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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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.

La selva, Andes crossing, Cuenca and the Toreadora Hike

To adjust to the attention span of nowadays and to spent less time with writing, I intend to write shorter but more frequently blog entries. But here I will some up the the highlights of the last few days.

Ecuador can be split in three parts going from north to south related to the different climatic conditions: the warm and rather dry area at the coast, the mountains and the amazonian area with the jungle (la selva).
After we spent most of the time in the mountains of Ecuador, we went down to the amazonian area. After we passed heaps of nice waterfalls on the way down to Puyo, we had to deal with a lot of rain.

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Near Tena we stayed at a Couchsurfer, which we nearly haven’t seen. Instead we encountered around 15 volunteers on his eco farm, who ran the daily business. At the same time it was a spiritual place with vegetarian and most of the time vegan food. A certain time schedule including Yoga, some hours of work and a lesson to learn something from the others gave the community their certain framework. The food, usually made by someone else, was most of the time very delicious and on the day we arrived we enjoyed self made chocolate from the Cacao plants of the farm.

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Some musicians, some volunteers and the owner spontaneously organized a festival in town with artists from all over the continent, some of them travellers, who just dropped in on the stage.

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Due to an infection of Tobias, we stayed one more day in Puyo, so that he could recover, but the sickness returned again one week later and leaded to a visit to the doctor, who prescribed him Antibiotika. Consequently Tobias needed more days of recovering and took the bus to Cuenca while I crossed the Andes alone. Accompanied by rain and fog I started into the climb. After an hour I arrived at the junction to the street in the mountains, where I got warned of a landslide. „Senior, Derrumbe en la vía, no es possible de pasar!“ „Con bici tampoco?“ „Bla bla bla..bla.“ „Es possible de pasar con bici, Si o No?“ „Si“. Well, I think he got as much from me as I understood him. The street upwards seemed to be very calm. Hardly a car, which overtook me and not one car which came towards me. No car? Yes, but I first realized as I bumped into a traffic jam. With the bike no problem to pass by. The first landslide appeared to be possible to pass somehow and so I checked my possibilities under the eyes of around 30 Ecuadorians who left their vehicles to watch the clearing work. It started to rain again and before everybody escaped into their warm and dry places in the bus or car, I found two guys who helped me overcome this muddy obstacle. Just arrived on the other side, the road got totally muddy, followed by another queue of vehicles. A huge ongoing landslide seemed to make a getting through impossible. I collected myself an invitation to sit in the bus, while my bike had to endure the ongoing rain. But it didn’t take long, I was back outside to do what had to be done. Slowly and carefully I pushed my bike through the mud and the last few meters trough the sliding mass of the brown viscous water. Under the cheering of the waiting cars, trucks and buses a went on with my ride to come closer to the top. After a big portion of lunch, how can it be different the next landslide. My shoes already totally covered by mud I heaved my heavy bike to this rather small landslide. The weather didn’t become better, more dense Haze,  more rain and falling temperatures. The top still 600m above me, I passed a house, which seemed to be one of a few possibilities to check in to spent the night.

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In the next morning the weather conditions were still the same and my shoes as wet as the day before. No other suitable shoes for replacement I had to slip again into the lumps of wet mud. After a few kilometers the top was finally reached, but during the descent to Cuenca the airflow let my feet transform into ice cubes.
Arrived in the hostel, totally alive and so happy about a warm shower I knew that it was exactly the kind of experiences which is worth the travel.

Cuenca is probably the most beautiful city in Ecuador. With its pleasant atmosphere, beautiful architecture from colonial times,  vivid culture and a river which flows trough the town it offer a ice place to regain energy for further adventures.

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After one day of discovering the city, I took a bus to the nearby national park El Cajas to do the Toreadora hike on around 4000m of altitude. I didn’t checked the level of difficulty of the offered tracks and took by accident one of the most challenging ones. At the same time it was maybe also one of the most beautiful with a wonderful outlook from the top of Cerro San Luis. In the night I was the only guest in the refuge, a quite but also very cold place.

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Kallari – Ecological Chocolate of Ecuador

Before my travel I had the idea to look for several development projects in Latin America along my way, visit them and attract attention for this kind of help. Projects, which really help the people in a sustainable matter, improving the life of people in difficult life situations.

Last week I visited a cultivation of Cacao in the secondary jungle around Tena in Ecuador, which is under the roof of Kallari.
Kallari chocolate is a local association, which started in 1997 and helps the local farmers to sell their product and give advices how to improve their cultivation.
With over 850 member families Kallari is an important stabilizer in this area. They support the life in the whole area in different manners and also families, which aren’t members receive their support.

