Monday, October 8, 2018

Back on the Road, and Into the Mountains

Well it has been a few days since my last update, and I haven't had a dull moment since. I spent the past few days staying with Tomas and his wife Angelica.

This is the way the locasls work out. A bit of PVC pipe, some concrete, and a few banana trees.

For the duration of my stay Tomas acted as the perfect narrator of my story. He narrated as we cruised around places together. Every couple minutes someone would stop us to inquire about the crazy long haired Gringo on the bike. With my limited Spanish it was easier for Tomas to explain it to them. And every time someone asked about me, he got this euphoric glimmer in his eyes like he was about to enlighten their souls. There was no shortage of questions, or people to ask those questions. We usually had to slip away while they paused to take a breath, because Colombians can talk and talk and talk. He loved it!

Nelson,  Tomas' friend, and Tomas.

Not only did he loved talking to strangers about me and my voyage, but I think I met every single person in town that Tomas or Nelson had ever spoken to. From the day I arrived I was going from one place to the next, to their friend's house, then their friend's mom's house, then their mechanic's garage, meeting all their friends. They wanted to show off their new toy for all to see. Don't get me wrong, it was great, I met so many people in such a short time, it was really really memorable. If you ever feel like you don't have enough friends, or you just want a few more, spend a week or two in Colombia. You surely will make a couple more.

Chilling in the garage with his pals.

One of the days, we went swimming in a different river. A little Colombian boy noticed that every time I jumped into the river, I jumped feet first. Well his curiosity had been peeked. He said "Hey Gringo, can you dive in head first?" Diving has never been my strong suit, but I obliged and give him what he wanted, although it wasn't very graceful.

Besides the stuff I mentioned in the last blog post, they did their best to make sure I wasn't bored. Tomas taught me a hand-is-quicker-than-the-eye magic trick that was pretty sweet. We played Colombian rock-paper-scissors. The winner of each round got to smack the losers arm as hard as they could. In the 10 or 12 rounds we played, I never lost a match. How's that for beginners luck? I suprised them when they challenged me to a spicy food challenge. Nelson said "Incredible, do you not feel any pain?" I went back to Nelson's University, but for Philosophy class. This time I did not teach. I sat quietly as the teacher rambled on at a speed unintelligible to me. We had some good times climbing on stuff in the park too.


Me, Laura, and Daniel enjoying ourselves at the park.

They reluctantly agreed to this picture.

Daniel came up with a plan for immigrating to the US. He will ride his bike to Mexico, then climb Trumps wall.

One day when we stopped in a little parks in town to use the free Wifi. Nelson looked at me and said "Let's leave, I'm getting really uncomfortable. Everybody is staring at us." I explained to him that this is how things have been for me since day 1 in Colombia. Nelson's friend Daniel said "In Valledupar Daniel, you are like Elvis, or better yet a unicorn. People stare at you like they have never seen a Gringo before."

This was in their back yard. They had two banana trees, a coffee tree, a custard apple tree, and a star fruit tree.

For my farewell dinner they said I had to try Sichipapa at least once before leaving Valledupar. Nelson's friend Daniel said, "Eating Sachipapa is like going up to heaven and slowly coming back down again." After it was served he invited me to have the first bite. He was not wrong, this stuff was incredible! I can't believe something this amazing has not crept into the US of A. You name it, it was probably in there. The main ingredient was French fries, topped with just about everything you can imagine. Sausage, corn, lettuce, mayo, ketchup, onions, bacon, chicken, beef, a few other sauces and veggies, and tons of cheese. Best food in Colombia so far! That's saying a lot. Tomas' wife Angelica cooked for us all seven days I visited. She cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday. She was an amazing cook too! There are quite a few things she made that I will be attempting to replicate when I get back home. I don't think there was a repeat meal either, so I really got a taste for some authentic Colombian dishes.

This is Sachipapa. Not enough you say?

This was a residuals amount of food. It amounted to 10 US dollars. Food here is dirt cheap.

One of Angelica's many killer dishes.

Enjoying their pets on the back patio.

