Adios!

I’m at my Hostel, “Casa Blanca” waiting to get a taxi to the airport. Had my last plate of bandejas.. (rice and beans) about an hour ago. The one in Roldanillo was still the best one yet. 

Cali has thus far been the lowlight of my experience. One good thing, I’ve had to do better with my Spanish.. Only because the local population has not quite been as accommodating as everywhere else. It’s a big city, with a big city attitude. It’s sprawling and doesn’t really have a center of fun/culture. Much harder to get around, taxi everywhere, no handy metro… There are little pockets of fun.. quite a lot of places to shake your cakes and meet locals doing the same.. Mostly salsa dancing.. ” Parque Perro” was the premier place I found. It is set up just like every small town I went to. But bigger. Grassy park in the middle where you can walk a dog, have an ice cream or hang out with friends… Super fun bars, restaurants and little shops around the outer edge.

I didn’t meet a lot of people here, Rodney moto biker from Australia Slojo.tumbler.com (great blog w/amazing pics) one debonaire looking guy from Chile, one American guy who I went to the Parque with. I was an ass. I didn’t tell him anything. Until a lot later. The attention was nice… Although I kind of thought he was just being flattering. Aren’t I pretty obvious??  For Chrissake, a cabdriver and the old bicycle guy asked me if I liked girls!
 I still always feel like I’m being evasive if I don’t ‘fess up right away.. and truth be told, it was interesting to take a quick walk into my old life….and it did cross my mind. however, I felt like the outing was getting a little too date-y and I finally had to admit we were looking at the same thing.

Altogether, this time in Colombia has been pure magic. It is a beautiful, wild country.. with a dark history. Many parts of it are still completely unspoiled and unexploited.. due expressly  to it’s checkered past. From the rumors and bar talk I’ve heard, this is soon to change. The minimal exploration has not gone unnoticed by the international community. I pray that this new  industry will not spoil the breathtaking landscape in this tropical paradise. 
Even though the paragliding was better than I could have thought, and I’ve met a raft of fantastic new people, I think that the best thing about coming here for me, was learning about and gaining new, great pride in my own Colombian heritage.
 

Motorbike

TUESDAY
I switched hostel for hotel.. The Shamrock. I’m not sure what the difference is.. It’s a bit less money at the hotel. The maids son helped move my heavy bags over here.. my broken rib can’t handle the weight yet.  I took one of the two rooms upstairs. Yep, the same pub as the hot grill girl. 
 Her name is Laura.
 I share a bathroom. The room is painted brightly and is covered with motorcycle posters.. Brit bikes, Triumphs! It has a great view of the mountains, reading lamp and incandescent bulbs.
No one asks for a deposit, no credit card, no name. Just get the keys and pay when you want. I’m sure this will change with time, but right now, it feels like a little island of trust.

They cater specifically to traveling motorcyclists.. I love to sit outside and 
hear the stories of these adventurers passing through. So far, I have met a dozen people that are on long distance South American motorcycle rides. One gorgeous, tall, German looking blonde, forty something with a loose French braid, US expat now living in Australia has been riding all over the world.. On a KTM 690R… Japan, Europe, Siberia, Alaska, now South America.. for twenty months now. She’s not sure if and when she’ll be done. She’s straight.

I thought she was gone this morning but I just ran into her in the hallway.. She’s having some work done on her bike… It could take a couple days. Or a week. or more… It’s still Colombian time. Even if it is a big motorcycle dealership in a metropolitan city.

Here’s her blog… I think she’s a little behind, but I’m going to keep an eye on it when she catches up!  sherrijobecauseicanworldtour.blogspot.com I’m a little jealous that I can’t ride with her for a while. The other guys have blogs too.. And post a bit on ADV (Adventure Riders)
They are all engaging..  I love their perspective, their relaxed, nomadic ways, they have a million stories.. Border crossings, small towns, locals, customs, they are information sponges. They are able and bright, all incredibly self sufficient.. But will accept the help from a friend or friendly local anytime they need it.. I feel kindred amongst this crew.

