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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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Bicycle Change & Motherhood

January 31, 2020

San Gil*continued,
Colombia

( *pronounced “Hill”)

Just another day in the travel life. 
“The travel life? What the heck does that mean?”  
Ok, in the life of a traveler.  Is that better?  Picky, picky, picky.
Can I get on with this story, now?
Last night I met with Hale, the Turkish cyclist and her boyfriend for a drink and a talk.  Their life is going though a big change.  First, they are getting married.  Then she is leaving for Cuba to undertake a month cycle trip and he for Turkey to start a hang gliding business.  He is an internationally licensed pilot and they see an opportunity for both her touring business and his jumping of cliffs business in Turkey.

Bicycle Change & Motherhood
Bicycle Change & Motherhood
They were discussing the problems of young couples today.  Her mother wants, guess what?  They want to begin a life of working toward their goals.  Today?  Was my question.  Life in that way has not changed very much.  Mothers want to be grandmothers and children want to live their lives in their way.  
 
They did invite me to join them on a 5 day tour of the eastern mountain chain to help their bike touring business friends scout out a new addition to their offerings.  It just did not interest me.  They will ride the down hills and truck the bikes up the hills.  Also there will be a lot retraceing and mapping.  The logistics seem just too much for me right now.  It is nice to receive such an offer, however.
 
I wanted to make a change to my bicycle set up that required the manufacture of some parts.  One of the nice things about a country that is trying to help everyone with any problem they have, is just that.  Whatever you need, if you can describe it the people will do everything possible to make it happen.  When you are traveling in such countries remember that things are differentin many good ways.  If you have a problem that at home would take a lot of time and money, share it with a local.  You most likely will be surprised at the answer. 
 
The hotel owner’s son took me out to find a place to solve the problem.  We went first to a window manufacturer.  Jorge thought that since they use a lot of aluminum they would have the stock to make the parts I needed.  No.  
 
On the way to another such place we saw a motorcycle dealer and repair shop.  I drew out the part and asked did they have such a part.  No, but they could make it for me.  Ok, I need 4.  Sure, no problem. Did I want them painted and what color?!  Black would be good.  Should I come back tomorrow.  No, we can get it done in about a half hour.  Wow, how much will it cost?  We need to buy some nuts and bolts, so with the labor, our parts, all together about $1.75.  
 
I got a chair and sat down to wait, Jorge returned off to his work.  The mechanic asked me to help a little and we talked about the motorcycle business and just chatted while he and I worked.  A couple of changes to the idea, a trip to the hardware store and shortly the change was made.  I offered another $2.00 but he said no, even giving me the change.
 
Just another day in the travel life.  

—Bill H.

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Tires

The Feel of My Tires
The Feel of My Tires

January 30, 2020

San Gil*, Colombia

( *pronounced “Hill”)

