Let me first address the obvious. It has been a while since my last post and all I can say to that is – I’m lazy!
The last time I checked in was from Casa de Ciclistas in Medellin. A place where I intended to stay for 2 nights but left over a week late. It’s just the kind of place where you just really enjoy the atmosphere which somehow drags you in. Together with other cyclists who currently call this house their home you are sharing moments, ideas, meals and time. There you can also find travel companions. And so I left the house in a company of a Uruguayan couple, Mauge and Seba. Together we have then went on discovering the incredible popularity of cycling in this country.
Nowhere on Earth have I seen so many recreational cyclists on the roads as here in Colombia. Cycling here seems to be almost as popular as football. We were overtaken by at least 5-10 cyclists on daily basis.
The route took us south towards the area known as Eje Cafetero or the region where the most Colombian coffee is produced. The best is obviously exported so what is left is not exactly the best one you ever had but at the same time it’s not exactly bad. Though it is better if you have an option to prepare your own. At least in my case there are two reasons for it. The first one being that they make coffee with “agua panela”. Agua panela is water that has pieces of hardened sugar cane juice dissolved in it. This obviously adds some particular flavour to the coffee. The flavour itself is not that disturbing, but it does have a side effect. A coffee prepared in this manner could sometimes be more accurately addressed as liquid caramel. Too sweet for my taste.
But one could get accustomed to this. For me a more disturbing fact is that they are skimp on coffee itself. It is not rare that, due to the meagre amount of coffee in the drink itself, you can see the bottom of the coup. It’s more like a coffee-flavoured tea. And this is something that I cannot get used to that easily.
But to get back on the track. The more we were getting into the interior the more it was becoming obvious to me why Colombian cyclists are renown to be such a good climbers. After leaving the coastal plains a flat road in Colombia becomes almost as rare as a unicorn. It is all more like a constant rollercoaster with endless ups and downs. And as if the topography of Colombia in itself would not be enough we ventured into a region where coffee is grown. Come to think of it, I cannot really remember if I had ever seen a photo of a coffee plantation that was not taken on a steep slope. And so we sweated into climbs and tortured our brakes on descends.
But the efforts were worth the struggle. Yes we did voyage through a beautiful landscape, but after cycling more than half the way around the World (including my first wandering in the East I made more than 25,000 km – Earth’s circumference on Equator is 40,075.16 km) the landscapes normally do not capture my attention that much. What still keeps on surprises and inspires me again and again are the people that I meet. Their willingness, so natural and so human, to help a fellow human.
So whenever we have asked for a place to pitch our tent we got it. Sometimes even more. On one occasion an elderly men Oliveiro just outside of La Pintada offered us a place adjacent to his house. It was some kind of a studio that was not really used and it became a very nice home for one night for three cyclists.
Or on another occasion when in Chinchina we were all exhausted and tired sitting next to our bicycles in a park. Just before we stopped by the fire station but were declined a shelter since they had bad experiences with cyclists before. They directed us to the nearby park. There we sat down thinking about not really appealing option to camp there. We were instantly surrounded by about 10 kids (not sure about the number. There were actually more of them but they constantly rotated between who was next to us and who was distracted by something else) aged 5 to 15. To my luck there were Mauge and Seba next to me. They are waaay better in Spanish than me. Something that is very useful in moments where there are curious children’s questions flying your way from all directions. Somehow through the questions, comments and facial expressions of the kids and some adult passer-byers we managed to sense that the park seems not to be the safest option around. And then out of the blue comes Marlon, a boy short of 10 years old who came to tell us that we can leave our bicycles and stuff in the house of his mother Sandra. And we can also go and take a shower there. This gave us some sense of security (no, no the shower but the option that we can leave our equipment someplace safe). And later when we all had our shower and basically were just waiting to get late so that there would be less of a crowd around and that our setting up of tents would not draw too much of an unwanted attention, Marlon appears again. He tells Muage that his mother would like to talk to her again. So Seba and I stay holding the fortress while Muage goes to talk to Sandra. Meanwhile Felipe, a talkative teenager offers to fill our water bottles.
Upon return Mauge has difficulties holding back a smile across her face. “Sandra says the do not really have a lot of space but if it is OK for us, we can sleep on the living room floor. We just have to wait until 10:30 p.m. when she puts away her street vending foot cart.” Not only are we OK with sleeping on the floor, we enjoy it. And we also buy dinner from her.
Yes and there are many more stories like this. They seem to be more and more like an everyday occurrence. And it is experiences like these that keep on confirming my faith in Human.
I know, some of you will say that in my faith in human kindness I’m naïve. That I can let myself give into this naivety only when travelling that the real (?) world back home is different. That in the everyday individualism and more and more consumer society where I have to have it all there simply is no room for this kind of naivety. That this kind of selfless kindness to a stranger (fellow human) just stands in your way in your perpetual struggle to have more. And that the fear of others (foreigners) that can only take away not only this more that we strive for, but also what we already have (which cannot really be worth that much since we “need” more) is a completely acceptable and in some way the only acceptable way to deal with the modern World. One could also say that is the only human way to go.
Well, it’s not!
It’s not the right way and should not be acceptable. Since it is not our natural response to a fellow human. It’s a response that is being on every step more and more successfully instilled in us by the capital and the consumer society.
And it’s because of that that I’m even more grateful to all the Oliveiros, Felipes, Marlons, Sandras, Davids, Lupes, Jaimes, Hugos, Mauricios, Julietas, Alejandros, Hectors, Walters, Isas, Alfredos, Rebens, Wilmas, Oscars, Maris, Miguels, Droyses, Paolas and all the other unknown (the name list represents just a few that I have met on the route from Medellin to Pasto) that you are here! That you are a part of my Journey! That you are maintaining your (and with it so also my) humanity!
With a Smile on my face, until next time!