Categories
South America

Help Us Feed Those Affected by COVID 19

WATCH RAW TRAVEL SEASON-ONE ON-DEMAND & HELP FEED HUNGRY IN COLOMBIA & GUATEMALA

As tough as the economic toll of this pandemic has been on the USA, it’s been devastatingly worse in many developing countries where the poorest of the poor live day-to-day. These folks, who struggle mightily in the best of times, have been unable to work to garner their daily meals due to lockdown restrictions.

The governments of these countries do not have much if any, social net to speak of. Only private individuals, companies, or NGOs are able to help and they are now struggling as well. The United Nations has issued dire warnings of hunger of biblical proportions is something isn’t done. So what can we do?

We can each do something big or small (a little goes a long way in developing countries) to help trusted and vetted partners address their communities’ hunger.

If you remember my pal Andres Ocampo from Medellin Colombia (Los Suziox lead singer, Raw Travel theme song composer & El Sub music venue owner) from Raw Travel Episode 706 – “Going Solo: Medellin Rocks”? Andres has turned lemons into lemon aid (pun intended). His venue, El Sub is unable to host any events or concerts during the lockdown, so Andres has turned the space into a repository for donated food & toiletry items for the poorest of the poor in El Castilla and surrounding working-class and poor neighborhoods in Medellin, Colombia.

Hungry Homes put out red flags to alert charities that there is a hungry
MEDELLIN, COLOMBIA Red flags indicate homes where there are locked in hungry people

People who are unable to feed themselves let their needs be known by placing a red flag outside of their home. As you can see by the photos and videos, there are lots of donated items, but there are lots of red flags outside of homes as well.

MEDELLIN, COLOMBIA: El Sub Video Tour

GUATEMALA: Our old friends at the orphanage of Casa Guatemala are doing something similar in rural Guatemala, collecting funds for their neighbors who are locked in and unable to work and thus feed themselves. Casa Guatemala is a much-respected resource in their rural area of Guatemala near Belize, and they understand that their neighbors are suffering.

We didn’t want to simply call attention, we wanted to come up with a way that our affiliates, vendors, advertisers, and viewers could help, either big or small.

Casa Guatemala is sharing food with their neighbors.

Between now and May 15th, 2020, donate $50 or more to either Casa Guatemala HERE:

or for El Sub’s Relief for Medellin, Colombia HERE: and we will donate the money directly to the organization.

Then simply send us an email of your donation receipt to RawTravel@aimtvgroup.com and we’ll forward you a pass for a free rental pass for Raw Travel – Season 1 good for all 19x episodes of Season One HERE

If $50 is too much to ask for this vulnerable time, we have smaller increments and rewards:

2) Between $6 and $49 donation will get you access to all three of Season One’s Colombia and Guatemala themed episodes:

Or if you prefer to rent any individual Colombia themed (#105 & #105) and/or Guatemala themed (#116) episodes between now and May 15th, the $1.99 entire rental will be donated and split between both organizations.

I know these are tough times, so we are trying to do our best to give you an avenue to help in a small or big way depending on your situation and hopefully at the same time help you remain entertained while at home.

But please if you are suffering economically yourself, do not donate. But if you are like me, feeling blessed at having a fairly secure job and outlook economically I thought this could be a good way to help.

As always, thank you all. God bless and stay safe… and sane. I know, I know… easier said than done.

* Please note this offer to view episodes is limited to viewers in the US only. Sorry Canada and others, it’s a territorial rights issue. But please do feel free to donate if you so desire and still send me an email and we’ll work out a way for you to be rewarded as well.

UPDATE MAY 17th, 2020 : Thanks to the following contributors who helped Casa Guatemala raise several thousand dollars and our pals at Justice for Andres in Colombia raise hundreds of dollars to help feed their neighbors in during the Covid 19 crisis. Special thanks to:

Stacey Pryor – Casa Guatemala

Laura-Lee Gosa.- Casa Guatemala

Rosalba Gordon – Colombia

Judy Smith – Colombia

Heather Pauli – Colombia

Brian Eubanks – Colombia

Lauren Wheat – Colombia

While our fundraiser is no longer active, if you do wish to donate, please feel free to do so at the links above and we will make sure the money gets to the right place as hunger, as you know, doesn’t take a holiday!

Categories
North America

Live TV Shooting Tragedy Hits Home.

The “Live TV Shooting” tragedy in Roanoke, VA has hit home. WDBJ’s My Network channel is our new affiliate for Season 3 beginning October 3rd.

Being Interviewed live in Casper, Wyoming

I very easily could have been on their morning show to chat up Raw Travel, as I’ve done in so many cities on so many morning shows. Ironically they were filming a segment on local tourism.

I don’t wish to add to the cacophony of opinion of “what is wrong” with our country except to say this.. If you think travel to other countries is dangerous.. consider this..

I lived in Colombia in 2011 and was struck by the # of Colombians, who’d commented to me how they perceived the U.S. a dangerous, violent nation. They would tick off the growing litany of high profile and mass shootings as examples of why they feared travel to the U.S. Many said stated they preferred go elsewhere or stay home… in Colombia.. where things are safer.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/27/opinion/when-the-tragedy-youre-covering-is-your-own.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

Categories
Colombia

Medellin’s Feria de las Flores

Selling Refreshments @ Desfile de Silleteros

As you may be aware, Medellin’s annual Feria de las Flores is 10 day or so celebration of the region’s flower industry. Each August , travelers the world over flock to the land of “eternal spring” to take in the pageantry and celebration of one of Latin America’s most festive events.

The event kicks off with the Desfile de Caballos (Horse Parade) and ends with Desfile de Silleteros (Flower Bearers Parade) with a plethora of events in between.

Parque Berrios in Medellin's El Centro (Central)

Perhaps it’s because the event coincides with vacation season in North America; or perhaps it’s because Colombia is finally shaking it’s outdated image as a scary, violent destination; or perhaps it’s because the event is so damned beautiful and fun, (it’s probably all 3) but each August it seems your seeing more and more foreign travelers.

As a result, in August at least and in certain areas of the upscale Poblado neighborhood you’ll have no problems if you don’t speak a word of Spanish as there is almost always someone around who speaks some English.

But if you speak even some, primitive Spanish, you’ll have a much easier time moving around  the more interesting (and yes, still relatively safe) areas of Medellin and enjoying the spectacle that is the Feria de las Flores while interacting with some of the friendliest people on the planet… Paisas (residents of the state of Antioquia and other surrounding areas).

The Flower Bearers Parade

If you do go for Feria and want a good vantage point for the parades then you may want to invest in tickets that guarantee you good seating in the grandstands.  They are relatively cheap and I hear you can pick some up at the major hotels and shopping malls.

But if you’re like me and not a great “planner aheader” then not to worry. You can usually find a decent vantage point if your willing to get there early & climb a tree (if you can find one empty).

But the fact that Feria de las Flores 2011 is in the history books shouldn’t make you hesitate one bit about visiting Medellin or Colombia any other time of year. Paisas are, deservedly so, very proud of their city’s turnaround during the past decade and in general, you’ll find them very hospitable, friendly and welcoming to travelers no matter the time of year.

For more information on what Colombia and Medellin specifically have to offer the adventurous and the not so adventurous traveler be sure and visit Medellin Info and the Medellin Convention & Visitors Bureau sites. In my opinion, Colombia really is an amazing, hidden gem of a country and Medellin is one of the best cities in all of Latin America. So get there and enjoy already! 

 

No Parade Tickets? No Problem!

Categories
Colombia

Medellin’s Desfile Caballos (Horse Parade)

Each and every August,  Medellin  gets filled with tourists from all over Colombia and indeed the world as people make their way to the  famous Feria de las Flores (Flower Festival).

It’s a 10 day or so festive celebration of Medellin’s large and important flower industry that includes parades (desfiles), concerts, flower displays, contests and parties nearly every day of the festival, culminating with the incredibly colorful and grand Desfile de las Flores (Flower Parade) the last day of the festival.

Last Saturday, things got kicked off with the Desfile de Caballos (Horse Parade). Now I know that horses are very important to Paisa (people from the Antioquia region of Colombia) culture but I had no idea they were so prevalent.

