What do we have with colonels? Zoë her father was colonel, Olivier's grandfather as well. But also during the trip we meet one colonel after the other. On the ferry from Uruguay to Argentina, Eduardo invited us in his house in Buenos Aires. He was a colonel in the Argentine army at the time of the Falklands War and the military regime. In Chile we hear a different side of the story when we are sleeping with an old colonel from the Chilean army. A few months later we are back on the couch with another colonel, this time from the Colombian army.
We cycled on one of the beautiful roads in Colombia when suddenly the phone rings. Via via, Fernando has been informed that we are on our way to the hospital in Medellin. He calls if everything goes well and asks if we need help. "You can call me any time" he says a few times. Two days later we cycle through El Valle, the big sugar cane valley. Many people told us that the area is not safe because of the cocaine industry. We want to lift the dangerous part, but not a single car wants to take two cyclists. We remember Fernando's words and give it a try.
Not much later we are sitting with Fernando at a roundabout close to his house. There are a few small tents where they sell fresh fruit juices and cycling shirts. He is president of the mountain bike club in Cali and comes here almost weekly with his club. Proudly he tells about the success story of cycling in Colombia. Since the peace with the FARC people dare to discover the mountains by bicycle. When we sit at the kitchen table a little later, one story after another follows about the war against the guerilla. He was responsible for the innovative techniques to combat the FARC, in short, no love stories that he is telling. Traveling by bicycle through Colombia must have been very different twenty years ago. "Have you already tasted this?" says Fernando's wife in between. They invited us for lunch, but it is clear that we can sleep here this night. "And tomorrow I have a surprise for you!” says Fernando with a big smile.
'Are you ready?' does he ask for two minutes before nine in the morning? The military punctuality is still part of his daily system. In his cycling clothes and with his shiny moutainbike he is already standing on the sidewalk in front of his house in the closed residential area. His friends of the police are waiting for us in the center. We get a private escort through Cali. Today we are the signboard of a safe Cali. Four agents on the bike, an motorbike, two cars and a press photographer complete the ensemble. Fernando quickly embraces a poor resident who looks at the event with wide eyes. That is the attraction of this friendly colonel, a proud teddy bear with a big heart. He smiles when he sees the result of his surprise and leaves us in the hands of the next colonel.
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