Thursday, January 24, 2013

Day Trip To Tierra Caliente

When I was growing up in Philadelphia, during the summer people'd often say "it's not the heat, it's the humidity". It was/is in reference to the fact that Philadelphia tends to have very humid summers and that people "didn't mind the heat" as much as they minded sweating profusely and not being able to cool off. All I know is that it was f'n hot...and humid...and not pleasant especially during late summer.

Bogota's weather, on the other hand, is much more like southern California in that its Mediterranean climate is fairly consistent during the year. I looked up the weather history for the last calendar year and the overall, annual average temperature was about 57F (14C) with a range of around 66F (19C) in the day to 45F (7C) at night. The daily average temperature really doesn't vary much (maybe 3F) but I can't count the number of times that someone's said something along the lines of "today's colder than yesterday" to me. It's Bogota's weather-expression equivalent to Philadelphia's "it's not the heat...". I laugh every time I hear it as it feels the same to me every day since the only difference is whether it's sunny out or not.

Even though Colombia's in the tropics, Bogota's high elevation (~8,600 feet above sea level) makes the weather pleasant and non-humid most of the time, even after a rain. The rest of Colombia, on the other hand, tends to be much lower in elevation and, for the most part, fairly tropical. People in Bogota call every area that's not at high elevation, and therefore warmer and more humid, "la tierra caliente" (the hot lands). The hot lands are surprisingly close to the city; it's possible to drive there, down some pretty dramatic hills, in about an hour or so.

This past week, Diana's best friend from when she was growing up, Angelica, invited us to go visit her in-laws for the day at their second home in tierra caliente west of Bogota. Her in-laws needed Diana's architectural advice for some work they're considering. How could we say no?

Their place is in a village about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from where we're living. Along the way, we stopped at the Salto de Tequendama (Tequendama Falls), which is a 433-foot-tall ** (132m) waterfall on the Bogota River:

The area is especially amazing when you realize that it's like a 15-minute drive from the creeping edge of Bogota. If you look closely at the photo above, you'll see an old hotel on the right cliff that was once pretty posh but is now abandoned. Supposedly it's haunted by the souls of the folks who chose to take the big leap at Tequendama. There are a couple (of other) bummers at the site including a smoke stack at a business located near the falls that's dumping out what looks (and smells) to be pretty toxic smoke. Add to that the unnatural foaminess of the Bogota River, which is claimed to be one of the most polluted rivers in the world. Other than the seemingly sketchy environmental oversight, it's a lovely place and well worth a visit.

About ten minutes farther on our journey, we stopped at the side of the road to look out over some of tierra caliente stretched out below:

In a way, the trip down the mountain reminded me of the Big Island of Hawaii where you can go from sea level up to the top of the volcano, which is at about 13,800 feet (4,200m). You go from tropical at the bottom to sometimes seeing (quite a bit) of snow at the top. Going from Bogota down isn't as dramatic but I love watching the foliage change on to tropical on the way. Some Colombian banana plants in our hosts' tierra caliente "garden":

The temperature and humidity difference between when we left the city and when we arrived at their house, which is at around 2,000 feet, was staggering. My guess is that it was in the high-80s (~32C) and quite a bit more humid. I fully understand why the lowlands are called caliente!

A jumbo-sized mango tree with about 1,000,000 mangoes that we passed while on a walk around the area. And, yes, that's a (ill-fitting) sombrero that I'm wearing. Angelica's father-in-law bought it during a trip to Chichen Itza in Mexico. (Side note: I should write one day about where I used to live in Mexico. Maybe when I run out of stuff to write about...)

I firmly believe that I'm meant to live in the tropics, especially where coffee grows. I love the weather. I love the plants. The down side (if it is one) is the desire to take a nap around 2pm every day. Some wild flowering orchids (!!!) that I found:

I recently wrote about some of the foods in Colombia. We weren't disappointed at the feast that Angelica's parents put together for us. The sancocho soup has corn and yucca from their garden, beef, and potatoes. On the left is some rice, gallo (rooster) leg, and an avocado also grown in the garden. The little container at the top is "aji" (ah-hee), which is a lightly-spicy Colombian salsa. Oh, and all of this was just my serving! Amazing. Amazing. Amazing.

Like I said, the problem, especially after a meal like that one, is the overwhelming desire to nap. How's this for my view from the hammock where I enjoyed a bit of a siesta?

A big-ole' hug to Angelica and her husband Hernando, their youngest, and his mom and dad for having us out for the day. I love, love, love tierra caliente and your homemade (and homegrown) food was wowsie! Let's do it again soon - at your place! :-)

** Note: Tequendama's height depends on where you check. I went with wikipedia's number although I've seen the height (drop?) at up-to 515 feet.


  1. "I laugh every time I hear it as it feels the same to me every day since the only difference is whether it's sunny out or not."
    I could say that too :D

    1. PAu - I was out yesterday and saw a woman wearing a puffy (down) jacket, hat, gloves, and a scarf wrapped around her face like it was 0c out. My guess is that it was around 13-14c at the time, and cloudy...but it was definitely colder than the day before...

  2. Hey darren my name is julian leon parada
    after reading your blog i´m fascinated with what you write. I really like the entry about trip to tierra caliente. I have a question: how caliente was it?
    What about the bananas?
    do you find them interesting
    come to my school, everyone here reads your blog everyday

    greetings from my part

    1. Julian,

      Thanks for stopping by to read my blog. I'm glad that you enjoy it.

      Tierra caliente wasn't that caliente the day we were there. I'm guessing it was like 30-32C. Oh, and I love the mini bananas. I've heard them called "finger bananas" in English.

      Send me an email if you'd like to get in touch with me. You'll find the address on the right-hand side of the blog.

      Thanks again!


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