I always wondered how some travelers met so many locals.  I know, this is coming from a guy who seems to meet everyone.  To me that is not true.  I feel that I am traveling alone without meeting many people.  But I am always open to the opportunity.  One just never knows what is coming their way.
Walking my bike down the streets of San Gil, a big adventure town, a cute young woman stopped me and asked where I was going.  A very common question.  Donde va, is heard a lot.  After that de donde eres.  Where are you from,  is most often the next question.  I told her I was going to Colombia.  That stopped her.  Here we were in the middle of the country a long way from any major city and I tell her I am going to visit the country.
Hale is a touring cyclist.  She has been out since 2015.  Soon we were talking about travel.  No, not cycling.  The bicycle is a transportation device, not the journey.  After a while we exchanged WhatsApp info and I went off to find a hotel and she to work.  We had arranged to meet later.  
At about 4, I texted her and we arranged to meet at a panaderia.  She suggested the bakery and it was a good place.  We talked for 2 hours over a piece of raisin cake and a glass of manarina juice.  Can you imagine how many tangerines it takes to get a full glass of juice?  It is very good and I am hooked on it.
Hale has some wonderful stories of the road.  She now is settling down with a Colombiano boyfriend, but not completely ready to quit traveling.  She is running tours for Turkish tourists in Peru, Chile and Colombia.  A Turkish TV statio was publishing stories about her tours so they became more popular.  She is getting too busy for her tastes I think.  
We have plans to meet for lunch, tomorrow.  She is going to talk to a friend running a bicycle day tour company about me joining some tours as a helper.  That would be fun, but it is only talk now.  I have found jobs on the road a couple of times.  When canoeing the Missouri River I was hired to help a campground owner improve the business in his store.  I was offered a job helping a cab company increase their touring business in Peru, but declined.  It was just the wrong timing. As with meeting people I am not sure how these things happen.  
Some of it is that I am alone and more open to encounters.  Also I have learned to pay attention to my environment.  I watch people and listen to them.  I look at their moment to moment lives.  It adds so much interest to my life and travels.    
The ride here yesterday was, wait for this, EASY.  
“No, that is not possible.  How could any ride you do, be easy?”  
Yea, I know, all I ever talk about is how hard and big the hills are.  Well, yesterday began with a small, easy climb that took me quickly out of the city into the mountains.  As I was already above San Gil it was generally a fall from there.  Oh, there were climbs, but short ones.  Climbs I could work on my standing with.  
“Why, does he want to work on standing?”
Standing gives me the opportunity to strengthen body parts that need the action of standing to make them stronger and therefor improve my over all riding, making it easier and more fun.  
Yes, riding in big mountains can be fun. I complain but why would I do this if I were not fun?  Once I got a gold rose from the Tudor guild.  They were given for something beyond the normal that someone did.  I got mine because while talking with the then president I said, in response to her question about enjoyment of my work with the Guild.  Why would one volunteer if they were not enjoying the job?  Is it not the same with life and all things in it.  If we are not enjoying what we are doing, then why do it?  Of course, there are some things that we must do that are not as fun, but we cannot let them be our life’s guide.  
So, when I complain about the hills, wind, traffic or whatever, know that underneath there is always enjoyment of the moment.  I so enjoy the feel of my tires as they travel the roads of the world.  
Wow, what a way to live!  My tires are so lucky!

—Bill H.

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The Road Leads

January 29, 2020

Colombia

The road is an amazing place.  It goes never goes where it points.  Three days ago, I woke up thinking I was going to be riding for about 4 or 5 days.  I was looking forward to it.  When it began with a hard climb, I welcomed the challenge.  It was what I wanted to do.  There nothing like cycling into the unknown. Such a good feeling. 
As I went up a hill I had climbed 2 days before, I noted this curve, that piece of rope imbedded in the pavement.  The place where I stopped to recover as I faced an extreme angle, passed, where a dapper man rode past on his wonderful horse, appeared. The long hot houses where tomatoes grow all over this valley, where their angle indicated the steepness of this climb, went by.  Many places that reminded me of truing around to return to Villa de Leyva for the solution to a problem.
The road is so full of surprises that, after all these years of trying to follow it I no longer see difficulty in its demands.  Returning to a place used to bring stress. What, I have to do this again.  I very much dislike U turns.  In fact I do not allow my gps to ask for one.  
As I rolled back into Leyva I went to a bike shop I had stopped when I first entered the town.  They did not have what I needed and sent me to another.  There I met Henry.  Ok, those who read my stories know where this is going.  We engaged each other at once.  He is an ex professional racer, a shop owner and a good guy.  We talked about the problem.  He had all I needed and would get right to work.  Well, after we had a cup of tinto.  No, not red wine, but black coffee.  Colombia has so many expressions that do not exist in other Spanish speaking countries.

Lunch was Good
Lunch was Good


After talking for some time, a very attractive female employee came forward and joined the conversation.  At least I thought she was just an employee.  Ok, time for Henry to get to work and me to go for lunch.  The bike would be ready tomorrow morning. 