The Cacao plants itself are part of a big eco-system of the jungle. Together with 80 other types of plants they crow under natural conditions. Due to the high diversity the soil provides all important nutrients in contrast to mono cultures.
We walked trough the forest and got a interesting introduction of all the plants, their use and some important details about crowing Cacao plants. The first time in my life I tasted the fruit pulp of a Cacao and got to learn the different taste of the red and yellow Cacao fruit.
We also had a look at the drying process and the place where Cacao beans got packed to be manufactured further. The chocolate itself is produced in other cities like Quito, but the plan of Kallari is to built a hall near Tena, which includes all the machines to fabricate the chocolate on their own.
Furthermore they also sell other products like Vanilla and hand-made art.

In contrast to industrial chocolate with Cacao from mono cultures, I can highly recommend this chocolate. With your purchase you support the idea of ecological cultivation and on top you increase the conditions of living in the area around Tena.
You will find their chocolate in some biological supermarkets or small organic shops.

Official Homepage
Kallari Chocolate Facebook

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The main office of Kallari

The entrance to the fermentation center

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Drying Cacao beans

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The first few steps in the fermentation process

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The secondary jungle, where the Cacao plants grow

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Hiking Cotopaxi – experience the power of height

Some weeks ago, David, the Australien cyclist, planted the idea of climbing the Cotopaxi in my mind – the second highest mountain of Ecuador and the second highest active volcano of the world with 5897 meters of altitude.

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Three days ago we finally booked a tour in Quito, cause you need special equipment and a guide to go up to the summit. We have been told to be guided by an english-speaking well trained guy around 30 years old, but finally just one aspect of the description was true.
Yesterday we left early in the morning to get a bus to Papa Guay, a landhouse, some kilometers to the south of Quito, where we had to wait for some hours until we met our 51 year old guide, who could only speak Spanish and where we got our equipment. „These shoes are a bit to big, do you have smaller one’s?“ – „No, we only have this size.“ Very suprised about this, cause its included in the tour but we took what was available. We met another couple from France and the Netherlands, who were going to do the hike as well and shared the same car up tho the Refuge. They also weren’t that happy with their hiking clothes, especially her shoes were to small, so that the dutch girl had blisters the next day. So it felt, that the garage off the equipment was more a second hand store during its clearance sell.
However, we got a nice meal in the landhouse Papa Guay before we left to the national park Cotopaxi, where we walked a first 20 minutes uphill from the parking lot to the refuge José Rivas, which is situated on an altitude of 4864 meters. It was cloudy and it rained a bit, but we were all looking forward to good weather during our hike which would start at one in the morning. The accommodation was renovated a short time ago, offered heaps of space and had 3 big bedrooms containing three floor bunks. Even flat Oled Lights were used to alight the rooms.

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The guide of the other group, who could speak english, gave us four a short introduction about the procedure and the told us the rules in the mountain: every two persons always one guide and build one group, which will stay together during the hike; whatever happens we should only be aware that we are humans and according to this treat each other like this; the weather, the mountain and the condition of the persons determine if it could be necessary to abort the hike.
After dinner, which we had at 6 p.m., we went to bed. Everybody was excited about the upcoming hike and got out of their warm clothes to jump as quick as they could into their sleeping bags. And although I had my doubts I fell asleep very quick. But during the night I woke up cause I had to pee (due to the altitude this happens to me every night since we are in the mountains). Unfortunately the toilet was in the neighbor building and it wasn’t that warm outside, so I went out of my warm sleeping back into the cold night, dressed in my long underwear, big trekking boots, my hard-shell rain jacket and a headlight to relieve my bladder.
At midnight we all went out of bed to enjoy a light breakfast and packed ourselves in at least three layers of clothes. In a good mood, David and me, as well as some othergroups stepped out to crest Cotopaxi. The wind was low, the night clear and ceiling above us was star covered, so perfect condition. After some minutes we reached the glacier and put on our crampons, connected each other with a rope and entered the eternal ice, which also here shrink from year to year. With smalk steps we walked slowly to handle the deoxygenated air. It was very steep inbetween and we had to watch out for little crevasses. In the far distance we could see the lights of the southern part of Quito, down the hill the headlights of the other groups, which were all behind us. After quite a while we made a break to drink some water and eat some chocolate to keep high the sugar level. „5100 meters“, we got answered as we asked for the altitude. We expected to already overcome more.

