Street Food

Street food

Roldanillo is ready for a food revolution. There is nothing so fantastic that I want to learn to cook, although I enjoy the rice and beans and the chicken feet soup very much. That is the extent of the culinary excitement here.. I’m anxious to go to a larger city to try more urban fare.

There is some interesting street food though. Masamora.. Is one of my favorites… Not because it is good, it really isn’t very tasty, but it’s origin is interesting… A fellow drives around on his moped with a giant kettle on the back.. He shouts that he has MASAMORA! He honks his horn and shouts how much and how delicious it is… The cost is accurate but I think it may not be as “Rico” as he insinuates. In the kettle, there is room temperature milk and corn… It may be canned…the corn.. Or not. Hard to say. There are not any spices. He takes a long handled  ladle and scoops a big cupful out. It’s very thin.. The soft corn kernels only fill up the very bottom layer much like a thin soup. It is served with a piece of square brown guava candy wrapped in a banana leaf. You remove the wrapper,  bite the soft candy, then take a spoon of soup. Mix it together in your mouth and it is instantly sweeter.. This is a dish invented by the farmhands.. It is nutritious, inexpensive, and delivers a few hours of productive energy.

Most of the rest of the street food I have seen is on a stick.. And cooked on a grill. It is inexpensive, much healthier than most of the fried foodstuffs and will satisfy a budget conscious traveler. Stuffed chicken wings… Pretty much a fat, red, oblong, chicken hot dog attached to the very tip of a chicken wing…. And heated on the grill. Chicken skewers,  skewer with sausage, plantains grilled (super good…stuffed with cheese too.) corn on the cob, corn cakes,  and the ubiquitous arepa. 

Chontaduro. A red, bunch of fruit cut from palm trees. I think they boil first then peel, put a handful in a ziploc bag.. If you’d like, they will then salt and/or sweeten these unpleasant treats…. It doesn’t make it any better…. They are inexpensive, nearly tasteless and pasty. The Colombians…I think.. do not like a lot of spice in their food, I will withhold judgment until I have visited some larger cities though.
Lots of ice cream vendors, lots of fruit and fruit juice stands. Papaya, guyabanana, and mango are the most popular. 

For Ronen… Yesterdays Epic 45k and Quick Guide to Flight in Colombia

For Ronen.. Yesterdays debrief I am downloading the video now.

Longest flight yet. The morning looked promising. You can tell when an epic day is going to happen. Fluffy clouds building in the valley, little blue spots peeking out everywhere… very little or no wind.

Rode the magic bus up the mountain and took off with a forward launch in near zero wind conditions. We (my new handsome paragliding friend and I) went directly up to cloudbase and caught a lifty line skimming the bottom of the clouds past the foothills and then transitioned over the town we just drove up from….Roldanillo.
I was trying to keep up with the line and made a move in retrospect that could have been a wicked long walk out but turned out ok because there was lift everywhere in the valley.

We transitioned across the valley to a town called Zarzal and headed for the next one. There were cumulus forming everywhere and lift was really easy. It was more difficult to focus on which clouds to fly through… The local farmers burn their fields occasionally… the fire creates a very turbulent thermal.. And swirling hot ash. 
Finally, at 45k, I started getting low.. Just short of a town called Bugalagrande… And I really had to pee.  I think I could have gotten back up, I found a couple low thermals, but I just plowed through them and picked an lz.

I tried hitching a ride on the way back, but didn’t have any takers… Just as well. A bus came along shortly… It was gratifying how long it took to get home.

I am thrilled with Colombia… There are many places to fly, so I ask as many people as I can to decide where to go next.  The Canadians tell me I’m crazy to go anywhere else, Roldanillo is world class cross country flying. The locals say here. Few people say to go anywhere else… for better flying.

