Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Segment 37: Medellín, Colombia to Salento, Colombia (May 1 - 22, 2011)

We left Medellín in high spirits after a great stay with the Velazquez family:

(from left to right) Jeff, Manuel, Craig, Marta, Manuela, Sonja, and Jason

sublime scenery heading south away from Medellín

local "work" bike in La Pintada

La Pintada straddles the Cauca River

...frisky cows at our campsite along the Rio Cauca:

these butterflies all visited Jeff and his gear in a five minute period while packing up from the above camp:

on our way towards Pereira, we camped in this coffee plantation

entering the Zona Cafetera
Passing through the Zona Cafetera (Coffee Zone) of Colombia.  Here one can see the biological desert that an ill-planned coffee plantation creates.

locals panning for gold

dramatic entrance to Pereira on the "Viaducto" bridge

Pereira neighborhoods seen from the bridge

...images from Plaza Mercado, a large food and produce market in Pereira...

Here we are asking the firemen of Pereira if they can host us, which they did for five days

In the Parque de Bolivar of Pereira, we found a good place to busk, not knowing at all what would happen...

what happened were highly enthusiastic and curious crowds

this guy stopped to jam some blues with us... he had been in a motorcycle accident only 3 months before in which a municipal bus ran him over at full speed and cut off both his legs, one above and one below the knee.

The generous firemen of Pereira shared some food with us; this is a big pot of sancocho, delightfully and rarely vegetarian, with a base of plantains.

While in Pereira we met a local family who also hosted us.  Ancizar, seated second from the left, cycled from Colombia to Brazil last year. 

this poster had been the visual symbol of their trip

busking again in the park, we had crowds of up to 70 people.  We play mostly American folk and blues.  Three guitars, harmonica, and percussion.

our sign

The bomberos (firemen) of Pereira gave us a rousing farewell.  The boss is straddling Craig´s bike on the right of the photo!

and we in turn performed a few songs for them

here we are taking a lesson in Colombian folk music from a local street musician:
Reinaldo, our instructor

Reinaldo performs "El Aguacate" at the following YouTube link:

We left the bikes in Pereira and headed on a weeklong sidetrip to Cali, Colombia´s third city after Bogotá and Medellín.

street life in Cali

downtown, actually fairly ragged and doesn't hold a candle to the beauty or cleanliness of Medellín

Cali does have, however, some of the largest and cheapest lunch plates in Colombia.  Shown above are navy beans, lentils, rice, plantain soup, guava juice, fresh cilantro hot sauce, and shredded beet/carrot/cabbage salad; all for the equivalent of US $2.50 or so.

...at night women sell arepas in the street, which are freshly grilled steaming hot pockets of corn.  Absolutely delicious, even better than handmade Mexican or Guatemalan tortillas or Salvadorean papusas...

In Cali we stayed at a Casa de Ciclistas (as we had in Medellín).  Our host was Miller Hernan Yule, who has hosted hundreds of cyclists in recent years.  We happened to coincide here with six other cyclists, so the house was full!  The other cyclists were three Basques, one Spanish, and an American couple on tandem.

backyard at the casa de ciclistas

We were also hosted by the Herrera family (the family of a friend of Jeff and Craig's from Barcelona days) at this property just outside Cali.

it became quite a party spot on the weekend.  Here most of the family is out for a paella lunch:
this one a wonderful seafood paella loaded with shrimp

digging in

at night Tio Hermes pulled out the bongoes and accompanied the ubiquitous salsa music of Cali.  Cali is universally considered the salsa capital of the world, and salsa music is nearly heard 24/7 from taxis, street shops, car stereos, shopping malls, house parties, bars, restaurants and clubs.  Incredible.

Jeff is getting some cooking tips from only the best: Colombia abuelas (grandmothers)

preparing Colombian bean dish with base of plantains (yum), and also fresh ají (fresh cilantro hot pepper sauce)

Cali, unlike Medellín with its shining metro, opted for a high-speed bus system.  However, it still takes over an hour to cross Cali in one of these (named "Mio")

ibises at the Herrera finca, which had lots of birds about:

Now leaving Pereira

the valley of Pereira seen from above on our climb out

our second run-in with a locally-famous cyclist.  With only one leg (the other lost in a dogbite accident), he is a special Olympian in cycling.  He rides faster with one leg than almost anyone with two.

near the divide between Pereira and Armenia

Colombia has lots of cool bamboo building projects.  This one is an all-bamboo bus stop
 on the way to Salento

in Salento we got permission to sleep in a city park still under construction

Andean motmot seen at the park

grilling arepas in the streets of Salento

this session became known as the "cow-pasture jam".   It featured a great view over the valley below, and yes, this cow is listening to the music!  As is the rooster.  A priceless moment.

... Salento is a dog-friendly place...

The Coffee Zone of Colombia seems to have 90% of the world's Willy's jeeps...

views from a walking trip near Salento

on this walk we encountered a game of Tejo, which is a Colombian yard game.

Jeff gives it a shot

the target, a sloping mosh of moist clay - those little colored gunpowder-filled triangles are important parts of the game: if you strike them with the "ball" (a heavy metallic lump shaped like a hockey puck and thrown from a good distance away), they explode excitedly with a large "POW!", and the thrower's team gets several points.

the ball, and the wad of fiber used to wipe it clean of clay and mud

on a day ride up to the Valle de Cocora

this motmot is eating a palm nut

the spectacular Valle de Cocora

eventually the valley closes up in steep moist forest

Craig on a temporary bridge

beetle seen on this walk

great tanager spotting

locals hanging out at Cocora

wildflowers lining the road on the return to Salento

Salento´s specialty dish, "Trucha y patacon": fried trout on a bed of whole splayed fried plantains, served with salad and fresh lemon.

No comments: