Road to Lerida, part 1

Had a wonderful Thanksgiving with some delightful friends yesterday.

I went to the operating room this morning with Dr. Alberto Martinez – but we will save that for later.

This post is for my good friend, Steven Morrisroe who always tells me to devote more posts to ‘everyday life’.  He’s been a big supporter of my work – so Steven – I hope you enjoy this.

Gee.. it doesn’t look that far..

The road to Lerida – part I

The most effective and efficient way to travel in Colombia is by plane; flying to Medellin or Cali is an exercise in ease – by the time the coffee carts comes around (yes, Colombian airlines take care of their passengers), it’s time to sit up your seats and prepare to land.

Not really going to Siberia (been there, done that!)

But the roads are notorious for being poorly designed exercises in endurance and frustration.  It’s something Santos has pledged to address – outlining a massive overhaul of Colombia’s infrastructure, which is desperately needed.  Despite being one of the major roads to this part of the interior of Colombia – it’s a two-lane road, hugging a hill on one side, and a dramatic cliff for the other for the majority of the journey.  While mom-and-pop restaurants and mini-markets dot the roadside, along with tiny houses and laundry lines – this is a heavily trafficked major route for the transport of goods across the country.  There are produce trucks, heavily laden pickups, buses, even several car haulers with brand-new Japanese cars all crowded together with more tanker trucks than I’ve ever seen in my life*.  At one point, I looked out the window at the road ahead and it was all semi-trucks as far as the eye could see in both directions.  It makes this little road as crowded as peak traffic in Bogotá.

this picture is actually from Honda, when traffic finally thinned out..

So much so that what should be a swift and picturesque journey becomes a six-hour crawl as the speedometer stays markedly fixed at less than 30 km/h (yes, that’s kilometers).  The only exceptions being quick bursts of pulse-raising, dare-devil maneuvers as we attempt to pass another in a seemingly continuous line of tanker trucks as we head into another blind and narrow hairpin curve.

passing, but you can’t see the motor cycle passing us..

We settle back into the agonizing crawl, behind more semis.  The line only broken when we attempt such feats as the double pass – passing a tanker truck on the far left as it attempts to pass a slower moving, more heavily laden truck. But at least, it breaks up the monotony and frustration of breathing diesel fumes and enduring the smell of hydraulic breaks being tested by the continuous grade.

this is actually a truck wash hugging the cliff

But don’t get the wrong idea – it’s still a beautiful journey and I am enjoying it immensely.  I just want you to be able to picture the chaos and flurry of activity amidst the serene surroundings.

Once you pass just outside of Bogotá – you are in the country.  Most of the trip is up and over a mountain pass – with a breathtaking view of what must be the Grand Canyon of all valleys.. It’s astounding lovely, but I was unable to get a photo of the massive verdant green valley with rivers and lakes scattered below.  It looks so much like West Virginia, that I have to remind myself where I am more than once.

Where am I?? (Answer: just past Honda)

After twisting and turning for hours – we emerge in the valley below and arrive in the city of Honda..

*My tour guide informs me that the reason there are so many tanker trucks is that despite having ample oil reserves, Colombia does not have a single oil refinery, so all the oil produced travels on this very road to be exported to the USA for refining.

2 thoughts on “Road to Lerida, part 1

  1. Just one more comment, sorry. I am intrigued with all this but boy does your ride not sound fun. I would feel ill, which is why I always drive. Then I am fine. I don’t make a great passenger. I know your trip was exotic and new and exploratory compared to my drives this couple days in boring ol’ northern California, but I sure did enjoy the smooth highway and 80mph speeds:) I saw you mentioned whomever that is who must be a politician promising improved roads. A modern transportation system is the core of a good economy. Obviously the main commerce routes need another lane just for trucks. It will be interesting to see what you see of the country progressing and improving for the people there. I know some facts due to my child sponsorship things. Though I know from you they have some very good things, that country per capita is as poor as poor countries in Africa, Southeast Asia and others on the very low end. I don’t mean wanting over-developed of course, just solid travel, education, health and such for everyone, not just in the better areas but everywhere.

    • Steve,

      I adore you, but sometimes you miss the point. Yes – Colombia has areas that are extremely poor, but that does not make them joyless, or unworthy of our appreciation. Our own country contains poverty, at a level that would break your heart. Nevertheless – the area in which I am traveling looks different, feels different from what you are used to – but that doesn’t make it poor. Much of it is historical – because Colombia has had cities for much longer than we have, so when a building looks run down to you, that is because it is 400 years old – not because of poverty. I would also like to remind you that I lived in West Virginia for three years and it would look and feel a heck of a lot different from what you are used to – and it too is a beautiful place.) I write about these places, these areas that are not medical tourism destinations, that are not sophisticated, high-tech cities like Bogota, London or New York because I want to share some of the interesting experiences I’ve had, and what I’ve learned.

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