It seems odd but for some time to come I will be in a region that has no distinct temperature seasons, the temperature is relatively constant during the year throughout the equatorial zone. Christmas will most likely be warm and sunny.
I was at the internet cafe inquiring about coffee plantations in the area. The Colombian state of Huila boasts having the best coffee in the world. We used google translate to the best of its ability, it is limited but I found that if I reword the sentence three different ways, the other person gets what I'm trying to say.
After some time Franklin, the owner of the business, was able to find his friend Peter who would serve as my guide. We hopped in the back of a small pickup truck that has several seats in the rear with a canvas top. This is a popular type of taxi service here. After riding about 10 minutes in the cramped space in the back, Peter pushes a button and the vehicle comes to a stop. He pays the man and we start walking up a dirt road. This whole time we have been working hard trying to communicate. Peter does not know but a few words in English but is trying to learn. He is taking classes and would like to learn English but at the present we are stuck with this little phrase book. Peter flips through it looking for words but cannot find what he is trying to say. As a side note here I think it will be a good idea to have a Spanish to English phrase book since everyone is so eager to talk to me and my English to Spanish is of little use to them. Anyway, we continue walking up the dirt road usually finding a word or two to communicate with. The words don't matter that much when there is good intent, he wants to show me around and I'm eager to go see. Usually hand gestures and pointing works pretty well. We walked past cocunut trees, plantain trees and many others that I don't remember. After a couple of miles we reach where one of his sisters lives and where the coffee fields are. It was a very hot day as we walked through the coffee fields with plantain trees in them. The plantain trees are planted a certain distance apart in the field to provide the shade needed for the coffee trees. I also made a short video walking amongst all the coffee trees but the videos take too long to load, I usually have several videos a day and for now will just keep them on my computer and at a later date I will upload them.
We also walk across large fields of of pasture and through cow fields to explore the hills and the view from here. They also have bamboo fields where the men were in the midst of harvest some of the bamboo with machete's. The bamboo is what many of the homes are built out of in this area, I started noticing the homes changing from primarily brick to bamboo after the town of Gigante.
We had several conversations and now it is to the point where I won't keep mentioning the one thing I hear everyday is how beautiful the women are. This is everyday with everyone new I meet, it is the first or second thing mentioned by men and women. Some even pinpoint areas like Medillin having the most beautiful in Colombia, a woman first said this followed be men and other women. I think I have mentioned this aspect of Colombia enough and no need to keep mentioning it. I find it very peculiar, it is not something I think anyone in the United States would say. I wonder what average people in the U.S. would say when asked about their country? It seems as though most come up with something negative, like political problems or the health care system. Would anyone say how beautiful the women are follwed by how beautiful the country is? Anyway, interesting difference by my own perception. They never talk about politics except when saying something positive about how well things are now in the political situation.
Back at the home his sister serves fruit juice, all the juice in Colombia is freshly squeezed just before serving and the fruit they use is a little thicker than regular fruit juice, it is closer to a nectar thick liquid. I do not know all the fruits they use, some I never heard of before coming here but mango is a popular juice here too. I saw lots of mango trees along the road as well as coconut trees.
When we finished our juice we walked back down the dirt road to go wait for a taxi service. At the corner we stopped in a pottery shop, the woman was very friendly, she showed my around. She took us to the back to the beautiful garden and a greenhouse where show grows native orchids and other native plants. I walked around enjoying the eye candy of colors and the smells of flowers. The woman came out with a tray to serve us some sort of delicious roll pastry thing and fresh juice. The hospitality extended by everyone is a very welcome contrast to the image my mind had created of Colombia before coming here.
When we returned, we went to his home and I was served an excellent cup of coffee. The home also serves as a dentist office where another sister is a dentist.
After some time of talking in our limited conversation, at times feeling like the Ents from Lord of The Rings where it takes several hours just to get through the initial greetings, we ended up using google translate on the computer. Peter wants to get a tourist office set up so he can promote his services as a guide. He does rapeling, kayaking, rafting, caving and general treks around. I told him to email me his info of what he offers and I would post it here, as soon as I get his email I will add that to this page. I think having a local contact is useful to get a good experience of the place, otherwise it is easy to just come in to the town, check into a hotel and leave the next morning without hardly even speaking to anyone.
The home started filling up with more people and I was introduced to some of his relatives. As soon as I met Gerardo he invited me to get in the vehicle and fly helicopters. Before I knew it we were all packed in a 1954 Willys going up a dirt road. It ends up this is the same red Willys I passed on the road yesterday with several people standing around outside it, it then passed me up. They all remembered seeing me yesterday and were happy to meet me. There were 4 of us in back, Edgar the driver then Gerardo and his little daughter in the passenger seat. It ends up Gerardo knows a little English and able to communicate far better than Google translate does. I was able to carry on a meaningful conversation with him. He is a video producer and freelance photographer.
While talking to Gerardo on the field where Edgar was flying the R/C helicopters, he told me "Bogota too expensive, here life is easier more time with my child and family." He smiled and hugged his cute little baby girl. Gerardo has an enthusiasm in him that shines brightly. It comes through in his voice and he is a very genuine and sincere man. He tells me, "In Colombia, a friend of a friend is my friend" and smiles. The Aquardiente comes out and everyone has one shot. This is a ritual very steeped in Colombian tradition. It almost seems like passing the religous wine for ceremony. It is used with new friends as a form of bonding too, never enough to get drunk on these occasions, just one shot.
After crashing both helicopters which needed more repairs than what could be done on the field, it was time to head back to the home.
While in the shop of their large home, Edgar works on the helicopters while the aquardiente "fire water" comes out for everyone to have shots. "It is tradition here.... national drink" I am told.
It was easy to talk to Gerardo partly because of his ability to speak English but more so because of the common interests and his enthusiasm for living. Gerardo shows me some of his photography and we continue talking for several hours as the shots of "fire water" continue. I quickly realized that this brand is a bit stronger than the other stuff I had previously.
Soon Gerardo's wife appears as wells as other family members to the home and I meet more friendly people.
I talked about the road conditions with Gerardo who was very familiar with the trip to Pasto. He said the road from Mocoa to Pasto is called "The Road of Death" because it is about 3 meters wide and almost impossible for two cars to pass each other. They have to go extremely slow with one car on the ede of "the abyss" as he calls it. If the car goes too far it will go off the road down a very steep mountain where you cannot see the bottom. So far everyone has told me not to ride my bicycle along that route, I have been told everyone journeys along the western part of Colombia, the route I have chosen is not very popular for traveling. I'm also told the area I'm going into was the big guerilla stronghold. There are still guerillas in the area and can be dangerous.
After several hours I am getting tired it had been a very long full day. It can be so easy to just go town to town and stay in hotels. I could've just stayed in the hotel and moved on quickly to the next town, but with just a little effort on my part and I am welcomed into families who are so very generous and kind. It was such a short time, just one day, today, and I feel like I know these people very well. I think it must be their openness, no hidden depths, no ulterior motives, no hidden agendas, just joyous smiling welcoming people. There are so many days that I experience more in one day than I do for months back in my other reality.
Gerardo, his wife, and daughter had to leave and Gerardo gave me a very appreciative handshake as he thanked me for being there with them. I too appreciated him and this wonderful family.
It all started with a simple inquiry in the internet cafe and Franklin worked hard to help me find someone who could assist me. This is true so much here, if you want something, someone else is always eager to be of assistance. Franklin ended up finding Peter to help me which led to a wonderful and fun day with new friends who also have an open invitation to visit me anytime.
p.s. mosquitoes are very small here and are very quick.
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