The big 10 defined by André: Frequently asked questions

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Today I listened to the last episode of Sanft & Sorgfältig for this year, a german podcast with the musician Oli Schulz and the TV star Jan Böhmermann. Inspired by them and due to the first exchanges of words with interested people along my way I will tell you about 10 frequently asked questions and will respond them.
Sometimes I get a little bit tired of answering these questions over and over again, but I started to collect them to see what is of interest for the people, meeting a cyclist like me traveling on its bike. I also observed that the questions do differ depending on the country and the level of living. While in poorer countries the local people are rather interested in the money, tourists from Europe may rather beinterested about my performance. Other cyclists rather look for the equipment.

1.Where do you come from? Where are you going? When do you start your travel?
Of course the origin and the direction of traveling are always the first things people want to know. Sometimes you switch from Spanish to another language afterwards. I always have to emphasize that I’m from Germany, but that I started my travel in Costa Rica. If I’m not doing this, I sometimes got the question if I started my cycling in Germany. After they know that I’m started in Costa Rica, their eyes get big and there face express an astonishment before they want to know how long I already have traveled.

2.How many kilometers do you cycle per day?
After the origin, the starting point, direction and time, this one might be the most frequently asked question. In the meantime I have developed a routine in responding to that one: It’s totally different because it depends on so many things, like the road conditions, the temperature and humidity, the altitude, the wind conditions, my personal feeling and motivation and of course the amount of meters which I have to go up or down.

3. Where do you sleep?
My answer to this question differs sometimes, because some people don’t know what couchsurfing or warmshower is, nor Casa de Ciclistas. In my map I always note where I stayed for the night and what kind of place it was. I have not evaluated it so far but I suppose that I spent most of my nights in my tent (wild or payed camping), followed by payed accomondations (most of the time hostels, rarely cheap hotels). From time to time I stay with local people (Couchsurfing, warmshowers, Casa de Ciclistas or invitations). The decision depends on the outer occurrences, on my mood and if I want to take a shower or if I need Internet or electricity.

4. Do you cycle/travel alone?
This question I’m always asked when I cycle alone and there is obviously no other cyclist. So I confirm but always admit that I’ve already cycled with others for some time and that there will be more cyclists I will meet to travel together for a while.
Sometimes I enjoyed the companion, but I also like the bigger liberty when I travel on my own. Traveling alone feels to be much more intensive, cause I got to know more people and speak more spanish. An important point of traveling with other cyclists is, that you can share your experiences with somebody else. And if all the other aspects do fit very good, I definitely prefer to cycle with another person.

5. Are you not afraid when you travel in this manner?
„No, I’m not afraid“ was my answer and depending on the person I went deeper in to that topic. I dealt with the topic of fear during my travel several times and developed another point of view at this topic. As a result my fears diminished during my travel.
I still take care and I’m looking for camping place, which can’t be seen from the road for example. Or I drive concentrated when I enter big cities with a lot of traffic. But I feel comfortable in this situations and fear doesn’t affect my feelings.

5. Did you have any bad experiences with raids or thefts?
Until some days ago I could always answer, that I had never had any problems. But in the bus terminal of Tucuman people tried to steel stuff from me, but they didn’t succeed.
I’m a person who believe in the power of positive thinking and so I think that I can keep away these things by control my thinking and not giving space to bad experience imaginations.

6. How much weight do you carry with you?
I don’t exactly know how much weight I carry with me and the first time I got to know how much kilos my bicycle is, was when we had to pay per kilo, while we transported our bikes in the train from Oruro to Uyuni. So now I know that the weight of my bike is close to 20 kilograms. A stable frame out of steel, solid rims and the Rohloff shifting system might cause the weight. The amounts of kilos I carry in my bags do differ from time to time, depending on the provisions I carry with me. Over the months I reduced my weight more and more, so that I think that I’m below 25 kilos now, but to be honest I don’t know.

7. Do you have trained in advance for your travel?
Not really and I also tell the people that in my opinion everybody can travel with the bicycle. It is a matter of habituation and you train yourself during the travel. Like with a lot of things you can start with small distances and increase the daily kilometers step by step. I also meet people, who just cycled 30-40 kilometers per day.
Me myself was always doing sports and I also cycled quite a few kilometers the year before, but I haven’t done it to be fit for my travel.

