Monday, March 17, 2008

Manizales and Ecoparque Los Yarumos

Manizales is a city with beautiful architecture. Because it sits atop a hill, each passing street and alleyway provides a scenic view of the surrounding mountains where some of the best Colombian coffee is grown. Though I had visited Nevado del Ruiz and a classic coffee farm, I wanted to explore Manizales today.

I wanted to enter the Río Blanco reserve close to where I was staying, but I couldn’t find the entrance point. Everyone I asked didn’t seem to know much about it. It was another warm sunny day so I walked along the outskirts of the city and to the top of a hill which provided a good panoramic view. The city seemed a lot bigger from the outside looking in than vice versa. I had my DSLR camera around my neck and some locals warned me to be careful because there are thieves. I’ve heard this everywhere I’ve traveled so I didn’t pay it much attention. I wanted to take a walk downtown, but decided to go to Ecoparque Los Yarumos since I couldn’t find the first ecological reserve I was looking for. Although Manizales has a population of about 400,000, it is very clean and has exotic plants and wildlife.

Ecoparque Los Yarumos is a short walk from the main city streets. It is a nature center, museum, and adventure sports haven all mixed in one. It even has an ice-skating rink. When I first entered the eco-park, it looked deserted. Even the main building, which had a museum of the area’s insects and animals in addition to concession shops, was empty. I walked down a path that led me into a tiny jungle, or eco-park. I finally met someone, a local guide, who told me I could hang out or go for a walk while he finished with a group he was taking canopying (zooming across jungle ravines on steel cables). I trekked around the park for about three kilometers, but I was disappointed because I didn’t see any birds or animals so I reached into my backpack and grabbed an apple. As soon as I took my first bite I looked up and saw a big bird perched on a wooden railing in front of me with a florescent blue head and tail. I managed to get a few shots of this beautiful bird before it flew away. I later learned it is difficult to spot and lives in a mud tunnel in which it digs into the side of the hill. I saw some of these tunnel holes along the path but watching a bird leave it takes a lot of patience and time, at least more than I had. I was fortunate to see the one I did.

I walked back to the concession shop and ran into three Germans eating lunch. They had been staying in the same hostel as me and had just arrived. Every hostel where I stayed in Eje Cafetero had lots of Germans. In fact, I have run into them wherever I have traveled. They seem to be all over the globe and like these guys, usually speak English. I was a bit jealous because they spoke fluent Spanish as well. Anyhow, I joined them for lunch and canopying across the jungle ravine. Each of the six cables was longer or faster than the previous one. Because we were strapped into harnesses, we could let go with our hands and soar upside down and do crazy things like that. From the middle of the ravine I could see downtown Manizales. The landing was fun, smashing into a big padded wall that was connected to poles with springs so that it cushioned your impact. It sounded worse than it felt. By the time we finished a big group of local high school kids were canopying as well, but they generally stuck to one spot while the Germans and I used the whole park.

Then it began raining so we had some ice cream before we headed back into town. We stopped at a small army supply shop. Two of the Germans bought a tent and climbing gear for their multiple-night trek in Nevado del Ruiz. They asked me if I wanted to join them, but I had to pass. The one-day trek I had done was good enough for me. I wanted to visit a small town called Salento before the holiday weekend since many local tourists also enjoy this charming mountain town.


DianaCats said...

I've enjoyed very much your posts about the Eje Cafetero; it's a trip I haven't done fully yet, I went to the Nevado del Ruiz some years ago but I got sick (for the altitude) and didn't enjoy it :(

You saw a Momotus momota, a "Barranquero", beautiful bird you also see here in Medellín if you're lucky and get up very early in the morning... that's a good thing of living in a country with so many different types of birds!

Brett Garamella said...

Hi Diana, I am grateful to have gone to Eje Cafetero because I had wanted to visit it for a long time.

Thanks for recognizing the beautiful bird I saw called the Blue-crowned Motmot. Its name had escaped me so I just added the link below in my blog:
My favorite bird is the Cedar Waxwing, and I think the Motmot is almost as beautiful. Tengo suerte.

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