I just counted how many weeks this post is about… Time flies and I am on the same mood.. It’s hard and incredibly time consuming to write a post, because… it’s not just writing.. Imagine that for the video you are gonna find at the end, I had to watch more than 450 video clips, select the interesting ones (85), and then cut the most interesting parts of the interesting clips in order to do the editing… I hope it’s not boring!
I was very sorry to leave Jaime and his awesome place in Gazancipà, but I was already too late. I wanted to spend all of the Holy Week in Pereira, a city west of Bogota that I knew it had an orthodox church, but I couldn’t resist staying a bit longer with Jaime and spending some time not only in wonderful discussions but also in making his house an even better place.
In regard to where I would stay in Pereira, I was already in contact with Fr Crisostomo, the local priest, who offered to host me at his house, a little bit outside of the city. The church was inside the house of the priest, or, in order to be more precise I should say, the church was inside the enclosed area of the house, but it was outside. A church without walls!
In this strangely beautiful church of the Nativity of Theotokos, we celebrated the christian orthodox Easter. It was a unique experience.. Very different.. We were no more than 10 in total and the whole atmosphere was a participatory one. I was trying to sing some chants with my awful voice while some young boys where helping the priest with all the necessary stuff for the Easter services. Luckily, there was also another Colombian man, who had spent some years in the Holy Mountain, Athos, in Greece, in the monastery. He new very good Greek and he was a great help with the typikon (the procedure).
It was hard to reach Pereira as the sun was really hot, the uphills were intense, and I had spent so much time without riding… I decided to take advantage of my folding bike and I took a bus in order to cross La Calera. A mountain of 2.000m elevation gain – hahaha, now I am writing these words I have climbed in one day 5.400m… I didn’t know at that point what I will face later in Colombia.. The fun part is that when I was about to enter the Bus Station, the guard told me that bikes are not allowed. I folded it in front of his eyes and my pleasure seeing him moving sideways in order for me to pass reached the sky. (The driver was going so insanely fast, turn after turn, overtaking track after track, driving mainly on the opposite lane, that I was seriously thinking that this may be the last ride of my life. All of the passengers were holding the front seat and I was holding my breath. The woman next to me was so angry that she shouted “queremos vivir, tenemos hijos, tranquilo o pare!” = we want to live, we have children, go slower or stop because I am out of here” – the driver understood.)
On the 21st of April I left Pereira to go to Cali. The very same morning father Crisostomo asked me where will I stay in Cali and I told him… that I had no idea. Indeed the plan was to go there and look for a hostel. There are a lot, since it’s a big city. He gave me the phone of a christian orthodox family there and when I reached Cali and called them they were very kind to invite me home!
From Pereira to Cali, I needed 10 hours because the distance was… 223 km… There was a huge downhill in the beginning where I broke my old speed record and set the new (76.4 kmh). It was a very nice journey.. The day started with 1 hour of steep downhill, and then I had a wonderful time crossing the Valley of Cauca, with the endless sugarcane fields. Apart from the multiple variations of green (trees and flowers of all kinds) I was happy being accompanied by a guy in a motorbike for 45 minutes!! He told me he left his house way earlier so he was in no rush – haha 😀 . Not only I learned everything about his personal life, but also he was telling me about the trees, the villages, the factories (sugar, cocoa), the people of this area etc.
After 3 days in the house of the lovely Espinel family, in Cali, I thought it was about time to go to a hostel so I am not a burden to them. I wanted to write the blog-post about the 35 days in Bogota and I knew I needed some time. They asked me how much I am going to pay in a hostel and I responded 20.000 pesos (6 euros). They had an offer for me. They asked me if I wanted to give them 15.000 pesos (4.5 euros) per day, stay at their place, eat with them all the meals of the day, and in this way help them a little bit financially. As you can imagine that was a very good deal for me, but not only in terms of money. I had my space and some good internet connection, I had local meals everyday, and some good company (Camilo!), but the best was that I had the opportunity to live with a family that had 4 kids (2 going to school, 2 going to the University). Ι loved it, honestly. Culturally speaking, that was the best inside experience I could have.. Couchsurfing or hostels or my tent cannot be compared to this.