8. How much money does your bike costs?
Here I’m careful with my answer and most of the time I didn’t state the right amount. Sometimes I downplay and name a price which is much lower than the real value. I guess that in some cases by bike is more expensive then several cars here in the streets and I also don’t like to talk about money that much.

9. Did you have problems with your bike?
Well, yes, but no damages, which could be solved. Flat tyres and worn brakes belong to a long journey. While I had a lot of flat tyres in the beginning, it now became very rare. From the first day in Peru until today I just had one flat tyre.
The most serious problem was, when the screw of my rear bicycle rack broke so awkward, that I was not able to get the rest of the screw out of the thread.
A one-sided crack of a chain link and lost screws of my Ortlieb panniers issued a challenge to me.
Besides these topics, everything went well with my bike.

10. When do you go back to Germany?
I don’t know by my own and it does feel good to not have a date which does limit my journey. I will decide it spontaneously depending on cheap flights back to Germany or Europe. Currently my return seems to be in the middle of April.

Over the altiplano to La Paz

In and around Cusco I’ve spent heaps of time. The time in the town itself, Machu Picchu, Choquequirao and the development project in Quiquijana hold beautiful experiences. After the trek with Vincent and Camille, we went back to Cusco, where I met Sam for the first time. He wrote me several weeks before and revealed that he will cycle from Lima down south and that his way might cross mine. In the meantime we are traveling together since some days. But as well as Vincent and Camille, he still wanted to visit Machu Picchu and so I initially went on with my travel by my own! And at first I had to go back to Quiquijana, where I left my bike and some of my stuff. A last time in the Albergue Uñacha to say goodbye to the volunteers and the nuns. Due to the advanced day, I decided to stay another night in the accommodation of the volunteers.

The next day I was cycling uo next to the river towards the altiplano. The first night I was quite exhausted and the altitude made me feel tired. Only a few kilometers before the pass La Raya I needed to take a rest and finally set up my camp in a garden of some locals. The nights became colder due to the altitude of around 4000 meters but till now my equipment always provided me a warm and comfortable night. The highest point of my travel on my bike I reached in the morning, Abra La Raya with 4335 meters above the sea level.

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I’ve reached the altiplano and after some meters of descent the street was more or less plane. In Pukara I was allowed to stay in the garden of the police. When I was about to push my bike into the shade I didn’t recognize a little house with 7 little puppies inside and before I realized was was happening I felt the mouth of the mother dog around my ankle. The first time in my life I was bitten by a dog. Fortunately the dog didn’t bite that strong, so that only a small mark could be seen and I had no further pain, but I was a bit suprised by that incident. But not enough – during I my discover of the village and their ruins, the dog attacked my tent and left behind a hole in my outer tent, luckily on a spot where is not that fatal.

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On my way to Juliaca, the biggest city of the province Puno, I saw several Alpacas and Llamas as well as the Peruvian Train who connects Puno to Cusco.

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Juliaca itself was the next stop and another nest of chaotic traffic. Geovanni, a warmshower, who is having a Casa de Ciclistas hosted me and offered me a good place to save my picture in my cloud and to change my oil of my Rohloff, which needed to be changed after more than 5000 kilometers of riding. With a instruction video in the Internet it was not a big thing.

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In the evening I cooked with Geovanni while having a good conversation. A nice person, who is doing woodwork in his house and already hosted over 1000 cyclists in his house. From Juliaca it was just 40 kilometers to arrive Puno, next to the lake Titikaka. The town is not that beautiful, but it does have a nice vegan/vegetarian restaurant called the Loving Hut.
The floating island as well as the steady islands Amantani and Taquile were worth a tour from Puno and so I was in the harbour very early to catch one of the boats. The floating islands of he uros are very touristic but the history behind it is great and the construction of the islands as well. And so we stopped on one of island where president Ernesto explained us how the island is constructed. The tortora reed, which grows in huge amounts in the lake, is the basic element for the buildings, their traditional boats and the ground of the island. In the time of the incas the uros people used their islands as a refuge in case of attacks, nowadays just around 70 islands are left.

