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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Travel Equipment while cycling through Latin America: Sleeping

Three months on my travel trough Latin America, Costa Rica,  Panama and Colombia are already passed and currently I find myself in the middle of Ecuador.
Time to write about my experiences with my equipment. What equipment turned out to be redundant? What seems to be indispensable? What do I miss?
I will first write about my sleeping equipment. The bike itself, the clothes, the equipment for washing, cooking and elektronic devices as well as other will follow later on.

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The Tent Exped Venus II : I’m very happy to have this tent with me. The composition is very fast, it only takes 3 minutes until it is set up.  The inner tent ist connected to the outer tent, so that it is possible to   built it in the rain. For one person it’s plenty of space, so no problem to fit in all the bags. The space is not totally necessary, but for such a long travel with many nights inside I enjoy to have a little bit of higher comfort. On the other side I have to accept the higher weight. The awning I use to cover my bike sometimes, so that it is close and covered from rain. For the both entrance you can choose between a the mosquito net for warmer days or close completely to have it a little bit warmer inside. You can completely open the two side of the tent to let the air circulate. Especially on hot days, you will appreciate it. The only thing I have to admit, is, that if you close the net, the air does not really come trough in a sufficient manner. But I guess this net still has to be invented.

Hard facts:
Max. Weight: 3,1 kg
Size: 220 × 125 × 105 cm
More: Exped Venus II

Sleeping Bag Deuter Exosphere -4°C: So far I haven’t had any problem with getting cold in my sleeping back. In Germany I used it by -5 degrees (combined with the Thermarest Neoair inside a tent), and felt comfortable. The stretching material let me move and adopt different poses inside my sleeping bag. The hood can be closed to a small gap, so that little air can escape and therefor stays warm inside. The packing is very easy and you can just stuff everything inside without winning a fold competition.

Hard facts:
Temperatur Range: Comfort +2°C, Limit -4°C
Size (Large): 220×72-90× 45-56 cm
Weight: 1550g

Inflatable Mattress Thermarest Neoair X-Therm:  I bought this mattress because of the R-value in relation to the weight. The R-value indicates the resistance of the warmth. This value divided by the weight results in a number which gives you some indication about the efficiency. The two air chambers leave the cold air at the bottom of he mattress while the upper chamber is filled with the heated air of the human body. To me this seems to be a good concept. The bag can be used to inflate the mattress so that no moist air of your breathing can get inside, but this procedure is very tedious, so that I just blow it up without using it. Some people complain about the noise while moving, but this might depend on your sensitivity. So far I felt warm and comfortable with it.

Hard facts:
R-value: 5,7
Weight: 570g
R/weight: 10
Size: 63 x 196 cm
More about the R – Wert (german): Outdoortrends R-Wert
Übersicht Isomatten

Footprint/ Base layer:
In Germany I tried to get the adequate Footprint for my tent. It was just before I left, so I couldn’t buy it on the Internet. But also the attempt to purchase it in a shop didn’t work. So I found one base layer in a size, which suits more or less the size of my tent. So far I haven’t used it so often as an additional layer underneath my tent and due to plenty of space inside, I don’t need it to put my bags onto in the awning. But this peace of plastic can be used as well for other purposes: covering the bike to protect it against water (I used it on the boat between Panama and Columbia), using it as a picnic blanket or as a sun or rain shield tauted between some trees.

Trough the mountains of Ecuador

At the place of the Casta Restaurant and a beautiful view on the white summit of Chimborazo I will let you know what happened during my first days in Ecuador besides the experience of hiking Cotopaxi.

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After we visited the beautiful church in Las Lajas, we had to cross the border to Ecuador. We were still in a group of 4, Tobias, David and Joanne and me. The last view kilometres in Colombia offered us another breattaking landscape. The border-crossing itself was really easy going and with some loud music playing outside the immigration building, it felt like a celebration.

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The first town in Equador was Tulcán, not the most beautiful place, but still worth a visit due to the cemetery. First of all, all cemeteries in Latin America I’ve seen so far are totally different from the ones we have in Germany. They show a more friendly face and white is the dominant colour. Heaps of fresh flowers express, that the church is a big topic for the latin people. The cemetery in Tulcán is outstanding, because the gardeners change the hedges into art.