The next morning I packed up everything and prepared to roll out. Tomas came to to me and said in hybrid Spanglish "Today is no good, it's late, and there's lots of sun. It's Friday, tonight we practice volleyball and basketball. Tomorrow is better for travel. You stay today?" Well he had talked me into it. What's one more day gonna hurt? The next morning we said our goodbyes. Tomas said "You are always welcome here. Mi casa, es tu casa." Which translates to "My house is your house." As I rolled a bit down the road Tomas started chasing after me and said "One more day! Stay, you go tomorrow!" As much as I loved this place I was itching to get back on the road, I respectfully declined and continued trek south.


Before this got green and swampy.

I'm now starting to see lots of cow farms.

This was truly an amazing pit stop. In all my days of cycling, I never stayed in one place for a week. That shows how much I enjoyed my time here. I learned a great deal about Spanish and Colombian culture, and I came to love the Colombian's infectious happiness. Made a couple grwat friends too. Couldn't have been any better!

Dinner date with the guys. I got to borrow some of Tomas' clothes.

Now I was back out into the wilderness. No shower, no fan, no power outlets, and the hardest of all, no home cooked meals. Alas, it still felt great to be pedaling again. My first night back and I was having a bit of trouble finding a suitable place to pitch my tent. The two worst types of terrain for stealth camping are hills or mountains with steep inclines, and swamps. Tonight I was dealing with the latter. On both sides of the road it looked like the everglades. After a good bit of searching, I decided to set up camp on a farm, in between many stocky palm trees. It was obviously someone's property, but what's new? I just have to make sure I don't get spotted. I remembered the flooded riverbed so I looked for a little mound to pitch the tent and hoped I wouldn't get swept away.

A topical little food pit stop in Colombia. They are in every little town on the map. They usually have some fried foods and a variety of juice.

Now we're back into the green.

Waiting out the rainstorm underneath a bridge.

My first jungle camp spot.

It rained all night long, and the tent fared better than expected. It only leaked a tiny bit, and it was due to the lopsided group I set it up on. I was pleased to have made it through the night without a hitch. I crawled out of the tent to begin packing up, when suddenly it hit me. I remembered seeing a river to the left of the tent, but not to the right. A second river had formed between me and the road overnight. I tried to recall all the things I packed. Nope, I definitely did not pack the canoe. I wandered over to the newly established body of water. I slowly walked out to test the depth, hoping there were no piranhas. Worse than I expected, it was waist deep, and muddy. Let's hope it's only similar to the Eveglades in appearance, I would hate to go toe to toe with an alligator, without my machete that is.

Before the flood.

After the flood.

This guy wanted to tag along. Not today buddy.

Wouldn't want to get on his bad side.

I love these palm fields.

It was the only way out so I rolled the bike over and prepared to portage. Just then two security guards rolled in on motorcycles. They must have been farm security, and they spotted me. I waved to them hoping they would let me be, but this was probably the most exciting thing that ever happened while they were on duty. They B-lined over to me. I played the dumb Gringo card and explained to them that I didn't know much Spanish. I said I wanted some photos of the farm and that I was just leaving. They didn't look convinced, and he told me it was private property. I apologized to them and they let me off the hook. They stuck around to ogle curiously as I waded through the swamp/river attempting to keep the bike above the water. Well that could have been worse, just glad the water wasn't a few feet higher, I would have been stuck on a deserted island.

Starting the climb.

That mountain range in the background is Venezuela.

He may look dead, but he was alive and well. The are many pretty mariposas here.

The mixing of the rivers.

Today the terrain has changed again. I am now properly into the mountains. First day riding in the Andes. There were already a few climbs today that were almost on par with the Rockies. They were just as steep, but not nearly as long. We are only just getting started! The Andes are going to be rough.

That was what I just pedaled up.

It was one heck of a climb to get here.

The climb was worth it for this view.

In Aguachica now resting after a tough day of riding.

This guy doesn't look like a very friendly visitor.

A Colombian delicacy called boli. It's like a mix between ice cream and a popsicle. The coconut one is the bomb. This ran me a whole 6 cents.

Lots of pics this time. Hope you enjoyed them!

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