Truly, another world to behold at 12,500ft. Color bleeds from the landscape like an Ansel Adams shot, as unrequisite as the thin foliage of the air-starved peaks. The lungs and legs scream for oxygen, if for nothing but the mental solace of pushing forward at some speed more befitting an “elite” cyclist. Elite or not, when the sky touches the ground, and when one visits that juncture, experience, training, weight, and all things that should matter? They don’t. Survival here is a laborious, sedentary business, and the insignificance of pedaling a bicycle is far down a long laundry list of more pressing import.
Driving and cycling tend to occupy separate spheres of the time/space continuum in my mind, but in Caldas, they’re starting to meld. I was invited to a party at a finca (a country house) on Christmas Eve by some ever-hospitable Colombianos, who proceeded to treat the two lonely gringos like their own familia. I came away from the experience with two thoughts unaffected by the aguardiente and copious volumes of deep-fried deliciousness:
One, Utah Mormons (my upbringing, though no longer) and Colombian Catholics are not terribly different, save I might wager those that swing towards the Vatican vs. Salt Lake City know how to have a touch more fun. Remarkably strong family ties transcend culture, ethnicity, theology, and income. People are people, and tradition is tradition. It’s a comforting fact.
Two, and back to my original thoughts on driving; it’s impossible to get anywhere quickly in a vehicle in Caldas. As we rolled down the La Cabana climb to the finca in the two-door Landcruiser packed with seven adults, Christian and I were both cognizant that we could reach our destination twice as fast on a bicycle. In the US, distances become skewed by the vast interstate highway system, covering hundreds of kilometers in the space of a few short hours. It makes “huge” rides seem far less expeditionary and a bit more pedestrian. In Caldas, riding a mere 70km from home is considered a very long distance, even to those who own automobiles - many people I’ve met don’t know the pueblitas I ride to inside their own department. The social changes as one crosses from one cell of habitation to another 15km away are considerably vast, far more so than in the interconnected sprawl I call my home. It’s astonishing.
And on a total non-sequitur: Rare moments when the ubiquitous green box mode is the best mode - or maybe the algorithms that make the little Canon estimate sunny-16 solo are getting that good. In any case, I’d kill for a rest week with a motorcycle and my old Pentax 6x7 right about now. Or even a 5D with a 50mm, if I’m not being picky.
Christmas morning, two days late, thanks to @rapharacing. Festive timing could have been achieved, but seems other countries aren’t so lax about customs on small shipments as the US.
Life goes on. At heart, I’m a minimalist. As such, high-end and team-edition kits tend to…well, most slightly irk my aesthetic sensibilities to a certain degree. The Pro Team kit I now have is not only visually stunning, but it’s one of the most well-made garments I own, and supremely comfortable. While Rapha initially distinguished themselves to me by utilizing marketing strategies unbeknownst to the industry, they now set themselves apart based on sheer quality as well. Consider me sold.
Staring at the summit of the Nevado del Ruiz, touching the sky at almost 17,500ft, brings a sense of serene insignificance. The lofty peaks of the Andes, obscured for much of the day, reveal themselves in the early morning hours - like, as a boy, seeing my mother before she put her makeup on for the day. Unveiled, the crest of Nevado will retreat to its throne in the clouds in little more than sixty minutes, and the unenlightened will remain as such, snoring in blissful ignorance.
Sundays are for tipica, y montar a tranquilo. Mazamorra. Chicharron. Bandeja Paisa.
Cycling is my life. It’s not a bad one. In fact, it’s one I’d never dreamed of. Even scraping by on a daily basis, I feel like one of the most fortunate people on earth to be able to share it with anyone who cares to listen.
Bike riding in paradise is serious business. Flat tires are especially serious.
A whirlwind tour of Colombian vice, thanks to new friends. An evening express fueled by $6 Red Bulls and the national beverage. Stops at the local house of ill-repute, an after-hours dance club drunkenly swaggering to the driving beat of the national bump & grind, a poorly-stocked after-after-hours speakeasy staffed by a man who sleeps in his shed-housed establishment, La Policia Nacional shuffling our ragtag band of aguardiente-wielding miscreants down the avenue like curling players sweeping the ice with assault rifles, sidewalk liberation of a compatriot bereft of his cell-phone by an enterprising candyman, with the line’s terminus at its origin, vistas of the rising sun shared with the fellow detritus of the evening.
Four hours of slumber, and cobbled together is a short cockpit ditty, inspired by a day half-consumed by the brutality of an evening prior.