One of my favorite stories  was from an Irish guy who worked in Washington DC.. He wasn’t entirely satisfied with his job but didn’t know what else to do. One day, online he read a story about a couple that were riding around the world on their motorcycles.. It was an epiphany for him and although he had never ridden before and had no money to leave town with, he  made up his mind that he would do this too. A couple years later, January, 27, he is in Medellin, Colombia.. He’s been riding since last June.
A ginger gal about sixty years old from Scotland is here at ten months of a year long trip. She had a nasty wreck a week ago on her Harley. (totally stopped in traffic, a bus ran over her… and then backed up over her again!) her ankle is broken in two places and wrist..on the same side. She’s going to be laid up for a while recovering. She’s a tough bird, she’s been out here for two days with her busted foot up on the patio drinking beers, chain smoking cigarettes,  telling stories, cussing and laughing. She’ll be fine.

 The street vendors here in the Zona sell mostly fruit.  My favorite of these are Mangosteins. They are perfectly ripe and lovely to look at. They are the same size as a large plum,  same patina as a well loved, deep purple-red antique leather chair.. and have a cartoon-ish clump of bright green stem and little round leaves on the top. I have to be so careful when I buy these to only get a small bag because I always eat the whole thing. I love digging in to the super thick skin and pulling the fruit apart… There is a juicy, sweet, tropical  prize inside of each one!

THURSDAY
I went to the Museum Antioqua today. I took a cab there. It is in downtown Medellin. They have a huge Botero exhibit.. Nearly a whole floor. He is from here in Medellin.. They are quite proud of this and so is he.. The large bustling courtyard in front of the Museum is filled with his giant 10-15’+ Bronze statues.. All figures. Except for a horse. and a disembodied hand. Nearly all nude. They have a generally brown patina.. Except for the boobs, butts and peckers.. Which have nearly all (the ones you can get a hand or two on) been rubbed a shiny bronze. 

I take the train down a little way to the Botanic gardens.. A very nice reprieve from  crowded downtown… As well, they have a modern, cleanly designed, breezy, white tablecloth restaurant and wine bar that I am hoping to try. I buy an ice cream and walk around the quiet gardens for a bit. 

I finish my cone and  I’m feeling lazy, so I pull up a piece of grass to lie down. 

I watch four vultures circling. The clouds are sucking up enormous amounts of moisture and building into towering cumulus nimbus.. There are smaller clouds at the edges.. the wispy kind that are great to fly directly under because they draw you right up.. but not violently like the billowing giants behind them. There’s a lot of blue sky over the valley.  “Big blue holes” we like to say.. Hard to find lift there. It would be a fine day to swoop around the edges of the mountains.
 In a way, I was hoping that after the wreck, my desire to fly would be less. There is so much to do here.  Museums, stores, dancing, history, people, mini adventures everywhere….  I still want to fly.

SATURDAY
I’m on a bus riding back to Cali to catch my plane to Rio. I got Laura’s e-mail. I had a short afternoon to talk with her before it got busy at the bar.  I would love to stay in contact with this super sweet gal.. She’s bright, wants to be a chef.                                       She’s adorable, kind to everyone, never has a cross word.. Even when there are orders piled up like a load of laundry and her little wood grill is at max capacity… She’s still smiling. 

San Felix

  I thought I would feel worse today, but i just feel very sore. Aside from the three beers I consumed immediately upon my arrival, I have been treating myself pretty well… Being gentle with my painful rib.. got my foot up, iced it for a few hours,  drank a lot of water, pumped some ibu.. glad I threw in a giant stash with my first aid kit! 

I want to tell you a little more about San Felix. It is a really cool place. The view of the valley from launch is spectacular. They know this and have shaded stands at the top where you may sit and watch your loved ones hurtle themselves from a precipice.

There are two launches. Each one is owned by a different company. One is a skinny, inclined short-ish stretch of grass… A typical small mountain launch. The other is a fat, square piece of golf course that launches like a ridge. 

Before I left on Sunday, I went to what I  thought was the equipment store. There was a fit, attractive gal with long, poker straight, black hair and a very distinct air of authority about her. She wore a tight,  motorcycle-ish red leather jacket and form fitting black pants with calf high boots to match. (she really just needed a whip to round out the outfit. Whew!)

