Saturday, September 29, 2018

Indian Territory

On my way up to Uribia and further north I noticed a change in the people. They were all the sudden much darker skinned, and their facial features didn't quite match up with most of the Colombians I had seen prior. I thought it was a bit strange but didn't pay it much mind. About and hour before sunset a cop and his amigo pulled over in front of me and stopped me. He was enthusiastic and talking very fast in Spanish. I wasn't getting much of what he was saying. After he stopped to take a breath I hit him with "No comprendo". I explained my language situation. He started throwing in some English and went heavy on the gestures. Now it was clear as day what he was telling me. He said in no uncertain terms: "You are in indigenous country here. Do not ride after dark, it is very dangerous. After dark if they find you, they hurt you and take all your things. They don't follow our rules. It is a strong reccomendation that you stop riding close to dark." It took the two of them a while to get this across to me, but it became clear. I immediately began looking for a spot to set up for the night. It still took me about 45 minutes to find a good secluded spot without being seen. It was tough because the indigenous were everywhere, around every turn and in every straightaway. Just chilling out by the road, watching the cars drive past. I found a good spot under a very thorny tree. Hopefully I wake up in the morning, I thought to myself.

This was from a few days earlier, but it was so nice I had to share.

Don't be fooled by the green color.

Typical Indian house.

Some of these bad boys were tall.

This was an indigenous school.

Okay that was a bit dramatic, morning came and I was still in one piece. I didn't sleep all that well due to the paranoia set about by the cop. I continued my ride northbound for Punta Gallinas. At long last in middle on the nothingness I arrived in Uribia. When I arrived I quickly realised that this wasn't like any of the other towns I had been too. It said "Indigenous Capital of Colombia" as I rolled into town. This was a happening place! There were people in every inch of this town. More bikers than you can imagine, mostly taxi-ing people around on tricycles. From the second I entered, all eyes were on me. Every single person just started at me. They would mirror me. If I waved they waved back, If I smiled they smiled. If I just started at them they didn't look away and just started back. I stopped for two seconds to try to figure out where I could buy water. In these two seconds I was surrounded by three guys all asking me questions about my trip. One guy knew a bit of English and walked me over to the shop. He specifically warned against going to Punta Gallinas, he said there are "muchos criminales" up that way. He said "Don't stop for nothing, and don't trust no one!". He said not to go solo. I loaded up on water and went back to my bike, three more guys were there. All with more questions. This group warned specifically about heading farther north too. They said they would drive me, but "Whatever you do, do not go by bicycle." I slipped away to a slightly less congested area to fill up my water bottles.

Still surprised by the amount of rubbish here.

Wouldn't want to trip and fall.

This is what my feet and my tires have been dealing with.


comes from these.

It didn't matter, within 30 seconds two more spectators had approached me. I just started filling up my bottles while they watched in awe. I asked one of them if he knew where I could buy a machete in town. He showed me to the shop and brought me two different ones to choose from. One was over three feet long and quite stocky, while the other was about two feet long and more sleek. Both could put a serious hurting on anything in their path. He also had a case for the small one. I decided to take it. For anyone wondering, just about every single male in rural Colombia walks around with a machete. He motioned to his friend, and his friend offered to sharpen it for me. We walked next door to the car repair shop and his buddy started grinding away to get it razor sharp. During this whole ordeal the crowd had grown to eight or ten people that were just standing around watching. I really don't know if most of these indigenous people in Uribia had ever seen a Gringo before. They were all super friendly and kind to help me out so much.

This dude has seen better days.

This was part of the gang that sharpened my knife for me.

Patriotic little hut.

The catch of the day! A rabbit!?! She was happily trying to sell this to passing cars.

I rode to the historic town center and that's where groups were all pedaling their hand crafted items. They were as authentic as they come. Here too I was being stalked. It was a paparazzi in the middle of the desert. I'm not gonna lie, it was really cool being the center of attention throughout the whole town. I could see how it would get old real fast, but a few hours a limelight was fun. On a side note, since I arrived I have been gauked at by most people. I'm used to people stopping to stare when I'm on the fully loaded bike, but it's something else here. Double-takes are common place and triple-takes are becoming the norm. Kids especially, they can stare for over a minute without blinking.

This was a souvenir hotspot. Too bad I have to pedal with the stuff now.

Before leaving Uribia, I decided to forgo my plans to riding up to the northern most point of the continent. I've heard this talk numerous times before, where people warn me that the neighboring town is corrupt, or full of bad people. I usually end up going anyway and have never had any issues. But I've never had this much consensus on one area and I've never had a group of cops specifically stop me and warn me about an area. It really seemed a bit racist. I bet most Colombians generally have biased opinions towards the natives.


Making sure I'm hidden from any angry natives.

Practicing my machete skills.

Perfect sunset after a long day in the desert.

Now that's a knife!

I'll just have to settle for northern-most town, to southern-most town. It wasn't worth the risk. I would have felt pretty dumb if I got minced into pieces, knowing that I had been warned thrice. The indigenous people I dealt with all seemed like great people. Very happy and talkative. They aren't as bubbly or over-the-top friendly as most Colombians, but they seemed trustworthy. I doubt anything bad would have happened, but I made sure I didn't happen on the way to Punta Gallinas. Now I'm officially heading south South South!

This piece of cactus tried to fall on me after I cut him. Can you believe that?

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