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The first night in Ecuador we stayed in a rather expensive hotel in San Gabriel. No hostel was available in the village and due to my birthday Internet connection was demanded. The next day we cycled up and down to the lake of Ibarra. A long part of the street to Ibarra was renewed and closed for transit cars, so we four bikers had it more or less on our own. Most of that part was already done and paved, but downhill we bombed down the gravel road through the road wo works. After we arrived the river, which most of the time indicates the turning point, we had do climb up some hundred meters to arrive at the beautiful lagune, close to Ibarra, where two Germans opened the Finca Sommerwind, a campsite for caravans and tents as well as a german café, which opens during the weekends. Hans and Patricia welcomed us and due to some days with a lot of climbing, we decided to stay one more night at their place. We even got baked a good bread by Patricia, which we enjoyed as well as a barbecue and cooking pasta.

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On the road again we passed Otavalo and we’re getting closer to the Equador. And finally behind a corner we crossed the line and entered the southern half of the earth. Two monuments line the streets. One earth – shaped stone, which was built first and is not exactly on the right position, and a sundial, where the non-profit organization Quitsato gave us a very interesting introduction about the place, their work and the alignment of the maps of the world, which they consider to align to the east instead of North,  which became common.

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The last few kilometers to the highest capital on earth on about 2800  meters above the sea level, Quito, was our next destination. With KALARI chocolate in my mouth and music in my ear, I climbed the last ascent to the big urban area. Arrived David and I looked for the Cotopaxi Tour.  Due to the weather forecast we decided to shift the tour by one day, which was the right decision. So the next day was free to discover the old part of Quito, including the highest church in South America, the Basilica de sagrado voto.

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After the amazing tour to the Cotopaxi, David and Joanne went to Germany for the wedding of David’s Sister. They took some of my stuff to Germany to reduce the weight of my bike – another blog entry about the topic of redundant equipment will follow.
Tobias and I went down further south, riding on the so called street of the volcanos. Two times we camped in gardens of locals, visited the market in Pujilí before we arrived Ambato. In the park we dried our tents before we took part in a tour through the museum of Juan Montalvo, who wrote the national anthem of Ecuador and became one of the most important writers of the country. His thoughts had and still have a great impact of the development of Ecuador. His corpse is kept in a big hall next to the museum.

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We left our bikes in the inner yard of the restaurant next to the museum, where we met Leo, the owner of the Casa de Ciclistas by accident. He just dropped his daughter at that place and suddenly introduced to us. A real big coincidence! He gave us the direction to his house, where we met again. Leo, who started to offer his place to ciclists some years ago. In 2011 he started a guest book, which was very in testing to have a look at. On top he told us some stories about other cyclists, who stayed at his place. He owns a bike shop, in which we set up our sleeping accomondation. On our departure he gave us a medal as a present, I eternalized in his guest book and schwup, back on the road.

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The path over Píllaro to Patate was just wonderful, small little villages, lots of agriculture areas and a nice valley down to Patate, from where it is possible to see the before mentioned two volcanos. Currently we are still waiting for the rain to stop, but it is a nice place with partly annoying music, we listen to since we had breakfast.

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Today we will head to Baños and then down into the amazonian area next to Puyo.

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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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.