She leaned on the counter and welcomed me in Spanish. When I spoke, a plain heavy set gal stood up from behind a computer and said, ” I speak English… Would you like to learn to fly?”

In retrospect, I should have told her I can fly pretty well.. it’s my landings that need some work.

I told her no, I was actually coming by to see if she had any Crispis for sale.(flying boots… So you don’t jack your ankle on a bad landing). 
They didn’t, but we struck up a friendly conversation about the site and came to find out that the hot, assertive looking gal was her sister and owner of the operation. They provide paragliding instruction, tandem flights, SIV clinics. and paintball. Not kidding.

Next door, is a canyoning operation… And judging from the appearance of the crew returning from their adventure, it is a wet canyon…  directly down the hill from base operations here.

I think I’ll make another trip back… just to hang out and enjoy the scene. In a couple days. Right now, this seems like a great opportunity to cut some video, learn some more Spanish and work on my book. 

Super bummed the battery in my gopro didn’t last long enough to capture my wreck.

Wreck

Saturday
I made some phone calls. Got directions on how to get the San Felix (pronounced: saahn-fell-eks) flight park. No one knows where the hell I want to go if I say it American way.

Sunday
I want to make a test run to the site without my heavy wing.
I walk to the train terminal. Take the train to Terminal Norte. Then find bus terminal eleven and catch that bus to Belmira. Tell the bus driver that I’m looking for parapentes. This guy laughs his ass off and tells me to sit down. So I sit. 

It is a total of 2 hours from door to door.

I check out the site. There are a couple restaurants.. Simple. There is a yellow stairway about 100m up the hill to the launch site. There are a lot of parapentes flying. They are all tandems… I walk up to the pilot entrance and ask a couple pilots if they habla English. One girl comes up to me and says she does. She is learning to fly. Through her, I meet one of the pilots and get a site checkout… Kind of. It’s brief and imperfect. No matter, I’ll just watch what everyone else is doing. I stay and watch. I’m jealous.. it is a nice day and I’m not flying…..  I will fly tomorrow.

It’s three o’clock. I didn’t eat lunch. I’m really hungry.. Actually, I’m not even hungry anymore, I just feel wrong… I know I have to have something before I leave. I sit down at a table and order the almuerzo…. The lunch of the day. I wait. 
20minutes….30 minutes… 40 minutes 50 minutes..  It’s almost dinner. 
I am agitated. I get up and tell the waiter I will pay for my beer and leave. I grab a donught at a little stand I had passed up earlier… It’s now an emergency.  I don’t want to feel crazy all the way down. 

I catch the bus. Then the train. I’m glad I don’t have my wing, it is really crowded on the way home. I walk the mile or so back up the hill.

I’m starving. I grab some pasta at a nice restaurant near the hostel. And a couple shots of the local firewater for good measure.

Something evil has invaded my system.. I feel lightheaded and feverish. My stomach is gurgling ominously. I crawl in bed, completely exhausted.

Today
I woke up after sleeping a full twelve hours. I’m a little shaky still and my guts are rolling unpleasantly, but my fever is gone and only feel a little dizzy.. I chug a liter of water with two Emergen-C’s in it.
I’ll be fine.

I eat a quick breakfast, gather my belongings and head out the door. 9:15.

I. Will. Fly. Today.

I take the train half way there but opt to take a taxi for ease of space. The bus was so busy yesterday. The taxi driver doesn’t seem to know quite where to go. He is asking a lot of questions. I ask him if he’s ok, he says sure. We head up in approximately the right direction. I know he’s lied to me because he keeps stopping and asking everyone if he’s going the right direction. We take a bunch of wrong turns and finally after passing the place the first time, we turn around and get there. It is now 12:15.

I’m starving, but look up and see people flying. 

I’ll eat later. I hike up to launch and shake hands with a couple of the guys I met yesterday. I quickly lay out my wing and launch.. It’s pretty cross, but I get off perfectly. The air is smooth and cool. I head over to what I think is the house thermal. I climb slowly up the hill to cloud base. I can see all of Medellin. There are thermals everywhere and I’m super high.  I fly like this for two and a half hours.

