I visited Manizales on a lark back in the spring for a weekend because it peaked my curiosity.
The feria of Manizales is well known as a great party, and even though it was not happening during the time I was going to be there, any city with a well known festival automatically peaks my interest.
Bus Ride: Medellin to Manizales
I took a bus from Medellin, which took about 5 hours on roads that wound around mountainsides and offered endless holes full of water. The constant swerving and maneuvering of the driver was not altogether pleasant, but the bus was actually more of a van and pretty comfortable, as I had plenty of space to stretch out my legs, and it wasn’t ridiculously freezing inside… unlike another bus ride I took in Colombia.
Arriving at the bus station, I took a taxi to the hostel. It turns out you can actually take a cable car from the bus station practically directly to the hostel, but I only found that out later. I had to sit in the taxi while the driver drove straight up the mountain on some of the steepest roads I’ve ever been on. Seriously, I don’t know how the car kept going sometimes.
Downtown: Strange Sights and Sounds
The brief bit of time I spent in the downtown area was fairly uneventful, but also a bit strange.
In the central square of the entire city, the place where the feria comes to a climax, you see this really strange bird-man figure.
Actually the figure is just one of several fantastical statues surrounding the central square. They don’t look very festive, and give the whole place a little bit of a strange feel. (So strange I had to mimic the pose )
There was also not a lot going on in the central square when I was there, and there was some really weird music playing.
Check it out… Do you get the same eery feeling I do?
Rain. Rain. Rain.
The rain was practically non-stop in Manizales. This was perhaps the most disappointing part of my visit there because it rained and rained and rained and rained and rained.
AND THEN RAINED SOME MORE.
These were large downpours, and I occasionally got soaked walking to and from the hostel.
As a result of the rain (which seemed to be common this time of year), there was a substantial amount of news regarding mudslides in the area. Apparently part of a mountain slid down and killed a number of people during our time there. These were the roads we would be traveling on our way in and out of town!
Also unfortunate was that a main attraction, the volcano Nevado del Ruiz, was closed due to mudslides. It was even closed to pedestrians climbing the mountain because it was too dangerous.
(“Too dangerous”… And they weren’t even talking about the fact that the volcano is active, and erupted with great destructiveness as late as 1985. Who knows what the Colombians of Manizales will do if the volcano ever erupts, as it is only a short distance away from the town!)
My feeling about Manizales, even when I was out at night, was that everything seemed a little bit strange. I didn’t quite talk to as many Colombians as in other places of Colombia. The people seemed a little less talkative as in other places. And it seemed like social circles were more established.
Perhaps it was that really strange bird-man experience that I had earlier.
This was my first visit down near the coffee region. Manizales is one of three larger cities (along with Pereira and Armenia) that seem to attract the most attention, and are within 1 hr drive of each other.
I’m hoping this blasted trip doesn’t portend for a visit to those other cities: strange, non-stop rain, and dangerous mudslides… Come on, can’t you do better than this, Manizales?