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On the boat I got to know two girls from America and one from England, with whom I was staying in a house of a local family on the island Amantani. After lunch we went up to the highest point of the Island, where the temple Pachamama was placed. Besides the nice view over the lake I got to see the most beautiful sunset of my life.

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The day I came back from the islands Sam and Camille arrived in Puno, but they were about to see the islands as well and so I was again goin on on my own. In Juli, a small village next to the lake, I found a perfect spot to camp directly next to the water. Sam, who missed the departure of the boats in the morning, decided to hitchhike to Juli too, so that we both camped next to the lake. But not enough – a guy from Uruguay showed up, traveling by walk and is already 4 years in the road. He was only having a backpack with his tent and some arts he sells in he road – crazy and amazing person. So he stayed as well next to us, so that it felt a bit like a camping spot. A hundred meter from our tent accumulation a french couple stayed in their van and invited us for breakfast.

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The next day I started my first cycling day with Sam and my last day in Peru. This day we were about to cross the border to Bolivia to reach Copacabana. And in contrast to Equador, where I had two flat tyres in the last two days, my tyres had not one flat tyre in Peru, so two months without the need to patch my bicycle tube. Most of the time we were riding next to the lake with a beautiful view. In the middle of the day we met Chase, an Australien police officer,  and Shima, a 65-years-old Japanese, whit whom we were cycling until La Paz. The border-crossing was again no problem, like it had been on all borders so far.

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Arrived in Copacabana we found a nice campsite, where they also offered beds, which were just some cents more expensive than the price for a tent, so that we weren’t that motivated to set up the tents.

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A nice concert in bar of a german and an australian musician and a trip to the Isla del sol were the highlights in and around Copacabana.

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As a multicolored bycicle group we left Copacabana through the mountains to the ferry over the lake Titikaka. The ferries were quite old, around 40 years old the captain was guessing and so it was like a little adventure to cross the water on that wobbly construction out of wood.

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Savely arrived on the other side in San Pedro de Tiquina, we met David, another cyclist from Australia. Due to the advanced time we decided to find a place to camp and set up our five tents next to each other on the rim of the lake.

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113 kilometers were left to La Paz and for Shima it was the longest distance ever, so that we started early in our last cycling together. Suddenly Sam warned me that something is wrong with my Ortlieb bag at the back and as I had a look I realized that one screw was missing and my bag was hanging down a bit. I first fixed it with a rope but later that day on a bad road inside a roadwork the bag was about to fall again. A second screw came off and got lost and so I had to fix the bag again, this time with a cable fixer, but on the last meters downhill into La Paz the plastic of the cable fixer  got broken, so that I decided to put my bag pack on my back and the Ortlieb side bag into the middle of my rack for the rest of the day. Here in La Paz, we stay in another Casa de ciclistas, where Christian, a half german welcomed us. Here we will spent some more days, time to find new screws to repair the bag, to discover the city and to talk to all the other cyclists from all around the world, who are staying as well in the Casa de Ciclistas. But as another highlight of my trip, Sam and me decided to climb Huayna Potosí, a 6088m high mountain, 30 kilometers from La Paz.

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Chance of a better future

I was sitting in a kind of big classroom, when suddenly a young peruvian girl was coming up to me to give me a hug! I was overwhelmed by this cordially gesture and said to myself that all people on the world should have the same possibilities to develop in life!

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Two weeks ago I visited the German development project „Kinderhilfe Cusco“ in Quiquijana, a small village 70 kilometers in the south of Cusco. I arrived at the „Albergue“ in the evening and received a warm welcome by the volunteers and the nuns. The time was an interesting experience for me. Helping children with their homework, teaching them english, playing soccer with them and get to know their backgrounds moved me and offered me a good variation in my current cycling life.

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I spent three nights at that place to gain an impression about the work of the volunteers and the project as a whole. The project Kinderhilfe Cusco – Peru e.V. started in 1989 by supporting a lunch table in Cusco and from 2001 on a second one in Quiquijana. Cause of a missing infrastructure this involvement led to the construction of a youth center, which was opened in 2008. Besides offering a place to stay for up to 100 children, it’s a place for social and pedagogical education.