 I am tired… And starting to feel really out of sorts. I try for a top landing but missed it by twenty feet or so. I can’t get up again quickly, so opt for the low landing. I saw a bunch of people land there yesterday..
I try to land for about half an hour. It is very lifty. I am a little light on my wing today.. The landing is a little funny. I have to kick some pinecones to get in. 
As I come over the top of the pine trees, I notice something I have never seen before. LZ is angled very steeply downhill and then levels out. Instead of clearing the pine trees and just doing a couple more turns, I have a momentary lapse of sanity… and stick my hands way down in the brakes. Bad move… super bad move.

I stalled the wing. 
At about thirty feet over the ground. My brain says.. PLF. Feet and knees together.
 I burn in. Feet were under me, I twist my right foot out and jam my knee first into my chest then my face. Then my ass hits. Thank god for airbags… No big.

I’m out of wind. My ankle hurts. A lot. And I’m having trouble taking a breath. A bunch of people run over. I can tell they are asking if I’m ok, but I can’t answer them. In any language. Finally, I whisper.. “No habla” 

A tall white guy comes over. He’s an ER doc. He took a tandem flight today. We sit for a while until I can get it together enough to say what’s wrong. It hurts to talk. 

“yeah. I think I’m ok.”

He wants me to stand up to see if anything else is super wrong. 
I stand up.
Same. Chest and ankle.

I sit around for a while and wait until I hurt a little less. A very attractive and sweet Colombian gal comes over and gives me some water.

ER doc looks like he is leaving. He speaks pretty good Spanish. I get him to talk one of the local boys into carrying my bags down for me. My ankle is starting to swell and I think I’ve cracked a rib. 

It’s a long hike down without bags… The young man beats me down quickly and has already hailed me a cab. I pay him twice what he asks and give him a hug.. Gently. The ER doc jumps in with me.. His name is Eric. He is from Oakland. He travels three or four months a year. He is semi-retired and only forty years old. He has been here three days and never wants to fly again.

He helps me get back to my hostel (which I can’t remember the name of) and schleps my heavy bags up to my second floor room.

 He wishes me well and heads out to the Zona-Rosa.

I need a beer.

Zona-Rosa

I should stop gushing about how great this city is, but it’s impossible not to. I don’t know how I missed it Friday night, but the best nightlife scene of any town I’ve been to anywhere (a ridiculously lot of places) is exactly five hundred meters from my hostel. Blocks and blocks of bars, restaurants, discotheques, shops… Street vendors selling jewelry, belts, art, food.. It is packed. Everyone seems happy… Holding hands, laughing. There is a lively, positive energy in the air. Tiny, one way streets separate the bustling halves. 


Every place, with few exceptions,  is wide open to the cool, comfortable evening air. It is my guess that to close most doors, you would have to hit the garage door button and roll it down. Many places are the size of a one or two car garage. or smaller. they  only fit six to eight tables. Some are just a counter to buy shots.. Some are a bit larger. One or two are big.  I found steak, wings, Indian food, sushi, Thai, burgers, French, Brazilian, Mexican, English pub and American… There’s much more though. 

 

It is called the Poblado Zona-Rosa

I stopped in at one bar that had Party Rock Anthem playing… I met the bartender. I can’t remember her name. She is twenty-one, has a brother in Lodi, California who is big into skydiving. He is making a movie. She used to live in Miami. She wants to study gastronomy… and likes to hear paragliding stories. I invited her to dinner. 

I wish there was a way to take a snapshot in time and save Medellin just this way forever.

Medellin

 The days of cheap nights and dollar beers are over. For now. I’m staying at a hostel, but it’s not that inexpensive…. 
$40/night vs. The $15/night  in Roldo.. I did have a dinner special for $5 but what I didn’t realize until later is that I was drinking $7 Guinnesses. 

I might get some good sleep..  I can peel off all my clothes and finally sleep in the buff again without wondering if my friends may have stopped by and been a little horrified at some point…(the large windows had only wide spaced bars in front of them, it was too hot to draw the curtain)… the temperature is perfect here as well. It feels like a new spring day.

