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Barranquilla

February 6, 2020

Barranquilla

Very busy, work a day town.   Got warned several times about being robbed while ridding into town.  Oh, yea there was the process of getting into town. It has been very hot and I knew I had a long ride so I told my hostess I needed breakfast at 6 am.  She said she would prepare a couple of sandwiches and some juice for the morning.  When I got up, I went into the kitchen to make my coffee and get the sandwiches.  Took them out of the refrigerator and put them on the counter.  Went about making my coffee.  Went back to my bedroom and when I returned, she was up and had put my sandwiches on the grill.  She was fascinated that I had all my coffee fixings and watched me carefully as I used my French Press. 

Barranquilla, Approaching the Bridge

After breakfast I quickly loaded up and left. It was already almost 7.  It would get hot around 9 and I had almost 80 km to go today.  A long crossing of a land bridge across lagoon with no services, was most of the day. As I entered the road I noticed that my speed was up around 24 km.  Wow,  I was hoping for a tailwind but this was way more.  I was up in my big gears and just flying.  I had forgotten that I had such gears.  From my first day of pedaling in Colombia I have not used these gears.  Almost always I have been pedaling in the only gears I thought I had brought, the small ones used when things point up steeply.  See, even when it is flat, I get to talk about hills.
All day dead flat, wide shoulder and a tail wind, YES!  Well, I should say all morning, because that was all it took before I saw the bridge across the bay and the end to pleasure.
The bridge had a very nice bike lane next to a wide sidewalk.  All the way for the 2 or so km.   Sure, a climb, but nothing, really.  Then down following the bike lane.  Then, Then, or no Then! 

The bike lane ended in construction.  I mean ended.  Nowhere to go, just trucks and cranes and half-built bridges and part built roads, everywhere.  I asked the construction works, “what the heck?”  

They discussed how I could get to El Centro. An argument ensued.  I should go back and use another road. No, I should go across the dirt hills and find the road on the other side.  No, I should find a way to the other bike lane.  What other bike lane? The one on the other side of the six-lane highway running alongside where we were standing.  The one with the 4-foot wall and another 4 foot wall in the medium strip.  Right, that was an option.
When you are traveling by bicycle surprise is always an option.  Did I say option?  Well, maybe an opportunity.  After a while I noticed a dirt path that seem to go in the right direction and thanking them rode off.  Soon I came to another very nice bike lane.  Ok, this is it until I get into to town.
But opportunity had more in store.  There in front of me was a large hole.  I mean 50 feet across and maybe 400 feet long.  Now I want you to think about this.  A brand-new sidewalk, road and bike lane, paint almost still wet and they are digging it up!  
I have been riding next to the 4-foot wall and the super highway for a little while.  I stop again and ask more construction workers where can I go? I do see a dirt path leading to a neighborhood street and ask about it.  NO, very dangerous!  Many robbers, they will stab you and take everything.  The first workers had warned me as well.  Maybe?  Ok, what do we do?  

I look down the expressway and saw that it ended and became a big street.  What about me using the highway?  No, the police will arrest you.  I thought,  no they will not.  How can I get my bike over the wall?  I cannot take off the bags and then put them back on, on the fast road.  I grabbed the bike and walked toward the wall.  The workers followed and when we got to the wall three or four of them took the bike and lifted it over the wall, handing it to a couple of others who had climbed over.  I then asked for a photo which as you can see were very enthusiastic about.   I rode off knowing I had a good story.  

Stopping at a gas station for a cold drink I was warned again about robbers.  Wow, this town must be bad.  
Tonight, walking around I saw this was a busy place, but I did not feel unsafe.  Will see tomorrow, but I do wonder why so many workers feel their town is so dangerous. 

—Bill H.

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Meetings

February 1, 2020

San Gil*continued,
Colombia

( *pronounced “Hill”)

The other day I wrote about meeting people while traveling.  I said that I did not think I was capable of much of that kind of thing.  I still believe it to be true, but yesterday was a little eye-opener.
Returning from visiting Barachara, a nearby colonial town on the Colombian historic register, I received a text from an expat living in Colombia.  He wanted to know what I was up to.  I met him through a connection from Ashland.  
I shared my day a little with David as I stopped at a balcony restaurant for a beer.  It is a great place as it overlooks the busy and pleasent main plaza.  I was introduced to El Balcony by Hale, the Turkish cyclist whom I met while walking my bike along the street.  

Sharing a Beer in San Gil
Sharing a Beer in San Gil
I had arranged through my hostess to purchase a bus ticket to Santa Marta, a town 200 km north of Cartagena.  Another expat had suggested that it would make for a good trip to ride from Santa Marta to Cartagena.  So, I texted Steve, sharing I was soon on my way.  He wanted a map of where I was staying, so I sent him one.
 
Leaving my high level perch and entering the sidewalk the man from the motorcycle shop stopped me to talk a little.  Just to say hi and how are you kind of thing.  Like what happens when you walk down the street of your home town.  
 
As evening drew on I went for a walk down some streets I had not yet explored.  This town is very busy on a Friday night.  The calles are crowded with food vendors surrounded by very full tables set up in the streets on almost every corner. Lots of music and conversation.  The motor scooters buzzing and weaving through the maze, while walkers try not to get hit.  
 
I watched the young children as they learned  from their parents how to negotiate safely.  I have become aware, from watching mother ducks and mother humans with their youngsters following in a line, just how much children learn from observation, beginning at a very young age.  Think about how babies learn to smile.
 
As I walked around I remembered that I had to stop at a panadria to buy something for breakfast.  I am sitting here on the balcony of my hotel having just finished the breakfast I purchased last evening and drinking my second cup of French Press as I talk with you. The press and the coffee I carry .  Good coffee is a wonderful way to start a day. 
 
I know the time by the shadow of awning on the table.  It is approaching the edge.  I will leave you and  begin the rest of my day when the table is completely covered by the shadow.  Boy, do I get distracted.
 
I headed back toward my hotel and the bakery where Hale and I shared stories of the road.  It is a small place and some of the tables are in the doorway.  As I made the turn into the shop there sat Hale and Gorge talking with the owner. I joined the conversation until the shop closed.
 
We walked toward their apartment and my hotel on the quiet, summer warmed, nighttime street.  We said our goodbyes with hugs, each going off to a different life, with good memories of our meetings.


So, maybe I am wrong about meeting the people of the world.  Maybe I should look at it in a different way.  John, a long time friend, said about my traveling, that I approach each day wondering what will happen while others approach the day thinking about what they must do.  Instead of wondering if I will meet someone maybe  I should wonder who will meet me.

No, I will continue to leave my bed with my eyes open and just let each day be what it is without expectations.

The table is in the shadow.

—Bill H.

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