With bread and cocaine about colombian hospitality
When You think about Colombia what do You see? I see mountains of extract from coca leaves, Fatty Pablo Escobar who is skiing down from that mountains, and huge, dark sea of coffee. I think about violence, poverty and narco business. But what I found there made that Colombia right now is one from 3 most interesting country which I explore in South America!
I had 5 km from Tulcan in Ecuador to border with Colombia. I decided to walk that distance but I didn’t do many steps when some Colombian stopped next to me and offered that I can go with him to barrier. Barrier which is not so easy to cross! I spend almost 2 hours on Ecuadorian side to wait in loooong queue with Colombians who wanted to enter to Ecuador and start new, brilliant life there. Thanks God on Colombian side they welcomed me with open arms, and after 3 seconds I had visa for 3 months and I can meet new country.
Mu vision of Colombian poverty was crushed on really good level of life. Good cars, renovated buildings, parks, streets and trash bins (that last things are not so common in that side of Big Water). I changed some cash and second time in my life (first was in Paraguay) I think that I’m reach guy! I’m a millionaire! But my vision once again crushed when I visited first bakery, where cheapest bread cost 200-300 pesos 🙁 Thanks God prizes generally aren’t so high as in Ecuador so I can sleep calmly. But I still miss prices from Peru and dinners for 1,5 US Dollars. Situation can rescue only street markets where sliced pineapples and fruit cocktail are really cheap 😀
In every corner of South America is possible to found it, but in Colombia people have real obsession about lottery.
Probably everywhere signs with bicycles shows just a scheme of them. But not in Colombia! Here You have full professional mountain bikes 😀
Panela! I think that I can be flavor of Colombia! It’s sweet substance, like unrefined whole cane sugar. Have much more vitamins. They add this thing to every deserts. Or even they sell it like agua de panela. It’s brew based on panela. I think that best is hot with huge piece of chees, somewhere up in the cold mountains.
Unfortunately on nothing can crush vision of cocaine Colombia. Since first steps in that country I met a lot of people who are like mobile pharmacy. They offer everything from pills on headache to pills on soulache. Everybody can find something interesting with prizes for everyone. Prizes of drugs here are proving that drugs are strong part of local diet. For example 2-3 grams of marihuana cost something like 0,70 US cents. Packet of cocaine (something like 2 grams maybe) with cement or other extender cost approximately 3US dollars. But so small packets are like gift here. Normally they started to sell it from 20grams or more. If we gonna add to that prize of gun– around 300$ – we have vision of Colombian street.
Street which is not so obvious. Because from one side we need to jump over legs of those who went on astral narco trip and they left empty bodies on the street, but on the same streets we can meet probably most beautiful people in South America. Not only with external beauty (which is really difficult to rebuff) but also internal. People here are so open, friendly and helpful. So much that is easily to stumble on theirs kindness, what I thankfully done few times.
I waited long time on road from some village when Alvaro started to chat up. He’s police officer and work in Bogota with US Embassy. He cooperate with DEA, so told me so many crazy stories that can be enough for few Hollywood’s blockbusters. They invited me for dinner and even gave me 20000 pesos! “We need to help each other. Good things always gonna come back to us in future”.
I didn’t caught anything on that day, so I decided to camp near some church. Next day I knew that gonna be good day! In Bakery I met Carmen. She saw me when I walk around city center last night, and now… she bought me whole bag of bread and cookies! “because I always want to help backpackers”
In other place when I want to go out from city I need to walk something like 10km. I walk with smile and audiobook but after 7 km my smile disappeared and I jump hungrily on small wall to rest a little bit. Some family passed near to me and like with banana for monkey, they gave me 20000 pesos! “Because we always want to give help for travelers”
I met also those two crazy old guys. They made something around 60km on bicycles even that they are 70 years old! We talked a little bit with tasty ice-creams, and then they came back to theirs city. But than he made another time that distance to me in car to check if I’m still there or not. They found me and took me 15km more to highways gates where I should find much more easier car. Amazing!