To see the country, a few people said  Bucaramonga (a Colombian paragliding Mecca… good for high ridge soaring) just outside of Bogotá would be a good place to go, Medellin came up a couple times because it is a diverse city loaded with modern Colombian culture, varied and lush landscapes and 4 or 5 flying different sites… Many people told me that it was beautiful but not a cross country venue.
In the south, just past the small, bucolic and architectural town of Popayan, there is a small flying site in Balboa that has reports of being an incredible place to get cross country, but the fear of being close to unsettled of Ecuador is pervasive. Cali is slow to boast what the locals and well traveled pilots call another great cross country site.  I think it is called Pinchinche… Or something very close to this… There was a lot of unrest there for a long time but it’s reportedly safe now.

I have to make an aside here. I didn’t mean to insinuate that this was a comprehensive guide. There was a packet from Paragliding Earth website under my hotel door when I returned from flying today! There are dozens of other sites, the ones I listed are what I believe to be the most well known… This may not be true, but they are the ones on everyones lips that I have met here! Cheers!

Second aside.. My new friend and champion of the paragliding event here in Roldanillo last week has corrected me on a couple of points… As well as convinced me to go to his home town, Medellin.. Here is the correction he sent me.

… “medellin is an amazing place for xc some of the longest flights in colombia have been made there and the flying is exelent its just got a ton of mountains way harder then rolda or piedechinche
Way more demanding but you can still pull off a 45 k
Dont even dare going to bucara might as well go sin in torrey pines al day . Its the same , bogota if there taking about sopo its also the same but cold as hell
So
Rolda
Piedechinche
Medellin ( 3 diferent sites awesome night life stuning women)”

I think we have all loved Torrey and easy soaring but when cross country flying gets a grip on you, it’s a difficult thing to fly over the same ground terminally… Funner to have goals.

Flight Log

This is my actual flight log. I am keeping the altitude and max ascent rate details in my vario but am too lazy to transfer them all quite yet. Its just a peek into what kind of flying I am doing… skip ahead to the video if you want to see the video version!

Sam Levinson said, “You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make all of them yourself.”

29 60min. bailout with Skip
30 1.5 hr Bailout with Skip and Stephan
31 40min. field with the crew
01  30min. land in freaking Diablo
02 rain day
03 60min bailout self
04 40min.  land in field all by myself lots of giant winrows with motorcycle guy
05 rain day
06 rain day
07 1.2 hr no instruments thermal conditions  land in farmer field with the Russian Dennis tight landing with power lines. Dynamic turns close to ground. No bueno.

08 1.5 hr 6mi comp launch 5200′ thermal conditions land short of zarzal by myself, long ass walk through the sugar cane.

09 2.5 hr. 40mi. (30k) in-line distance  High launch 5800′ thermal conditions… Flew with Kevin, Caylee, Skip and Brian

10   no flight because insurance and bad winds..
11   30min landed in the barnyard with the Russian Serge.
12.  Wasn’t feeling it. Didn’t fly. Crap ass day… Most people got sled rides
13.  60 min. Strange day. Plenty of lift in the launch site, almost nothing out in the front except the fire cloud. Landed in the sugar cane. Strong headwind. Steep descent.

Oopsie.

On the corner there is a little store selling candies and vegetables… My new friend can not pass the chance to buy a pastry or a candy… He gets a small bagful of square chocolates.
As we are walking down the street I hear him spitting and choking behind me… “Oh GOD! These are awful!!”
“What’s wrong?” I ask
“It’s not candy!”
I grab a piece out of his bag.
He has a small bagful of chicken bullion cubes.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Don’t brush your teeth with foot cream.
Do not put your hairbrush in the refrigerator.
Do not drive off with your phone on the hood of the car.

If I was neurotic, I would have to make lists like this… Thankfully, I have found ways to forgive myself for these bizarre indiscretions. Had it gone unnoticed, I might be tempted to keep it to myself…. However, my two gentleman friends were there for the frantic cleansing portion of this episode.

I’ve had a couple of cocktails. This is not an excuse….really, it’s just a general status.
I had been trying to get to bed for about two hours and kept getting sidetracked by various things…. Rum, music, daily flying reports..Finally, I ran into my dark room, grabbed the tube on the nightstand, squeezed out the paste onto my toothbrush and began brushing in earnest.

