Tuesday, October 30, 2018

21 Things I Learned About Colombia

I made it to Ecuador!!! One country down a few more to go. I figured this would be a good farewell for Colombia. So instead of the typical update, here is a list of 21 things that stood out to me during my 40 days there.

Farewell Colombia, its been real!

I may have mentioned a few of these things throughout my list of journals, but this is the official list. Enjoy!

1. Everything is Sweet
Literally everything. They make the sweetest coffee ever. Its not one lump or two. Its here let me drop this block of sugar cane in your coffee. They put caramel on a ham and cheese sandwich. They have a very popular drink called "agua de panela" it is literally hot sugar water. With extra sugar.

As a farewell gift one of the locals honestly gave me a big brick of raw sugar. If only I would have brought that recipe for coffee cake.

2. They Like Their Music Loud
Whether it's a bumping nightclub begging for attention or a little junker rattling down the road, the music is always blaring. I bet the next town over could hear the music, but they can't because their own music is up to loud. One out of three cars has subwoofers. They love their bass. I sometimes wear my headphones without any music to act as earplugs.

If the symbol and drums weren't loud enough they've got a megaphone atop the van.

3. Tons of Wild Dogs, No Other Wild Animals
There are dogs everywhere. They think they're tough, but they are all bark and no bite. I expected the dogs, but I also expected monkeys, anteaters, snakes, maybe a sloth. There's nothing here. Only some lizards, and a few birds. I've seen one squirrel, one rabbit, and no live snakes.

Let's not forget about my favorite stray.

4. It is Really Cheap
This one still shocks me. I can't believe how cheap this country is. I just stayed in a hotel the other day for $10. It was nice too. Due to the dollar to peso conversion, everything is basically 1/3 of what we would pay in the states. Homemade ice cream cones for 30 cents may prove bad for my health.

This is one dairy product they've got down.

Nada, zero, zilch. In my entire 40 days in this country my eyes have seen real milk once.....and that was when Victor was milking a cow right in front of me. They only have fake ultrapasturized milk. It doesn't taste the same, it doesn't get refrigerated, and its not as good for you. For most this wouldn't be a problem, but I am a milk aficionado and I drink a ton of it. I could pedal across an entire continent sustained only on milk. The closest thing I could find is a bizarre drink called kumis, it's fermented milk and it's strong, but I really like it. The yogurt here is not yogurt either, its barely thicker than water. In the dairy department they've got a ways to go.

This'll clear your sinuses.

6. They are Freeze Babies
In the mountains, in could be 70 degrees and sunny out and every person either has a full sized parka on, or they're rocking a traditional poncho. You may be tempted to call one Blizzard Boy. Here I am cruising around in shorts, a t-shirt, and bare feet. I get asked three to five times daily if I'm cold.

It's 75 out, and shes standing over a huge stove and she's still rocking the winter coat.

7. Everything is Fenced In
This may not be something most people would notice, or even care about, but for someone trying to be sneaky with camping spots, this creates an extra obstacle. They have barbed wire everywhere. Oh....here I have three stalks of corn growing, better fence it in with military grade barbed wire. Wouldn't want people climbing into the first soccer field either, better fence it up even though our town town 47 people.

Fences fences everywhere.

8. They Love Their Fruit
I'm an avid fruit eater. I love the majority of fruits, and I especially like trying new ones. Well I came to the right place, by day 40 there I was still seeing new fruits pop up in the shops. Maracuyaba, Lulo, and Feijoa are a few of my favorite locals.

Gotta love them fruits.

9. Every Vendor in Town Sells the Exact Same Thing
This still makes me chuckle. I kid you not, as I ride through a town, every single street vender has the exact same thing. That item is different in each town, but errebodie's got it. It could be snocones, every vendor in town sells snowcones with the same two flavors. It could be wooden furniture. Every carpenter in town sells the same three designs of chairs. The funniest one, I think I passed 30 different street vendors trying to sell fire extinguishers. You heard right, fire extinguishers. I don't know if they were born to be followers, or they just like fitting in.

