Archives for posts with tag: South America

A visa run into Brazil from Colombia presented an irresistible opportunity to spend a couple of days exploring the rainforest. After cycling across the open frontier into Brazil and the police station at Tabatinga to stamp my passport, I steamed upriver into the Peruvian Amazon. Here’s some of what I saw.

Pink river dolphinsAmazon sunsetImagePiranha on the hook - fishing for piranha in the AmazonImageImageImageImageBaby cayman grabbed from the midnight waters of the Amazon

San Cipriano is a tiny village nestled in the lush jungle of the Colombian Pacific with a relaxed vibe and not much to do for visitors but enjoy a lazy day or two on the river. However, it’s also one of few places I know worth visiting just to get there.

One does not simply walk into San Cipriano. You’ve got to take the brujita (‘little witch’ in Spanish) – the bastard lovechild of a motorcycle, wooden pallet and railway bogie.

Single track. Blind corners. High speed. Woefully inadequate brakes. Driver texting 80% of the time.

This’d be a memorable ride anyway were it not for the huge freight trains chugging up from the port at Buenaventura in the opposite direction.

When I visited, we heard the train a’comin’ just as we screeched to a halt in San Cipriano. Granted, they don’t roll along at top speed but nevertheless, a hasty scramble ensued to evacuate the brujita and get it clear of the tracks quick-sharp.

Truly, a locomotive experience.

Abandon all hope

It’s been a while since I last updated the blog, albeit not for lack of material.

Since my last dispatches from Colombia I’ve passed through many countries on three continents. Now I find myself on the other side of the world from smoggy Bogotá (smoggy Bangkok) and I’ve accumulated several gigs of photos to illustrate what a busy 12 months it’s been – see my next update.

My way of life’s become increasingly vagabond since I was last in regular employment in South America almost nine months ago. My present overarching goal is to transform loose-footed poverty into a sustainable and more satisfying lifestyle while staying location-independent as far as possible.

Barring the eventual lottery win I’ve penciled in for mid-2014, this can only come about by working over the internet – this hasn’t proved easy so far, but recent developments have given me optimism that I can make it a reality.

Until then, southeast Asia is the sauce to my oyster. Confusing metaphors strictly my own.

I’ve been awfully quiet of late, ample opportunity to offload a few gallons of pressurised mind bilge into the swirling cesspit of the interwebs if ever there was one.

Life in Colombia continues apace, as I’m led to believe it had done for some time before my arrival.

The crackly white noise of my radio silence belies a glut of travel, to the tierra caliente (tantalisingly close to Bogotá and of a different climatic species altogether) and yet further afield to hedonist’s playground, Medellín. The onset of the rainy season has put paid to any further questing for the time being, due to a mixture of washed-out roads and the realistic prospect of a boatload of rain on arrival wherever I might still reach.

Nigh on three months have elapsed of a fumbling foray into teaching and for the most part it’s going swimmingly. I’ve honed my preparation technique to a level where I’m no longer spending equal time planning as teaching – far from it – and I feel my presence in front of the baying learners is now buoyed more by respectable methodology and knowledge, rather than the floaty but putrid carcass of crass bravura.

But as previous dispatches might hint at, the restive student body is positively convulsing now, and so I find myself treading the fine line between work and strike-breaking as the student paro rolls on for another week. Most of the buildings relevant to me on campus are barricaded to enforce the strike, while my employers continue their undeclared policy of information blackout to make sure I’m as disoriented as many of my students.

Phone shot = low quality

Nacho students demonstrate on Avenida NQS Bogotá

I’m giving informal classes in various outdoor spaces around the campus if students turn up and want to learn, however this situation is only tenable for so long when a) going about business-as-usual during a strike clearly undermines the cause and b) the weather’s bloody atrocious.

The strike also threatens to jeopardise my already laggard salary payments. I see this as an issue for the university and not the strikers , so it’s by no means a criticism of their rightful consensus to walk; neverthless, it is at very least going to result in a robust exchange of views should my rent be late, again, next month.

Time will tell. More wholesome bloggy goodness to follow soon, and on less contentious ground I hope to tread.

One of the main avenues in Bogotá bore witness to a spectacular protest march yesterday afternoon, albeit with a deadly serious message.

I’d caught wind of the march while reading the paper in the 3-hour long queue for one of Colombian life’s many bureaucratic delights. The article was but brief, making mysterious reference to a shady organisation known as the Águilas Negras (Black Eagles). It also promised the spectacle of performance artists marching for their lives. I had to see it.

As it transpires, the back-story is troubling indeed: much darker than the colourful photos might belie.

In recent weeks, several art collectives in south Bogotá, many engaging in street theatre projects or similar, have received threatening leaflets from a paramilitary group known as the Águilas Negras. These leaflets denounce their art as being a defence of human rights; they demand that they cease immediately and leave the city, or face the consequences; they declare said artists a valid target for paramilitary reprisals.

Which has upset a few people who believe artists shouldn’t be threatened with death for performing.

It’s no accident that the march was scheduled for August 30th, to coincide with International Day of the Disappeared, a salient day for Colombia due to its exceptional history of politically motivated “disappearances” – the official tally exceeding 60,000 over the course of the internal armed conflict.

The protest itself was a vibrant challenge to the regressive forces of the Águilas. Between 500 and 1,000 artists of all ages marched to demonstrate their defiance, supported by an even greater number of the public along the length of the Séptima north of Plaza de Bolívar. It took around two hours for the march to dance, juggle and unicycle its way down the mile-long route, with the battle cry “¡Arte sí, amenazas no!” ringing out loud and proud.

Solidarity, clown brothers.