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Chapter 2
San Jacinto
"The Farm"
Bello

Sun Sept 24:

Awoke bright and early with a slight malaise left over from yesterday. Maybe it’s just the heat or the constant wind from the fan or too much sleep. Whatever, its characterized by a slight headache, internal queasiness, and a bad taste in the mouth. Feels as though I’m only 3/4 awake. In spite of that we left for the bus and San Jacinto. On the way out from the hotel the dueña (landlady) wished us good luck and gods protection.

We left early, about 8:40, even tho the bus didn’t leave ’til 10. We got there only to find out that it left at 9:15. We got there just in the nicky-nick.

The ride to San Jacinto was uneventful. Once in town we inquired as to hotels or residencias. There were none we were told by one fellow. However we might be able to camp behind the gas station. N. went to inquire.

San J. is a tourist town. The local “thing” is beautiful weavings, wall hangings, hammocks, hats and even yarn. The items are all very colorful with pseudo-native motifs designed to sell to tourists out on a day trip from Cart.

N. came back to say that there indeed was a residencia in town. Off we went to the Restaurant Medellin. There we sat around waiting for a room to be vacated. After lunch (rice, beans, fried pork rind, fried platanos, and cold yucca) the room was open. A real bargain for 260 pesos!! Once the initial burn wore off and we had a chance to take a walk and burn one ourselves, the situation didn’t look so bad.

Tomorrow we start walking. Even tho this is the rainy season (rains all afternoon) we’re looking forward to getting to the task of walking to Tierra del Fuego.

Later, the son of the proprietor took us for a ride through town in his decorated to the rear view shinny new 76 Willeys. [1]

N. and I debated the relative merits of traveling with a donkey(!?)

Tues. Sept 26:

Awoke at 5:30 yesterday and started walking to El Carmen. About 1km out of town we stopped to burn one and rearrange camera’s suspension. Then back on the trail. Beautiful countryside , steep rolling hills, covered with brilliant green foliage. It’s the rainy season for at least another month. All the plants are going nuts. Much cotton, tobacco, and sugar cane here.

We'd walking about 3 hours and were looking for any excuse to stop and rest feet & hips when a truck pulled over and offered us a ride to Ouejas, another 30km past El Carmen. The countryside goes by much faster from the back of a flatbed truck . The fellows were on their way to pick up a load of tobacco.

In Ouejas we stopped and had an excellent lunch of soup, rice, potatoes, yucca, salad and a large chunk of meat for 55 pesos. We debated whether to stay there for the night or to go on.

Deciding there was nothing to loose by hitching farther, we walked to the edge of town and put out our thumbs. Awhile later - a land rover pulled over and offered us a ride. We wanted to go down the road to a place called El Bongo, which turned out to be no more that the place where the road turned off to Magangué. Before reaching this point, our ride (a man & his wife) told us they owned a farm farther down the road (3 hours!) and invited us to come & spend the night.

Upon arriving it became clear this was no ordinary farm. The house was very large and beautiful, the land they owned stretched as far as the eye could see. A cattle ranch of no small degree. The fellow said he had another even larger near Cart.

They have a maid and a house boy, and many farm hands who live in their own building next door, with their own kitchen/dining room in yet another building. Near the house are various cattle pens where young or sick cattle are taken care of.

We took a brief tour of the spread, and then cleaned up before dinner. Dinner was preceded by hors d’ourves, Aguardiente, and general talk. I filled up on this to the extent that by the time the actual meal was served (by the maid) I could hardly force myself to consume more. Dinner consisted of rice, peas, stuffed sort of baked potatoes, candied figs, and coffee.

It became clear that we were to be guests for more than one night.

This morning we awoke in our own room, upstairs, with its own bathroom. After coffee our host went into town to procure some supplies. Upon his return he promised to take us riding to see more of the ranch.

All the grounds right around the main house are beautifully decorated with flowers , tropical plants, fruit trees, and even a small aviary filled with canaries.

N. and I spent the early part of the day washing clothes. We took a walk down the main road to take some photos and do a do. What a beautiful place! Around lunch time Pancho (Francisco) returned.

After lunch and a little siesta - we went out back, saddled up the caballos and went riding for about 3 hours. First off to see the cattle. They’ve got different kinds, Holstein, Brown Swiss, and others - each separated from the other, as well as the yearlings separated out, and the birthing cows separated from them. Took many photos of the cows.

The farm hands that went along tried and finally succeeded in showing us how they rope a cow . [2] Most of the grazing land had at least 3" of water and in places we crossed small streams that were 4’ deep. What a trip! Then we rode out behind the ranch - away from the river - to see the horses. He has about 50. We saw one that was only 1 day old.

After riding, cleaning up, drinking Aguardiente, eating too much again, and playing around with jew’s harps, and harmonicas, I retired in a frazzled heap.

Wed Sept 27:

Awoke today not feeling with it at all. The muscles around my eyes hurt when I look to the side, and my butt and legs are sore from riding. My brain was fried by the sun, I think.

