TLDFLW

The acronym indents to say it all, which stands for “Too Lazy- Didn’t Feel Like Writing”. Yes, I had been lazy and uninspired to write. Today, is our last day in Cali Colombia, and I only have a few hours left to pack, for tomorrow we will hit the road and rush to Ecuador. I look back, now, at what will be nearly 3 months in Colombia.. Holy Sloth! I have stuff to write!

Medellin

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Me, with our host in Medellin, Judith.

Well, since the last post.. we were just about to enter Medellin.. Medellin, back in the 80s it was known in the entire world, as the narcotic mafia war zone. Thanks to Pablo Escobar and his cocaine trade empire.. it was an era of insane underground drug export to the US. We found a host in the El Poblado, one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in Medellin. It boomed in the 90’s because the wealthy elites moved in, fleeing from the narco violence in the downtown (Centro). Today, El Poblado is a swanky upscale neighborhood, in the recovered Medellin. I consider it the “Latin Orange County”. There is plenty of silicone implanted women, gourmet grocery shopping,  and little ratsdogs in little sweaters. Paul and I enjoyed our week stay at the apartment of Judith, our Couchsurfing host. We had a sweet 3rd floor office with view of the city. Paul got a lot of work done on his computer. Geeking out, as per usual. I was getting some work done too. I went out to find the stoplights to entertain and collect tips from the waiting drivers, by playing with fire. I found other traveling gypsies from Chile and Venezuela juggling and swinging fire, dancing with ribbons and banging drums. In Medellin I was surprised to see many varieties of street artist.. not only were there the usual Argentinian fire dancer (that I have been mistaken for a handful of times.) There were break dancers, soccer players kickin ball tricks, and magicians, all working the busy intersections for intervals of 45 second entertainment. I think the artist covering the street adds excitement and opens up the culture of the city. It’s fun to be apart of it!

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Hanging out with the gypsies in downtown Medellin on a Saturday night.

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I also would spend crafty hours at home making macrame necklaces. One afternoon, I went out to a artisan fair event in a park. I picked out a spot between two booths and kicked back with some Colombian artists and enjoyed the people watching and music jamming in the park.

Since I met that baby sloth on the road, I immediately emailed the sloth sanctuary to notify the illegal roadside sloth sale. The activist in me turned into the artist, for a moment. I had an idea that I could help and exercise my creativity by making “sloth awareness’ t-shirt. It was a short-lived project that got only as far as a collection of sloth drawings…

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Happy Sloth.

The Road

We met a German cycling couple.

We met a German cycling couple.

Alex, a LAla boy who is touring around Colombia.

Alex, a LAla boy who is touring around Colombia.

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And Winter Pilgrim.. who is walking to Mexico City!

 

We road alongside this river for a couple days.. and noticed some guys panning for gold. From what I researched, Illegal gold mining is becoming an industry as big as the cocaine.. Here is a video from VICE that examines the same problem in Venezuela..

We road alongside this river for a couple days.. and noticed some guys panning for gold. From what I researched, Illegal gold mining is becoming an industry as big as the cocaine.. Here is a video from VICE that examines the same problem in Venezuela..

Pereira

After Medellin it was rush-rush-rush according to Paul… Because we only had 3 days to reach Bogota to meet his NYC friend, Geetika, who was visiting Colombia on vacation. She had been Paul’s NYC host and she received our packages from Latin America as a safe address in the US (Thanks very much Geeti!) We pushed it uphill throughout a few days of pouring rain to get to Pereira, where we would leave our bikes at Warm Showers(link) host home, of Humberto..

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Humberto is a really nice guy who makes his home available for touring cyclist and backpackers in Pereira. It’s not a tourist city but it’s a transit between the major destination, so it’s a convenient rest stop. Super nice guy, Humberto and his family fed us, and gave us room to rest before and after Bogota, and he let us store our bikes in his uncles garage while we were to visit Bogota. We caught the overnight bus to the city in Bogota to meet with Geetika.

BOGOTA

Bogota is the big city of Colombia that offers a lot for the visitors; cafes, museums, and a thriving nightlife. We stayed in a Eastern inspired hostel name the Ananda Mayi. It’s a lovely hostel that Paul stayed in before. It has a tranquil “Shanti-Shanti” vibe.

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The Bo museum.. a heavy set showcase of big beauties.

The Botero museum.. a heavy set showcase of big beauties. This might be a NSFW for you American.. woops!

At least the guy wasn't starving!

At least the guy wasn’t starving!

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Geetika and I walked around to check out the street art.

The stay in Bogota was short. Paul continued his visit with Geetika outside of Bogota. Paul and I both needed some space and time.. so I went ahead to get on the road to Cali. I returned to Pereria, and the following day I was on the road to Cali.

Cocora

For my first night, I arrived to Salento, a small backpacker friendly town. I was only there for the night to launch off to the nearby park, Valle de Cocora, to check out the strange land of freakishly huge palm trees.

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Curious and cute cows, on the way to the valley.

