Colombia……a pictoral essay.
A brief pictography on Colombia, complete with a little commentary. Individually the images illustrate life in Colombia. Collectively – and in comparison – they tell quite an interesting, if not funny story. Read it all and scroll slowly. Enjoy.
FUN AND GAMES
One of the best fighters in history. Not sure who he is though, looks tough.
This is the grand city bull fighting ring in downtown Bogota. Quite a structure and quite the tradition.
The bullring was closed by ‘Prime Ministers’ orders in 2012 and re opened as an outdoor skating rink.
And yes this is actual ice. Paid admission, noggin holders and padding, incl.
And from a traditional sport to a non-traditional sport and back to a more traditional one…………..and this certainly is one.
PAST TIME SPORT
It looks like a simple game of throwing something for points.
Tejo (pronounced Te-ho) is a National game in Colombia. It is not found everywhere, but when you find it, its pretty cool. The three times I was actually able to find an arena and we went, the game cost the same to play. In all threes instances ‘senor bartender’ approached the group and we discussed playing and what was involved. The “ante in”, I have to refer to it as, was 15 beers. Yes, one-five. Brought to us in a case along with the discs to throw….and a little bit of instruction…..not much. This is yours truly, three Brits looking on. Good people.
If you are really lucky (or skilled enough) to hit one of the triangles dead on, there is a wonderful little reaction. really skilled players can do this two or three times in a row…..for us, it was a matter of pride to at least hit one, once. We did…….I did, at least
The triangles are filled with a bit of gun powder. Everything striking together at the same time makes the ka-boom. And man it feels good. Fun Times.
And for the record – Beer selection: Poker, Aguilla, Club Colombia. Mix them up if you want, but you buy 15 – none the less – in order to be able to play for as long as it takes you to drink the suds. Senor bartender and instructor on the right of the pic. Nice stash.
SOME LOCAL FARE
Colombian BBQ Bogota
Downtown Bogota features a couple of these BBQ restaurants with this impressive vertical style grill cooking up various meats. You can get an assorted plate of chow for around $12/pp. The grill masters working street side entice people passing through by offering a sample of something savoury handed to you on the end of a prong……..seems pretty good.
A tasty looking sample. It actually works getting you into the restaurant of course.
Between chews it is quite likely that you would ask what exactly you are eating. Beef? Chicken? Pork? Carne? Pollo? Cerdo? After a resounding ‘NO’ to these three likely choices, the employee then hands over a little sign depicting the animal who’s meat just went from the grill to your hand then your mouth. What is it exactly?
The Chiguiro is in fact the largest rodent on the planet and is found and sometimes eaten throughout South America. Its bigger than a beaver, reproduces like a rabbit, hangs out in packs like a wolf, eats like a rat, barks like a dog, and is as big of a pain in the ass for residents and homeowners as racoons are to us here in Canada. There is some interesting information about the animal on Wikipedia. Click here for Chiguiro facts and figures on Wikipedia.
The best line on Wikipedia about the Chiguiro is below:
“The meat is considered unsuitable to eat in some areas, while in other areas it is considered an important source of protein”
As always and with anything: Buyer beware.
A LITTLE BIT OF CULTURE
The Colombian National Museum in Bogota is an impressive building that was originally (and previously) used as a prison. It has some impressive spaces and works to look at. Certainly (as in everything in Colombia), there are some interesting and opposing works and exhibits.
A gorgeous and spacious room to look at the works.
There are many examples from one of the most celebrated Colombian artists known as Fernando Botero. He is known for creating bloated, oversized depictions of people, animals and elements of the natural world. Certainly he is prominently featured in this museum. Lots of big bums and rounded people.
Before cosmetic surgery in Medellin become so popular including the ‘butt implants’, Botero led the way in sculpture.
A little bio on Fernando Botero.
Back to the prison feel and open spaces…oh if these walls could talk.
And finally the ‘piece de resistance’, a piece of a meteor that struck and landed in Vichada, Colombia. Somehow doesn’t see to fit in the museum filled with art.
Nor does the headless statue.
List of famous people over history who were beheaded.