I'll open up a fruit shop right next to you.

10. They Put Cheese on Everything
I've already hit their dairy pretty hard, this ones not an insult though. First off there is one kind of cheese in this country. If mozzarella and feta had a child this would be it. It's almost tasteless, though not bad. They put it inside their pastries, they shred it and put it on ice cream, and the kicker, they love to drop a big chunk of it in their coffee and stir it around. Yum!

There was a fruit salad hiding under that cheese!

11. It's Cheaper to Eat at a Restaurant Than Buy Food Unprepared
I still can't wrap my head around this one. It is literally cheaper for me to get full sized breakfast, lunch, and dinner at local restaurants than it is for me to buy bread and fruit at the grocery store. I can live with that. Sad part is it took me nearly a month to figure it out.

$2.50 US dollars, smoothie and hot chocolate included. Nuff said.

12. They Honk Like it's Their Job
Car horns were invented for a reason. Colombians discarded that reason and came up with 101 new reasons. A honk here may mean hello, goodbye, hurry up, get out of me way, or I'm just bored so imma honk. The list is never ending. I don't think five cars pass by without one of them honking at something.

This was supposed to be a one lane road. Colombians don't follow the rules of the road.

13. Let's Hurry Up and Wait
I think they still use sundails there. Nobody is in any type of hurry. The sign says it opens at 8. Well we can open up at 8:45. We agreed to practice volleyball at 4. We should get the first serve in by 6. They act as if time is irrelevant.

Just one of the many hour long construction stops. At least I could weave my way to the beginning.

14. Washing Cars is the National Pasttime
I'm not sure where this even spawned from, but for some reason every other house along the highway has a sign advertising that they will wash your car for you. I've seen more kids here washing cars than playing soccer. Hey daddy wanna go wash a car with me?

They were busy cleaning on this day.

15. They Were Never Taught Not to Stare
Didn't yo momma tell you that's not polite? Either they have never seen a white man before or they're just don't have much else to do. They stare......old men, little girls, couples holding hands. They all stare at me. I find it very bizarre. If you see a humpback whale with an eye patch walking down the street on crutches, now that's something to stare at.

I couldn't find a good picture of people staring at me, cause every time I get the camera out they get bashful.

16. They Don't Know How to Drive Motorcycles
In my entire life in the US I think I've witnessed a single car crash and zero motorcycle crashes. Here in Colombia it's a weekly occurrence. I've seen five different moto wrecks, and heard about five or six others. They must really want to perfect that wheelie.

This guy got my lunch. I reckon he knew how to drive.

17. Colombia is Filled with Venezuelan Refugees
This one's not funny so I won't crack any jokes. It's not as obvious in all parts of the country, but along certain roads I've ridden past hundreds in one day. Mostly teen boys or young adults, walking with a backpack or two, trying to hitch a ride to get a bit closer to Ecuador. Venezuela is having a rough time right now if you didn't know.

Just one of the many clusters of Venezuelan refugees.

18. Domingo (Sunday) is a Day for Getting Drunk
Every Sunday like clock work, every table in town is filled with 20 empty beer bottles. By 8 o'clock the locals are already blind. I don't know if they drank all night or if they are just getting an early jump on things.

Hard day of drinking, means a hard day of sleeping.

19. They Love to Bike
There are two types of Colombian cyclists. One has a sombrero on, work books, and a three foot machete bungee corded to his bike. He bikes out of necessity. The other has a waxed bike that he probably cleaned with his son, spandex, a baggy biking shirt that was supposed to be skin tight, and only a water bottle for gear. He bikes for fun. I love seeing both on the road, but there is a clear divide.

Colombian biker gang.

20. It is Filled with Police
The USA has a lot of police on duty, but Colombia takes it to a whole other level. If I was within 10 miles of a city, I would see a cop every ten minutes. Not just regular cops but military police are everywhere. On average I'd cross three or four military checkpoints daily. Talk about secure.

In case you try anything, they've got tanks on stand by. No this was not a museum. These were real active tanks.