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The main goal of the project is to fight the poverty and to help to improve the education and food situation. Over the years further support grew in the area of Cusco.
The children in Quiquijana come from tough family backgrounds, live in poor conditions and some of them wouldn’t even have the possibility to attend school, cause their homes are to far away to go this long way two times a day.
In the „Albergue“ in Quiquijana 6 volunteers work for one year to support one local teacher, a cook and three nuns of the sisterhood „Siervas de Christo Sacerdote“. The 4 girls and 2 boys just finished school and most of them found the project over weltwärts. They had a prepartion seminar as well as six weeks of a spanish language course in advance. Furthermore the local teacher seems to have a lot of experience and a good apprenticeship and therefor can support the young and motivated volunteers. This combination make sure that the children get a good support. Besides the time with the children, the daily schedule includes some hours of work in a nearby farm in the morning.

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In two greenhouses vegetables are grown to supplement the daily meals for the children. A third greenhouse is in construction to plant roses, which will be sold to gain money for the  facility.

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More information you will find on the official page of the german development project.

So, why do I think this project is worth to support? For me some things are important to declare it a helpful and meaningful project:
– collaboration: decisions are taken together, the local people together with the donor
– local support: investments involve local enterprises, so that the money support the economic development of the region
– transparency: the use of the donations is transparent for members and supporters of the projects
– sustainability: to act in a sustainable way, help to self-help

In all of this topics the Kinderhilfe Cusco is doing very well and I was impressed by the effort of the founder Dr. Heinz Gravenkötter and the volunteers.

If you have any further questions about my experiences about this development projects, feel free to ask!
Three of the current volunteers share their experiences on their blogs, which will give you another insight about their work and the project jn general:
sarahserlebnisseinperu.jimdo.de (Blog of Sarah)
einjahrinperu.jimdo.com (Blog of Ronja and Leander)

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From the Reservado National de Pacaras to Cusco

70 km trough the desert until Ica, road nearly not visible and instead of sand boarding I slided down the dunes until my bike was so deep in the sand, that I made a controlled somersault over my handlebar. The way along the coast was beautiful and I passed one nice beach after another. But the riding on my bike was very tough.The sand was most of the time very hard, so posible to ride in but it changed frkm time to time. On top some dunes were so steep, that I had tk push my bike. Before I went inland to reach Ica, I had a last view at the Pacific. I observed the flourishing life of the ocean, seal and birds were chasing after the fishes, pelicans and seagulls were gliding over the water. It was a harmonic view.

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The inland road was clearly visible but the waves on the ground made the riding very jumpy, so that I was proceeding very slow. And slowly I was running out of water under the burning sun without the possibility to have some shadow. For 2 hours not any car passed me, but finally two and what did they offered me, yes, water! As well my food was going to end, but at least I found some shadow next to a tall gate. I sat down, but finally I heard a voice and a stone crashing into the gate from the other side. The owner of that farm was afraid that I would rob him, but as he saw my bike he calm down and offered me food and something to drink. Finally it ended up with a foto with him and it’s crew!

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I arrived in the Oasis of Huacachina which is famous for its dunes where you can do sandboarding. I decided to have enough of sand and followed an invitation of Berly, a warmshower in Ica. He took me out for a free wine and Pisco tasting as well as a to short tour to the production process. Afterwards we visited another winery, which was over 200 years old, where we were offered more drinks.

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From Ica to Nasca a ride of two days were waiting for me, but as I took a picture of a burned car, a Land Rover with a german number plate stopped in front of me. Ecki, a 58 old guy from Waiblingen asked if he could give me a ride and since the part of the Panamericana was going through the boring desert, I followed the invitation and saved one day.

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After we found our accommodations in Nasca we met for dinner and had a good conversation.

