Had a wonderful Thanksgiving with some delightful friends yesterday.
I went to the operating room this morning with Dr. Alberto Martinez – but we will save that for later.
This post is for my good friend, Steven Morrisroe who always tells me to devote more posts to ‘everyday life’. He’s been a big supporter of my work – so Steven – I hope you enjoy this.
The road to Lerida – part I
The most effective and efficient way to travel in Colombia is by plane; flying to Medellin or Cali is an exercise in ease – by the time the coffee carts comes around (yes, Colombian airlines take care of their passengers), it’s time to sit up your seats and prepare to land.
But the roads are notorious for being poorly designed exercises in endurance and frustration. It’s something Santos has pledged to address – outlining a massive overhaul of Colombia’s infrastructure, which is desperately needed. Despite being one of the major roads to this part of the interior of Colombia – it’s a two-lane road, hugging a hill on one side, and a dramatic cliff for the other for the majority of the journey. While mom-and-pop restaurants and mini-markets dot the roadside, along with tiny houses and laundry lines – this is a heavily trafficked major route for the transport of goods across the country. There are produce trucks, heavily laden pickups, buses, even several car haulers with brand-new Japanese cars all crowded together with more tanker trucks than I’ve ever seen in my life*. At one point, I looked out the window at the road ahead and it was all semi-trucks as far as the eye could see in both directions. It makes this little road as crowded as peak traffic in Bogotá.
So much so that what should be a swift and picturesque journey becomes a six-hour crawl as the speedometer stays markedly fixed at less than 30 km/h (yes, that’s kilometers). The only exceptions being quick bursts of pulse-raising, dare-devil maneuvers as we attempt to pass another in a seemingly continuous line of tanker trucks as we head into another blind and narrow hairpin curve.
We settle back into the agonizing crawl, behind more semis. The line only broken when we attempt such feats as the double pass – passing a tanker truck on the far left as it attempts to pass a slower moving, more heavily laden truck. But at least, it breaks up the monotony and frustration of breathing diesel fumes and enduring the smell of hydraulic breaks being tested by the continuous grade.
But don’t get the wrong idea – it’s still a beautiful journey and I am enjoying it immensely. I just want you to be able to picture the chaos and flurry of activity amidst the serene surroundings.
Once you pass just outside of Bogotá – you are in the country. Most of the trip is up and over a mountain pass – with a breathtaking view of what must be the Grand Canyon of all valleys.. It’s astounding lovely, but I was unable to get a photo of the massive verdant green valley with rivers and lakes scattered below. It looks so much like West Virginia, that I have to remind myself where I am more than once.
After twisting and turning for hours – we emerge in the valley below and arrive in the city of Honda..
*My tour guide informs me that the reason there are so many tanker trucks is that despite having ample oil reserves, Colombia does not have a single oil refinery, so all the oil produced travels on this very road to be exported to the USA for refining.