After leaving Cali I stopped to see my friend Michel Medina in Pereira. David (the South African) decided to continue on, as I would be stopping in Cali for an Operation Smile mission... more on that later. Michel is a plastic surgeon that I roomed with on an Operation Smile mission to Bolivia four years ago. He just opened a new clinic that is beautiful. For those of you thinking of "having a little work done... just to touch things up", Pereira would be a good place to go. Direct flights from Panama and Miguel is a superb surgeon. I have watched him operate several times on the OpSmile kids and he is great. **This has been a non-paid advertisement**
Only one hitch in Pereira. On my way to visit Michel's clinic I was stopped by a roadblock checking documents. Unfortunately I had left my insurance certificate in Michel's house. The traffic cop (more at the level of a crossing guard) wouldn't let me continue without it. While I went to get it, they towed my bike! Took all afternoon to get it back. To top it off, they weren't supposed to do that, and we complained to the chief. Hopefully she'll get what traffic karma has to offer.
Michel and his girlfriend Melissa were great to me. One night we went to a town in the mountains for the thermals. Beatiful waterfalls and lots of hot water. Made it a bit difficult to maneuver after all that relaxation.
The next day Melissa and her mother took me to visit Salento. This is a little colonial village in the mountains where the houses are all painted in a very unique and colorful manner. Very picturesque. We had a great lunch (fresh trout) and much coffee. This is the coffee growing region of Colombia, and in case you were wondering: Yes, Juan Valdez is alive and well. There are Juan Valdez coffee shops all over Colombia. Starbucks, keep the hell out! Old Juan is pretty popular here. In fact, a couple of years ago they had a country-wide competition to pick a new Juan Valdez. Guess the old one was becoming a bit decaffeinated.