A complete list of impact craters on earth.
Travelling is not at all travel without meeting a whole bunch of other travellers from all walks of life and from all over the world. This particular guys name is Russell. I met Russell during my first week in Colombia. Like me, he arrived with very little plans for his adventure. Unlike me, he was travelling on a very very tight budget, was busking at nights to make ends meet and our differences dawned upon me when he stated he arrived in Bogota with only $100 in his pocket. To further differentiate between us, Russell was going to depart Bogota in a few days, and do so on foot. I was in shock to be honest……walk out of Bogota? No fares for buses or taxis or anything of the sort…..just simply walk. Out of monetary necessity and pure enjoyment Russell went about his journey, one step at a time. To be honest, I thought the idea was a bit crazy.
And to prove the point, we came upon Russell on his way out of town. Hes not hitching a ride but was waiting for a western union money transfer to arrive of $100usd and then he would be on his way. Once again it dawned on me……who would think of just leaving city and heading out (route unknown) with only $100 in their pocket? Money that Russell told me he would use on provisions. Say the words provisions, walking and Bogota in the same sentence and you are either the craziest or coolest guy in town. Russell was a pretty cool dude. age:26. hometown: Pheonix, AZ. Profession: Artist/Musician. Full name: Russell A. Barnes, look him up.
Stray Dog: Day 1
While staying at Los Pinos Hostal, high in the Sierra Nevada mountains on the north coast of Colombia, we had a visitor come by looking well worse for the wear. The visitor was the dog you see below and this picture is of him when he arrived. Barely able to put one foot in front of the other, the stray was certainly on his well worn out death bed…..he’s probably been there for a while. After a few hrs of him scared and timid and looking like he needed something to eat at least, I recalled a similar dog we had in Utila Honduras that (due to the physical nature of him), we called ‘Bones’. And this dog was now another ‘Bones’.
Bones must have made quite the impression on his first night…….everyone was horrified by Bones at first but for different reasons. Some were horrified by his skidish nature, and protruding frame, wanting the dog to just ‘go away’…..others were horrified about the lack of strength and health of the dog and were very compassionate for him, wanting just ‘to feed him and get rid of his ticks’. I was neither here nor there on the particular topic until the following morning, although I did name him Bones.
Upon checking out of Los Pinos the next day, one of the guests turned to myself and handed me a bill. Not a bill of sale, but a bill. Amber put 50,000 Colombian pesos in my hand and asked me to “take care of Bones”. Not only that, but that she would also send money each month to continue the care. Folks, its not one for me to step up and suddenly start my first NGO or anything, but the look of Bones and the plea by Amber were two things you couldn’t say NO to.
Suddenly the dilapidated Bones was in my hands at his new home Los Pinos Hostal. We did our best to feed him, take out his tics, and he did his best getting to know the other resident dogs Luna and Brando. We fed him and he got stronger and more confident. In a matter of a few weeks his tail would sail high above his body, he would run and prance and even bark (although this would take the wind out of him). We witnessed, in front of our very eyes, the re-socialization of a well worn out canine. Bones came to life. I could go on and on about it, but for the sake of brevity the long and short of it is: Amber saved Bones, we did the work and the dog responded. Almost a love story if there was one.
By the end of three weeks I had made my way down to the city and purchased some eye drops for an infection as well as the best flea and tick collar money could buy. I got him used to both very quickly, and the photo below shows a very proud Bonsey. Complete with his new collar he’s more than happy to show off. 21 days folks.
Senor Bones, bless him.
More to come, thanks Colombia. 2013.
MY LIFE in 36 Pounds…….how not getting caught up in Columbia House allowed me to go to Colombia.
06 April 2013
The first time I was ever given proper credit was sometime in the 80’s at the exact moment I received my eight carefully selected tapes from Columbia music company. Six to eight weeks previously I was tearing apart postage stamp representations of music albums, licking them on to a selection sheet, and getting involved in the wonderful interdependent worlds of consumption and consumerism. After hand writing the application (re: name and address), and the envelope, I walked off to the mail and sent in my very first credit application. Beuf!