It wasn’t minty.

 I ran back, grabbed the same tube and as I was squeezing out another glob, I realized my mistake. 
 Instead of Colgate, I somehow managed to grab the Rite Aid brand Clotrimazole.

I hope I don’t have to report that my accident on this paragliding trip was poisoning from ingesting athletes foot cream..  Try to explain that to the ER doc in broken Spanish.

Who is a paraglider pilot?

Who is a pilot? I have been considering this question myself for some time.  I have been especially considering it since living in such close quarters with the large group that I am here with now.

I have been in and around the paragliding community for about five years.

I went to Iraq as a contractor for a civilian company cleaning up ammunition supply points with a heavy concentration of unexploded and improperly stored ordnance. I didn’t care for the living conditions… lack of exercise and particularly, the horrific fare globbed on our paper plates each morning and evening not to mention the very real possibility of being rocketed, invaded, shot, or otherwise blown up…

When I returned home I had a heart full of anxiety and a pocket full of money. 
I sat with myself for a while and thought I would do something great for me…
That thing was learning to fly. I looked online to find the best place in the country to do this. That is how I came up with Eagle Paragliding in Santa Barbara. 
I went for just shy of a month and cemented my addiction.

Since then, I have only flown about 15 different sites… but have met many pilots. We certainly have one thing in common…. We love to fly.

It is for many, an addiction. For some, it’s the adrenaline, for others, it is a Zen focus. It is a dedication to concentration and decision making. The consequences of not having a strict attention to this endeavor can be  dire.
To fly well, a pilot must have accumulated a fair amount of time to developing muscle memory and building a repertoire of experience at various flying sites… Learning to read weather forecasts properly for our sport, judging the  prevailing site conditions and mapping terrain for an optimal flight. 

Those who fly are driven.

They are very often successful men.. and few of us women. A large number are airline, helicopter or glider pilots as well… Or all three! It is an expensive sport to enter… It is a financial commitment. It is a time commitment. It is a close community. 

I’m loving being around this pack of giant personalities. I feel comfortable and engaged. I may not be the Goddess of Good Behavior, but I am every moment excited and grateful for this epic adventure, the people, and glad for the opportunity to keep telling you about it.

Rain, Rain, oh Rain!

Rain Rain, oh Rain!

We take the magic bus to a new launch today. It is not looking particularly promising. Our ride up is uneventful and we are happy to hear another jeep can take our heavy bags most of the rest of the way up to launch.
It is a steep, muddy hike up. It rained heavily the night before and there were still big puddles in the deeper tire tracks.

There are more than thirty pilots at the small, soggy launch. The heavy fog appears to be lifting so we quickly lay out our wings, clear the lines and clip into to our harness.

Two pilots launch, about ten minutes apart. The first took an opportunity with a hole in the low cloud layer. The second launched in a good cycle but directly into the fog.  And then it started to rain… pouring sheets of cool, drenching rain.
Every one of us scrambled frantically to cover our delicate paragliders. We used every piece of protection we had. Someone brought a huge tarp that housed most of the pile, a few of us had space blankets that came into purposeful use this day.

We wait about thirty minutes for the rain to let up so we could pack our wings without getting them and our carefully packed reserve parachutes soaked, but it seems like it would last a long time. I missed breakfast… (I didn’t think we’d actually come up here)  and eat an emergency coffee cake I had stashed in my bag.
The decision is made to just get out of the rain as quickly as possible and drive down the mountain.. We help each other to keep equipment dry while packing and slide and smush down the muddy slope to where our magic bus had thankfully waited.. It is important to get our wings and reserves unpacked and dried out as soon as possible. The longer we wait, the more saturated the really wet ones will become.

