Remember that time I said that I’m really paranoid about missing my bus stop in foreign countries, and ya know, ending up in another even foreigner country? Well — if you thought that was silly, you were obviously giving me too much credit.
I didn’t end up actually leaving Colombia. But I did take a two hour detour into the mountains.
I was on my way to Santa Fe de Antioquia, the former Antioquian capital and a popular day trip from Medellin.
I’m a sucker for those cutesy colonial places and Santa Fe has effectively been frozen in time since losing the prestige of capital to their modern metropolis neighbor in 1826. I hopped another bus from the Terminal del Norte with a little more confidence than last time and began what should have been an easy 90 minute ride.
My bus ride seat mate was an older Colombian gentleman, dressed in casual business wear and eager to chat. I offered my apologetic, “Lo siento, no hablo Espanol,” and he laughed and kept chatting with added hand gestures. I shared my chocolate bar with him and he offered to buy me a Popsicle, which I declined. Who eats a Popsicle on a bus, you ask?? THIS guy, that’s who — with a mischievous smirk he wiped his sticky green hands all over the bus window curtains upon completion.
I got a bit caught up in our entertaining exchange of sign language and in watching him just miss my lap with all that Popsicle juice. I heard them announce Santa Fe. I should have immediately bid this new friend farewell and hopped off the bus. But something stopped me.
There was nothing around us when the stop was announced. We were still on a relatively empty dirt road. Only a handful of people got up to exit. So I asked my friend, “Santa Fe?” Pointing at myself with confusion. I thought I was effectively asking if I should get off now. I thought I had already communicated to him that Santa Fe was where I was going — apparently not.
I somehow convinced myself this couldn’t possibly be the main stop for Santa Fe, and relaxed back into my seat — my seat friend seeming to agree with the decision for me to remain on the bus.
About ten minutes later, the back up driver walked down the aisle and stopped at our row with a quizzical look that said precisely,
Gringas on the bus still? That’s not right.
“Santa Fe,” I answered, already accepting that I had screwed this up. He laughed, shook his head, and pointed towards the back of the bus, indicating that obviously, we had passed Santa Fe. He exchanged words with my seat partner, who also laughed.
I was not laughing.
“Necesito regresar!” I pleaded, hoping my verb selection made sense and I hadn’t just made up a word.
They both nodded with several “si, si, si!’s” and we continued on, my destination disappearing behind turns as we climbed back into the mountains.
Forty-five minutes later and no “regresar.” I was no longer amused by my “friend”‘s insistence that this was all bien bien because I could come stay with him. Suddenly he wasn’t so charming and I was much less obliged to converse.
Then we came around a particularly sharp turn as another bus came at us in the opposite direction. Our driver laid on the horn. By this time, the entire bus seemed aware of the lost white chick and everyone was looking at the passing bus and at me in anticipation. Sure enough, the bus passing us slammed on its breaks and we did the same. Now EVERYONE was looking at me as the driver turned around and gestured for me to get the Hell off his bus and onto this other one. I grabbed my bag and boogied as my new chariot opened its door, pointing beautifully in the right direction.
This new bus was completely full, so I was invited to sit next to the driver — immediately receiving an overwhelming amount of attention. The entire bus was already amused by the lost tourist — add my center stage seat and two flirty bus drivers to the equation and suddenly, I’m a star.
The passengers behind us were thoroughly entertained as I offered “Claro!” with uncomfortable laughter to all of the drivers many questions — clearly having no idea what I was saying”Of course!” to. I probably agreed to bear seven children and serve as his handmaid and pedicurist for all of eternity — but I was receiving a free ride and despite my frustration with the whole afternoon, felt obliged to entertain them.
At some point that day, I did make it to Santa Fe de Antioquia. More so than screwing up my bus ride, the afternoon that followed may have been my biggest failure as a travel blogger to date. It was hot. The town was deserted. I was grumpy and forced myself to stay there for a few hours because I had made the trip and felt like I had to. But in all honesty, I didn’t enjoy anything about the town, other than the two beers I downed at lunch.
I should probably go back, and if you go to Colombia, you should probably go to. I’ve heard the area is great on the weekends — there’s a big arts and crafts festival and tons of resorts on the outskirts of the town where you can pay to use the pool for the afternoon. None of this was going on when I was there, so if you visit — go on the weekend, take more pictures than I did, and get off the damn bus when the driver announces the town!
(Don’t worry, I didn’t fail you completely… here are the pictures I did take of Santa Fe to hopefully convince you to experience more of it than I did…)