Exploring a new continent

Travel time: March - June 2010  |  by Dominik Weber

20-21 March Anolaima

The morning started the same day, the evening finished: my hosts gave me all kind of fruits that I have never seen before and whose name I can't remember. There were just too many varieties of them. I also had - of course -Columbian coffee. The Columbians are very proud of their coffee - with all reasons.
Natalia asked if I mind if we drive to her grandmother's place to drop her mother off there. Of course I didn't mind the 2 hours drive into the mountains. We stopped at a supermarked and at a farmers market to see even more fruits and veggetables. I didn't know which one I wanted to try first, the choice is unbelievable big. We continued our travel for a little while before we got caught by a speeding camera. The police pulled us over, we went to a little tent we we could see our radar photo on a computer screen. So, no excuses possible, not even that I am a foreigner and that I might get a wrong impression from the country. Well, I was surprised how organized everything was.
We were driving through Florida, stopped for a corn bread, passed by a lot of uniformed men - various kinds of police - the streets got smaller and smaller, the wholes bigger and bigger, sometimes entire parts of the streets were missing, once more we got stopped in the middle of the street, this time by a group of school girls who were collecting money for their end-of-term holiday trip. Although it was pretty cloudy, we had some nice views over the area: green hills with some higher mountains inbetween, banana trees everywhere, coffee, flowers (that are plant for export to Europe). Simply beautiful. How does this might look like without the fog and the low skies? Suddenly we turned right into a street, that reminded me more at a dried out river bed rather than a street. But we had arrived.

First we got all greeted by Natalia's best friend: a huge dog of the size of a young cow. The dog was not the youngest any longer, half blind but absolutely friendly (that means something if I say that!!!). Then we were greeted by her second best friend, the boxer. He wasn't the youngest either and had no teeth left. To complete the trio, there was the cat, very shy and was only able to catch mouses that are already death. A perfect trio to guard the land!
But then there was Natalia's grandmother, her uncle Carlos with his wife Marina, and Gerardo with his wife Marina. Grandmother is enjoying most of the time the beautiful view from her balcony, Carlos just got retired and is enjoing his free live, while Marine is paining a lot. Gerardo and Marina are taking care of the houses (there are three on the land of every family), the 1600 coffee plants, the dogs, the banana trees, the trash etc etc.
Anolaima is 500m lower than Bogota. I think I need to be careful next time when I use the expression "up in the mountaints".
We also went to the village where we had lunch. In the middle of the city, every Saturday, they put up a tent in the middle of the village, cooking there and selling the food. A lot of meat, soup and to everything you drink beer. Some of them so much, that they couldn't get on the bikes any longer. We saw one whose bike they wanted to hide - but it didn't work since nobody could turn the engine on. So the drunk guy had to do it himself and off he was...
Since Columbia is north and south of the equator, there are hardly any seasons and almost exactly 12 hours sunshine per day. Natalia and I wanted to be on the road back to Bogota before it got dark, but she also wanted to see her other uncle Ruben with his family who was schedule to arrive the same day as well. And suddenly there was the question if we want to stay overnight. It was beautiful there and everybody was so friendly - of course I said yes.

In the evening, all were cooking toghether embueltos. First the corn cernels need to be peeled of, then it needs to me grinded, before it got mixed with spices, folded into corn leaves and then cooked for two hours which we did on the open fire. They tasted wonderful smokey and sweet; the sweetness came from panela, a kind of sugar cane. To maintain the nice atmosphere, we were all drinking beer (a lot of it) and aquadiente, a sugar cane schnaps with anis taste - a national drink. We ended all dancing to all king of South American dances that I have never heard before. Well, let's say, aquadiente was helpful to keep the rythm
The last one getting to bed was also the first one getting up in the morning: Gerardo went to the chicken to get the eggs - I had slept wonderful at CarlosĀ“. Although I couldn't talk with Gerardo, he and his wife loved me. They don't meet Gringos (A white non-South American) who can't speak Spanish too often. But for offering a beer (Gerardo) or dancing (Marina), you don't need to be able to talk in Spanish. Language hasn't been a problem so far at all. Most of the people do speak some words English, I do understand some words Spanish and I have hand and feet to talk. And there is Natalia, who is always at my side to help translating (while most of the family is wondering how good she can speak in English).
Since Grandma was asking to be brought to town, we all went. She wanted to sit down on the main square and to have a bottle of beer (it was around 11am). Of course, we joined her as well, were watching all the families with their kids and bought some meat for a barbeque later on. We were visiting a small scholl outside the village. The school is run by two patres of the St. Joseph order. He explained everything to me, how they started just recently and that they want to teach that the people should stay in the village and not move to the big cities. The local people don't value what they are having and thinking of moving to the city where live is easier. But they are having plenty of land, a lot of sun and also enough rain. Since there are hardly any season, they can use the land the entire year around. But more important, he is educating the kids on the country - one of the biggest problems in Columbia is the education, especially in rural areas. But the kids also get educated what to do with animals - that's why the school has all kind of farm animals. A great idea and all the best, Abbe Louis!