21. They are Extremely Welcoming and Generous People
The thing I'm gonna miss most about Colombia is the people. They really helped make me feel at home in this distant land. I can't even count all the times someone stopped to give me a mango or some water. In the 40 nights here I stayed at a Colombians house 15 of those nights. That's how welcoming they are. What a great country Colombia is!

Gotta love 'em.

Off to Ecuador!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Lush Valleys

While I was in Popoyán I had just finished uploading the blog and began looking for a place to eat lunch. I rode around a bit, but nothing really caught my eye. Just then the rains started. Now that little bakery I had ridden past twice already, began looking like a mighty fine place to stop. I made it just in time as the rain switched over from an April shower to a monsoon. I had a dry place to hide from the rain for a while. I ordered up a ham sandwich/croissant type thing and began feasting. The strange thing about this particular food was that it had ham and cheese on it, but also a very popular spread in Colombia called arepique. It is a thin spread that tastes like caramel. It is on literally everything. I thought the food in the US was sweet, the food here is diabetes worthy. Everything is filled with sugar. I have trouble finding bread that isn't riddled with some sort of confectionry. They also make the sweetest cups of coffee I've ever had.

A look out into the valley shortly before sunset.

This is the arepique spread. This variety has coconut pieces in it too.

Anyway I digress. So as I'm sitting there eating my baked item when a young man approaches me. He had a notebook and pencil in his hand. He nervously explained that he was studying English down the street and he wanted to know if I would help him with his homework. This was Hector. The thought of being able to speak English for a while sounded appealing, so I happily agreed to help him. The homework he needed assistance on was of classic sayings we have in English. A few of the ones he asked for help on were: "I've got an axe to grind.", "He's got a chip on his shoulder.", "A rolling stone gathers no moss.", and "He's a chip off the old block." For a non-native speaker with very basic English, I thought these were kinda tough for homework. I did my best to explain each one to him. As a reward I got a free cup of coffee, and a few more baked specialties. He and his friend decided to hang out with me while the storm lingered on.

Hector and his friend.

The tables soon turned. My friend Mandieta that I met a few weeks back by Valledupar, currently lives in Popayán. He was the guy who introduced me to Tomas. Well he's a good guy and all, but communicating with him can be a nightmare. He uses a long of Spanish slang, and frequently has typos in his messages which renders Google translate near useless. I always have trouble understanding is. This is where Hector came in. I utilized his Spanish expertise to help me make plans with Mandieta.

One of the many cathedrals I've seen here in Colombia.

After waiting out the storm, Mandieta arrived and we left for his place. It was already dark out so the 5 mile ride to his home through the bustling streets of Popoyán was a ride to remember. We arrived at his place on the outskirts of town. It was far different from a house in America, but quite common here. It was made of cinder blocks, no insulation or drywall. It was smaller than my bedroom back home, plus he had two other roomates. The three of them had foam pieces laid out on the floor that they slept on. The three that lived there were great hosts and really happy upbeat guys. This was a real eye opener as to how little we really need. It was a lot of fun staying the night with them.

My bed for the night at Mandieta's place. It's got a bit more spring in it than my sleeping bag.

This was a neat little shrine constructed along the highway. I've passed a bunch, but never taken a photo of one.

From the moment I was served this soup I knew something was afoot.

The next morning I set off, knowing that I had less than a week left in Colombia. Riding out of Popoyán I had quite a few generous downhills. It's kinda funny how quickly the surroundings change here. You can got from Alpine climate surrounded by pine and guava trees, and within a half hour of downhills you are suddenly in a jungle filled with bananas, mangoes, and watermelon. I cruised into a toasty valley that had far more mangoes than they knew what to do with. Everywhere I turned there was another mango tree. They were feeding mangoes to their cows and chickens. I'm sure they didn't mind.

A tall papaya tree stocked with fruit.

Another look into one of the lush valleys.

Watermelon, get your watermelon.

Some tribal art.