We loaded the bus as quickly as we can….. and there is confusion. The bus is parked. It is already dangerously overloaded. The gear is packed in a solid wall inside, there is an extra person in every row and the top of the jeep is holding as many people that will fit on it’s roof. The driver runs back and forth saying “No mas personas!”  but more keep piling their stuff on and trying to get in. A half an hour passes…. He has ordered another bus but if it shows up and the other people get rides before it does, he will have to pay the bus out of his own pocket. Finally, after much debate we leave.

Perhaps the next time it is predicted to be 100% chance of rain, we will be more conservative in our decision to charge up the hill.

Motorcycle

It’s not all ponies and butterflies here you know….
There are some details that we need to work out. I gave my clothes to the Host yesterday. Ive been washing clothes by hand for the last few days… I am traveling lightly. Three pants, three shirts four sports bras, four pairs of socks.  I wore my last pair of clothes yesterday all day during the flight. It is Summer here.

We returned to the casa late and didn’t see our bag of laundry in the evening. No matter,  I slept in my clothes… I’m on vacation after all. They’ll be here in the morning, I’m sure.

En la mañana,  I ask about them.  With sweet smiles, they say.. “Oh, we didn’t wash yesterday because the sun wasn’t out”
  …they wouldn’t dry in the cloudy air….they are unavailable for retrieve. I hope I’m not too smelly.

It rained last night and the road to launch is crumbling…. melting away and sliding down the sheer edge into a canyon hundreds of feet below. The edges of the slippery, rutted  road are within inches of the jeep’s wheels. A couple of us on the canyon side stare with some anxiety over the plunging jungle below.

We near the top, drive into the clouds and park the jeep….grab our wings and hike up. We lay out our paragliders in the newly cut grass and wait for the cloud to rise and the wind to switch to a good position. 

I have a perfect launch and a long flight but land only halfway to goal.  As I land safely in a newly plowed field, I see half a dozen children running my way. Parapente!  Parapente! I pick my lines out of the clumps of dirt and begin to fold up the wing. Always, when they arrive, the children speak to me in machine-gun rapid fire Spanish that I can only pick a couple words out of.. They have a million questions.

As I’m stuffing the folded glider into its bag, the farmer comes out and asks me some questions… One of them was why I wasn’t flying still… I think.
I told him I was a very bad pilot and am happy for his field here so I didn’t have to land on his cows in the other field… He chuckles and tells the other children something and I heard “muerte” which I think means Death.. Or Die or something..

As I finish packing, I gather my day bag and before I could, he grabs my wing and hucks it onto his back. I follow him out of the field trying to tell him I would carry it, but he just laughs at my crappy Spanish and walks to the edge of the  dirt, two track farm road. 

He drops the bag and wheels a rusty, used to be black Honda old timey motorcycle around and gestures for me to get on…I clip my two clumsy bags together and swing the fifty plus pounds onto my back and scooch my leg over the seat. 

He’s an amazing driver. We cruise together over a mile or more of bumpy dirt with a giant swinging pack. We finally stop at the pavement to wait for the bus into town. For ten minutes we wait and talk about motorcycles and where we live. He wants a Harley Davidson.

He doesn’t leave until I am safely aboard.

This is Colombia.

Muy Barato! (very cheap)

You may have heard that Colombia is cheap. It is. Kind of. Just like anywhere, you must be alert to the locals attempting to take advantage of the silly rich Gringo.  Cab rides, services, or places that are not firmly established… or wiley waitresses. 
This is what I have heard from others, but not what has been happening to me… I have had good luck so far with everyone and am keeping my spending well under control.

 Today I had a large bottle of water, fresh squeezed oj, scrambled eggs with onions and tomato (it’s called “perico”) grilled beef, a slice of ham and arepa for less than $3.

Lunch: a big bowl of soup, bottle of water. $1.50

Dinner: half a roasted chicken, boiled potatoes, and a grilled banana $3.
Beers are a dollar. Everywhere. If you buy a case and return the bottles, each beer costs pennies.Today some pilot friends brought over a case of beer. Cans. I had a little chuckle when someone said they paid too much for the case.. $2.50.
 You can pay more for meals. $4 for a pizza.. $6 at some places for a seafood dinner but it’s all very inexpensive.