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By accident I took the key of my room in Ica with me, so I had the chance for my first experience in sending a letter. As I arrived in the post office they wanted to have to copies of my passport and an envelope was also not available. Until now I don’t know why the asked me for these copies.
The way to Abancay included 8500 meters of going up on a distance of 400 kilometers without many possibilities to receive provisions.
So I decided spontaneously to take the night bus. The ticket was 60 soles including my bike, that what I was told when I puchased the ticket. They even had a look on my bike if it will fit into the bus and told me that it would be no problem. In the evening the situation changed and they wanted me to pay 20 soles more for my bike. But  after complaining I didn’t have to pay more. The bus was 1 1/2 hours late but finally we where on the way. During the night some people throw up due to the up and downs up to a height of over 4000 meters.
The next three days to Cusco included another 5000 meters of climbingwith some nice views frm the tol of the mountains. I enjoyed Mango ice cream, met parrots and dugs and spent one night in the garden of a family in the countryside of Limatambo.

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Detached with a new plate

Before I went to the national park El Cajas I had a look on my plate „un carro menos“, which I carry with me since I left San José. It was a present of Karol, where I spent my first few days on my travel. Since then I always heard the people reading out loud what is written on the back of my bicycle. It became part of my travel as the message I’m carrying with me. But through all the dust, mud and rain the plate was badly affected and began to disolve more and more. So it was time to get a new one. After I gave an outline of the new design, I went to a small shop, which makes numberplates. It took them a while and it delayed my departure, but finally it was done, made out of metal and therefor more stable than the one made out of plastic. Thanks again for this plate, Karol!

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Another change was the split of Tobias and my path. The interests were very different. While I’m interested to get to know people, culture, learn new things, visit amazing places or to improve my Spanish, Tobias was not interested at all about those things. Daily pedaling on his bike is his main focus and he reduced the contact to other persons as much possible it seemed to me, while I’m a connector and curious about the life of others. Furthermore Tobias already had booked his flight back home from Punta Arenas, which is far in the south. So he travel much faster now to reach his plane. My flight home, the where and when, is what I left open and it feels good. I don’t know if I will ever reach Ushuaia and although it would be great to see the south of Argentina, I don’t have to. The essence of my travel is to explore the continent by my bike and wherever it feels good to stay longer I stay longer. It can be the atmosphere of a place, it can be new inspirations, the chance to learn new things or overall the people I want to stay longer with, which could lead me to spent more time at that place. Nevertheless I wish that Tobias is enjoying his travel and will have a safe way south! It just didn’t fit that well.
For my part, I feel better now and started again to follow my own path. I directly got more into contact with other people, who are part of my travel. These people, I meet, work on my painting of life. Most of them are using the colours I like and they can add beautiful parts to my path. Especially if there is this good vibe between me and another person, I feel that there will flow a lot of meaningful things inbetween us. These exchanges I really enjoy and so I will give them more space on my painting, which as a consequence will be much more diversified by the influence of the people I meet.

The last days in Colombia

After San Agustín I went back to the Finca in Pitalito, where I left my bike. It wanted to take a ride to Pasto, but it was to late in that day and hardly any car was on the road. I camped again in a garden of a family, right next to the road down south. In the morning I had more luck. A Pickup stopped and offered me a ride to Mocoa, where I was invented for lunch. The way from Mocoa to Pasto didn’t seem to be that far with 130km and so I started to find another possibility of transport, but not without a reason the street to Pasto is called „trampolín de la muerte“. I jumped on a flat bed truck at around 3 in the afternoon at the bottom of the hill and joined a little adventure. I would have loved to ride that path on my bicycle, cause it also offered amazing views into the valley. The path itself is really hard to describe without having experienced it on its own. Over a narrow dirt road, crossing little rivers, next to us a steep precipice we went up and down. The rainy season leads to many landslides and along the way you could see that it happens from time to time.

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In the valley you can see Mocoa in the left.

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Some points were controlled and guarded by the military

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The ride in the car took much more time than expected, about 5 hours. I decided to leave the car near the Lagune de la Cocha. It was already dark and so I was happy to get offered a room, although there was nothing inside.

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The next morning I went down early to the Lagune and found a beautiful village, the houses all made out of wood, colourful and a river which completed the peaceful atmosphere in the morning.

