A Wonderful Rest Day in a Beautiful Place

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Beautiful Monteria riverside park
Beautiful Monteria riverside park (View on flickr)

Montería, Córdoba, Colombia, is a town a cyclist might miss or any other tourist might just drive by it because it is off the main road by quite a few kilometers. If you ever come this way, do come and spend a day or two. We are amazed at the street after street of vendors and the most amazing riverside park we have seen in our travel of the Americas.

Situated along the Sinú river is a town that could be any town in Colombia but it is not because of the incredible riverside park. The park, built 5 years ago, is the shining gem of the town. There are brick lined walkways for pedestrians, a bike path with striped lanes, an art museum, a small amphitheater for practicing plays and breakdancing tricks like spinning on the head. There's an internet cafe for coffee and for writing this story, exotic plants, huge trees with monkeys, a wonderful playground with attendants to take care of the children, a adult playground for stretching and doing strength training, ice cream shops, haircutting stands (yes, right in the park). All of this was designed by some extraordinary designers who turned this riverside property into a world-class site for all to enjoy. The best part it is a public park and absolutely free. The town has invested a lot of resources into this public space and is continuing to expand into the rather raunchy street side fish market vendors. We think this park is as beautiful as you would find anywhere in the world, and certainly the classiest thing we've seen since we crossed the border into Mexico.

Iguana at Monteria park
Iguana at Monteria park (View on flickr)

The Lime man
The Lime man (View on flickr)

The park is also a sanctuary for iguanas. This colorful and prehistoric looking creature is on some endangered animal lists so they are protected in this park. But they do not seem endangered here, There are so many it reminds me of the huge population of squirrels found in the parks of Denver, Colorado or for that fact most parks in the US. But the iguanas are so much cooler looking than the lowly squirrel. We took picture after picture of the scores of free-roaming reptiles. I felt a little self-conscious taking so many photos. At home when I see foreign tourist who run around taking pictures of squirrels, I think they are silly for wanting pictures of a rodent. I am sure the locals are saying "why would anyone want a photo of all those stupid reptiles?". I think they are exotic looking and spent several hours drawing them with my watercolors.

I spent the afternoon painting the creatures and I came to recognise different ones by their behavior and unique markings. I come to know the most aggressive one had a light smoky-colored skin and tints of orange along the endless folds. He was my favorite subject. Another one I got to recognize had a kink in the tail -- apparently he broke it somehow. A third had deep green color all over and deeper shades of almost black speckles around the mid section and the loveliest raised white spots on his jaw that looked like pebbles made out of shiny ivory. The 2-4 foot creatures were great models because of the luminous varying colors of their skin and they did not move much at all. They just kind of stood there like a statue, until one of the groundskeepers would come by and shoo them away from the outside eatery. The group of them are great beggars. But as all great beggars they would return shortly after. The aggressive guy came so close to me, I thought it was going to climb up my lap. I finally gave it a nudge with my newspaper to let it know to respect my space and back away from the artist. It bobbed its head up and down, as if saying "Hey this is my territory and I want you to know it." I bobbed my head back at him.

In the end the watercolors came out so-so but I did enjoy Sunday afternoon in the magnificent park in Monteria, Cordoba, Colombia. Me gusta mucho.