The impression that people in this region are more introverted found evidence when I cycled from Pasto to Ipiales, the transit town next to the frontier to Ecuador: when I greeted they mostly just stared at me like an alien without answering or smiling. But this was only the beginning of a great day: climbing up by almost 700m to a pass at 3200m offered a splendid view on the montains around, each parcelled with cultivated fields in different colours. Then came a stretched out and perfect descent to the valley of Río Guáitara at about 1700m where I stopped at a fruit stand to refresh with some delicious Guayabas
, grown at masses in this area. It became an extended rest of about 1,5 hours when the whole family gathered to ask for my experiences during the journey and to hear about my homeland far away. I continued with new energy thanks to this lovely encounter. Just behind the next curve, a motorbiker, after a risky overtaking maneuver, lost control of his bike, hurtled and laid on the ground five meters from my feet. He (and me as well!) had more luck than judgement: he seemed to be a bit dizzy but ok.
A few kilometers later, when climbing up to Ipiales, I met for the first time another travelling cyclist: the Panamericanista Andi
, a crazy guy from Scotland traversing the country coming from Venezuela and now heading for the same direction. We continued together.
In a small town on the way, we heard Andinean music en vivo
and stopped amid the festivity on the church square to admire the traditional suits and to have a dram of aguardiente
. It was the midsummer fiesta
for the god of the sun, Inti Rajmi. In the sunset we reached Ipiales: three apparently worried policemen accompanied us kindly on the search of a hostel. After 87km and 1835 altitude meters, I felt sufficiently tired.
The famous V-shape
After a sweet time in Morpheus arms I went for a late and (due to the delicate state of my stomach) light breakfast: from the table nearby the familiar sound of the southern german accent. After more than a month a welcome occasion to speak german! So I joined Andreas and Yvonne, who had worked for two months as school teacher in Popayan, for a day on the Laguna de Cocha. We enjoyed the refreshing air of the lake and the rich fauna on the small island.
Pasto itself is a lively city in the middle of the mountains and just in the neighbourhood of an active volcano who time and again spits his dust over the gray streets. The residents are more introverted than in the other parts of Colombia and seem rather reserved to strangers on first sight. But this shell only covers a kind and cordial hospitality: for dinner we were generously invited by Adel, my seatmate during the flight, eager to learn and share between the cultures.
Just when I wanted to leave the next day, I ran into a severe problem with the screws of my shoes which I could not turn due to their rotten thread. Luis from my comfortable hostel solved it by manually carving a suitable hexagon key: muchas gracias por todo!
Over the roofs in Santa Marta
In the centre of Santa Marta, I met Nancy Estella, who had taken a week of vacations from her work and studies in Pereira, to pass with her a wonderful time discovering scruffy corners of the town, hiking in the Tayrona National Park and enjoying the village Minca on the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, the highest coastal mountain of the world.
The first day after our happy encounter was all occupied with preparations, namely searching a large cartonboard box to pack the bicycle for the flight to Pasto a week later. Crossing in a torrential rain the dirty streets flooded up to 15cms by gray disgusting water from our hotel in the poor port area and asking a countless number of grumpy bike shop owners, we luckily enough found one in the central collection station on the periphery.
The industrial port
Afternoon session watching the football game Colombia-Peru
In the afternoon, we happened to encounter various groups of musicians performing the traditional vallenato on the central Parque Bolívar – a friendly experience which somehow reconciled us with the tiresome heat and the run-down appearance of the town center where frequently even the metal gully covers are stolen for some bugs leaving dangerous holes in the street.
After a good rest I was about to leave the quarter, which seemed too expensive for my standard, when I met Señor Vidal, the owner of the hotel Tintorera („blue shark“). Friend of a friend of mine in Germany, he had stored a parcel for me (containing my camping equipment) for more than a month. What a lucky encounter! He invited me to reside in his hotel during my whole stay! And for three days it became my home in Cartagena: I enjoyed the private, friendly atmosphere in the modern surrounding, the comfort of an air-conditioned room and the proximity to the centro histórico. Crossing one road in my bathing suit, I watched the beautiful sunsets on the milde waves from the sandy beach. With his unperturbed candor and his hearty humor, Señor Vidal set his mark in my journey. Muchas gracias por todo!
The Día de la Madre is very important in Colombia: while it became a commercial formality in western countries (according to Wikipedia, the average german man spends 25 Euros for flowers, but ships them by mail), here it is an occasion where the whole family meets with small gifts and homemade cake. It seems to me that the common machismo of latinoamerican societies only hides superficially the true power of women: the centre of a family are always the women, those responsible for the children and thereby the future, men are nomades passing by. When taking the photo, I, misled by the french word gateau, asked to show the gato which means cat in Spanish. This may explain some of the serenity of this joyful picture.