The valley was heavily populated. It wasn't filled with the typical European Colombians, nor indeginas. This was really the first part of Colombia I've seen that was almost entirely comprised of African-Colombians. The sun was setting fast and I still needed a place to stay for the night. The people all seemed very friendly so I figured I'd hedge my bets on just asking a farmer to camp on his land rather than try to sneak in somewhere. A group of a few women and their children smiled and waved as I rode past. The kids yelled some things too. Thus looked like the perfect group. I asked if I could camp on their property. The said to ask the muchacho and pointed at two men a little ways down the road.

Victor and his son.

Not sure exactly what the dump truck was for. Two guys were picking specific rocks and tossing them in.

Hopefully the big bad wolf doesn't visit house #2.

I road down to the men and asked to stay the night. Victor was happy to have me. He pointed to a vacant pavilion and said I could set up shop there. We talked for about an hour as the sun set. He was a mechanic/dairy farmer. After our chat it hit me. I was finally able to hold a decent conversation in Spanish. He didn't know a word of English and we had a good talk. He did speak slowly knowing that I wasn't a professional, but I guess that's how long it takes. Five and a half weeks being thrown to the wolves and you'll either sink or swim. I finally started to swim.

My nightly sanctuary.

That bad boy off in the distance is a giant active volcano.

Colombia has been a very green country.

The next morning I woke up and found victor behind the pavilion milking his cows. He asked his son to get me some tinto. In Colombia that's very weak, but very sweet coffee. When he brought it to me he asked if I wanted it with milk. I said not to worry about thinking he was going to run inside to get milk. He just picked up the bucket of freshly retrieved milk and poured it into my cup. How's that for straight from the source? I watched as he meticulasly milked each cow. First he lasso-ed the mommy cow he wanted to milk. Next he tied her up to the milking tree in the middle of the pen. Once she was good and secirehe tied her back legs together probably so she couldn't kick him. Now the mom was ready, but he needed her to start providing milk. That's where the calf came in. He brought the calf over and let the calf get in a suckle or two. Once she started producing he tied the calf up just far enough away that he couldn't get a drink. Then it was on! He began double fisting the cow as she shot super soaker powered milk lasers into his bucket. I couldn't believe how much milk one cow could produce so quickly. Within minutes his bucket was full. After he got what he needed he untied both and the calf finally got his reward. It was really very interesting to watch. I had never seen how it was done.

Victor tying up one of the females to the milking tree.

The chicks and their mom feasting on a fallen mango.

He brought the bucket over to me. There was about five or six inches of froth on top of the milk. He took my empty cup and scooped up an overflowing mug of this bubble bath beverage. He handed it back to me and told me to try it. I've been dying for some real milk here in Colombia so I gave it a try. It tasted like whipped cream just without the sugar. It was actually pretty good. He gave me a few more mangoes and I set off hoping to cut down on the distance to Pasto.

Victor doing his daily milking.

The ride to Pasto would prove to be a very tough, but very rewarding ride. It was a very long uphill ride almost two full days, but it wasn't nearly ask tough as that climb a few weeks ago. It was much more gradual. The views of the valley were insane though. I was up in the clouds and looked out to the side to see one of the most stunning views I've ever seen. Words can't describe to feeling I got knowing that I pedaled all the way up here to earn this view. Just one of the many things to remind me why I love riding around the world.

The valley was extremely vast.

The cliff was very near the road. One wrong move and it'd be curtains.

Colombian landscapes never cease to amaze me.

Up into the clouds.

I'll be in Ecuador before I know it. Ipiales is the last city before I complete Colombia!

The stairway to heaven.

Thursday, October 25, 2018


After hanging out in Bogotá for a few days it was finally time to leave Colombia's largest city. I got up bright and early with Desireth and her mom, as they were leaving for the day. The ride through Bogotá was one to remember. Through all the morning traffic jams, meat markets, and psychotic bus drivers I made it out of the city. I was blessed with a few monstrous downhills soon after leaving the city. They were nice a drawn out. I passed a couple of ice cream joints specializing in coconut ice cream. That was my primary fuel source for the day. After the downhills I made it into the stifling plains. I was blessed again. I had a steady tailwind boosting me from behind. After a long hard day of cycling I called it a day and checked the map to see how far I had gone. 130 miles! Or 210 kms if you're from one of those weird countries. I couldn't believe I had pedaled that far. I had set my personal record for longest distance biked in one day. Previously it was 125 miles, set going down Lolo pass in Idaho. It's amazing what a few days of fattening up can do for your energy stores.

