21 December 2010

Avenida Sexta

I had a successful day. I needed to purchase toothpaste and to find 2 cardboard bike boxes for packing my gear for the January flight to Buenos Aires. The toothpaste was easy. There are droguerias across the city. I had made a list of bicicleterias and needed to walk into the center of town and then further south.

It was a long walk but I got to see the city and I passed over the river into the centro and sitting about the main plaza were more armless and eyeless people begging for money than I have ever seen in one place. I find the eyeless, with their empty eye sockets covered in wrinkled skin, to be particularly disturbing and there were just as many women missing eyes as men. A man who was also walking through the plaza began to talk to me and we walked together and he spoke of the coming feria. My guard was up but he was a decent guy and friendly. I finally told him I was looking for a bicicleteria and he directed me to a street that had many bike shops along it.

At Carrera 21 I began stopping in the bike shops and asking about boxes. None had them. I had stopped at 10 shops and was ready to give up for the day but continuing a few blocks further I looked in a larger shop and saw a pile of flattened bike boxes. I talked to the owner who was a fine fellow and wanted very badly to go to Miami. I complimented him for the few words in English he tried to say and I could see it meant a lot to him. I thanked him for the boxes and began the long walk back across the city in the heat carrying the large, awkward boxes.

It was hot in the afternoon in the valley and it felt good to have the boxes and I would now not need to worry about finding them in the few days after New Year’s before my flight. I left the boxes at the hostel and walked down Avenida Sexta and took a seat at one of the off-license bars and ordered a beer. There were two unlicensed bars with the excellent asado restaurant in between that I had had grilled chorizos at the night before. Because these were not legally bars beers were sold cheaply and there were always a few Colombians sitting at the tables no matter the time of day.

I had a Costeña and watched the action along the avenue. The Sexta was a long avenue of bars and clubs and restaurants. Across the street in the park a couple of drug dealers were working a spot and now and then someone would stop and make a transaction. It did not seem to matter that police armed with machine guns were stationed at every other corner. The dealers knew the guys at the bars and the asado and it was simply business along the avenue.

Old and young couples passed by with their children and then later after sunset a pair of prostitutes sat down at the asado and ordered the grilled chorizos. Old men tried to sell you hats or offered to shine your shoes and children begged to sell you candies. There was an old woman selling bags of potato chips out of an battered suitcase. But Avenida Sexta was clean and safe and all sorts of people mixed together there and I enjoyed sitting and watching it.

I went back to the hostel and washed up and then went out with a pair of German girls back to the asado for dinner. Along with the pig chorizos I had an arepa con choclo, which is a sort of sweet cornbread bun filled with slabs of cheese and a hot butter sauce. It is a specialty of Cali and this asado makes one of the best. The girls and I ate and then moved next door to the off-license bar I had been at earlier. One of the Colombians who was there in the afternoon was now face down on a table of empty bottles. The salsa music was still blasting out of the spot onto the avenue and the crowd there would sing along loudly and sometimes get up to dance.

Back at my room at the hostel I drank some water and fell asleep. I hadn’t ridden but the kilometers of the two days previous had reduced me. I also planned to get a good training climb in the next day and wanted to rest up for it.


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