Everything from packs of  mules to incredible specimens of well trained horse flesh were marching down the parade route. At times you almost got the feeling there were as many folks in the parade as watching it.

There had to be thousands upon thousands of horses and their riders making their way down the blocked off “autopista” (freeway) while thousands and thousands of spectators partied and took in the spectacle.

And not just horses, the Colombian military showed off their impressive might as well to an appreciative crowd.  While I know that not everyone feels this way, most of the people that I observed at least, seemed genuinely thankful for their military’s role in the marked reduction on violence the past decade or so in Colombia.

The parade lasted from 2 or so in the afternoon until well after sundown and the energy was entirely positive. Aside from a few well meaning folks warning me to be careful with my camera (already knew that), there were no issues other than the music was really, really loud and it was a little tough to converse without screaming your head off.

Those that could handle the rowdiness and partying a bit longer made their way over to nearby Parque Poblado and Parque Lleras which were as packed with revelers as I’ve ever seen.

Now I can only assume there were most likely jam packed until the wee hours the next morning because as for me, well, I need my beauty sleep these days and I wanted to save my strength because the Feria celebrations were just getting started.

I’ve posted a few photos here for your enjoyment but if you’d like to see them all be sure and check out the set on our FLIKR PAGE.

Stay tuned, this weekend there are even more parades so more photos and coverage to follow.

 

 

Categories
Colombia

Amazon – Hell Hike to San Martin

The Amazon – Day 2

Today we woke up early to prepare for a hell hike of 3 hours to the isolated, indigenous pueblo of San Martin. We hoofed it over to Porto Nariño from our Cabañas, about a 15 minute hike compared to a 3 or 4 minute boat ride. All 3 of use were dressed a little ridiculously and stereotypically for safari with cargo pants, long sleeved safari shirts and safari hats. I’m sure we looked like we’re headed to an expedition in the outer, unexplored regions of Africa.

Amazon "Road Crew"

Our guide showed up in tank top, shorts and mud boots and you can feel the locals stare as we passed by…Turistas!!

We were toting camera gear so I’d worked up a sweat and was exhausted already by the time we hit town.

At breakfast I saw a man, looks like a local, being toted in a stretcher to the infirmary. He’s not moving and his hand is over his head in what looks like severe pain. “The last person who hiked the trail” I joke. No one laughed.

After breakfast we stocked up on water and to our dismay, no food. There is not a sandwich to be bought anywhere in town to take for the 6 hour round trip journey so we buy raw fruit and bread, hoping that will get us through the brutal hike and back.

Starting off it was cool, lots of foot traffic along the path as it gradually gives way from a concrete sidewalk to dirt path. I noticed everyone on the path, be they young kids or old grandmothers are toting machetes. Luckily our guide, Witman had his own machete in hand.

We were carrying camera gear and though we tried to lighten our loads as much as possible, I realized too late that my trusty laptop was secured in the camera bag, so we’re carrying around needless 3 or 4 additional pounds,  and risking a computer in the Amazon. Agghhh!

The hike was pretty uneventful at first; we met a volunteer machete road crew clearing the path around the road. They offered us some kind of alcoholic refreshment from a 2 litter coke bottle and I am the only one who decided to brave a swig. It was tart, not too bad though. They ask for a donation and I threw them one before we all head on again.

Mystery Drink with the Road Crew

We encountered a small, poisonous snake, a couple of frogs, a tarantula, a few lizards and hosts of wild ass sounding birds along the way. About half way to San Martin we encounter a beautiful clearing where a small finca had been built and some people were gathering water and going about their daily lives.

After that, things got much more intense. The trail began to disappear before our very eyes and we are balancing ourselves as we crossed creeks and ditches on top of felled trees. This might work fine if your barefoot but if you are wearing work boots with equipment strapped to your back, the algae acts like a lubricant and we came very, very close to dumping ourselves as well as some valuable equipment (including this computer) into swamps and creeks along the way.

The final hour of the hike was absolute hell. Renzo, still recovering from back to back illnesses was bringing up the rear. We were going through water like crazy (15 bottles among 4 people) and yet no one has to relieve themselves.  We were soaking wet top and bottom so we were sweating out fluids as soon as we put them in.