The next day as I was pedaling my way through a tiny town, I kept my eyes open for an appealing place to eat breakfast, and stock up on some water. Nothing caught my eye as I passed through. I realized I had already passed the central hub Natagaima so my odds of finding a place were not good. There were two guys trying to pedal day-old bread and none of the restaurants appeared to be open for it was Sunday. I decided to just pedal on to the next town. Just before exiting town, I heard a yell, it was honestly the very last house in town. "Good morning!!!!! How are you?!?!?!" This man screamed at the top of his lungs in English. I looked over and there was a group of guys getting plastered at 8 in the morning. There was a nearly empty bottle of liquor and beer bottles strewn about. One guy had a rough night and was passed out on the ground laying in the dirt. This  bloke John yelling was so excited to see me I had to turn the bike around. He rushed over to me and began jumping up and down. "How are you?!?!? So nice to meet you!!! You're from the USA, I love Americans!!! Come have a drink with us!!!" I said only one as they poured me a shot. Alonzo was the man doling out shots. This guy was a little less over the top, but still just as swept away by by my presence. He got right up in my face and began spurting out a slew of questions. The other guys looked at me and mentioned that he was crazy. One guy looked to his mates and said I looked like Christ. John told me to wait for him to return, he was going to get breakfast for me. The other five or six guys were just sitting around chilling out. They weren't nearly as infatuated as these two.

John in the front left and Alonzo front right. The boys are back in town.

Then the pieces all came together. Alonzo asked if I wanted to smoke any weed. After I denied that, it was quickly followed up with, "Do you want cocaine?" Now I understood why these two guys were so intense. And also why the other dudes were just chilling out. When John returned he brought me an arepa, a bowl of soup, and a mango smoothie to start off the day. Through the blaring music they were playing, John tried to piece my story together, and Alonzo was quite the persistent chap. He asked me about ten times during my morning meal if I wanted and marijuana or coke. John just kept going on about "You make me so happy Daniel!!! You make my whole family happy!! You are my best brother!!!" I couldn't help but get a few videos of these two guys losing there minds over my visit. Although the visit was definitely one for the books, I decided it was time to move along before they started to come down. John gave me two of the tightest bear hugs I've ever received from any mortal. As I rolled away he ran into the road screaming "Danny, Danny, Danny, Wooooo!" He knelt down in the middle of the road and yelled "I love you Danny!!!!" Alonzo followed me around the corner just to ask me one more time if I wanted any of his special offerings. Just in case I would accept when nobody was looking.

You can see John grasping hard in this picture and this wasn't even the hug.

That was one of the crazier run-ins with the locals, but still a very positive experience. They were all happy to see me and they treated me to breakfast. After everything I heard about Colombia and drugs, making it a whole month before being offered cocaine wasn't too bad.

Head straight to the mountain.

It may be hard to see in this pic, but this dude was cutting this grass with only a weed wacker. And I thought I had it bad with lawn maintanece chores.

Wouldn't want to be under there when she decides to go.

I think this is a rice field.

About an hour later as I drifted through another no name town, a group of three guys started cheering for me. "Hey Gringo! Here, here!" Since the last meeting was so eventful I had to turn around to see what was up. They offered up a beer and had a bunch of questions. I have already spoken about how much I hate beer, but that was what they were offering, and I didn't want to be a bad guest. So I agreed to one beer as we chatted. They had a slew of questions that I did my best to answer. Colombians love asking how much my different items cost. After our chat they hooked me up with some water and I was on my way.

Group number two.

Still down in the valley.

Now that can't be natural, or healthy.