I spent all day (except for getting buzzed which didn’t help) laying on my back feeling lousy. I ate little lunch and no dinner.

During the afternoon, our hosts Francisco & Monique (from Argentina) came to our room and marveled at the things (quality & quantity) we had brought from the U.S.

Later we went on a cross-country drive to see some more cows. They were beautiful crosses between brown Swiss & Holsteins. One was all black, one was light tan with thin vertical brown stripings, others were spotted & mottled various colors.

I slept fitfully.

Thurs Sept 28:

Awoke feeling less queasy but still not 100%

Rode into Caucasia where our hosts bid us farewell. They spent about an hour trying to find us a boat to El Banco. They found one but for 500 pesos each without baggage. They also found us a boat to just the next town for free. We declined both and opted for a residencia to collect our thoughts & alternatives: 1) Go to Medellin & then by rail and road to Bogota; 2) Go by water to El Banco, water to Barrancabermeja, rail & road to Bogota; 3) Go by road to Magangué, water to Barr. rail & road to Bog. As the debate progressed - each choice in its turn had favor.

We went to the docks again only to find it would cost at least 1000 pesos each with baggage to El Banco. So perhaps tomorrow we’ll hitch back to Magangué as if our little venture in paradise hadn’t thrown us off course.

The boats go from little town to little town. You can get one direct but it costs even more.

I begin to feel more energetic & my appetite is coming back as the day wears on.

Fri Sept 29:

Well - awoke all minds made up - we’re going to Magangué. Out onto the road where indecision struck another blow. Decided after all that there was no sense going back the way we came only to wind up paying and arm & a leg from Magangué soooo-- we turned ourselves around and hitched (3 rides) to Bello.

The first two rides were short; the first in the back of a cattle truck, the second on the back of a flat bed. But the third lasted all the way and we even got to ride in the cab [3] . Through beautiful mountain scenery along less than passable roads at about 40km/h.

The cars around here have a kind of coating on the windows that looks almost like camouflage but must be used for glare proofing.

We bought our driver dinner, gathered our things, sure we were going to get robbed & raped, and trucked it up the main drag in Bello ’til we found the first residencia [4] on the strip. Only 120 pesos with a view of the church bells and the hills surrounding town.

As the sun goes down the lights in the distance add a cheery glow to the hillsides. There are lots of folks on the streets and we still don’t know if there’s a train that stops here. Tomorrow will be spent further avoiding ripoffs and investigating the trains & local color.

Reflexions on the city: how many times have I looked down out of hotel windows onto sidewalk folk below? And hasn’t the scene also included a telephone and/or powerline transformer? What about music drifting up from the local billiard parlour? Children play on the streets, local teens strut and show off along the drag. Oldsters sell cigarettes on corners “A sus ordenes” and folks take others to dinner and good cheer. No scenes of muggings or dastardly evil.

On the streets we’re a novelty, like the circus being in town. All the kids look “Mira - dos Gringos!” and you can’t help feeling on parade. The local police laugh & smile.

Its’ Friday night in South America .

Sat Sept 30:

Happy birthday Fred.

Another day of lounging about in our hotel room.

We went to the train station this morning. The train does indeed go to Puerto Barrío from here at 7:00AM for 72 pesos or something like that.

We canceled our trip up the local Matterhorn due to overt laziness and threat of rain.

Our hotel window overlooks the local church - bells ringing long and loud at noon over the newly dead Pope. As N. says - “They don’t make Catholics like they used to.”

After a typical Antiochian lunch of soup, meat, rice, potatoes, yucca, cabbage & tomato salad, little tasteless breads and a bowl of mazamorra all for 40 pesos (1.00) I spent the rest of the afternoon reading Sot-Weed Factor.

The local color consists of bars and many people of high school age walking about. There’s a definite European flavor to the populace as well as a richness not seen in the campo. There - folks lead a much harder life and the heritage tends toward mestizo. But in this northern outskirt of Medellin - the atmosphere is friendly to the degree that without our packs we are generally ignored. The gents that run the restaurants wear their little hats and are always ready to serve. The little pastelles de pollo are good, as are the fresh baked goods. The town is surrounded by mountains and from our window we can look down the valley towards Med. So tomorrow we’ll head back down into the lowlands on what promises to be an exciting train ride.

Also spent some time washing out clothes and reflecting on our lack of photographic aggressiveness. Perhaps this later is due to paranoia about thieves or just rationalization thereon. In any case - the real danger exists - but to such an overblown proportion that it’s hard to realize that things are probably much worse in New York.


[1] Also entertained the little kids with harm. harps+kazoo. Also there was the fan that shorted out the plug.

[2] We also visited a very small, poor village near (or on) the ranch. It's very strange riding into town with the big estancia owner who everybody knows. We stopped in the bar and had a beer. The dogs barked at the horses. The little kids were all naked.

[3] big semi hauling cement or grain or something in bags. Heavy Fiat

[4] and a cold shower
              

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