Kategorie-Archiv: Colombia

Medellín – Cartagena: A hard day´s night

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Woken by the implacable alarm clock at a quarter to four in the morning, I swung my feet out of the bed – and stood in a pond of water. For the short night, I had switched off the fridge… After a nocturnal bicycle trip to the terminal in the north, I reached just in time the bus to the coast, to Cartagena. It was an odd feeling to watch from the comfortable seat the landscapes and the faces flashing by behind the window. Accustomed to the bicycle, I felt that I somehow did not deserve to see them, like a gift not earned, like a win of an unfair battle, like an inappropriate temporary intrusion into foreign lives. After a climb into the clouds, when we reached my good friend Río Cauca at Valdivia, the mountains gave suddenly way to green meadows with cattles browsing under a plam trees and to flooded fields with sheds covered by palm leaves. At the peajes all along the way, sellers of snacks and souvenirs climbed the bus.

With a delay of about two hours after an obscure stop on the road, we reached Cartagena after 15 hours at about 9.30p.m. Que calor! I asked the bus driver for the way to Bocagrande to my hotel: „One hour in this direction, but don´t stop on the trip! Good luck.“ Riding through the suburbs, I understood his indication. 40min later, I reached the hotel, but my reservation was lost and the place all occupied due to the following monday, un dia festivo. Asking around in the neighbourhood, I finally found a bed for one expensive night but had to pay in cash. This raised the need for a cajero: the first one was run out of notes, the next one closed, the third out of function…

At midnight, I finally bedded my exhausted head on the pillow (luckily no fridge in the room).

Medellín – la ciudad moderna

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El Poblado is the modern business quarter of the city with clinker skyscrapers and proper sidewalks. Wandering around at night in the streets, I couId not find any of the typical chariots vending food, only expensive fast food restaurants. My hostel was overcrowded with drunken american backpackers hanging around in the pool. After the first night I decided to move to a more authentic place, to the simple and, despite its location in the red light district, clean and friendly hospedaje La Odéon in the very heart of the city, near Parque Bolívar and just about 10min walk distance from the famous Parque Berrio with the corpulent sculptures of Botero.

Medellín is the only city in Colombia with a metro infrastructure, a rail system of various lines covering the main axes of the city. I used it frequently on the way to the lovely Jardín Botánico, to the Parque Explora, somehow the „Deutsches Museum“ of the country, with a variety of interactive exhibits in natural sciences, and to the Biblioteca España in the quarter Santo Domingo. Formerly, this quarter was a no-go slum with gang warfares and dealers, now it can be visited from the teleférico which connects the metro with the library. When I was there, the library was well-attended by youngsters on the many internet computers and by adults reading worn-out books in the ample reading halls. A successful example of an extraordinary development plan.

One day, I undertook an excursion by bus to the barrage of Guatapé where they produce one third of Colombia´s electricity consumption. The lake can be viewed from the erratic boulder El Peñol, after climbing the 750 steps of the intertwined staircase, whereas the lovely village is known for the zócalos, emblems of casted cement along the houses.

El secreto de sus ojos

When I started my journey, I had a rough notion of the landscapes I wanted to discover, of the sportive achievement the cycling would mean for me and of the different cultures I would get to know along the way. In this past month, I learnt that in the first place, travelling is about human encounters.

In every moment of life, we are part of a large network of human relations, which builds up our world. Travelling means discovering new worlds. And thus means knitting new networks, finding oneself interacting in new contexts with different unspoken expectations of behaviour.

Today, I found a farewell notice of Nancy Estella in my wallet. Reading it, I understood that my journey will not only possibly alter myself, not only broaden my view of life, but that it impacts or, say, leaves traces in the lives of the persons I meet as well. Everyone takes from me, the traveller, what he wants to take, be it only a greeting when passing by, be it some conversation on the differences of climate or an exchange on or of lifestyle habits in our mutual cultures, be it a new perspective on known things, or be it the undetermined desire for the more in life we all feel at times when caught in the daily routine.

…que mi identidad no está definida y no me preocupa por que al parecer nunca se define y eso me da el permiso para equivocarme, experimentar y acertar en el camino de sentir y ser yo.

Cuando intentaba con nuestro idioma, para el era practicar para mi era comunicarme, era encontrar en mi la estrategia para que me entendiera no por solo significado de una palabra sino lo que hace sentir esa palabra…

Entendí: · No todo tiene explicación. · Las mejores cosas no se tocan, se dejan libres, para que otros la tengan también. · Solo lo que no queremos se olvida. · Es mejor no tener secretos. · La pregunta no es por qué? Es para qué?

· Quedarse es otra forma de partir.

Pereira – Medellín

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It was a sad goodbye during some days from the whole family Llanos. In such a short time, sharing their lives, I had nearly become a member of this great family and they’d become my second home in Colombia. Who knows when we will see us again?

Alexander escorted me to the outer frontier of Pereira and I was left alone on the road with my memories and thoughts. On the distant horizon droning tempests (truenos y rayos) fitting with my mood. I passed the puente helicoidal, the only serious ascend this day. In Chinchiná, I had lunch surrounded by the whole friendly and curious kitchen staff. I seemed to be the first stranger on a bike in their lives. When I asked for the way to a hostel, a man insisted to accompany me to the central hotel.

The next day, after a tasty juice of Chontaduro (will I ever come to an exhaustive description of these fruits here?) was an easy trip along the Río Cauca to La Pintada, a bald transit village along the road. I found an hospedaje for only 4 Euros, suspicious at first, but proper and without una mujer vieja y gorda during the hot but quiet night. After the day on the bicycle, I was rather hungry that evening but run out of cash. What a chance that on the abandoned table nearby someone had forgotten half of its patacón con guiso! I had just eaten it, when my neighbour came back from a phone call. Many excuses!

