I am writing to you from a haze of sleep, tinto, sunshine, Aguardiente, sancocho, chocolate, siesta, cheese, and fresh bread. You see, for the bank holiday weekend, I am in the farm with my aunt and uncle. We escaped the city to get some R&R, which is what many Bogotanos do as the city swallows you up in traffic, crowds, stress and pollution, with everyone living on top of one another in apartments with little or no outdoor space. So what do you do? You find a farm and escape to the countryside.
In fact I am writing to you now from a hammock. This is the life.
So where am I? I am in the countryside in Fusa; a rather big, rather unattractive large town about two hours away (less if you’re fast, more if you’re slow) from Bogota. We drove here Saturday afternoon and almost half of the drive was just getting out of the city. We live in the North, and Fusa is in the South West of the city, which means we drive all the way through Bogota and out the other side in the South….along with everyone else doing the same standard bank holiday escape, so traffic is bad. But once you descend the mountain, the climate is immediately warmer. In fact, I reckon the temperate in Fusa is perfect. It’s that lovely summer’s day we are used to in Britain….the kind where you’re not roasting hot, but out in shorts and t-shirts strolling along the beach front. Except here I don’t hear seagulls begging for food, I hear crickets and parrots in symphony surround-sounding me.
The finca isn’t really its English translation of ‘farm’, but more country cottage. But there are differences to the British country cottage we hunger after. Here people tend to build their own houses once they’ve bought a plot of land. My aunt and uncle bought the land thirty years ago when it had nothing on it and the access road was an unpaved, just about wide enough for two vehicles, little lane. The house is pre-fab and was constructed in a day. Then it took longer to pave the floors, build the walls etc. This is by far the more economical way of buying property. It also means you can build your ideal home. Perfect. And it has character too. Plenty of it. It would be hard to be in Colombia without character. Since they bought the land, and built the house, they also added and grew all the plants and trees, which thrive in the climate. There is an abundance of fruit and vegetables here…some are familiar, some are really rather strange…
Mangoes (no photo)
Another big difference between a British holiday home and the Colombian equivalent is that the finca is attended to by housekeepers who also live on the property. They live in separate accommodation adjacent to the main house and help maintain the land and house. This sounds fantastical compared to Britain, but here in Colombia the gap in wages and ‘stratas’ mean that lower class incomes can be covered by upper classes. They are given jobs, a home and also health insurance by their employers, and become the life and soul of the property.
Today, the farm is looked after by Marco. I’d say he’s in his 80’s, although by looking at his face it’s hard to tell. He is a widow and has lived in Fusa all his life. He is adorable. He is super sweet and is delighted when the family show up as it means he has company. He literally waits on my aunt hand and foot.
For lunch on Sunday, he cooked ‘sancocho’ on the open fire. Sancocho is a broth with vegetables and chicken, and is delicious. We ate it outside on the patio under the tree. Honestly, I am in heaven.
To keep the house safe from intrusion, having dogs on the farm is mandatory. They will snarl, bark and run up and down the front gate at any passer by guarding the property lines. But on the right side of the fence, and they are adorable and make the farm experience complete.
I really don’t think this lifestyle is affordable in the UK unless you are really wealthy with a title like ‘Lord’ or ‘Lady’ and have stately homes. I guess this is why I’m writing the blog, to show how good life can be in Colombia past all the stereotypes in a developing world.