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Final Country: Colombia!

The turn has now come to the last and final country on the trip, Colombia! During the trip, almost all the people that I met who had been here told me it was their favourite country, so I’ve been very curiuos about coming here myself. Despite a rather recent violent history, Colombia and its people made a deep impression on me. I was instantly welcomed by truly nice and helpful people that often said hi along the road, and it was much cleaner along the roads. The worries about the guerilla seem to be very exaggerated, but still some people warned me in the south, especially not to cycle on secondary roads in the mountains. Food-wise I was happy to see that instead of French fries (that I’m quite bored of by now), they seem to eat a lot oven/steam-baked potatoes. When I descended into a warmer valley, I got overwhelmed by the variety of fruit that I found. I bought 1 kg of cape gooseberry (physalis) without the husk for $1 and just poured it into my mouth!

1 kg cape gooseberry (physalis) for $1!

It’s been a lot of up’s and down’s the whole way but I sent a package with 3 kg’s of cold-weather-equipment, bike tools and souvenirs to my friend Laura in Bogotá and it’s actually quite a difference. It’s been very hot as well when cycling in the lowest valleys. I had my warmest day so far in one of these with 41 degrees, puuhh!

When I came to the city of Popayán there was a beauty contest on the plaza with women from all over the country and even here it confirmed what everyone had told me, Colombian women are very beautiful! I got introduced to Colombian aguardiente, which is an anise-flavored liqueur derived from sugar cane that is drunk from small shot glasses. A tradition that would follow me throughout the country. People were doing spontaneous dancing on the plaza and everyone were super friendly.

My next major stop was the third largest city, Cali, in Valle del Cauca. Here I was lucky to find a Casa de Ciclistas. This house belongs to Miller Hernan and his family and they were super sweet and let me stay for several nights. I showed them some of my cooking skills which was very appreciated and Sixta memorized the whole procedure.

Casa de Ciclistas, Cali with Miller Hernan and his family

In Cali, I met up with Laura who was working at an event called Cali Exposhow. This is a beauty, health and fashion fair and the biggest of its kind in the country. I also reunited with another friend, Ingela, from Sweden. It’s the third time on three different trips that we meet, and I indeed hope there will even be a fourth one someday. Together with two friends of hers, we went to the fair and also made it into a catwalk show and I have never seen so many beautiful women in my whole life. Then of course, this region is supposed to be famous for plastic surgery so my amusement partially shattered, but it was still awesome and I almost forgot to eat lunch.

Cali Exposhow 2010

Catwalk @ Cali Exposhow 2010

Catwalk @ Cali Exposhow 2010

This is Taliana Vargas from Santa Marta who came 2nd in Miss Universe 2008:

Taliana Vargas, 2nd in Miss Universe 2008

Cali is also called the capital of salsa, so later that night we went to a famous salsa place called Tin Tin Deo and demonstrated our Swedish hip movements. The next day I continued cycling with another cyclist, Marty, who is from the UK! We met the first time in Ecuador when I recognized him and his dreadlocks in a bar, after having seen him in photos in the guestbook at the Casa de Ciclistas in Trujillo, Peru. Very random!

We met the CouchSurfer Eliza in Tuluá who with open arms invited us to stay at her place. She is a teacher in a school located in the small mountain village Fenicia and wanted us to join her the following day. We visited five different classrooms and told the kids about our travels. They were curious but a bit shy and we happily answered all their questions. Marty is an interesting/crazy guy who has been travelling for 5 years. He has learnt Spanish by watching an insane amount of Simpsons episodes, and the latest crazy thing that happened to him was a bird that dropped a scorpion into his hammock which then stung him three times (but as he said afterwards, “it was worth it”).

Visiting a school in Fenicia

On the mountains here in the center of the country is where most of the world-famous Colombian coffee is produced. It’s a pity that I don’t like coffee, but I’m sure that it’s good stuff. Here is a view of the city Pereira with coffe plantations in the foreground:

The city Pereira and coffe plantations

Cycling is one of the biggest sports in the country so I’ve been meeting many “compadres” on the road. I met a touring cyclist as well, Álvaro, who travels with basically nothing at all but hopes to reach Argentina by relaying on people’s hospitality. I hope his monstrous flag will help him!

Álvaro, a colombian touring cyclist

Me and Marty spent Halloween in the second largest city Medellín, (in)famous for drug cartels and the drug lord Pablo Escobar. The “Godfather of Cocaine” was the richest and most “successful” criminal in world history that in 1989 got ranked the 7th richest man in the world by Forbes magazine. The rumour says that he once burnt $2 million in cash just to keep warm while on the run.

It didn’t feel like Halloween was about dressing scary here, so instead I thought about what would be very Swedish and came up with Pippi Longstocking. The costume was quite a success and gave many people in the bar district Zona Rosa a good laugh.

Pippi Longstocking