This was like deja vu. As I strolled through a third town a few hours later a lady yelled out to me "How are you?" I turned the ship around and they got all excited. The three of them told me to have a seat. They offered me a beer, but I had taken all the beer I felt like putting up with, so I respectfully turned her down. I must have been looking pretty good! I hadn't even fixed my hair or washed my face in the past few days and I was still getting offers for free alcohol. They were just trying to get the Gringo drunk. After I turned her down she didn't miss a beat. She said "Chicha?" I had heard legends about chicha and how it's a must try in Colombia. It's a local drink that the indeginas Colombians brew themselves. I think it's from fermented corn. They said it will give me lots of strength for pedaling. They explained that they made it from "palmas". Not sure exactly what that meant, but I was here to learn about the culture after all. Why not! This stuff super was thick! She ledaled me a cup of this special witches brew. I had high expectations after drinking guarapo with the other group of Colombians. One taste and I cringed, but tried not to insult her. It was somewhere between terrible and horrid. It tasted like someone made a gravy out of leftover hot dog juice and mixed it with a pineapple. Not my cup of tea.

This was the third crew.

This is the mythical chicha. Give it a try if you ever come to Colombia!

She recovered well when she served me a tamale wrapped up in a plantain leaf. This was good. Rice, potatoes, beef, and chicken all rolled up in one ball. Before I left the older lady had to show off her little girl. Not sure if it was her granddaughter, but she said "She is a Gringo just like you! She is my regalo to you." A "Regalo" in Spanish is a "Gift". She said that she would give me the little girl. She was dead serious. This was quite strange. I wasn't really sure how to respond to that. I just smiled and let her know that I didn't need the little girl.

Homemade tomale. This was the woman offering up the littlest girl. The girl is the younger of the two in the group photo. She was like 5.

Enjoying my tomale, and struggling through the chicha.

This scenario was more bizarre than usual, but I don't think I've had a conversation with a local group without someone trying to play the matchmaker. Guy, girl, old man. One of the first questions I'm usually asked is: Do you have a girlfriend? Followed up with: Why? Then it is followed up with them trying to set me up with an aunt, a daughter, a sister, or in this case a granddaughter. I just found it rather funny. I like Sundays here. The people are all chill and happy, some a little too happy.

Another sweet forest spot.

This man was giving me a history lesson....at least I think.

Cave man.

They just fry the whole fish here. You better be good at picking out the bones.

The next day after pedaling partway up into the Andes I was stopped at my first military checkpoint. I've ridden through about 50 or so, but this was the first time they actually stopped me. A few of the guys thought my trip was awesome, but one dude looked suspicious about my blue tarp that houses my tent and sleeping bag. He must have thought I was running cocaine on the back of my bike. He gave the tarp the patdown, but I passed the test and he didn't make me unload everything. They sent me on my way.

I had to climb a tree for this shot. You better like it 

Just before the rains came.

About an hour later it started to rain. I didn't have much sunlight left anyway so I just found a spot on the side of the road and pitched the tent. I wasn't hidden in the slightest, but the road wasn't busy, and the only people around were farmers. I crawled into my tent and hung out. About 30 minutes later I heard a honk from outside the door. I hoped it was just a curious motorist that could be ignored with the silent treatment. Nope, they honked again. I figured it was the farmer asking what I was up to. But no, I unzipped the tent and peeked out. To my utter surprise there were six men with full military garb and battle helmets. They were all fullu armed with automatic rifles. How's that for a view.

Much needed morning bath.

The mountains disappear into the clouds.

Too many stunning views. I had like 200 pics from this week.

They're all so different too.

Gotta love that Spanish moss. Reminds me of Georgia.

More green mountains.

I figured I must have set up shop in a restricted area or a minefield to require this much manpower. I recognized one of the men. He looked in and said "Oh it's the cyclist! You're good!" They all burst out laughing and gave me thumbs up as they cruised away on their motorcycles. Colombia never fails to surprise.