So, how was it? How was the life of this family from my point of view? Tough, but beautiful. I was writing all day and all night and I could really see every aspect of their daily life unfolding in front of my eyes. Around 4:50 the first alarm clock! The father or the mother would wake up in order to cook for the day. 5:30 the kids that go to school wake up. They take a shower. Every day, all of them, take a shower at least once. In Cali it’s hot and humid. They don’t have warm water, but they don’t look to bother. I needed some time to get used to it. COLD showers brrrr.. Then the university students wake up around 6… but not to go to the uni, no. They go to work. Yes, both of them work 5 times a week – 8 hours a day. And they go to the (public) Uni at night AND on Saturdays all day. They have to pay a lot for the uni. Something like 400 euros per semester, if my memory serves me well, but it depends on the subject they study too. Heavy schedule! Both father and mother worked a lot too.. The family didn’t have a car.
I went one day to play football with the 2 sons of the family and their friends. 15 minutes walking from the house. First thing that struck me was that we played football for 80 minutes and there was not even one foul. Not that it didn’t happen, but they were playing without fouls. Tough football, pushing and pulling and fighting, but no fouls. Even when it was super-obvious.. No. That was pretty awkward for me and the only explanation I could think of was that the whole issue of violence that permeates their culture is also to be found in the football pitch. You pushed me/ pulled me/ punched me, well ok, we just keep playing… When I asked them why they don’t have fouls they responded so naturally, “but there’s no referee”… When we finished the match, the time was 2130. The younger brother (17 years old) said to the elder that he wanna go home very quickly right after the match, but the elder didn’t agree in letting him go alone at home, because it was dangerous…!
What I liked a lot was their simplicity combined with their dreams.
The food was simple. There was not even one day that there was no rice on the table. A bit of veg, a bit of meat, a bit of bread, a bit of juice. Yes, juice always, in every meal. In all Colombia! At night we usually had aguapanela with bread. That is water with panela (sugar with a flavor) in which we put the bread and we eat it. I liked that. And I also liked this:
Yuli-Alexandra was studying to become a lawyer, pays for the uni, contributes to the house and has her own motorbike.
Fabian was studying something related to computers. He was doing this so he could earn enough money to study what he really wanted, that I cannot remember right now, but it was very expensive to pay.
Estefania (15 yo) was trying hard at school. She wanted to go to the USA, to live with some relatives and become a doctor. She was very determined and sure.
Camilo (17 yo) wanted to make money. Lots of money. How are you gonna do that Camilo? I am gonna work in the Oil Industry. I am clever and I know I can make it. And why do you want so much money? Because we (the family) don’t have. I wanna have lots of money and give back to my parents too. Beautiful soul.
We went out one night to dance… I wanted to experience salsa, since Cali is supposed to be the capital of salsa… We had lots of fun and laughter. I drunk so much aguardiente (like the Greek tsipouro) that I couldn’t remember some good parts of that night the other day… And many other things happened that I think it’s better not to be online. These 20 days were… intense, mainly because I had my role during these days. I was a silent observer that had his personal relationship with every family member, and the family members didn’t know the status of my relationship with the rest of the members. That was very interesting because as you know, or as you can imagine, a big family has its own very powerful dynamic. I was part of the flow of their daily routine and I was part of this dynamic too, as I could pull my strings and alter some bits with the “power” that I had as an external observer that cared about this family. Very intriguing.
Thank you so much Espinel Family!