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We went on and I still have the picture in my mind: the rope in front of me, sometimes loose on the white ground, sometimes more tense which indicated to me to walk a bit faster. It felt like an eternity, step by step up the hill. The whole town of Quito appeared behind the mountain which had hidden it at the beginning. Only lights, snow and ice which accompanied us. Next stop, only 3:40, we shouldn’t ask again, it’s still a long way up. It became colder and David’s hands were freezing, mine as well were getting colder, but still on a bearable level. Since around 5200 meters a weak headache accompanied to my onesided world of going up. The moon appeared. David shook his hand to warm up, but while doing this he slinged away his glove. Luckily we found it, after we searched the slope with our headlights. Step by step up the hill. I still felt fine, but David showed first signs of exhaustion due to the altitude. Some minutes later he fell down on his knees, but stood up again. The wind increased on one side of the mountain and the communication became difficult. David went down on its knees a second time, dizziness and problems with his stomache bothered him and made it a very hard hiking for him. With his strong will he stood up again. It happened over and over again and as we reached the announced black rock, which indicated the last few meters we had to take the decision to finish our expedition or to abort the hike. David was not feeling fine at all, I guess he felt like inside a delirium. We already reached 5600 meters and It started to become light. all the other groups were behind aus and so we waited some more minutes to see if any person had similar  problems with the altitude. Four groups passed by, some hikers weren’t in a good state as well, but all of them still in a sufficient condition to go on and try to reach the summit.
We turned around and with the first sunrays we could se all the objects and the surroundings, we couldn’t see on our way up. We were encircled by fog and the white landscape, it started to snow a tiny bit. The way down took as well an eternity and I started to get tired as well. We reached the end of the glacier and got rid of the crampons and the rope. Free again we trudged ourselves down to the refuge, where we had a warm tea before we felt asleep.

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It was a nice experience, my first time on a glacier, my first time on 5600 meters and I totally happy to have done it. I was impressed by the iron will of David, his ambition, which let him stood up several times. The life is more important then any challenging mountain hike. It’s always important to respect the signs of its body and not overdo more then it’s getting too dangerous. And David, believe me, I’m not disappointed to not have reached the top. I learned a lot while hiking Cotopaxi and it was one of my most intensive experiences till I started my travel. And I’m sure that with more time for acclimatization, we would have reached the summit.

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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!

Medellín and the surroundings

First of all, I can say that I totally recovered from my diarrhea, which was caused by tap water. Some European stomachs might be able to be fine, but mine seems to be special.
After leaving the region Santa Marta, I headed to Barranquilla to take the road down south to Medellín. But due to my infection I stayed some more days on the coast. I was hosted again in Puerto Colombia by the warmshower-girl and her lovely family, I stayed with some days before. During theses days I got to know the city a as well as the family of my host and their guests. The city, which was once the most important colonial harbour in South America, lost most of its glamour. The long pier into the water where used to unload the arriving ships and put the goods directly on a train. Along the coast street artists constructed some sculptures three years ago, which embellish the city as well. With another couchsurfing girl from Czech Republic I strolled around a second time and on my last evening we went out to a nearby bar to inhale the atmosphere of the locals enjoying the weekend.

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Due to the imminent arrival of Tobias and to recover some more days, I took the night bus to Medellín. The climate on the coast was amazingly hot and so I was looking forward to the pleasant temperatures of the mountains. I arrived early in the morning an spotted a road which was closed for cars and which was full of bicycles and a some inline skaters. So I throw myself into the floods and as usual it didn’t take long to be asked the question of my origin and about my path. I was invited for a drink and to stay in a house of colombian cyclist, but some minutes later another guy accompanied me, showed me around the town the whole day and finally offered me as well to stay in his small apartment in the center of the town, a part which I was warned of to be the most dangerous part of the city. The next day I discovered the city a bit more, went to the market and climbed up a little mountain in the center to enjoy the outlook at the metropolis, which is surrounded by hills covered by houses.

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Tobi arrived around noon in Medellín and after a stop in a nice Café in the south, where we met a nice guy from the Staates, we climbed up 1000 meters to Las Palmas, where we were hosted by a former workmate of Tobias and his family. The house where on an altitude of around 2500 meters and for the first time I felt cold on my travel.

We left most of our luggage in Las Palmas and pedaled to Guatapé, where we found a big rock in the middle of a beautiful landscape. Also the way there was worth the excursion, a region shaped by agriculture with their local food, which we tried on our way back: Arepa de Chocolo con Queso. Guatapé itself is situated next to a region dominated by many little islands in a storage reservoir – muy lindo.

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On our way back, we met a lady in Rionegro, who took us on a discovery tour through the city and introduced as to half of the town. She rode a bicycle, supported by a combustion engine and was jealous about our trip across South America. She loved to accompany ourselfes, but finally she went back to her shared flat to prepare the birthday party of a friend.

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I already went further down to the south of Colombia, but before telling some more stories about climbing up more mountains, Mountainbike from volcanos, I will leave you with a foto I took in Medellín. A message on a bike which is the counterpart to mine: una bici más – un carro menos! (one more bike – one car less)

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