November 29, 2011
This morning my knee was feeling about 75% better. It was pouring down rain so I took my time and was considering staying an extra day. I went downstairs and had some breakfast, by the time I finished eating the rain stopped and the sun was coming out.
Being this close to the equator the days are typically about 12 hours, 6 am to 6pm. I gathered my things and started downstairs with my bicycle. There is no elevator and I was given a room on the 3rd floor at the very back corner, the farthest away imaginable. Another thing about this region, everyone has just one knob for the shower, cold. No one has a hot water knob. Anyway, I proceeded trying to navigate this heavy bike downstairs. Which by the way I had help bringing it up yesterday, I took the panniers off and the young man who checked me in carried the bike up and I carried the panniers up. This morning I decided to just take it all down at once and it was all I could do to control it by squeezing the brakes as hard as I could to help bring it slowly down step by step. I felt as if the rear brake cable may have stretched a little due to the force of braking. When I was near the bottom I saw the young man and called out "hola" and when he saw me he quickly came to help.
They pointed me in the right direction and I pedaled down the road. I played some music on my walkman and my knee was starting to feel better the more I pedaled!
Lots of interesting things to see along the way, the road had a lot of empty stretches and I was alone in my thoughts. I really liked this part, I needed some alone time to think and I was immediately in that space I was so long ago when I cycled alone across North America.
I spotted a large iguana, lots of red dragonfly's and what looked like an armadillo.
The day began to get really hot and I understimated the sun in this equatorial region. I drank almost all my water and moved very slowly trying to take it easy. It was a late start for a hot summer day and if it was not raining I should have left earlier to beat the noon heat. By noon it seems almost too hot to cycle. I cycled until after 2pm to get to the town of Natagaima at times the sweat running from my forehead and into my eyes making them burn.
I found a hotel in Natagaima and after some difficult communication I was able to get a room. Their regular rate is 20,000 pesos which is a good price. The hotel yesterday kept changing the price on me during the discussion and by the end I paid 60,000 pesos, at one point they were giogn to charge 50,000 but when I handed 60,000 the older man said no change, it costs 60,000.
I checked in and was very hot, I could feel my body temperature was high and although I had drank a lot of water I was still thirsty. They had gatorade in the cooler so I bought one and immediately drank it down before being shown to my room. By the time I started gettingt settled in and wiped the sweat off me I realized how sunburnt I got today. I could not believe I could get so much of a burn. I had only a minor bit of redness on my face from yesterday on my face so I put sunscreen on but the sweat washed it away. I will need to keep re-applying throughout the day now. I am cycling at a relatively low altitude below 1500 feet which makes it easier to get O2 in my lungs but it is hot and humid here. I have now entered the edge of the desert region where it will get more dry but it will also get hotter.
After showering I wanted to find and ATM, the young man downstairs told me how to get there and said do not talk to anyone else while at the ATM "it dangerous for you". So when I went I remembered a statistic about the influence of posture and crimes commited against a person. The worse the posture the more likely a crime will be commited agianst a person. So I walked down the street like I owned the place, I stayed off the sidewalk and walked down the street with as much confidence as I could muster. Although no "bad" people seemed to be out, everyone seemed pleasant in town.
Later in the evening I went downstairs and met the man of the family who owns this hotel. We communicated by talking in 2 words sentences, hand gestures and using my phrase book the best we could for a conversation which is very limited. After about 2 hours his daughter returns with the laptop and we were able to communicate much better using Google translate, it isn't perfect but it worked very well. He is a good man and asked me a lot of what I thought about Colombia, he knows that Colombia does not have a good impression on the rest of the world and he hopes that changes. With everyone I meet it seems as though the pride of their country is from a sense of beauty and connection to the land. Most people here seem to be closely connected to the land and their food is always fresh from the land every day. My personal perception about the United States is that the sense of pride comes from a jingoistic perspective, people love to wave flags and show how powerful we are and how great "The American Dream" is. What is it anyway? The fact that anyone in America can make it big and acquire wealth? Here I am in these poor little towns (by U.S. standards) and I do not find anyone complaining about lack of anything. They have very close families, eat well, love to talk and appear very happy. Maybe it is just my personal perception but when I see someone with an American flag it is almost as if they are shoving it in someone's face. I think with any word, message or symbol ever used, the important thing is the intent behind it. The biggest display of flag waving I saw was after 9/11 and that had a lot of "let's kill 'em" intent behind it, even then president issued a "wanted dead or alive" statement. So far I have not seen that "us or them" attitude or "you're either with us or against us".
I have not heard anyone talk about foriegn countries except that they want to improve their impression with the rest of the world. People here live in a beautiful country and all I ever heard about Colombia is drug lords, mafia, cocaine, and kidnappings from the emedia.
While looking at the map of the area my new friend was exicted to show me places to go see on my way. The desert has a lot of beauty and he encouraged me to take a detour to visit the Tatacoa desert. He did say the desert can get to 40C, if my estimate is correct that is somewhere over 120 F? We chatted until both of us were too tired to talk anymore and it was time to sleep. Again I have to say, this place has a lot of wonderful people, all you have to do is say "hola" and you have a new friend.
Today's miles: 40.69
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