Wednesday, October 3, 2018


After a good night's rest in Barrancas I took off and was ready to take on the day's ride. I briefly stopped at a street vendor for breakfast. A greasy potato turnover, two cheesy empanadas, and some orange juice that was juiced right before my eyes. A healthy nutritious breakfast......I guess. Either way it tasted great! I trudged on until it was lunch time. I found an enormous gum tree on the outskirts of San Juan del Cesar that created much sought after shade. I broke for lunch there. Within a minute or two, a curious motorcyclist arrived. He stopped to chat with me. We did our best to tell our stories of the road. He drove a car from Alaska all the way down to Ushuaia, Argentina, which is where I plan to end. So he had a strong appreciation for the distance at hand. His name was Mandieta. He showed me some pictures from his trip and was in awe that I was pedaling from Colombia to Argentina. When I had consumed enough bread and fruit he pointed me in the direction of the supermarket and I was on my way.

Having a bit of fun outside of town.

Glad the terrain is green again.

These mountains make for some impressive sites!

A Tamarillo and Dragon fruit a day keep the doctor away.

My new friend Mandieta

On my way out of town I stopped one final time to fill up on water and slather myself in sunscreen. After leaving town it suddenly felt like I had been ejected into a sauna. For the next hour it was incredibly hot. Hotter than any day before in Colombia. I felt like I was thoroughly melting! There was not even an inch of shade to be found. It was the first time on the trip I had to stop riding due to the heat. It almost made me feel sick, almost. Several hours later while I was stopped on one of these breaks, three motorcyclists rode up and stopped to talk. Tomas, Angelica, and Jessica. We exchanged a few words in Spanish, and before I knew it they provided me with some ice cold water, and a freshly cooked meal of beans and rice! That may not sound like much. But when you're withering away in the heat of the day and munching on stale bread, cold water and a fresh meal are heavenly! As is usually the case, the people were even better. They didn't speak a word on English, but they were very animated and pleased as punch to help me out. After we finished eating, they invited me to go with them to the river and swim.

Not the Amazon, but still an impressive forest.

Jessica, Tomas, and Tomas' wife Angelica, came to save the day.

Much appreciated lunch on the road.

More farms and mountains.

I couldn't believe this was happening. The three of them rode around me on their motorcycles and created a shield for the entire ride. About halfway there, another motorcyclist rode in front of us then pulled off. Tomas stopped to speak with him. The two seemed very happy to see each other. The new rider looked back, gave a half cocked smile, and shook my hand. I told him my name. He gave me a look of sheer confusion after I introduced myself. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. He pulled up a picture and turned it my way. Now I was the one with a look of confusion. This mystery rider had a selfie of the two of us together! It was Mandieta! The man I had met earlier as I took a break for lunch. I soon found out from Tomas, which could barely contain his happiness, that Mandieta set up the whole thing. He called Tomas and arranged for him to bring me food and water as I neared their city. They were part of the same biker gang, "Afro Racing". What a real dude! This guy pulled some serious strings to make sure that I was taken care of.

The five of us rode the rest of the way to the river. For this last leg I had an extra motorcycle chaperone. When we arrived at the river it was stunning. Kids diving off rock walls, palm thatched huts, a bbq, the whole shebang. We parked our bikes and jumped in. It was beyond refreshing. It couldn't have been any better after a long day scorching in the sun. I tried some freshly made pastries and enjoyed the soothing flow of the river until the sun went down. On out way out we ate some authentic Colombian soup that was leftover from the restaurant. It was great! The lights were out so I couldn't tell what I was eating, but it didn't matter. It tasted good.

This river makes for an awesome swimming hole!

Mandieta, Jessica, Tomas, and Angelica chilling in the river.

The place to be.

After the swim, Tomas invited me to stay at his house in Valledupar. I was very happy to accept. He lived about 15 miles from the river though and it was pitch black already. Normally that would be a problem, but being the cool people that they are the three motorcycles rode around me. They used their blue flashing lights and I pedaled like mad all the way to his house. I was officially part of their biker gang now! We eventually pulled up to Tomas' house. We sat on the sidewalk outside his home underneath the stars for hours chilling enjoying the end of the serendipitous day we just had.

Teacher for a day!

A few of my students.

In the afternoon, Tomas and Nelson took me to the park to practice with their volleyball club. I had been suffering from volleyball withdrawal and this helped to sooth it. This was my first time playing on concrete. In the first game I got a good set and smashed the ball. The girls turned away in fear and screamed. One girl looked at me and said "Da-ny-el calm down! We are we-men" with her Colombian accent. I guess I was a bit overly excited to be playing volleyball. The practice was great fun and I loved getting a bit of play time in.

Colombian Street Volleyball.

When we went back to Tomas' house I got a lot more practice speaking Spanish. This visit with Tomas has really been the first time I have gotten to practice Spanish in depth. Usually it is just me saying "I want two of those." As I point at some random overly greasy fried food to one of the many street vendors. Here in Valledupar, I have been able to have in-depth talks in Spanish with friends that would like to help me improve my Spanish. I was really blessed to be put in contact with such warm and generous people. Tomas and Angelica have invited me to stay in their house for a few more days, while I continue seeing learning about Colombian culture, and trying all the different foods they throw at me.

Two of Tomas' friends.

Feeling very lucky and welcomed in a new land!

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