Lunch was good. Near where I am staying, the tourist area, lunch costs between 25,000 to 30,000.  Where I ate cost 6,000, for a bowl of soup, a main plate of meat, salad, potato, yucca, rice and a lemonade.  At about 3,300 per dollar, that is a big difference for the same meal.  After, I walked around, this now familiar town. I ventured further into the neighboring hills and residential areas, learning more as I went. 
I have noticed that there is a lot of property for sale in Colombia.  That can a few things, people with financial problems, a seller’s market, a booming economy or a failing one.  Here I think it is the fast-expanding expat market.  More and more expats from the US, Canada Europe and other parts of the world are discovering that Colombia is a safe country with a great climate, good economy, yet very inexpensive.  
As darkness fell, I found my way home and settled in to think about this journey and enjoy the bicycle race on tv. A small note.  Days are 12 hours long as are the nights, year round.  In fact, ex pats tell me it sometimes bothers them that sunset comes at the same time every day.
After breakfast I walked over the Henry’s store to pick up my bike.  As before, it was not that simple.  First a cup of tinto, a conversation with Henry, then the female employee and then an older woman.  Now we were standing around the shop discussing the world and our lives.  After an hour or maybe 2 Henry and I settled on the cost.  He wanted the parts.  OK, how much are they worth to you, I asked.  We talked and came to an agreement of a discount if I let him keep the parts.  I was not going to take them anyway.  I did not want to carry the extra weight.
It came time for me to leave, it was lunch time again.  I suggested that Henry and I could meet for a beer after he closed.  Yes, that is a great idea, he responded as the female employee nodded her head vigorously.  Wait, I did not invite her, but I got no choice.


Myself with Henry & Andrea

At 7 I went to the plaza, the time and place for us to meet.  At 7’30 I sent Henry a text saying I was sorry we had missed each other.  Just as I finished the female employee came up and hugged me.  OK, what is going on?  She said her father was parking the car.  Then I noticed the older woman from the shop.  This is my mother Andrea said.  OK, another surprise.  Soon, I saw Henry round the corner.  Here comes my father, Andrea says.  Now, I get it!  They are a family.  Boy am I slow.
We got a beer each and sat on church steps at the head of the plaza, talking, meeting various friends, enjoying the warm evening. Henry and l walked around the classic cars parked for a small show and generally did what they do on a Saturday night.  Very pleasant evening and a great reward for not getting excited about a problem.  So many times, what seems to be a disaster becomes one of the best experiences of a journey. 
As I said in the beginning.  The road has its own ideas of what a day will be.  I just to make sure I listen. 

—Bill H.

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Thoughts

Traveling Can Lead to Thinking...
Traveling Can Lead to Thinking…

January 26, 2020

Colombia

This tour is difficult.  Not in the hard climbing. For sure it is the hardest I have ever done.  But it is not difficult, just have to keep pedaling.  It is not difficult in the logistics.  There are very inexpensive hotels and restaurants everywhere.  You would love it.  No planning just stop when you want.  

It is hard because I don’t see the purpose.  This land is fantastic.  Everywhere I look my eyes are amazed.  I am meeting the people as always.  How many find a new grandmother who is younger than them.

I am learning about the history and the culture. Bolivar was one amazing traveler and general.  During his campaign to free South America from Spain he rode a horse 123,000 km.  My Spanish is getting better.   I can almost hear the intent of the sentence.  Surprise has come in staying in the homes of Ashlanders living in this country.   Dave and Steve were wonderful hosts taching much about their lives as expats.  But something is missing.  It is the purpose.  I just cannot identify it.  

Always my journeys find a purpose.  Not often when I begin but they do find their own way.  This one is lost.  Where am I going?  I do not mean a physical location, but rather a place in memory.  What will I remember about here beyond the obvious?