The South of Colombia

For my travel the bike became an extension of my body and so the man-maschine-interaction has a big influence on my travel. And so if I exert force on my bike, the bike also exert force on me. But in case of any misalignment, I’m the only one who will feel pain.
About 7 years ago I had an an operation on my knee, where a part of meniscus had to be cut away, due to a  crack which harm my cartilage. I recovered quite well, run a marathon, could do all sports again without suffer pain. Very seldom I felt that there ever had been some incident that lead to a potential irreparable weakness.
The crossing of the Cordillera Central to Ibagué dared myself and concerning to my power it was not worth mentioning, but my knee reminded me of being the key part of my body, which was demanded the most on climbing up steep hills with a heavy travel bike. Two days after the increased burden and another 190 km to Neiva I couldn’t even walk properly. So time to slow down to recover my knee! We decided to stay a few days to observe and support the healing process.
We arrived in Neiva and rest in a Café to figure out where to spent the night. We couldn’t find any hostel in town and thought about cycling out of the town again but suddenly we had three possibilities, so how come. I had a look on airbnb and asked for a room, but didn’t expect a fast answer, which I received surprisingly. We were told where to find a camping ground and we got invited by a family. So, we followed the offer and due to a flat tyre had to ride trough the dark city surrounded by heavy traffic to the house of the family, as we thought. But the house was owned by the mother of the man who invited us and it was a bit confusing cause all the people we met in the café weren’t present as we found the place. Well, everything clarified, we slept in the garage and enjoyed the hospitality. The next three nights we spent in a room in the house of two locals, which were very lovely. It was a perfect place to recover and on top I learned about several new fruits and typical dishes of Colombia and the department of Huila. On top, the town was celebrating San Pedro, which lasted over a week. Born from rural customs, this celebration remains as a memory of old traditions, where locals and visitors participate in parades, cavalcades, reigns, competitions, festivals and various cultural and artistic events. Our host showed us around and gave us the advice to the two parades, especially the one with the Chivas, a bus which was first built in Medellín especially considering the mountainous geography of the Andean region. Their colourful design made them famous and a symbol of Colombia and Equador.

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Local fruits

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One of the iguanas in the garden of our host, about 40 centimeters

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Street parade with typical clothing

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Desfile de Chivas/ street parade of the Chivas

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And strikingly it was the day of another match in the Copa America, Colombia against Argentina, which was lost by the Colombianos after penalties.
We left Neiva, but not before we went to the local market with our host. More typical fruits and dishes.

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My knee was not totally recovered, so I started to hitchhike while Tobias was pedaling. On the first day it didn’t work that good, so that I had to cycled a bit until I found a nice spot to camp.

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Camping near Gigante

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The hosts in Neiva own a farm in Pitalito, where I stayed the next night. I got up at 5 a.m. in the morning to milk a cow for the first time, but they were not used to me and therefor to shy, but I had the possibility to observe the process: how to get the cows from the field into the cote, to let the calve start to suck some milk out of the udder before it were tied up during the milking before returning back to its mother animal. a

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I went on without my bike to San Agustín, where I took part in a Jeep Tour to see some archeological places, a narrowness of the river Magdalena and two waterfalls, one of them falling down uninterrupted of a height of 400 meters. And I got to see how Panela, the famous brown sugar is made, by visiting a small manufacture of cane sugar.

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Estrecho de Magdalena

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The sugar cane press

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Heating up to get out the liquid

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Salto de Mortiño

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Salto de Bordónes

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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Turning to alternatives

One, who might expect another story of my travel, should simply skip this entry! For me, there are also other things, which happen during this time. Things, which needed an inspiration to arise in my life. Things which are actually obvious, but I haven’t really got into much deeper and haven’t gave theses things the attention they deserved. I don’t like when people try too hard to hoax somebody else, to convince about seemingly extrem ways of living and I know everybody have to discover and experience things on its on. Therefor I will only loose some sentences about a topic of what I get inspired on during my travel and with rising information seems to matter a lot for me. The process chain „inspiration, curiosity, information“ awaken the motivation to change – to change my life.

So, what happened? About one month ago I stayed in this garden Eden in Costa Rica and got inspired. I got inspired of the idea of just eating raw food as our host used to do. I was curious about what that would do to me to do the same and I still don’t really know. But since that days I became more and more curious about what the idea behind it. I only got the bait, that lively food brings as well more liveliness into my body. But I haven’t had a glue about overall idea of this kind of diet. I asked the owner of the garden Eden to provide me some background information, some books I could read. But remained to be the inspirator. So I started to research on myself and gained some more information in healthy food. During the last weeks I met some travellers and locals, which seems to be into that topic as well and little by little the idea behind raw food and superfoods revealed. The motivation is still rising, but after watching the documentary „Food matters“ (Stream can be found in the internet), I felt that I should wrote down some sentences and to stop again – with the sentence: You are what You eat!