I go for a couple hours walk around town… What a difference! All around, apartment towers and office buildings surrounded by high,  misty mountains. This city has managed to remain lush and alive unlike the standard concrete jungle feel of most American cities.
I am staying in the disco, restaurant, young, hip side of town. There is everything to do. I wish I had taken some video of the supermercado  in Roldo, with it’s giant severed pig head grinning wickedly amidst  piles of entrails, roughly cut meat, hooves and tongues ensconced  behind  a low half glass in the meat section… it was pretty backwoods. The markets here are clean and modern.. One of them, I’d swear was owned by a Whole Foods grocer!  Wine section, beautifully displayed produce, sharp looking well stocked aisles. 

On the other side of town, there is the Milla De Oro. (mile of gold) This mile was not overstated. It is what you may need… to shop in this very wealthy and sparkling area. The mall is a towering testament to this excess. Five sprawling  floors of marble, glass and glitter. There is no food court. The food is across the street.. It is several city blocks assigned specifically to upscale restaurants and monster movie theater.  Much like every other town here,  all the roofs are terra-cotta… Against the green mountains, they make a beautiful scene.

I bought a much needed raincoat at the North Face. $180. It packs up smaller than my pocket sized phrase book.
I satisfy my coffee curiosity by ordering a cafe tinto at a mall stand…. At last! Coffee. The real stuff. It is black, black, black. and delightfully bitter. I sit on the stone steps outside and savor my delicious treat. 

I made a few phone calls this morning.. I’ve talked a local pilot into picking me up at the hostel and taking me to the ridge. We will have to top land, he tells me…I’m super ok with that. 
I also have a fabulous new Colombian flying friend who has given me a handful of local  numbers that I will call this evening or tomorrow and try to arrange the rest of my week. 

Girl

I had a beer last night at the Irish pub. It is an all girl staff. 
One gal spoke perfect English. She lived in South Carolina for 11 years.. I’ve been trying to ask her more questions, but she’s super busy. 
I noticed another girl…working the grill. I didn’t get a chance to see her very well, she was busy too… But she looked very nice from behind.
Today, I went back. Cliff (Texan staying at the hostel) told me they had great burgers… You know how I can’t resist a great burger tryout…

I return to the Irish bar and park myself in front of the grill girl. She has no choice.
“Hola!”
“Hola!”

She says something else, but I no comprende when she talk mas rapido.
 I think she has asked me if I want something to drink.
I get a bottle of water.
Then she says something else… I ask for a hamburguesa. This is where the real trouble happens.. She’s got a great smile and suddenly all my bad Spanish completely leaves me. I remember NO Spanish words at all. She’s smiling at me and trying to ask me what kind of burger… I have no idea, but I do notice the slight lesbian slouch, swagger, t-shirt, the exceptional figure and super short fingernails… Very untypical Colombiana. 

She’s gay.
Definitely….. Almost definitely. 

She calls over her friend at the bar to translate. I want the Murphy burger.

She’s cute and gay. She disappears. Do I run around and try to find her? What would I do anyway, grunt and smile?

I eat my burger. 

She comes back to put something in the fridge… But her very svelte, femme coworker comes in right behind her and slides her hand around her hips for a brief moment. They start singing together….

She’s gay, and has a hot girlfriend?

Hmmmm.

I pay for my dinner and walk out into the rain.

Bus Ride

Wednesday
I was hoping that I would start to want to do other things by this time, but the weather wasn’t very good today and I stayed in town. Frankly, all I want to do is fly…. Perhaps if we were in the Alps, I would want to instead go on a wine and cheese tour.. Or a beautiful Alpine hike… Or meet some locals in town. 
 It’s like crack. When I’m flying, it’s just f-ing awesome.. I’m a superhero. When I’m not flying, I think about flying… I adjust my harness, check my wing… I read paragliding magazines, I write about flying and cut and edit video.. I can’t get enough. 

I’m already planning my next trip. 

Friday
I popped my head out the door and checked the weather.. It doesn’t look great. And my head feels pretty bad too. We all went out last night, killed a couple bottles of wine and a bunch of tequila. I thought I got kicked out of my hotel room this morning… We were very loud last night… but I discovered I couldn’t stay only because there is a big hang gliding event happening  and the hotel is booked. I’m a bit relieved because this is a great cheap place to stay and I plan to return someday.