The next morning I was back to the uphill grind. It was nothing like the last mammoth climb. This time I was on a peaceful road with only a few cars every hour. The road was mostly unfinished and very rough going. Large rocks and potholes littered the road. I'm glad I was going up through it because it was far too rough to properly enjoy a good downhill. I would have broken a few spokes or the frame of the bike. What I found surprising was that I would be pedaling for two hours on a remote dirt road  and all the sudden a few thousand feet up in the mountains I'd pedal into a little indeginas village. This happened 4 or 5 times on the accent. They were really life savers because they offered me a place to stop and restock on supplies. True, I could have stocked up with a few days worth of supplies back in town, but that makes pedaling up the mountains much harder. Making many stops along the way is definitely my preferred method.

Two story mountain home, made from bamboo and

The mountain kids ride to school in style.

Looking down into the valley.

Once I got up high enough to beat the heat, I found myself in a place of true serenity. It was so peaceful. No cars, panoramic views, a few odd farmers off in the distance, and my bicycle. I had to take a break just laying down in the grass to let it all sink in. I was so far up in the mountains that I wasn't fearful of contaminated water so I drank spring water straight from the source and filled up my bottles. I also took a quick bath in the stream. There were numerous landslides and banks that had collapsed on my route. That made the ride a bit more treacherous, but also more interesting.


These guys weren't even fenced in.

A landslide as occured.

Dangerous, landslides en route, process with caution. Apparently Colombia, our definitions of highway are very different.

First stream I drank from.

Second refill station.

As night fell, I stopped at this tiny indeginas hut for dinner. They had fresh trout caught up in the mountains for sale. The two little girls that lived there would hide behind stuff and try to sneak peaks at me. They were mesmerized. After I ate, I used my Gringo charm to see if I could camp on their land for the night. They happily accepted and cleared a spot for me near their car. I made a few indeginas friends high up in the Andes.

Fresh mountain trout.

It got a wee bit nippy out.

The next morning everyone was gone, but the one little girl waiting to get picked up for school. I didn't even het a chance to thank them. I left hoping to make it over the mountain and into Popoyan. That would prove to be harder than it sounded. I still had some huge climbs between myself and Popoyan. I also got stuck in about a one hour construction delay. I thought those only existed in Ohio. Just after getting past the construction the heavens opened up. I began getting dunked on by rain. It wasn't too bad, but it was amplified by the cold alpine air. After about a half hour in these sub par conditions I stumbled upon a little mountain restaurant.

Mountain restaurant. Note the fish and steak smoking above the wood stove.

It was the perfect shelter from the rain and cold. They wipped up a hearty two course mountain meal with some fried fish. There were a few motorcyclists that were equally afraid to ride in the brisk rainy conditions. They started chatting with me, and before I knew it I had an invitation to stay the night in this mountain restaurant. The owner Lucia ran the restaurant with the help of her son Gerardo and daughter Natalie. It was a true sanctuary from the elements. They kept me well fed and showed me what it's like to live close to the mountain summit.

Close up of the drying meats.

Gerardo showed off his machete prowess as he made garden stakes out of little trees. Later in the night I got invited to go on a wild chicken chase with them. In the middle of the frigid mountain night, they decided they needed to pay their neighbor a visit. He happened to live a mile up the mountain. So we hiked up to his mountain house that stood beside a muddy cliff. They woke the poor man up and said they needed one of his chickens. He grabbed them one and they explained they didn't have money for him right then. He didn't seem phased in the slightest.

Last fish picture I promise.

The little mountain refuge may seem ragged or run down, but it was actually really cool. They had all they needed to live off the land. A few chickens, two geese, dogs to keep the birds in line. A little backyard stocked with fruits and vegetable crops. A mountain spring that rain to their house 24/7. They even had a mill that powered electricity for the full house. Not too shabby.

My bed for the night.

I'll trade you two brick for a hay.

In the morning I left for Popoyán. My bags were stocked with the free food they had given me for the road. It was a nice downhill ride to Popoyán. I'll stay the night here with my friend Mandieta from Valledupar, then head towards Ecuador.