Introducing my new partner
I haven’t published here in months, mostly because I haven’t found the courage to write about this publicly, but I have still been writing, and I’ve definitely still been experiencing new adventures. If you’ve been following on Instagram or Facebook then you’ve probably already seen what I’m up to. I’ve been wanting to start publishing the stories from my current travels, but first I need to introduce my new partner! So here goes…
Shortly after Dallas and I parted ways for the last time, I ended up going on the weekly SiCleada bike ride in Medellín. I was incredibly sad and exhausted, and I almost didn’t go on this ride. My bike was at a friend’s apartment on the other side of the city from where I was renting a room, and it was getting dark. I started walking to fetch my bike, but turned back due to feeling negative vibes around me. When I came back to the house, one of the other guys renting a room actually offered me to borrow his bike! I couldn’t not go after this. The bike was a little out of tune, clunky, and plegable (a folding bike). The ride that week was long and challenging, going up into the mountains surrounding the city. I left the house late and had to pedal as hard as I could to make it to the ride before they took off.
Not long into the ride, I became aware of two people riding on steel touring bikes and speaking English. I gravitated towards these people, since I hadn’t been able to find any touring bicycles like this in Colombia – and I had visited many bikes shops in both Bogota and Medellín, the two largest cities in the country. I wasn’t feeling socially confident enough to initiate conversation, so I just sort of maintained a close distance to these cyclists, unaware that they were accompanied by their WarmShowers host, a Colombian native riding a heavy, rusty hybrid bicycle with a basket in the front.
This Colombian guy started talking me, asking if I realized that the ride was going to be difficult, clearly doubting the folding bike’s capabilities of crescing the upcoming steep hills. Caught off-guard, and only really understanding that he was asking about my bicycle, I started explaining that the bicycle was not mine, and I had borrowed it from a friend. He switched to speaking in English, and explained again that the ride was going to be really challenging tonight. I told him again that the bicycle was not mine, so I wasn’t sure how it would perfom on the hills, but we’ll just see when we get there.
He introduced himself as Lenin, and I learned that he had recently returned from a totally unplanned bike tour from Medellin to Los Angeles, USA. And he had done it on the bicycle he was currently riding! He was wearing a shirt sponsored by Couchsurfing Medellín that had his name on it and something in Spanish about cycling around the world. I was intrigued and continued to talk with him for the rest of the ride.
When we got to the mountainous part of the ride, I just kept pedaling steadily, arriving at the top with plenty of time to wait for the rest of the group, which included over 1000 other cyclists. I actually was the first female to make it up the hill, with the second one being another traveler from Germany who was renting a room in Lenin’s house and had borrowed one of his old, barely functioning bicycles.
At the midway point, Lenin introduced me to the two Germans and Canadian who were all staying at his house. One of the Germans and the Canadian were the guys whose bikes I had been eyeing, and they were in the middle of a grand tour from Canada to Patagonia. Lenin invited me to join the three of them the next morning on a bike ride to Guatape, a touristy town about a 2-hour bus ride from Medellin. It was late already, and I hate not getting enough sleep, so I was reluctant to commit, but I agreed that I would contact him about it the next morning to let him know if I could make it. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the two bike toursists staying with Lenin had expressed dismay that he had invited me, complaining that they would now have to go slow to wait for the girl, and that it would take all day to get there.
Despite my sadness from parting with Dallas, I had had more fun that night than I had had in a long time. In the morning, I woke up feeling exhausted, and my bike was still on the other side of town. I didn’t want to ride all the way to Guatape on a borrowed foldable bike. I sent a message to Lenin, telling him that I didn’t think I would be able to make it in time. He assured me that they weren’t ready yet and that I could borrow one of his bikes for the trip. He actually lived relatively close to where my bike was, so I decided to go fetch my bike from my friend’s apartment before meeting the three bike travelers for breakfast.
It was at least an hour or two after the time Lenin had told me they were leaving when I arrived at his house, but they were still not ready to go. We all walked across the street to eat breakfast, and then departed for Guatape. The first 20 kilometers out of the city were up a mountain, and I had an advantage on my road bike with just a backpack. The German and Canadian had fully loaded touring bikes with panniers, although greatly dimished because they left half of their belongings at Lenin’s house, they were still much heavier than my rig. Lenin had his heavy, rusty hybrid bike, loaded with tools in the front basket and a backpack strapped onto the rear rack. His rear tire was so worn out, that the center strip of rubber was red, revealing the layer underneath. Contrary to their fears that I would slow them all down, I was able to move much faster, staying ahead of the group for the duration of the ride, pausing to let them catch up every few miles.
Upon arriving in Guatape, Lenin helped secure a place to sleep in an athletic complex. One of the ladies who worked there offered to let me sleep at her house, so I left the boys to sleep on the floor with the roaches and spiders and hopped on the back of her motorcycle to go to her house. Guatape is one of the most colorful towns I have visited anywhere in the world, and every house has vibrant bas relief pictures along the bottom edge, depicting something of significance to the family that lives there. This lady’s house had pictures of kayaks, because her daughters were all competitive rowers, two of whom competed in the Olympics.
The next morning, after sharing a breakfast with my generous host, I met up with the three guys to ride back to Medellín. Lenin threw a party later that night, which I almost didn’t attend out of exhaustion. However, I realized that this adventure was more than a great distraction from the lost, empty feelings I was experiencing prior to meeting these people. I decided to allow myself to have fun, make new friends, experience new adventures and feel free to enjoy myself.
That one bike ride in Medellín, followed by the ride to Guatape and back, laid the foundation for a new partnership between myself and Lenin. We both share a dream to travel the world, and the bicycle has been the perfect mode of transportation for us. It hasn’t been easy for me to let go of Dallas as my partner and best friend, and I still think of him fondly, but now that I am traveling again and have more stories to write, I introduce to you Lenin Cardona as my new partner.