From My Notebook 48 Years Ago This Week: In Colombia

12th March 2023 |

Feb 4

Into the Cauca valley. Tropical. Bananas. Music. Good asphalt road. I flew. Up a mountain. Down again. Up again, and then sat there watching Bruno’s van appear over the previous summit.

(The van had a damaged cardan, or half-axle)

Went on to Popayan. Pretty town. Colonial Facades. Churches with beautiful carved wood, gilt and maroon on white. Remember the pulpit of San Francisco.

Found a hotel – Los Balcones.

Feb 5

Moved to another hotel, El Monasterio. Superb. Only 240 pesos (eight dollars) for two. Pleasant day walking in town. B has his cardan repaired for next to nothing. Remember chapel of Encarnacion in convent. Had lunch and dinner at hotel. Excellent.

Feb 6

Hotel breakfast (Fabulous – remember it to this day) Laundry. Supermarket. On to La Plata again.

(We were heading inland into the mountains to San Agostìn where – we had heard – a large number of statues had been recently discovered underground)

Bruno leaves before me. I get out at 12.30. Lovely weather. Then a fuse blows. Waste time trying to trace the fault. Then give up and put in a temporary circuit. Meanwhile a storm blows up. Find myself in a terrific downpour. Makes me very unhappy. But later, in good weather, on very dry roads, ride fast – and slide uncontrollably right across one bend.

(There were lorries driving fast downhill and filling the road. To meet one unexpectedly on a bend could be fatal)

Catch up with Bruno just before La Plata. He’s had another bash with a lorry.

(Lorry drivers surrounded him, insisting it was his fault.)

The end of the road

Paid 600 pesos damages. His other half-axle is broken. Has a Quebecois hitch-hiker with him.

(Looking for a place to camp I spot a lovely green field)

I lead us all into a bog. Struggle to escape – ploughing up the field. Ride into La Plata. Find the Residencia Berlin. Jesus and Domitila Clavijo and their ten children. Parrot called Roberto.

Ten kids and a parrot

Feb 7

(Bruno’s van is now lozenge-shaped and undrivable. It is illegal to sell a foreign registered vehicle in Colombia)

Still in La Plata. Bruno sells his car to a policeman. Auctions the contents. (See full description in Jupiter’s Travels)

Feb 8th

To San Agustin. Two rivers to cross. Take first one very seriously, barefoot. Fast but not too deep. On last stretch from Pitalito to San Agustin – dirt – fall off. Break strap on pannier and crack spark plug in half.

Bruno arrived half an hour before by bus. Is finding out about horses already.

(Bruno is devoted to horses and rode steeplechase. I know nothing about horses)

Have mixed feelings about it – still think of horses as potentially dangerous. But excited by idea also. He walks for hours and says he has found two good ones for the next day. I begin to get a feeling for San Agustin and the hotel.

Fuzzy rider

By horse to Alto de los Idolos. Tremendous ride down the side of a ravine. Only loss of my raincoat spoils the trip, but soon get over that. Staggering descent and climb. Statues don’t measure up to the experience. (Why should they?)

Feb 10

Idle day – last hours at park (Parque de los Idolos)

Feb 11

Horses again – to Pamela’s Hacienda. Spiky reception but ends well with banana bread. She has an enormous bottom but carries it quite well. There are two children there. Whose? Pamela and Harry get paid ($100 a month) to keep them for the summer months. They also get money sending Colombian stuff to her mother’s shop in New England. They spent eight months – she says – scraping old lime wash of the woodwork. No animals, except chickens. She is very defensive about their position. The only ones, she says, who stuck it out.

Feb 12 to 14

Back to La Plata. Bruno leaves for Mexico. End of a chapter.

PS: It’s interesting transcribing these old notes, but it’s an effort and I want to be sure it’s worth the trouble. A precious few faithful readers have shown their appreciation, but not enough. If you want me to go on doing this, please let me know.