Wetting the appetite of the young consumer this credit purchasing trend did not cease with the advent of the CD, although Colombia Music House succumbed, but rather increased and manifested its self into every aspect of our everyday lives. When I started college there were very few people holding their own credit cards, but by the time I walked down the aisle for graduation, you couldn’t get through the school year without being approached by dozens of credit card companies vying to sign you up. If the free mug or “something U” tshirt or flannel uni pants didnt entice you to sign up as you walked the hallways of higher education, then maybe the allure of having a photo of your alma matter on that little piece of plastic – with a little visa or mastercard logo in the corner – would…..or eventually did.
With credit being king, suddenly a lack of fluid cash did not cease our purchasing power. In fact, credit increased our ability to buy goods and we did so at an ever increasing rate. We were inundated with phrases like “don’t pay a cent”, “do not pay till the year 2005”, and “no money down” until they became context of this new popular culture. As a group we were dealt a wonderful hand of increased tuition and cost of living, lower wages, higher unemployment, and larger debt load. This didn’t phase us however as we had access to credit, and companies were offering this credit to us at an alarming rate and with increasing frequency. We bit and we bought. And we bought and we bought.
We don’t need to look much further than our own debt loads and credit problems to know the rest of the story. More and more people are struggling to make even minimum payments and the interest rates are astronomical.
Taking solace in the vast amounts of goods contained in our homes, garages, closets, and basements and finally making their way to the land fill – the debt continues its stranglehold. Strangely enough, a frequently used “feel good” remedy is the purchase of an Iphone, even throwing out the old one and lining up for an hour for the opportunity to spend $500 on a new one (re: more credit, and signing up for a 3 year contract) because then the phone is free right?. Smart isn’t it? Not really……but it feels good in that moment, so I’m told, or so it appears.
And there it is, we have stuff and we have debt and we live with it. Some people are even comfortable with it, wouldn’t know what to do without it, the new normal. Gather those airmiles, but never take flight. For me conversely it’s the flight I’m looking for, and for what I like to take.
I am able to do this because I don’t have debt (re:things) that create the debt and thus keep one grounded in one spot for a long long time. This new world normalcy for many, is for myself, so foreign. Debt controls us, strangles us, and holds us like a bear hug we want to get out of but in some sense we like – and are used to, not like we have any other choice.
When packing for my recent 3 month trip to Colombia I took all of what I needed, but what some might call the bare essentials. My entire life for 90 days on the road was folded up into a backpack that weighed 36 pounds at the airport check in. That is all. My entire living existence was contained in one bag slung on my back and really, this is all I needed.
Although I was introduced to consumerism, credit and consumption by Columbia Music House some twenty five years ago, I did not get caught up in this culture as most did. For some reason (maybe years of living day to day during and after university with a strict accounting dad holding the reins), I paid off my debt and never returned. I clearly remember the day I became 100% debt free, it was the first time I actually felt free…..and it was a great feeling . A better feeling than I received from anything Ive ever bought. Suddenly I was empowered and able to make choices in life based on what I wanted to do not what I had to do. Happiness and mobility increased, working hand in hand like a secret formula we were never taught or shown. I continue to challenge myself to work with what Ive got and not extend myself beyond my means. Its fairly easy when travelling in second and third world countries but understandably harder whenever I return home for more than a week or two. With that said, each time I purchase a plane ticket Im reminded why I don’t want an Iphone or new living room set or the latest kicks, and why I just laugh at people who’s local grocery store is Costco (re: you never leave there without spending a couple hundred bucks).
Not getting caught up in Columbia Music House, has allowed me the opportunity to travel COLOMBIA!
For the interested, here is a complete list of what thirty six pounds of goods in a backpack adds up to:
Colombia Packing list:
-2 pairs of jeans
-1 pair light weight hiking pants
-1 swim shorts
-3 pairs socks, 1 pair wool socks
-1 long sleeve T shirt
-3 button down shirts
-1 pull over fleece
-1 rash guard
-1 winter hat
-1 rain coat
-1 pair lightweight hiking shoes
-1 pair flip flops
-head lamp, sewing kit, bottle of camp soap, flashlight, toiletries, sunscreen, sleeping bag, travel pillow, quick dry towel, snorkelling gear, 2 books, note pad, bag of band aids, swiss army knife,
-(in my carry-on not incl in the 36lbs). laptop, speakers, iPod, earphones, usb stick, camera, cell phone, chargers.
