And if there is anything I have learned about these kind of events, it’s that loud music is very popular and there really isn’t a noise complaint culture. In fact, the name for a wake-up call at sunrise that involves a lot of noise is an alborada. My guess is that is also involves an early start for drinking.

So unless you are somewhere isolated or on a working finca (aka a farm), you might be close enough to your neighbors to hear their music blasting all day and night. We didn’t have loud music playing at our place, but the neighbor did. Despite blasting songs all night, I managed to sleep soundly till about 7am.

A tiny turtle found on the grounds of Finca La Cristalina: Santagueda, Colombia

Normally this would make me grumpy, but early morning in Santagueda was beautiful. I’ve heard so much about the bird variety in Colombia, but I hadn’t experienced any of it until I sat on the porch in the early morning. I put my legs up and watched the colorful birds swoop through the massive yard for a good hour or two. I even saw a tiny little turtle crawling through the stalks of grass.

One by one the others began to wake up around 9am. Massive skillets were pulled out of the kitchen and the beers started to crack open. Eggs and the hair of the dog was up for breakfast. I was really looking forward to a lazy afternoon- renting the whole place meant we only had to leave by 5pm. It was time to unwind from the unwinding and to continue enjoying the warm weather.

About: Finca listings in Santagueda

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Queensland Roadtrip: Week 145

Polaroid of wallaby roadkill: Queensland, Australia

“Oh, there’s another. Did you see that?”

“Yeah.”

“Definitely a wallaby, kangaroos are bigger and have a boxier snout.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah,” I replied. “Hopefully we’ll get to see a live one.”

Polaroid of Surf Life Savers (one in a stinger suit): Queensland, Australia

Like New Zealand, campervans are a very popular way to see the country. Actually, in most parts of Australia they are the only way to go- which is great news for the rental businesses. On the other hand, due to the vastness of the country it’s not always easy to get the vans back where they need them.

This is where a relocation service like iMoova comes in. The company specifies the period of travel, pickup/drop off location, and sets a daily rate- most run as low as $5 a day. The listings are updated daily and usually only cover the following two weeks, which makes it best suited for people with flexibility and time.

Polarid of the stinger nets for jellyfish season: Queensland, Australia

Originally I had hoped for a Brisbane to Sydney trip, but when I saw a great deal for Brisbane to Cairns, I jumped on it. Even though it was Christmas, we managed to get a hightop campervan for three people for an entire week for only $200. It also included 3 free refills and all additional cooking and sleeping equipment. In the words of the booking agent it was, “the deal of the century.”

Noosa Heads was our first stop. The rocky coastline was fringed with eucalypt forests and, if we were lucky, koalas. The water was clear and warm and, unlike most of the beaches we visited further north, we didn’t need to swim in a stinger net (like in the photo above). Summer in northern Australia is the high season for extremely poisonous jellyfish.

Part of a series of signs along the A1 to remind drivers to stay alert: Queensland, Australia

Everything’s dangerous in Australia, even the roads. Along the A1 was a series of trivia signs that “may save your life.” Seriously, that’s what they said.  Further down the road was a Driver Reviver. These kinds of rest areas were manned by volunteers who passed out free tea and coffee. The Lions Club was there that day and they were very generous with the shrink-wrapped biscuits. I put a few coins in the donation box and thanked the retired volunteer. His colleague had a large bandage on his cheek and was patterned like an aging leopard.

That night in Petrie Park, Tiaro we played Frisbee until the mosquitoes turned us in. The dining table and bench seating became mine and Barret’s bed while the alcove above was Mikayla’s. It had seemed spacious until Mikayla reluctantly crawled up there. Her petite frame expanded like Alice’s did when she nibbled the eat me cake. Suddenly the bunk bed was a claustrophobic cave.

After a minute of forlornly testing it out, a small translucent spider crawled across the fuzzy ceiling. Mikayla killed it and jumped back down. We all grabbed a cold ginger beer from the fridge and held it against our necks. It was going to get warm with the three of us squeezed together. Outside the stuffy van the stars shone, the cane toads croaked, and the breeze languidly blew.

Polaroid of Poinciana trees in bloom: Queensland, Australia

In the morning we knocked a molted cicada shell off our front tire and continued driving. Highway A1 ran through dry eucalypt country and fields of tilled red earth. Blooming Poinciana trees dotted the front yards of rural homes and were a startling burst of color against the green and taupe vegetation.  In Childers we photographed a fiberglass velociraptor; in Bundaberg we bought a bottle of rum; in Tannum Sands we barbequed lunch.

This part of the coast had gold sand and murky emerald water. However, between the salt water crocs and deadly jellyfish, swimming was impossible. We just kept on driving, there were still 1,200km to go.

About: iMoova car relocations

About: Transfercar

About: Noosa Heads

How to get to the Bundaberg distillery: Whittred St, Bundaberg QLD 4670

Polaroid of a typical raised house: Queensland, Australia

Vanuatu: Week 119

Polaroid of a Twin Otter: Tanna, Vanuatu

Sapos yu no respecktim law ia, bae mifala i putum long hand blong ol polis.