But my emotional side explode when I walked on streets of Cali. Suddenly someone touched my arm, I turned around and I saw Ana who ask me what number of shoe I have. I asked what she want to know because maybe I didn’t heard correctly. “I have few pairs of shoes in my home, I gonna bring You some. Let’s meet here tomorrow at 4pm”. I came another day not for the shoes but to hear why she want to help me. Why she chose me, foreigner, and not a few hundreds of other homeless people on the streets of Cali. At 4pm she waited for me in shadow on huge entrance to building of National Bank of Colombia. She waited with two bags, for me and other backpacker. In each bag were pair of shoes, socks, t-shirt, shorts and soap. (I always ask and want to help. Since many years I prepare bags for travelers. My son live in Caracas in Venezueala. Second is in Brazil. I know what mother feel when have kids on road and what they feel when they are far away from home.” I ask why she chose me. “because You have something good inside You. Something crazy. Maybe You are half-bear angel? And maybe I’m angel for You. Listen, You are travelling alone abut always someone is carrying and watching about You”. When I looked up and I saw only huge building of bank with powerful money inside I thought, that only symbol of dollar is watching at me. But maybe somewhere up there, above this everything, on roof of that building angels were watching? We talked just a little bit because Ana needed to go back to work, but we talk also about stereotypes. A lot of foreigners are coming to Colombia with them, and people here want to change that. And if I gonna think so how much of good things happened to me for so short period of time, I can just say that they do it very well. I gave that packet to one from old guys who were bagged on the street and I walked away with think how lucky I’m. And my road through Colombia was heading like that.
Behind border I turned to Las Lajas, giant church which is looks like palace from Lord of The Ring or something. Giant building but when You gonna look closely You will see that is really light because of fishnet construction. But whatever, who gonna think about that? Most important is that it’s beautiful place to visit. From that place took me Oscar, guy from Texas. He’s working in pharmacy corporation, and in US he found some huge embezzlement in hospitals, FBI started to look at him, so he needed to find safe place in South America. But even more interesting are his ideas about II World War, role of Jews etc etc etc. If everybody in Texas are like him it can be interesting place 😀
God is a DJ
Oscar show me interesting thing. In Colombia function system called Pico & Placa (Literally ‘Peak and Plate’. Spanish for peak [hour] and [license] plate). is a driving restriction policy aimed to mitigate traffic congestion. The scheme restricts both private and public use vehicles based on the last digit of the licence plate numbers. Four numbers are restricted every day for private use vehicles, and two for public transportation vehicles. The restricted digits associated to each day rotate every year. But how people can manage with that? They just change cars with different numbers! Or they even can change numbers of cars, because they can easly buy plates with every number which they wanted to have 🙂
Its place from Ecuador but I saw same on Colombia. You can buy here number plate. They can make number exactly which we want. 200$ for big one, and 80$ for small one for moto. And what law about that? Nothing! Like about many things. But its not important because usually drivers have just piece of paper with number putted from inside car.
PS. Do You know that is prohibited to drink and drive in Ecuador since just two years? Before of that everybody drank. Who was much sober
Generally something strange is happen here with number plates. On every car is information where car was registered.
But on motorbikes is only name of country. Why?
I spend that night on military training ground. Yes, went inside completely by accident. I didn’t saw warning plates and whole in fence and trees were like the best invitation to go inside and camp there 😀 I think that I like that kind of places. First time I cross military ground on my way to Rio de Janeiro, when I wanted to make shortcut. In Spain I almost garrote with dust scuffed up by helicopter landed near by me. Here thankfully I slept like a log.
From Pasto took me truck driver and we went together to Chachangui. He told me that after 2 days he gonna go directly to Cali. Good solace for me 😀 First time I saw there live phone boxes. Almost everywhere in Colombia are plates with information that “100 pesos por todos operators” – “100 pesos to every operator”. We need to talk with guy who is taking duty there, give to him number of phone at which we want to call, he’s is dial on it and You can use his phone to talk. Simple, right? And cheap, because 100 pesos is like few cents.
I reached few small villages and finally I came to Popayan. What a great surprise! That city is completely white! With Spanish architecture, white buildings and old lantern this place looks like from different time! Small, sleepy place which You need to visit if You gonna passing near by.
In Cali I found Couchsurfer host. Her home was a little bit far away from city center but atmosphere there was really great. Unfortunately I can’t say that about city. Huge behemoth, with ugly buildings and boring parks. A lot of drinkers, addicts, and homeless people. Nothing special. I entered for free to two museums, when people who are working there knew my story. Wonderful gesture! Especially that exponents wasn’t worth of ticket prize… I found there also third museum, I think that one from most wonderful on my road. Caliwood Museo de la Cinematografia is like real pearl. I didn’t met anywhere so much of cinema and slide projectors and cameras, and even chairs from old cinemas, tickets and posters. And knowledge of people who are working there. Incredible! Finally I could talk with someone about cinema 😀
Biggest camera in the world
And smallest one. James Bond style 🙂
Hugo Suarez Fiat (on left), originator and seeker of exhibits. and Santiago Cardenas (on right) best guide in the whole movie world, who work as a projectionist since when he had 9 years. Cinema Paraiso live!
My movie temple 🙂
From Cali I went to Buga, from there to Armenia (no, not this one in Asia. A lot of places in Colombia have same names like other in the world). In that way I came from world of cinema into World of Café. But how I started to work there I gonna write in another post.