Later
I’m on the bus….on my way to Medellin. Its two hours to Pereria where I transfer busses. It is small. only about ten people can fit inside…it is actually pretty nice. Quiet clean, new-ish and is running smoothly.

We get pulled over on the side of the highway by the local police. They have requested a copy of everyone’s identification… I had to go in the back and rummage through my luggage for my passport… I didn’t think I would need it anytime soon and i had jammed it in a little zippered pocket with about a hundred emergency tampons. As three uniformed policemen and the bus driver carefully watch me, I conduct the delicate extraction, conscious that one wrong move would send a huge fistful of little white bullets rolling around in the street…

I chose to ride the bus against State Department warnings. I am going during the day per the advice of everyone I spoke with. The bus transfer is ridiculously easy… again, everyone is super nice and I get chauffeured over to the ticket counter.  within two minutes, ticket is purchased, I’m directed where to sit and instructed to listen to the counterperson when they announce my bus.

I’ve got a caffeine headache… I know this sounds like blasphemy, but I don’t care at all for the watered down version of coffee they serve in the Roldanillo restaurants and have neglected my twenty- plus year addiction. I thought Colombia would be a coffee Mecca.

As I grab a coke, the same guy runs over and hurriedly directs me back to the terminal… I had misinterpreted his instructions. The bus was about to leave.
Perfect timing, I grab my two  gigantor bags and get on the ultra sleek brand new bus… Better than any I’ve ridden in the US… And am speeding through  verdant, mountaious, coffee and banana planted, bamboo standed, rolling, bucolic Colombia. It is a spectacular countryside. I feel as though I’m driving through a painting.

The ride is very civilized. There is a man who comes around with a basket of nuts and candies. He gives samples to everyone… Some people buy the clear cellophane tubes of honeyed nuts or gummy candies. 

A couple hours later, we park at a bus stop. It’s a large, clean and friendly outdoor cafeteria..I’m thrilled because I am really hungry and was worried about where I might have some lunch or dinner. Whenever I’m in a situation like this with no menu and I have no idea what the hell is going on, I grab a lunch tray and order “lo mismo” …the same. So, whatever the person ahead of me gets, I get too. This time, I end up with Mondongo. A huge bowl of potatoes, peas, something yellow and lots of meat… And something else I recognize. Tripe. And some things I don’t recognize. It’s not mi favorita. actually, I can’t eat it… 
Thank God, she’s a big girl and ordered a lot of food. I also got a plate with steak, white rice and some grilled plantains. A perfect hangover lunch.

It was nine and a half hours on the busses. And for $24, it beat the heck out of the $70 (one way) airfare, plus two hour bus ride to Cali, plus the extra $200 for my heavy bags. Each way. 

We are in Medellin. There is a swank big city feel outside. I’m super excited!

Last Roldanillo Post

This is the second time I’ve apologized to my helmet for bumping into it in the dark.. It is next to me in bed. I keep trying to lay down and sleep… I’m super tired… drank coffee late and took a nap earlier.  I keep smelling man-cologne wafting through the window.

Guess I can write a little.

I have made a decision. I will leave Friday and go to Medellin and try to fly for 3 days….or so. Then I will go to Cali a couple days before my airplane leaves for Brazil on the 30th.

I kind of want to veg here in Roldanillo… But I think it’s kind of lazy.

I had dinner with a gal. Betty. Well, I didn’t really have dinner with her. She served me dinner… Actually, the kitchen staff served me dinner. She sat and talked with me for 45 minutes about Colombia, why she is here,  what she is after and  why she likes it. She lived in Miami for six years. She is a darling gal and I can’t help but be a little smitten with her casual charm. She’s beautiful, owns the restaurant and said she would go to a town in the country that she loves with me if I wanted to go.

She suggested I get the lasagna… Something went wrong in the kitchen, it was an hour and a half and it came out hot on the outside and frozen in the center. Hilarity…. It is exactly like my grandmothers cooking. She was very embarrassed. I wished she wasn’t…

I’m starting to speak a lot of Spanglish. Between hers and mine, it is a fantastico way of communicado.

I think this is pretty much it for Roldanillo posts.. I’m ready to move on, but I’m crazy about coming back here to fly and see my new friends again. I’ve loved this time outside of time and feel very fortunate to have had this opportunity.