The day ended late with cheerful playing on the street and the ad-hoc reparation of a broken-down car to allow for the home trip.
When I left Ibagué rather late at twenty past eight in the morning, the temperature was already at 28,5ºC. The steadily mounting street spiraled up in a marvellous landscape with splendid views into green canyons and on mountain ridges covered with palm tree plantations. Along the way simple huts with grounds of soil and sheltering large families. When passing by, after a moment of amazement, many of the farmers watching the traffic laughed brightly and cheered me with raised thumbs. At times, motor cyclists accompanied me for a while asking for my plans and whishing all the best. Nevertheless, at noon I decided not to continue further in the suffocating heat and after a meal in a restaurant along the street where I was the main attraction for passing bus passengers I found accomodation in the beautifully situated pueblo of Cajamarca.
The next sunrise saw me climbing steadily upwards to the pass of Alto de la Linea at 3288m. The palm trees gave way to green meadows covered more and more by thick clouds. At the peak rain and 11ºC – I enjoyed the hot coffee for breakfast. The fast descent down to Calarcá again was pure pleasure.
After a good rest in this nice town, I completed riding through a lovely milde landscape in the afternoon the 137km to Pereira where in the falling darkness I was warmly welcomed by Nancy Estella, her husband Alex and his mother Norris. We passed the evening eating delicious arepas at the street stand of her sister Lijia. What a delight to see all of them again!
It was the first day of my marvellous and dearly caring stay with this family in Pereira.
When I was wandering in the streets in search of a hostel, a man approached me and offered his help. I followed him into a stationery shop where we met a woman and her child, and he invited me to sleep in his own house. Suspicious at first, I agreed: it turned out to be a very lucky encounter and two days later we parted as real friends.
The next morning after a good rest, the sweet melody of ‚Soy de Tolima‘ awakened me. It was the beginning of a great day: a rich breakfast with amicable neighbours and a guía del pueblo which we crossed several times on his motorbike meeting amigos.
I felt warmly welcomed and could have spent all my life at this place, which seemed to me el paraíso en tierra for its lovely people, its milde climate and the delicious fruits. Muchas gracias Mario, Erika, Mariadelmar, Augusto y Alcira por este tiempo feliz!
During the guided tour in the salt cathedral, I met Nancy Estella. At first, I could not imagine that such a beautiful girl would ever smile at me and turned round expecting someone behind me. How happy was I that there was no one! She presented me later to her family and we enjoyed a wonderful time together with lunch in town and straying over the fruit market the other day. A great occasion on which I ate my first guanabana, a fruit so sweet and rich like life itself.
Never in my life I have experienced such a warm and cordial welcome as with this family. To me stranger, they offered an incredible amicable and patient hospitalidad and shared with me open-heartedly their way of life. I immediately felt at home.
Meine Reisegefährten der ersten Tage in Bogotá: der kalifornische Lebemann James und Karl, der vielfach be- und gewanderte Postmann aus Hildesheim.
Mit James unternahm ich am ersten Nachmittag einen Taxitrip durch die verrufensten Viertel der Stadt, die blinden Flecken inmitten der Zivilisation: geschotterte Straßen mit teichgroßen Wasserpfützen, auf den rudimentär abgegrenzten Gehsteigen Schlafkartons, dazwischen verwahrloste Gestalten mit Plastiktüten und irrem Blick, die Vergessenen der Moderne.
Mit Karl die kulturgeschichtliche Aufarbeitung im Museo Nacional: die figurativen Zeugnisse der präkolumbianischen Hochkulturen, das durchwachsene Erbe der spanischen Konquistadoren, Photographien der ersten neuzeitlichen Industrialisierung, die eigenwillig flächigen Zylindermenschen des kolumbianischen Nationalkünstlers Botero.
Wir waren allein auf weiter Flur: so spezifisch interessierte die schöne Ausstellung offensichlich nicht einen der wenigen Touristen und vielleicht auch nicht unbedingt die jugendlichen Schulklassen, die uns -fasziniert von den hellhäutigen Gringos- immer wieder die Hände schüttelten.
Norbert vom Radschlag in Stuttgart-Vaihingen: als ich zum ersten Mal von meinem Südamerika-Vorhaben erzählte, tauchten unter der Ladentheke liebevoll bewahrte vergilbte Photographien auf: Santiago-Ushuaia ’93, Zelten, Schotterpisten, Gegenwind, alles schon gemacht! Da brauchst Du ein stabiles Rad mit 26″ Zoll, ein paar Ersatzspeichen klebe ich Dir dazu, Lenkerhörner sind bequemer, der Sattel macht’s, die einfache Tasche reicht. Auf das Bauchgefühl achten, plastisch denken und menschlich. Fährt im Geiste immer mit: mein Mann für jeden Ratschlag!