I left Cali in order to ride for 130 km and reach Popayan. A small town that is also called “ciudad blanca” (white city) because during the 20th century all of the colonial, of european architecture, buildings were white… The plan was to stay there for 5 days. I had a university essay to submit, and I had done nothing yet. 5 days of absolute focus, I thought, would give me just a pass at this module. Well, once more, things didn’t turn out as I planned. I reached Popayan super exhausted once more. Almost every ride in Colombia is a big question mark. Will I make it? I reached Popayan and at the very same night I went for a beer with Evgenia, from Russia. She is also touring with her bicycle. We met on a facebook group and we had the same route but she was going North and I was going South.. We had a beer in the plaza and in 10 minutes a clearly drunk but communication-able man approaches us and asks very straightforwardly to join our company. 3 hours later we were laughing and telling stories. Fun and unexpected.
Like the rest of my days in Popayan.
P o p a y a n !
If I were a guy who likes putting titles and labels I would say that these 38 days in Popayan were the best of my life. But I don´t like titles, so I will just say that something that had never happened to me before took place in Popayan. It all started with an essay I had to submit for my University… One of the things I was analysing really struck me in a personal level and I started writing on my personal notebook. Initially I was working on the essay and at the same time I was writing down my notes, thoughts and feelings.. From a point and then, I left the essay aside and focused 105% on my notes… I was furiously writing all day and all night. Coffee and oreo biscuits, 18 days in a row. The rest of the days I was editing (adding photos, videos, recordings) and uploading all of my notes in the blog.
I had produced a text of 80.000 words in Greek, in the form of various blog-posts, one for each day. There is a main character (well guessed, myself) and I describe in lots of details my everyday reality in Popayan, among with other thoughts.
From what I read afterwards, I was using a narrative technique that’s called “stream of consciousness” and has to do with automatic writing. I was writing pretty much everything that was coming in my mind, without paying attention to spelling, typos, the whole format. For me it was like a personal revelation because I never knew I could write so much, but mainly, in a poetic-abstact-lyrical way. I really want to share these writings with you… But I am not sure yet.. I am working on it..
In Popayan some bad things took place as well. I was robbed 3 times in the hostel. 3 of the 5 weekends I spent there the weekends-cleaning-lady decided that she wanted my
– second phone
– 170.000 pesos (50 euros)
– bike GPS
She had a suspicious face and I understood from the very first time (that I couldn’t find my phone) that she was guilty, but I couldn’t prove it. I talked to her and every word that she was using as an excuse it was translated to my ears as “I did it” – “I did it”…. Well, I let her understand that I understood that it was her and I hoped she won’t continue. The weekend I finally talked to the cleaning lady, Jhana from Colorado, was also in the same dorm. I sat in my bed and said to myself “well I am not moving until the cleaning lady is over…” Jhana though challenged me – “do you like adventures?”, she told me. (That was our first contact). I said yes. And she told me “do you want to come with me to spend the night in a mountain refuge and tomorrow morning we will hike up until the crater of a Volcano…” I liked the idea and we had great time together.. 😀 But, let me go back on the cleaning lady… If I was to go to the Volcano that weekend it meant that I had to leave my stuff again. Daemn’t, I thought, and I just took two photos of my stuff, just before I left and right after I came back. There was no other person in the Dorm and I doubt that there were more than 3 persons in the hostel. And, above all, it is super unlikely that 3 different travellers, in 3 different weekends took my stuff…
Back in the Volcano story…
Very cold, pretty windy, a bit rainy, super muddy and extremely cloudy.
We were trapped, let’s say, in a vicious circle – we had to keep moving because it was very cold, but the higher we were going the need to stop was even greater (because of the altitude = less O2). Imagine that we did the hike in 5 hours instead of 7, hiking from 2800m aprox to 4700m approx. Never been so high! Apart from the hiking part, it was very nice that so unexpextedly I spent 30 hours with someone that I am not going to meet again and we shared our stories, our experiences, our feelings – our worldview in a way 😀
In Popayan, time stopped and my normal functioning also changed. I stopped writing my expenses, I stopped taking my medicine (a pill I am taking for Thyreoid, every day), I was not going out, I didn’t care about shower or eating. I was also smoking.. Oh my God, I can’t believe I am writing it but it’s true, for 30 days I was smoking almost a packet a day. PIEL ROJA, without filter. For the first time in my life I felt like smoking and at that moment I didn’t want to say NO to myself to anything. I also forgot one of my 2 pants there, one t-shirt, my formal shirt… Absent-minded!