Back in town, we made another stop of another drink. Of course, beer. Today, we were lucky, since we had the chance to see the bi-annual farmer market. You could - beside mulis, pigs and sheep - you could see and buy cows and bulls. For people with fear for big animals, this wasn't the right place: most of the animals were in one big area and you were just walking through all the animals. But there were a lot of men with "cowboy hats", a little stick in one hand and a bottle of beer in the other who were taking care of the animals. And selling them. Although one could get a cow for COP 400.000 (appr. US$200), we decided we already have enough food the the barbeque.
On the market, we met again uncle Ruben with family - a good possibility of having a beer - and when we were waiting for the bus we met uncle Carlos - means the next beer. As I said, beer is very common and since it is pretty hot here, you need to drink a lot. But the beer is not too strong, so beside all those beers, I wasn't drunk at all.
Natalia and I decided to take the bus back home. The bus system here in Columbia is funny: in Bogota, but also here, most of the buses are small vans with 15-20 seats. There is no bus map or schedule, but all busses have a big sign in the window which says where they go. Here, in Anolaima, all busses are going to Bogota. The busses in Bogota are more difficult. The signs with the destination usually contain about 10 names - so local knowledge is essential. There are no bus stops at all. Either you just tell the driver to stop or when you are on the street, you just stop the bus. That means, especially in Bogota, a lot of stops and sometimes walking might be faster...
In the bus home - a trip of not even 10 minutes - there were about 8 people, three 50lbs bags of vegetables and one Gringo. Of course, it didn't take long before two guys were speaking with us (means with Natalia). They were selling som sweets for a foundation - I am very happy to try everything here, but this milk thing wasn't my taste.
Back at home, we had barbeque with a lot of meat, guacamole, potates and a cool beer. A great Sunday lunch! Some coffee and some kisses later (together with the invitation to come back), we left for Bogota.
In the evening, we met Carlos who we both know from Cubana in London. Was nice seeing him and learning from him, that after half a year in Bogota, he is thinking of going back to London again. Perhaps I will see him im London again soon!

Fritanga for lunch on the market.

Fritanga for lunch on the market.

Preparing the Embueltos with Gerardo and aunt Marina.

Preparing the Embueltos with Gerardo and aunt Marina.

Dancing with mum Isabel.

Dancing with mum Isabel.

Breakfast with great view.

Breakfast with great view.

Me on the cattle market - in the end, I didn't buy this cow

Me on the cattle market - in the end, I didn't buy this cow

Barbeque with Poker beer and uncle Ruben in the back.

Barbeque with Poker beer and uncle Ruben in the back.

© Dominik Weber, 2010
You are here : Overview The Americas Colombia 20-21 March Anolaima
The trip
 
Description:
After working for too long without a real break, I decided to go on a long planned backpack trip. After changing the departure date and the destination several times, I decided to go to South America. Starting in Colombia, then Peru and finishing in Bolivia. At least, this was the plan but once on tour, you never know what to expect. This report is for all people asking how I am doing, but also for those who are thinking about doing something similar. I hope I can inspire them.
Details:
Start of journey: Mar 19, 2010
Duration: 13 weeks
End of journey: Jun 15, 2010
Travelled countries: Colombia
Peru
Bolivia
The Author
 
Dominik Weber is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 11 years.
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