This morning I wanted to ride.  I knew it was going to be a very hard climb that would not seem to have an end.  I knew that this was the beginning of a 6 or so day ride to a city in the north.  From the maps and profile it will not be an easy ride.  I will climb many thousands of feet, most of it very steep and duro, as they say here.  Hard is something I want to do.  I always want to be stronger in mind than body.  It takes more mind than body to keep moving forward under very hard effort. But that is not enough.  It is not a real purpose, for no matter strength will fade with age.  

I sit here in my very nice hotel room telling you this and still wonder why I am here.  I know that travel is what I do. I know I do not do it to see the world, but of course i do. I do not do it to gain knowledge, again that happens, it is impossible to ignore.  I do not do it to move, moving is easy anywhere.  All this travel life has been because I could do no other.  It has always found a purpose beyond travel and that is what I seek.  But this one has not, yet.  

I will keep hoping.  

Time for a stainless steel cup of Portuguese wine. 

—Bill H.

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Kidnapped

A view of Villa de Leyva, Columbia
Villa de Leyva, Columbia

January 22, 2020

Villa de Leyva and Villa de Racquira, Colombia

A note in my last email i said 2 days short of a month.  I do lose track of time, so forgive me.
 I was kidnapped this morning.  A couple from Medellin asked me to join them for breakfast and it turned into an entire day with a trip out of town.

Negra and Elena, a Columbian Couple
Negra and Elena, a Columbian Couple

Negra and Elena are traveling around for a week or so learning more about their adopted country.  They were born in Ecuador and moved to Colombia 30 years ago when they married.  Now they are retired, she from her medical practice and he also from the same.
Very nice couple to put up with my Spanish all day.  They speak no English so it was Spanish all day.  That was one of the reasons I accepted their offer of a walk after breakfast.  To have the opportunity to invest time speaking the language one on one, was too good to pass up.  
Shortly after we left the hotel Negra suggested that we visit Racquira.  We walked over the bus station and negotiated the best price, had a cup of tinto.  No, not red wine, but a cup of black coffee.  Theirs with sugar and mine sin.  It is as difficult to get coffee without sugar here as it is to get tea without it in the south.  In fact, this morning at breakfast I asked for tinto sin azucar and got it with sugar.  They prepare it that way as normal.  In order for me to get it without they have to make it special, which they did.

A view of Villa de Racquira, Columbia
A view of Villa de Racquira, Columbia

Soon we boarded the bus for the half hour ride.  Racquira is an amazing little village.  It looks something out of a Mexican movie.  I think it is a border town transported to Colombia.  Really fun place with lots of tourist stuff for sale and yet a unique town with pretty little rivers, a small church and a plaza with many statues of saints and working people.  
Everywhere we went Negra negotiated the prices.  It did not matter that he had no intention of buying anything, he argued the price.  He spoke with a tout about the price of lunch for about 10 mins., even though he planned to return to Leyva for lunch.  Later in the afternoon he asked if we wanted ice cream.  Sure, that sounded good in the hot afternoon.  He went into the supermarket and began to ask the price of the packaged ice cream!  Interesting hobby.
They would not let me leave as we walked around Leyva, them taking lots of pictures, I pity their kids, and me enjoying their company.  I said kidnapped when it was really more like adopted.  As I helped her up and down the high curbs and steps, she began calling herself my abuela.  Interesting as am older than both of them by about 10 years.  Difficult for her to be my grandmother.  
So, I hope they have lots of money to leave me.  Wait, I think they may survive me by a long time.  Oh, well I guess I should pay my credit card after all.

—Bill H.