I bought a bicycle because we are staying at a villa about two miles out of town. You can catch a bus for fifty cents or walk to town. To return, a cab costs $4. I haven’t figured how to pick the right bus to get home yet.

 When I am traveling in the states, I will go to a new town and buy a bike at a garage sale.. $20 or $30 bucks.. Something that rolls. And stops. When I leave, I give it to a new friend or just put it on the corner.
Here, I haven’t seen a garage sale. But I did find a used bike shop. They had four bicycles. There was a blue one my size and everything worked.. I will be here for a month, and thought $60 was a good deal for some two-wheeled freedom. … I think our host Nacho here just told me he would buy it back for half…
Our hosts real name is Ignacio, but he knows gringos have a hard time with that so, he encourages us to just call him Nacho.

A couple guys here are planning to stay.. Those that are good at speaking Spanish and wheeling and dealing have found large houses to rent for the whole month for $300… $50/per person if they fill the house. The non-gringo rent price.  Hotels are normally $10/night..right now, they are $15 and the gringos in the know are griping about the inflated prices..

A lap dance is anywhere from $5 to $10 depending on how long and which girl. Don’t ask me how I know.

Roldanillo, Colombia Video

New years eve. This morning, I woke early, had a cup of black coffee, arepas, (a local flatbread) and eggs over medium. We had second breakfast in the park where we meet every morning. It is already busy. There are mopeds clogging the streets. Helmet or no helmet, a black baseball brim seems to be the most popular. They pile everyone onto these Motos… Mom, dad, sister and brother all squish on one and go around town.

I ordered a bunuelo and another black coffee. The distinction is that Colombians normally serve coffee.. “cafe con leche” which is mostly milk and a little coffee. The bunuelo I didn’t eat. It is a heavy spherical fried treat of mostly bread..crispy on the outside, thick, rich, chewy dough inside. I also got a grilled banana and some more arepas.

The bunuelo I put in my bag for lunch along with the other items. We drove again up to the competition launch and waited for the perfect moment. The wind began to blow in easy bursts up the hill and I decided to take off. The air was very active and I had to work vigorously to maintain my wing position.. Directly over your head is exactly where you want it to be. I flew in the big lifty thermic conditions for an hour, then decided to bug out. I chose a landing area that looked good and big… Which it was, but had no good wind indicators in or near the field. 

I landed running. Downwind. Fast. On the far side of the field. My wing shot over my head and went into a tree that I call “El Diablo.” it has countless sharp, nasty one to two inch long thorns sticking out of every part of its stem. I see this mess and am first glad that I was not the one stuck in it… then, dismayed that I had to extract the thing. Line by line, I plucked, snapped, unwound and folded the corner of the  wing away from the tree. But I was at a loss to fold any longer, it was a now above my head, out of reach.

Four children came out to  greet me. They paw through my bags, curious to see what treasures are inside. They go for my water hose, but I have to tell them “NO!”.. they love the novelty of sipping water through a hose from a backpack. I knew I would be out there for hours retrieving my wing.. and it is blazing hot in the Summer sun. I look at my dilemma and decide to ask the children in my horribly broken Spanish if they have a saw or something.. All together, they say “MACHETE?” I say Si! Tu tienes? (yes, do you have one?) all together, they shake and lower their heads, “noooooo.”

I find a pocket knife in my bag and begin to hack at the Diablo. I chop and hack and very slowly, twig by twig, I begin to pull the plant away….this will take the rest of the afternoon. I look over at the children..as they are trying to suck up my precious water again and I tear out of the bush… “Git! Shoo! Go on Git outta here!”

They run away, but soon after, a handsome thirty something caballero comes around the trees  carrying a surgically sharp machete. I am somewhat relieved, but certain that he will insist on doing the chopping. 

We sign language and laugh our way into cutting the whole of the stabbing, poking, stinging Devil down. I am terrified many times by his machetes’ close swing to my lines and canopy, but he is a very sure marksman. An hour and a half later, sweaty, thirsty, bleeding from dozens of punctures, I am beyond delight at having my beautiful wing completely freed. 