Offenders will be prosecuted by the police.

Barret and I were on a Twin Otter aircraft flying between the islands of Efate and Tanna. The small plane seated 18 people, each passenger weighed at the check-in gate like grocery store produce. I should have felt reassured that the plane wasn’t overburdened, but I couldn’t stop reading the flight safety card in front of me and thinking about all the celebrities that have died in small airplanes.

No smok.

The fact that there was no door separating my foot from the faded and worn cockpit was also a cause of anxiety. You see, some things are best left unknown. I like to imagine my pilots are vigilantly scanning the horizon and pushing knobs, but the reality is they aren’t. They actually take their eyes off the clouds for long periods of time to write stuff in old blue binders.

Treetop Lodge on Tanna Island, Vanuatu

The descent towards the small airfield ran along the rugged coast. From up above we could see aquamarine blue holes and rolling jungle-clad hills. While it was a beautiful view, Barret and I quickly realized that Tanna was best experienced by foot.

From our lodge, Barret and I walked two hours to Port Resolution for a beer. The long, dusty road was the only straight shot connecting the east and west side of the island. It was also the local meeting place. Sometimes we crossed paths with an entire village and other times we said hello to kids rolling oranges together; the bruised rinds filled the air with citrus.

Lable on Tusker Beer, Vanuatu

Only one car passed us, going in the opposite direction. It stirred up the volcanic dust that had settled on the ground and squashed lizards. The electric blue tails still shimmered in the sunlight as we walked past. The luckier lizards rustled along the banks of the road and made the dry leaves sound like they had small legs.

On a map Port Resolution looks like a small town, but in reality it is a village of beautifully woven huts. It was the kind of place you’d see in a National Geographic article but you could never imagine living there because heaven shouldn’t require so much dusting.

Polaroid of a hut in Port Resolution: Tanna, Vanuatu

Around late afternoon Barret and I began the walk back. We had about an hour and a half to get to the rim of Mt Yasur in time for a volcanic sunset.

Half an hour into our walk we heard footsteps and a howling puppy behind us. We kept walking but after a few minutes curiosity finally got the better of me and I looked back. Twenty feet away were two young girls and two older women, all with sticks in their hands. The group chuckled when they saw me and the young girl making the barking noises began to whistle. It was the kind of sound you’d make when you wanted your friend’s attention.

“Barret, I think we are supposed to whistle back.”

Barret looked over his shoulder and met the same laughter and giggles as I did.

“You think?”

“Yeah, do it!”

“Why don’t you try?”

“C’mon, you know I can’t whistle! Don’t you have some special method?”

Barret pinched his lower lip, but before he could make a noise the girls beat him to it. Against a chorus of piercing whistles Barret changed tactics and cupped his hands to his mouth. He sounded like a teapot that just couldn’t boil.

Entrance ticket for Mt Yasur: Tanna, Vanuatu

Our audience was still tittering when Barret plucked a blade of grass from the side of the road. He wiped the ash off with his shirt and pinned it between his thumbs. Since we were facing forward we couldn’t see the group’s expression, but when Barret finally made the soggy blade of grass sing, the women erupted in cheers and the two young girls enthusiastically returned our throaty calls.

We were halfway into our rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star when I heard someone call out. I looked over my shoulder and saw the group standing in the road. “Barret, I think I heard them say goodbye.”

“Huh? No, there’s no place to go.” We hadn’t passed any roads or walking paths, just jungle. Barret glanced back again. “Hey- I think you’re right.”

When I realized they were indeed leaving, I was suddenly felt sad. Since arriving in Vanuatu I had become fixated on the idea of needing a talent like juggling, ukelele skills, or really impressive dance moves. In my mind it was an act of reciprocity- a ‘thanks for sharing your time, I would like to share mine too.’ There was so much I wanted to share, but unfortunately the US was represented with a wet turkey whistle.

Polaroid of Mt Yasur: Tanna, Vanuatu

I was at a loss until I suddenly remembered something- “come on Barret!” My boyfriend looked confused but he sensed my determination. “Come on!” I roused him again, “You need to show them your mouth thing!”

As we approached the girls their cheerful expressions turned into bewilderment.

“We want to show you something,” I said before pressing my finger against my lips. “Listen- it’s quiet.”

Under close scrutiny Barret lifted his hand and flicked his middle finger against his cheek. The first few times he did this, the girls still looked confused. After a few more flicks on his cheek they finally heard it- the sound of a falling water drop. Their faces lit up and a big smile spread across their lips.

Mission accomplished. Barret and I waved goodbye and continued on to Mt Yasur.

Mt Yasur erupting: Tanna, Vanuatu

About: Vanuatu

About: Tanna

About: Mt Yasur

How to get around: Air Vanuatu

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