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Out of Order

The Countryside Outside of Villa Tuscana
The Countryside Outside of Villa Tuscana

January 15, 2020

Villa Tuscana, Colombia

Wow, the last couple of days have been about climbing up to Villa Tuscana to visit Dave and Maria Luz. He is a retired postman from Medford and Ashland she is a Columbian accountant.  
Mostly uphill from Zipaquiera, this deep valley is spectacular.  Wait a minute, up hill to a deep valley, No.  Yes!  
After the flat ride to Zipaquiera,  I found, good word, a road to take me back to the Autopista and north.  The road had a small, 524 meters high hill, in just under 3 km.  Then a down on a dirt road, with lots of sharp curves, deep holes and big rocks.  
At the autopista, the highway opened up to 4 lanes and a nice shoulder of smooth pavement.  But of course it had to have some challenge or why would I do it?  It began a climb that would continue for the next 2 days.  
As you know I like to climb as I like the rewards of great views and ever changing landscape.  In Columbia that is very true.  This country is right out of a fantastic novel.  It is just not possible for the landscape to be real.  I do not have the capability to share with you in words what I am seeing.  As you know my eyes have witnessed many countries on this world. Every continent has felt my tires and Columbia stands out as spectacular!  

Dave had told me to go to Terra Negara and turn right at the sign for Villa Tuscana, well there was no sign but only one right turn so I took it.  I did ask and was told it did go to Janesano which I knew was close to David’s place.  
Ok, he said there was a climb and a rough road I had to negotiate.  Ha!  Yes, a climb of about 5 km with short grades in excess of 20%!  Rough road, yes.  But not too bad.  Much better than the dirt road of yesterday.  
But what awaited me was harder.  A big downhill.  A crazy stretch of 12 km of extremely steep down with no pavement in places, speed bumps, trucks on my side of the road, and all of this awaiting around very sharp curves.  Do not know how steep, but my nose was sore from rubbing on the road as I fell of the mountain.  The down was harder than the up.
Am now staying in Jenasano for a few days to get some dental work done.  Just think about travel to such a great place and dental work done for a great price.  A cleaning and 3 caps for $140.  Lida, the dentist has been in practice since 1999.  Lots of good experience and very busy.  She cleaned my teeth today and will finish the rest on Sunday and Monday. I had heard that prices here were low, but wow.

A Bicyclist Sculpture
Discovered a Bicyclist Sculpture!

Dave and Maria Luz have been great hosts.  They live in a small closed village with tennis courts, a large pool, several weekend restaurants, a bowling alley and a movie theater.  All tucked into this beautiful valley. 
Moved into town for a couple of days as Dave and Maria Luz left for Bogota.  Sunday Lida finished my work and I left for parts unknown Monday.  I have some towns in mind but overall do not know where this trip will take me.
You may notice this story is a little out of order, but then again so I am.  
I am writing this from the Altiplano where it is raining hard in the desert.  I guess the rain falls hard here because we are so close to the sky it does not have far to fall.
e.
You may notice this story is a little out of order, but then again so I am.  
I am writing this from the Altiplano where it is raining hard in the desert.  I guess the rain falls hard here because we are so close to the sky it does not have far to fall.

—Bill H.

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It is hard when you cannot remember…