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I started to ride my bike again and it felt great to pedal again and regain the liberty of cycling. I had to climb a small mountain to Pasto and I was delighted by the shadow of the clouds on the streets while I jetting down to the town.

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In the hostel in Pasto I met David and Joanne again, who took the road on the other side of the mountain range. Tobi arrived one day later, a bit exhausted by jumping on he trampolín de la muerte and climbing 5000m in three days.
Just two days from the border, we were getting close to leave Colombia. But the last kilometers had some more delicious views for our sense of seeing. Another slope inside great scenery and in Las Lajas, just some kilometers from the border, an amazing church, which was built into the rock, rounded the 5 1/2 weeks of Colombia!

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The time in Colombia was very nice. Their are some prejudices around the world who connect Colombia with Cocaine, Marihuana or Guerilla. I experienced that it’s not fair to reduce this country to this drugs and rioting. First of all the people are super friendly. Furthermore the variety of different landscapes is a feast for one’s eyes and includes the coast, the jungle, the mountains, different areas of agriculture, breathtaking lakes, beautiful small villages or historical excavation sides. They have good coffee, a big range of fruits and  most of the main roads are in very good conditions. It’s the country of bicycles as well, from road bikes to mountain bikes, especially in Medellín and Manizales I saw a lot of them. The economy is growing, although there are some parts where poverty is still a big issue.
Comparable to Panama and Costa Rica there is a lack of consciousness of healthy food and environment.

Lovely Colombia

Colombia is turning to my favourite country so far. Nice people, beautiful nature and some more great moments on my way south. Lying in the grass,  surrounded by a bunch of colombian kids, who explore all of our stuff and bombard us with heaps of questions, I’m trying to remember the last days to write this blog entry – and finally the kids are gone, so here we go.
We left the friends of Tobias after the breakfast and went down to Medellín again, where I forgot my Towel in a hostel. After a terrific 1000 m descent we had to climb the whole day and ended up in a restaurant on the top, where we met two Australian cyclists, Joanne and David, who is originally from Germany, but moved to Melbourne several years ago. After we talked for a while we decided to camp behind the restaurant on a horse meadow.

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The next few days we shared with the two other „viajeros en bici“, which we will meet again in Equador, where I will join David to hike on of the highest mountains in South America. After we left the horses alone on their meadow, we descended another 45 kilometers into the valley of the Rio Cauca, which is the second largest river of Colombia. The view from the mountains were amazing and the speed of our heavy loaded bikes reached their maximum.

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But it took us over and hour to reach La Pintada, the village in the valley, where we enjoyed our daily „Hugo naturales con leche“ (frischer Saft mit Milch). This juices became one of my favourite drinks and now I consume about 4 a day if it’s available. Orange, Guanábana, Banana, Maracuya, Papaya, Strawberry, Lulo, Lemon, Grape, Mango and some more fruits are served ice-cold and give me the necessary power and refreshment during the days. Well, after we enjoyed our drinks we followed the river and tried to make some kilometers, knowing that the next day will be a hard one, climbing up to Manizales. Joanne and David found a super cheap hotel in Irra while Tobias and me drove out the village to camp next to a small tributary river. After a hot day we laid down into the refreshing stream for a while and enjoyed the last sunbeams with a bottle of colombian beer.

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The next day we had to climb 1600 meters and so we started early to have some hours in the cool morning. The mountain seemed to be endless but half the way we were accompanied by a nice girl riding her road bike. Finally we made it and all four cyclists checked in the same hostel to spent three nights in Manizales, which belongs to the famous coffee region of Colombia. An hour by car, two volcanos with an altitude of over 4000 meters stick out in the horizon. I never had been that high, but after been asked of joining a 2000 meter downhill ride by bike I was breathing in the thin air in he next morning. A Austrian guy, David an me went up to 4150 meters by car and got some coca tea, before we were chasing down our mountainbikes. It was an awesome experience in an intense I never felt before on an offroad downhill track.