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La Tebaida

The next day, I arrived in a modest size town of La Tebaida. Usually, in these towns, if I want to find free camping, it’s best to ask at the fire stations. I ended up getting invited by a family who arranged at a stay with their friend, the known Colombian American who everyone intown sends the wandering and lost English-speaking visitors. His name was Guillermo. He and his friend, Enrique, the father of the nice family, run a local newsletter print, the La Tebaida. Guillermo use to live in New Jersey, he was a professor and help out in a lot of programs there. He prepared a dinner (which was my second plate, but these Colombians insists to feed their visitors!) which was my second dinner, and he gave me a room to rest in. He was a nice man, whom I enjoyed sharing an intellectual conversation that touched on politics, relation between Colombia/US, and current situation in Colombia, during which I  found out, that his friends, the nice family I stayed with, were relatives of the FARC commander. FARC, you might have heard of the guerrilla group that occasionally make headlines as kidnappers.. In fact, nearly the whole town is related to the commander, as I found out next day, after some “Hellos” on the street, he whispered the cousin connections of the commander. Next day, I thanked Guillermo and the family, and even took a photo that will be used for the article about “American cyclist who visits La Tebaida!” and as a farewell and tip, if I ran into any, trouble, along the way as I near border, that I should call to my friends in La Tebaida “wink”.. It’s reassuring to have connections, no?

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The nice family who fed me dinner.

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The La Tebaida

WIth the editors of the La Tebeida, Enrique and Guillermo.

With the editors of the La Tebaida, Enrique and Guillermo.

Cali

I had arrange my stay via Couchsurfing with Sara. As I was looking for Sara’s apartment, I ran into a local Couchsurfing host, Tamara, who had seen my profile that day. Tamara invited me into her apartment. I met her son, Sergio, she fed me and offered me to shower off and rest after a long day, and days of touring. Later, I met with Sara, and so the following days, I had already a couple of friends in Cali. I went indoor rock climbing with Sara, and Tamara took me our to check out the city by day and night.

A day out with Tamara and her nieces, and Mom

A day out with Tamara and her nieces, and Mom.


May 1

On the day of my 26th birthday, Sara woke me up at 6am so we would have a early start to go rock climbing, outside the city. In the early hours of my birthday, I checked my email for birthday wishes. Paul had emailed me, he arrived to town yesterday after a record-breaking day of 230 kilometers (in one day!) So we met before going rock climbing, with hugs and flowers… “SURPRISE!” It was already a good start to my birthday.

I wondered if Sara had intentionally planned a gauntlet for my birth-day. First, the “little bike ride” turned out to be 20 kilometers outside the city. It was a casual warm up for me and Paul, but a few rock climbers were already exhausted. Then, we had to cross a freezing cold river, by holding onto the rope that was tied as a lifeline. Followed by a hike up to the rock, through dense forest shrub. And at the rock which was small but it did not leaned itself to be an easy climb. A wasp nest was attach to the main base, which we had to start from, and tried to avoid breaking it.

The river.

The river we crossed.

I climbed.. but only for 2 steps.. then I had dropped.

I climbed.. but only for 2 steps.. then I had dropped.

A couple of the guys were impressive. This climber has been doing it for 16 years was totally a ninja-sloth. I reference sloth, because from what I have seen, they are in fact graceful climbers, and they are not as slow as claimed to be.

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After my birthday, I moved to the apartment where Paul was staying. It was the apartment of Maria Teres, a longtime friend of Paul’s mother. We met with her daughter, Osanna and her partner, Martin, for dinners. One night they took us to a show, an Andean band performing at a theater. I didn’t take photos, or video.. but if you have no idea what modern Andean music sounds like, allow me to bring you to the experience of  Los Kjarkas show in Cali Colombia.

So we are sitting 3rd floor of a theater, lights go down, and the show begins. Open this link to start the show.

It’s not my kind of music, not exactly a tour I would follow.. but I have to say, it was quite the entertainment. The Bolivian Band members are dressed in indigenous Andes costume, armed with small guitars and that zampona, the panpipe that distinguishes Andean music.

And they know how to put on an epic performance, that send the Cali audience into a rave, manically dancing and clapping Colombians. This was most entertaining for me.. as I love watching people dance like they think no one is watching.. The girls were wailing as the only Japanese member, was ripping on the charango like he was Jimmy Page. There were two young guys who were doing this synchronized dance like fans at a rock show, but in this show, it was radical mythical flute and tribal percussion.

They were loving it.

Mom’s Day

And by the way, Happy mom’s day to Mom and all my motherly friends out there.. For mothers day, Paul and I joined Maria Teres, Osanna, and Martin to visit their family out in the country for a gathering celebrating moms, Laura’s birthday, and the good life in Colombia.

The family photo.

The family photo.

Tomorrow ,it’s back on the road for Paul and I. There will be a few more town to visit, and hopefully we will cross the border before Paul has to be out by his 90 day deadline (I arrived later than him).Well, until next time… and nest time soon.. I’ll try not to be such a lazy bear.

TTFN! Hasta la proxima!

Marie

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