January 17, 2020

Terra Tuscana-Jenesano, Colombia

It is hard when you cannot remember the name of the place you are staying.  I had to stop for a while to remember.  Maybe I can blame it on the Spanish.  Yea, that’s it, couldn’t be old age…
Today was interesting?  Took David, my host to the cell store to help him with changing phones and upgrading his sim card.  His iPhone would not let him download any apps until he updated the operating system.  But it would not let update the system.  Great!  
He had an older Android and we changed the sim card….do you really care about all this?  I know I don’t care about discussing it.  We got that done and then he had to go to get his shoulder worked on.  
While that was happening, I walked around, went to the bank to get efectivo because the dentist would not accept credit cards, only cash.  I had a beer and an arepa.  They are lightly fried corn cake with cheese in them sometimes.  Very good.  
The ATM did not work.  More on that later.  “Really, now he is going to go on about a ATM , why?  Think I will just delete this story.”
Sometimes traveling is just day to day activities.  I found a dentist yesterday who would see me right away.  Lida examined my teeth and told me what problems I had and asked what I wanted to do.  We agreed on a cleaning and 3 caps.  Then we negotiated the cost.  The price came to be 3,400,000 COP. COP is Columbian Pesos.  In American that is $140.00!  So, she cleaned them and I have go back on SUNDAY, imagine and Monday to complete the work.  Now I must add in the extra cost of my hotel room.  For 4 days that comes to $40.00.  Very nice, lots of windows, clean room with on-suite in the center of town. Better than going to a dentist locally and just a little cheaper.
With more day to day stuff we finished the day by going to another town and bank to get the cash.  See I got the arm discussion in before you deleted the story. 
Returning to our casa Maria Luz called and asked us to join her at a friend’s apartment for hot chocolate and dulce pan.  The sweet rolls and cheese were good, but not as good as the Mexican detective comedy we watched with the family of older adults.  We had so much fun with the 1950’s slapstick movie.  
I have been losing weight.  Not so much from cycling but from Columbian eating habits.  In the morning breakfast, sometimes with a good hot soup, sometimes a normal American breakfast.
Lunch is the main meal.   A starter, soup, main plate with rice, a couple of small potatoes, a 3 bite salad, a drink and whatever main you choose.  I took my host to lunch and the total was around $5 for both of us.  Lunch can last 2 or 3 hours.  It the time the to share with others.   Eating local not only provides the local food, a learning experience, but is most enjoyable. 
Then in the evening the dinner is maybe an arepa or some fruit and a beverage. BTW very fresh fruits are severed with almost every meal and for snacks.  Very nice.
Even day to day can be fun and interesting.  
Question.  What picture should I have used for this story?  Maybe one  of me in the dentist chair with an open…never mind, No pic with this story.  And no hills!

—Bill H.

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An Interesting Climbing Companion

January 15, 2020

Terra Negara, Colombia

The Road near Terra Negara
The Road near Terra Negara

Had my first bad interpersonal encounter in all my years of travel. I mean where my life could have been in danger.  Such a contrast to all my Columbian travels.
I was climbing very slowly up as I had been yesterday and most of the day today.  I was very tired.  When out of a side road came a man, moving fast.  He was dressed as a field worker and very dirty.  I have learned that Columbians take a shower every day no matter their economic status.  It is very important to them.  
The man ran up alongside of me and began yelling in a Spanish that I had not heard.  Running very close as I weaved up the hill, making me nervous about colliding with him.  He kept yelling and yelling. I have learned that it is best to pretend not to speak the language in such circumstances.  In my case that was very easy.
As he continued to run close by and yell, I told him to go away in English, several times.  He did not and the more he yelled the more difficult it was for me to continue to maintain on this difficult climb. Finally, I stopped and looked directly at him and told him to go away in Spanish.  He then took out his machete and waved it in the air while making cutting motions.  
OK, I am standing over my bike, holding it from moving back downhill.  No way to defend myself.  I was tired from climbing for 2 days and not in the mood for this action.  By now he was very irritated and telling me to give him money for food.  I again looked directly at him and said I was not giving him anything, that I did not have money enough for him and he should go away.  He pointed at my bike saying how much it costs and I could give him some money.  He was still yelling.
I had had enough!  I told him I was an old man and did not care what he did to me.  What I had was mine and he was getting none of it.  Then I told him to go away again, in a command Spanish.  He brought his machete a little closer, then put it away.  Finally, he waved to me and walked up the hill, stopping a couple of times to see what I was doing.  After a little while I rode on up and saw him turn off on another dirt road.
As I thought about this, I realized the man was most likely Venezuelan.  The dirty clothes and body, the strange Spanish and the aggressive nature, none of which I have seen since arriving in Columbia. 
Please know that is a refugee experience and not Columbian.  I have learned to like Columbianos and to some degree understand them and their history. I understand why some many Americans and Ashlanders have brought their lives here. That is except for all the big hills that one has to climb on a bicycle.

—Bill H.

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