It was such a blessing for me that at the time that I was living like this, ICAROS came into my life in Popayan… From the 3rd day of my stay there, this 24 year old guy from Brasil, came in the hostel and took care of me… He was bringing me food, sweets.. he was my company.. the voice of logic.. “Come on let’s go out a bit, come on eat something, take a shower…” He was such a positive influence and I owe him so much… Only his voice speaking-singing in Brazilian was such a great joy. I miss him.
I left Popayan on the 29th of June, truly touched! I packed my stuff, prepared the bicycle and took a walk on the hostel to say goodbye to the surrounding materiality, which accompanied and stimulated my creative and introspective writing for 38 days. I was trying to stop myself from crying. Equally emotional were the following days until I reach Chachagui, on the 2nd of July. However, my strong feelings and thoughts in regard to Popayan lagged behind those of the hard time I had climbing, mountain after mountain, mile after mile, with the sun burning every little inch of my body. Τhe skin at my hands was coming out, despite I was using only long-sleeved shirts! My body was not in the mood, I was very tired, I vomited at some point, I was constantly dehydrated, locals were completely misguiding and… well, ok, I had some hard days, until I reached Chachagui!
I find my paradise there. Carlos and Patricia, the owners, were incredibly friendly and not only I had some rest, but I did some things online, and I wrote a great part of this post. The only problem was one tooth of mine that rebelled against my child habit of not brushing my teeth – a terrible pain started at the beginning of July. Now, one month later, I am going to the dentist in order to get it properly fixed.. One month of one-sided eating, horrible. When I left Chachagui, on the 9th of July, my next destination was Ipiales, the city that was next to the borders. I was in contact with a Warmshowers host, Ozkar, that was an extremely cool guy and was hosting cycling tourists for many years.. There, I met Carlos, Mauge (Maria – Eugenia) and Seba (Sebastian) and I was extremely happy to ride with them until the borders.
My dear friends,
almost 4 months in Colombia.
I loved the country and I feel somewhat a Colombian myself, but I want to continue… I am so excited with what’s in front of me: Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina… So many places to see, so many people to meet.. I am very very happy because these 4 months (that someone may think I am on vacations), I was really productive and I had been doing stuff that I wasn’t able to do since I began this trip. I feel like building, honestly.. I am constructing something transparent here and the excitement has to do with this… Carefully creating and putting in order building-blocks – not necessarily memories, or blog posts, or interviews.. But the things inside, I feel I am getting richer in all possible ways. (exaggerating – I am getting poorer, financially speaking – hehe)
Live in totality means receiving reality in expansion.
I enjoyed my time with Jaime and his lifestyle
I enjoyed writing in Popayan
I enjoyed Colombia
But what is amasing is that these are open windows and open doors..
Not only I experienced them, but I saw the view…
And I can cross these doors….
I saw the Possibility. You know, I could live like Jaime. I never knew.
I now have a new language… The language I invented in Popayan. My personal language. I can write now. I never knew.
Colombia is part of the South American culture. More open, more humane, closer to nature, historically rich… The whole culture is magnificent… And all of these are in front of me. There is more!
I am also very happy because I love the way I travel!
