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June 7


Prefolded paper since space at a premium in my overnight bag —

Saturday in Bogotá relatively quiet, the sisters and I visited the Museo de Oro, a collection of mostly gold objects with a bit of archaeological and ethnographic background. Some very beautiful objects, a lot of others. Some earrings much reminiscent of Achaemenid and of Egyptian work; a museum primarily for the Andean specialist, though.

Saturday evening we went to an Antioqueño restaurant (Antioquia is the province of Medellín), in an adobe house painted red white and green, with straw sleeping-mats serving as panelling all around our individual room upstairs; canned music which we turned off in our room — but live music, two male guitarists and a woman percussionist, which was the high point of the evening, the food being very heavy stews (pretty good) served with a prebottled I think mixture of beer and sweet chemical cola drink — called a refaje — the Col. equiv. of a demi-panaché, which is quite dreadful.

Our singers came in twice, before dinner to sing four ditties about death, three sad, one not: an account of some people going to sell their harvest of coca "para Nueva York y Chicago" being ambushed by the narcs, all seven wind up dead —

After dinner, they came back to sing of love, such tender romantic songs. Fairly typical verse, the refrain to "I met her in a bar, I lost her in another", addressed to the ex-beloved:

Si no me crées

Te corto la cara

Con una cuchilla

De esas de afeitar;

El día de la boda

Te doy puñalada

Te saco los ojos,

Te arranco el ombrigo,

Te mato tu mamá.

which being interpreted is

If you don't believe me

I'll cut up your face

With a shaving blade;

The day you get married

I'll stab you,

Pull out your eyes,

Rip out your navel,

And kill your mom.

Yesterday Sunday Adriana the 24‑yr. old daughter drove us to Paipa, up a bit, down a bit, to wind up still at 8350 feet; after Mass at the neighborhood church, quite wonder­ful interior composed of individual parts that are all horrible —

It's quite pointless attempting to describe the winding roads with views of distant blue peaks on various sides and enormous bright green valleys dropping 1500 feet down or more from the road, occasionally at the passes enveloped in mists — some of the most beautiful scenery I've seen anywhere; like the hills of Italy in bigger, greener and cooler, although admittedly not as well set off by churches and monuments despite occasional surprises. Unfortunately the towns are dumps, the cities total catastrophes, and occasionally, too often, the scenery is punctuated with lime or sand or gypsum quarries cut with zero regard for the scenery. Still, all in all (and despite the accidents — we saw 4 fresh ones, though none actually to occur, in 140 km. — which characteristically are transmuted into small roadside shrines of concrete with crosses, virgins, fresh or plastic flowers; in all manner of shapes) the countryside is phenomenal.

[image ALT: A grassy space next to a small parking lot with a lake in the background. In the foreground, a man and an alpaca walking towards the camera, perfectly in step. The man is grinning widely; it's a picture of me and yet another animal friend.]

Somewhere along the way we stopped for a cup of coffee at a roadside restaurant. As usual, I headed for the nearest animal, in this case an alpaca in the parking lot. [And noticed 20 years later: I really do like 'em! Here, quite unintentionally, I'm keeping step with my friend.]

Paipa itself is slightly less so, in a large valley one-half of which, size and all, looks remarkably like the valley of St. B. actually (the less nice half); but the 20,000‑inhab. town has been pleasantly developed to the tourist trade due to fumaroles and near-boiling springs in turn channelled into hotels. Our hotel is in fact a subsidized company hotel of Lupe's company, and is quite clean and pleasant, with a large addictive pool of hot saline calcareous sulfureous and radioactive waters, with three effects on me — calmant, skin tonic, and slightly laxative — and I read these to be among its specificities only well after my 2d bath in it. (The temperature is brought down to 40°C, but unregulated springs dot the valley).

Early this morning, I went up the hill behind us (2 km × 2; about 150 m in altitude), just on a small paved road: well over 40 species of flowering wildflowers; I picked whatever there was a lot of and stared at my collection from time to time in an effort to memorise them for when I buy my botanical key (a friend of Adriana's found where to get one) in Bogotá later. A physalis with leaves more pilose and softer than stachys; speaking of which, a stachys not ours with white flowers; at least one heath(er?); saxifrages, mosses, lichens, ferns, a small solanum less good than ours with a white flowers; a few rather spectacular fuchsia-ish types. In cultivated bloom dahlia bougainvillea rose hibiscus arabis lantana geranium and a sort of bignonia with a flower very similar in colors and markings to Malva althea but trumpet-shaped —

This afternoon, went to Pantano de Vargas (spectacular monument)​a and Duitama (say 80.000 people with lovely 18th? cent. cathedral) — Running out of space — [. . .]


Later Note for the Web:

a A part of my visit of the departamento de Boyacá unfairly gets very short shrift in this letter, because of the small writing paper. The spectacular monument at Pantano de Vargas, part of which you see here,

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See also this photo, less good but giving the scale of the sculpture.

commemorates the battle here on July 25th, 1819, in which Simon Bolivar decisively defeated the Spanish royal army, thanks in great part to a courageous charge by Juan José Rondón and fourteen of his lancers. The monumental group, 100 meters long by 33 meters high, was cast in 1968‑1970 by Colombian sculptor Rodrigo Arenas Betancourt: each of the fourteen horse-and‑rider groups weighs two and a half tonnes.

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Page updated: 2 Dec 17