Things I didn’t use, or were lost or stolen on trip:
-2 button down t-shirts (not used)
-winter hat (not used)
-sewing kit (not used)
-1 book (not read)
-cell phone (stolen)
Foot Note: An interesting article about how Colombia House was able to make money through their sales scheme in the 80’s and 90’s
Danny riding bareback – a tour of Los Pinos Hostal, Colombia.
Inundated with various animals and wildlife high up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains outside Minca Colombia, Danny decided to take one unsuspecting mule under his wing. After a few days of joking that the mule was now adopted by the hostal, we encouraged Danny to prove his relationship with this beast of livestock AND to make friendly contact.
However, this would not be enough for the onlookers who chided Danny to actually mount and ride the mule. With little coaxing, this relationship between man and his animal was established and caught on camera for all to see.
What follows, ends up being a nice little outdoor tour of Los Pinos Hostal, and the landscapes and views this wonderful place offers. You will also get a glimpse of the largest hammock in Colombia….check it out.
If you go, you too can ride the mule if you’re up for it. Pretty much anything goes at Los Pinos, SO, if there is something you want to do you will never be met with “you shouldn’t do that”, but rather “go for it”……of course, no matter what the consequences might be. Sometimes things just seem to be normal given your surroundings and environment. Kids, don’t try this at home.
The best medicine for fear is to face it.
For some years, some many years ago, I suffered with bouts of anxiety that surfaced for no real explanatory reason what so ever. Trying to combat the limitations this feeling can exacerbate I realized that the best way to over come was to face this anxiety head on. For some people this anxiety surfaces in daily living, for others it is brought on by events or scenarios associated with the aforementioned stress. Personally, I could not determine the root cause nor the factors which brought this upon myself. With that said, when this feeling came upon me in theory or actuality, the best way I could overcome the issue was to face it head on and go for it. The resulting accomplishments would then serve as a backboard – or bench mark so to speak – and check, that the anxiety was driven down beyond any means of resurfacing….and hence healed. Travel was one of those scenarios for me which could bring upon anxiety. Unfamiliar people, places and things could in essence, get me anxious. So, to over come…..you just GO. And Go. And Go. And that I have. Diving was as well was something I wasn’t to particularly fond of – BUT – to overcome I had to come face to face and simply continue till that anxiety was so small it was non-existent. Some 1000 dives later and I’m master of the sea. Bringing me to this next point.
Falling/floating/flailing from the sky from absurd heights in something that most people would be apprehensive about and possibly anxious. Not good regular – I’m about to have a big job interview anxiety – but real unhealthy limitation experience anxiety. One that cripples you and shapes your choices and experiences from that point on. So, in that, Paragliding is one of those activities I’m not fond of in theory….and something I would never consider doing. However, as per my usual medicine in these cases, it was best to hit this apprehension head on. Thus, when I was thinking about my trip to Colombia and the possibility of going paragliding, taking part in this activity was not an option, it was a need. An internal need to find that back board and burry that anxiety once again.
I accomplished the paragliding and lived to tell. Im better off for it and although it really was a “stomach in the throat experience”, I would now consider doing it again, somewhere else, some other time. I took a video of part of this experience. It shows me floating around and somewhat enjoying myself. We return to the landing zone and are still very high above when the pilot asks me if I want to do “some spins”. Everything inside me said” no freaking way”, but alas in the video you can hear me say, “lets go for it”. The video below shows how insane these spins can be…..and of course that we had a safe landing as well. If you hold on till the end you’ll see the relief on my face. Not normal relief but relief that comes in the form of facing your fears and knowing that being empowered in that manner is the best medicine…..be it paragliding, diving, travelling – or for some – even simple day to day activities and life. In this manner the best prescription is a well know remedy (and saying) that is very seldom used. Its called: GO FOR IT. Try it, it might work for you as well.