On our way to the road, I try to pay this man for his effort, but he would not have any of my money… He puts his sweaty, bleeding hand on his chest and says, today you, tomorrow me.

This is Colombia.

Days 1-4

Dec 28 12:30PM

We are descending into Panama, my second leg was just short of wonderful. I’ve been catnapping in between talking with my delightful neighbor who is of average human size, middle aged, with short, fire engine red dyed hair, from Argentina, speaks in broken but good English and now lives in Salt Lake. I think she is sneaking away with a secret lover on an Ecuadorian romantic escape.  (she has a wedding ring, he doesn’t, they are smooching and holding hands constantly) Most of the passengers are Spanish speakers on this flight which is only serving to make me even more excited to be on my way!! 

Dec 28 3:30 PM
The Internet in the Panama City airport is twice as fast as the one in Texas and free! Also, I have never, never seen so many tall spiked heels, tight pants and appropriately shaped figures poured into the same.. Going to Cali! 

Dec 28 4:30 PM
I have sat with the best airplane seat person yet. She speaks no English. yesssss! She has my e-mail and would love to go dancing!!

Dec 30 8:00 pm
I am having a glass of scotch and listening to Colombian music. We are in the casa with fourteen of our best flying friends. Our accommodations are sparse but adequate. It is a secure, very large residence with a pool, jacuzzi, three kitchens and hammocks everywhere. We have no internet.  I am sharing a room with one other fellow… it is comfortable and safe. The roosters wake us in the morning. 

We have had two days of flight. The conditions are fabulous so far. Today was a little light but still super fun. Yesterday, a very easy flight in manageable conditions with everyone staying up for an hour or more. We are getting used to thermal flying here. Good launches, good landings and best thing, no one is hurt. 

Roldanillo is a very small, bucolic town two hours from Cali, Colombia. It is known internationally for it’s epic flying conditions. There is a big competition here next week and the town is filling up with pilots from all over the world to fly at this venue. We have met familiar faces and many new friends that we are sure to see again and again. The locals are beautiful and friendly, the landscape verdant and serene. I could not be happier to be in such a magical place.

In the mornings, we get up very early. About 6:00. We take a shower, have some coffee, put our flying gear together and load the truck. We pile high into the back of an old diesel pickup.. And even sit on the front fenders and rear tailgate as we roll slowly into town. There, we grab some breakfast and repack our huge load of gear onto a jeep. 

The road to the top of the mountain is long, skinny,  steep and rutted. It takes about an hour. The music is turned way up, we are thumping our way up to the mountain listening to local  fashionable  Reggeton while passing dogs, bananas, papaya, guyaba, and jungle huts. Everyone has terra-cotta roofs.. or tin. The ones with tin have big rocks placed strategically to keep them from blowing off. We pass young bronze men cutting and stacking sugar cane. We pass, wave and smile to the local military. Hola! Hola! We pass many goats and cows. 

We stop on the muddy road, drop the bags and hike the final (very steep) 1/2 mi. to the top. Our launch is facing a wide agricultural valley painted with emerald and brown checkerboarded fields, trees lining infrequent roads. There are many clouds…big, puffy, sometimes vaporous, building, disappearing, high or low… perfect for flight. The weather is stable and predictable. 

After our flights, we land in designated landing zones. Today’s landing was in a field of soybeans.. We are bordered by a ditch, and many other planted crops…. You do not want to land in the cornfields or the grapes…. Or the oranges….or the bullpens.. The grass, piña, soy and soccer fields are all fair game though. Depending on where you land, you may be greeted by a throng of curious children. They have seen many paragliders land in their town. They watch the skies to see us fall from it. They have learned how to fold and repack a wing into it’s bag. This is a chore. They  can pack a paraglider as well or better than any one of us, and as these shrewd young entrepreneurs know, it is worth a few pesos to the lazy pilot. 

I will post again next week.