I can be very independent if I want to, sleeping for days into the woods.. I can go to hostels to have a “home” for a bit.. I can stay with locals (friends of friends that I meet), or I can meet total strangers through couchsurfing and warmshowers. I am flexible. I can ride 230 km because I am not carrying lots of stuff. I can climb 5.500 m in a day, because I have an electric bicycle, or I can fold it and put it in a mini van, that a normal bicycle couldn’t fit.. I am also flexible in regard to time… I don´t plan to repeat what happened in Popayan, and that is staying 38 days in a place, but just the fact that it happened, it´s beautiful. The fact that I can do it, there are no restrictions. I don´t know for how long I will be travelling.. What is sure for now is… I don´t have a time-frame. I am just going. I enjoy my time without spending a lot and I experience stuff that are truly new. (myself included)
oh! I wanted to write about some very intriguing persons I met in Popayan!
– I spent some 5 hours discussing with one man I met in Popayan. From Colombia. He had tarot cards and he told me very straightforwardly that he is a magician.. He told me that there are several types of magic (red, green, white… etc) and that he is actually practicing white magic. He told me he had been in contact with souls, and that he knows lots of stuff about his previous life… Five hours there I asked him so many things… He was telling me about astrology and astronomy and how valid these things are and how they affect our lives. He had a very relaxed face and everything he was saying seemed to come from some sort of experience.. Now, I don´t know of what kind. I was intrigued to ask him to do the thing with the tarot cards with me, but I finally didn´t. (“just asking”, I whispered to myself)
– and now the craziest of all meetings of my life
Canadian man around 36 yo comes into the dormitory of the hostel. Thin, fit, bald, eating from a can with a spoon. We start talking and he is very very serious for the next 3 hours, saying the following: He works for the Canadian military in a mission. the war of consciousness is taking place on earth at this time. Alien and human beings that are telepathetic kill the consciousness of ordinary people and take their body. He told us he had killed over 4.000.000 of these beings in high resolution dreams. High resolution dreams is a situation in-between sleep and asleep that you are totally conscious. You have to be telepathetic. He told us that he has 2 nano-cameras into his eyes and he has a brain implant and everything he perceives goes straight to Canada. He told me that of course we have this technology – and that at The Base (in Canada) they don´t program with 01 but with another system. Canada and the States have alien spacecrafts and through reverse engineering we took so many things that the wide public doesn’t know. So he was on a mission to save humanity and two days ago he destroyed Cali with a bomb… Honestly, he was very serious. I told him that “what do you mean? Nobody is dead and the city is OK. He told me that they think they are OK. What is in Cali now, people included, it’s a hologram. It is just a projection.. They are not real. What else? Ah! yes the bombs… small very strong magnets, that he is placing them in MRI machines… I didn´t get that. But MRIs were really bad. He could also teleport with his mind through LCD televisions… Ηe was telling us (there were more on the room) that he had met someone who was 10.000 years old… Yes yes… in Vietnam. He heard (telepathetically = in his head) the real voice of a child, approached it, and had a conversation where the child told him he is 10.000 old and when a body gets old he just moves to another one, kills the consciousness and uses the body as a host… Oh… he was also telling us he could have very long conversations with animals and also with stuff that have consciousness. Yes yes, he said that someone´s soul/consciousness can be attributed to a thing, if someone expells it from a body.
Crazy stuff, but I am just writing them here to tell you how awkwardly interesting can be a traveler’s afternoon. I couldn’t help but laugh at some points and I was asking him what the horn of the car said or the bird outside… He was telling me.
Enjoy the video!
Last but not least, I want to share with you a feeling of a subtle happiness that has to do with the fact, the acknowledgment, that this trip is a blessing.. I am repeating myself, I know, but isn’t my reality doing the same? I look back and I see intense moments. Meeting amasing locals and making Friends in Bogotà, celebrating Orthodox Easter in an outdoor church in Pereira, living for 20 days with a family in Cali, the writing days in Popayan. And these only in Colombia.. Back in the States, same stuff…
In Europe too, what can I say… After 4474 words of this post… I have no words!
(And I ‘d like to add that there are very intense and interesting incidents that unfortunately I cannot share with you, either because I am not sure if the persons involved would like these incidents on-line, or because, some things are very personal! 😛 )