Pensar En Español

Ecuador & Colombia | Cuenca to Medellin | day 525

Once our trekking days in the Peruvian Andes were over, we had a refreshed focus and intensity on learning Spanish. Everywhere we have gone people speak at least two languages, and we’ve always felt a little pitiful for only having one. The last six weeks we traveled 1,600 miles by bus through Ecuador and Colombia straightening out our Spanish grammar and memorizing verbs. After we travelled from Huaraz, Peru to Medellin, Colombia, we had taken three weeks total of private classes along the way. At times we felt on top of the world, like we were picking it up rapidly; maybe becoming fluent was eventually feasible. Other days we struggled understanding people even in the most simple situations. It felt discouraging, frustrating, and like a impossibly long road of Spanish that lie ahead. Eventually we started to see ourselves slowly…very slowly, progress. We grew to care less about seeing everything in a city or some waterfall and more about trying to strike up a conversation and keep it going for as long as we could. Being able to share experiences and talk with locals has added an entirely new dimension to our travel; like we were getting more of a feel for these places and the people that lived there.

  

Ecuador

After 26 hours of bus hopping from Huaraz, to Trujillo, to Mancora and then Guayaquil, we finally ended up in Cuenca, a quaint colonial town high in the mountains of central Ecuador. Cajas national park is just 45 minutes up the road, people are friendly, there are cheap restaurant; all of this paired with affordable good health care make it a viable place to live. But this is common in Ecuador, traveling around is simple and cheap, packed full of friendly little towns, and as long as you stay away from the larger cities, relatively safe. Everyone says “buen provecho” (enjoy your meal) when entering restaurants and little old ladies faces are twisted up into permanent smiles. Ecuador was laid back and kind, there was a noticeable gentleness about it that was different from Peru.


  

   

Patricia has been teaching Spanish for 28 years. She has written two books on teaching the language and often travels to the US for her linguistic pursuits. She lives in Cuenca, Ecuador and we had the pleasure of spending a week learning Spanish with her. 

  

   

  

Colombia

After visiting Colombia I am afraid I fueled an already problematic addiction and will need to up my budget for good coffee. During our week taking Spanish classes in Salento, one of the coffee regions in Colombia, we were spoiled with cup after cup of good, single source, locally grown beans. Every guesthouse we stayed at was surrounded by hills dotted with coffee and banana trees. We hopped from coffee farm to coffee farm throughout the “Cafeteria” region of Colombia staying in adorable traditional-style guest houses and laid-back Colombian towns with colorful old buildings. While it’s true that most Colombians drink “tinto” the second rate cheaper beans, generally a good cup of jo isn’t too far away. We indulged on Chemex brews and relished in the deliciously fruity arabic flavors we never truly knew how to appreciate before. Our days were numbered before we would be thrown back into the dreary life of instant coffee, so we justified multiple cups per day. 

My favorite guest house of all South America was on a coffee farm out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by rolling hills and dense jungle near Manizales. We had to walk a few miles down a steep dirt road just to find the place. Some nights we had power, some nights we didn’t.  We wondered around the farm tasting weird fruits we that had fallen off trees. But mostly we relaxed in hammocks watching gigantic lizards flirt and florescent exotic birds eat bananas; it was an incredible display of nature.


 

Colombia has a certain buzz traveling around South America; every traveler talked highly of it and everyone wants to go, especially Medellin. Not being much for big cities we weren’t sure what to expect of Medellin, but since everyone “loved it.” we decided to spend some time there and take our last round of Spanish classes there. We took a cable car to the park atop the city and watched as the giant metropolitan spread over the valley, creeping up the walls on every side. Medellin was surprisingly modern, huge skyscrapers and a new sleek metro train, tons of great diverse restaurants, and the night life is throbbing with salsa and borracha music. 

  


"But mostly we relaxed in hammocks watching gigantic lizards flirt and florescent exotic birds eat bananas; it was an incredible display of nature."
  


We spent a month and a half wandering around these two beautiful countries, which was not nearly enough time. We could have seen ourselves spending at least twice as much time in both Ecuador and Colombia exploring the coast and the Amazon but time seems to be slipping away now that the end of our trip is closing in. We will be back in the good ole’ USA by Christmas, giving us just five more weeks until we are home. But first, one last adventure –Patagonia! 

"We grew to care less about seeing everything in a city or some waterfall and more about trying to strike up a conversation and keep it going for as long as we could."
  

 

  

Riding Wild Mailing List

Get them updates delivered to your email