But I needed the power for the last stage to Medellín: only 75km but with 2000 never ending altitude meters to a pass at 2570m. The landscape was definitely worth the pain: a road on the mountain ridge between St. Barbara and Terminales with a marvellous view to both sides. Unfortunately, the descent was in heavy rain. Rather frozen, I arrived Medellín in the afternoon traffic and went straight to the closest hostel in the modern barrio El Poblado.

In total 240km with 3960 altitude meters.


La Florida

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La Florida was my first encounter with the jungle. And it was a deep dive.

We’ve been there two times, the first time for a hiking tour. We arrived in the morning with the Chiva, an adventurous vehicle, a mixture between bus and jeep, open on both sides with passengers dropping on and off continuously and a ticket inspector scrambling around from behind and on the roof – certainly the most dangerous job in the world. Estella had applied for entrance in the national park: what a walk, crouching under green lianas, hopping over little streams and puddles on the ground, slipping over tree trunks and sneaking up for birds colored with all the rainbow spectrum. Suddenly, the scenery changed and a cold wind blew in my face: around the corner a waterfall, of about 80m high, spraying drops and bursting out into a little laguna. Covered under a raincoat (the famous blue one), we enjoyed our lunch.

The second time was a visit of two friends of Alexander and Estella, Diego and Camillo, living in a unique house composed by objects from all over the world, alien-like tree roots in the staircase and as tables, wheels as windows and a ground floor of hundreds of colored broken tiles. I was particularly fascinated by the shower and the toilet outside in the plain air of the vast garden. Since we had some time for ourselves before preparing and enjoying dinner (delicious tortillas) together, we went for a bath in the stream, that is, we jumped from a slippery rock nearby into the whirling water basin. Great fun! What a refreshing and rich experience!

Discoteca de Salsa

A rich night in a disco with Salsa all the time. What a moving, lively music with intense rhythms and charming trumpets! Differently than in Europe, people is dancing exclusively pairwise, but changing often and without any decorum of goodbye. Many also brought campanas producing an unbelievable noise to accompany the loud music with even louder rhythms. We stayed until they switched on the light early in the morning.



Salento is perhaps the most typical and the most untypical village for the department of Quindio. It is known for its traditional wooden houses in the style of the 19th century and attracts many turists. And, unlike any other village, it lives for and from its visitors. After a long time, I heard spoken English.


We enjoyed the view into the beautiful Valle de Cocora (just on the other side of La Florida) and took a walk in the rain before dinner in a pretty and rather peculiar jazz restaurant.


Eje Cafetero

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To plunge deeper into the marvellous landscapes of the corazón de Colombia, the coffee region, Alexander had the great idea to suggest a bicycle trip: after a night with the family of Gloria, a sister of Nancy Estella, I left Pereira for three days feeling light with only one piece of luggage.

Shortly after the first peaje, during a break, I observed fascinatedly a crowd of hormigas arrieras carrying large chunks of leaves to their home. They are called after the caballeros driving horses from one place to another and coming back without. I spent the night in the village La Unión known for its large cultures of grapes, directly over the way to a police station (coming with the advantage of a blocked and therefore quiet street).

The next morning I left early attracted by the near mountains. Climbing in the mist initially, I enjoyed later the large plateau around the mountain village Dovio and a great view on the valley of Río Cauca. During the descent, riding to fast in a sharp unexpected curve, I had a little exit into the flora along the way, but nothing serious. In the afternoon, a heavy tropical rain got me wet to the underpants and flooded the streets of the village Bolívar where I passed the night in the center of hospedajes, a lovely old country residence.

With dry socks I started the next day with a detour of one and a half hour searching vainly for a route which was in the map but seemingly not in the landscape. And it was raining again. Knowing the large way ahead, I hurried nevertheless back to Roldanillo, over the river to Zarzal, driving round Armenia, just passing the famous Parque del Café and the two villages of Montenegro and Quimbaya, and finally lost the lucha contre el tiempo, the race against the time: darkness caught me up on the splendid but rather mountainous street to Filandia, just 40 minutes from Pereira. But again, it turned out to my best: luckily, I found a wonderful place to stay and enjoyed the night in a hammock of a little cabaña, listening to the rich sounds of the garden and the nearby woods.

After a way of in total 313km and 4200 altitude meters, I reached Pereira rather exhausted the next morning.

It was a luxuriuos pleasure to end the day on a cozy note together with Nancy Estella in the Termales of Santa Rosa, hot springs in a beautiful landscape with rich pools and refreshing waterfalls.



Belalcázar, the native town of Nancy Estella, is a nice pueblo with old wooden houses typical for rural regions of the zona cafetera and particularly famous for its tall statue of Christo de Rey. Unfortunately, instead of various experiments dropping coins (according to the formula h = 1/2*g*t^2 from an energy ansatz), we were not able to determine exactly its altitude due to the lack of a precise chronometer.
A visit of the family of Noelia gave me the opportunity to understand first hand the art of growing coffee plants in symbiosis with palms (to prevent soil erosion and pest infestation) and the further processing.


During a little walk in the village, I was particularly impressed by the silence and the great view from the cementerio at the top of a little hill, where the tombs were only marked with hand-written wooden crosses. It is the attitude that all life is preliminary, a moment in time, leaving nothing substantial but recuerdos for the descendants.       


Dia de la Madre

Día de la Madre

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.