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After I had been back on solid ground I relaxed a bit and followed the invitation of the girl on the road bike,  we met before while cycling up the hill. The others stayed at the hostel, so it was only me who where collected at the hostel to attend the dinner at the place of the girl and it’s family. It was another intereting evening with a lot of talking only Spanish and by getting to know a wealthy family.
The next day Joanne, Tobias and I discovered the city with all of its churches and parks.

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During the day the colour yellow became the dominant colour in the streets, because Colombia had to play it’s second game in the Copa America against the favourite Brasil. The mood was growing and reached its top in the evening, where a joyful tension was filling the air. The soccer team of the Colombianos made their dream come true and after 14 years of not beating the big rail, they won 1:0 and Alm the town drowned in cheer.
Tobias and I left Manizales in the next morning, while Joanne and David stayed one night more, but the time will come to see each other again. The first few kilometers we flew down the mountain to go to Pereira, where we stayed at a Warmshowers place behind the down in a calm area. The house of the couple was amazing. Full of Fotos and painting, as well as books, records and heaps of well-chosen decoration. A garden with fruits, vegetables, herbs, chicken and coneys gave this beautiful place a complete character. The couple and their son traveled as well down south to Patagonia some months ago and provided us everything a bicycle heart needs to be pleased and feel comfortable.

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On the descent to Pereira, Tobias fell of his bike, but luckily nothing bad happens. But on the next day he favored his bruise on his upper leg, so that I went to Filandía alone, while he went ahead to our next stay. Filandía is famous for its beautiful and coloured buildings, as well as having some great Coffee Fincas around. So I enjoyed a coffee as well as a Hugo con leche in nice atmosphere in the center, before I went on to the similar but more touristic village Salento.

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Arrived there, I couldn’t believe to see a small snack bar with vegetarian and vegan food, burgers, falafel, hummus, guacamole and of course Hugo naturales- wow. It might be nothing special in Germany anymore, but on a continent, where the nearly just only eat carne and where they will tell you in restaurants, not to have any vegetarian meal, in these places it seems to be like a oasis in the desert. Furthermore, some South Americans don’t even know what it means to be Vegetarian – after telling them not to have any kind of mest/carne, they will offer you some pollo/chicken or they will bring you a meal which includes some kind of meat mixed in chickpeas. Salento seems to became adapted to the demands of tourists and the streets were full of international visitors.

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Anyway, it’s a nice spot as well and it is close to the Valley of Cocora, which descent up to the mountains with a river in its heart and ends in a small village from where you can do several hikes into the mountains. Huge palms adorn the slopes and create a nice view of the surrounding landscape. We camped next to the creek and fell asleep under the lapping of the stream.

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I did a quick hike at 7 in the morning up the hill to gather another view over the valley, before we rode back to Salento. Nearby I attended a coffee tour, where I got to know the whole process of the growing of coffee plants as well as the procedure of gaining high quality coffee, including the picking of coffee cherries and a delicious coffee at the end of the tour.

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On the way back I was given a lift up the steep hill to Salento to meet Tobias again, who relaxed in the park in the meantime. What happened afterwards is to be considered my hardest climb ever. Another 1100 meters, but this time on a gravel road up to 3200 meters over the sea. On top we found abandoned house with a great view, where we stayed over night. The first time I had to wear my winter equipment and the wind was strong as well. At the horizon we could observe a thunderstorm.

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The next day was not much better concerning the up and downs in the road and most of it again on loose ground. On top lonesome cows and horses walked along the path. For the eyes the views were pure joy, but for my knees it became a big challenge.

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We arrived in Ibagué after two physically demanding days and we’re hosted by another warmshower. This time we made Pfannkuchen instead of Spätzle and went together with the father of our host to a short trip into the city center before I fell into a deep sleep.
Today we went on to La espiral and further south to Neiva, the next big town, which is still 120 km away. We asked for a plce to camp along the road at got offered a meadow behind some houses, which we share with cows and goats.

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Besieged by four kids, we couldn’t really enjoy a calm afternoon, but the kids seemed to have fun with running around our tents or overwhelming us with questions.
In front of my little home I lie underneath the starry sky about to fall asleep again. To the friends who will attend the Fusion: Enjoy the time, the atmosphere and dance like nobody is watching!