With the kids of San Martin

One hassle that could have made life worse that didn’t were hordes of mosquitoes. Thankfully, the combo of our external repellents and the oral repellent seemed to be doing the trick.

FINALLY we come to a large clearing and a steep bank overlooking a creek with kids swimming and homemade wooden canoes docked on the side. It was San Martin! We were so tired we didn’t really feel like celebrating… instead I’m sure we were all thinking  “there is no way I’m making that hike back” (I know I was).

It was 12 noon and we would have to start hiking back by 1pm if we were to beat the darkness and no one, especially our guide, wanted to be out on that path in the middle of the Amazon in anything approaching darkness. There was no way that would be an option.

Hiding from our camera

Hiking back in less than an hour seemed like a horrifying idea. We went ahead and shot some video diary footage overlooking the river and then one little girl of 6 or 7 paddled a canoe over for us to use. The kids were all swimming and soaking wet. They were shy but eager to pose for the camera. They were incredibly cute, with one little boy completely naked and his hair bleached blond by the constant exposure to the sun.

As we crossed over I noticed a boat with an outboard motor docked. I ask our guide if there is any chance we could take a boat back instead of hike. He seemed to think that was a realistic idea and said he’d ask the owner.

The owner was a solar panel installer who had made the trip to San Martin to replace the town’s solar panels, which need replacing every 15 years or so!

Solar Panel Installer Saves Our A**

Turns out San Martin was not exactly what we expected. We expected indigenous people, some in traditional garb and living in huts. Instead everyone was dressed in t-shirts, jeans, shorts or work pants and either barefoot, boots or chancletas. There was a school, electricity, a church and even a store that sold soda (but no water, they use rainwater).

We toured the city, pick up b-roll with our cameras and do a few stand-ups though I can barely think straight and I’m pretty sure I look like hell, but I was so tired, I just didn’t care. We ate our fruit and bread, polished off our last bit of water and to our collective delight were told we could catch a 40 minute ride in the boat for just 40,000 pesos (about $20).

Let’s see a 3 hour hell hike back with no water, no food and darkness approaching or a 40 minute boat ride back for $20?! Yep, I am not ashamed to say we took the boat ride.  Luckily for us we hit San Martin on the one day in 15 years that solar panels were being replaced I guess!

We made it back to Puerto Nariño in time to have a very late lunch. Incredible. The cold shower at the cabaña never felt so good and we all drifted off for naps before a big rainstorm hit and we waited it out before heading to Puerto Nariño for dinner. There would be no night out on the town this night. Just the sleep of the dead.

Categories
Colombia

San Basilio de Palenque

SAN BASILIO DE PALENQUE

Picking up Supplies at the Market in Cartagena

I felt like we’re preparing for a week long trip instead of a day trip to San Basilio Palenque. But not a lot of tourists do this trip, and it’s a little tough to get there in normal situations much less when it’s been raining for days no end.

After an early call time, we stopped back at the market in Cartagena to gather food for the Sancocho that Luis Towers’ (who is originally from Palenque) family was to make for us. While Luis and Renzo shopped for food, Moses and I stayed with the taxi driver in some skinny shade in the withering heat. We were so bored we started to shoot some more b-roll of the market.

Killing time with our taxi driver

We shot me risking death and injury crossing the busy street, we shot the fish hung up, the rooster tied to the top of a crate, young kids waving at the camera… you name it.

Finally Luis and Renzo made their way over with a couple of young kids enlisted to help them carry the food. We loaded it into the trunk of the little taxi. Renzo and Luis are big, tall guys. Moses and I are average size and the taxi driver is pretty small, but you add it all up, we have 5 people in a tiny, yellow economy taxi and  I’m sitting “bitch” (middle) in the back with a sack of food on my lap.

Our taxi for the last part of the journey to San Basilio de Palenque

We determine we’d never make the 1 ½ taxi ride to Palenque this way so we decide it’s best if Luis goes by bus and meets us there. My cramped legs thanked him for his sacrifice.

We were all in heaven again with our own seat when Luis unloads onto the bus. At first since I’ve been in Colombia, we got stopped a lot by the military at different checkpoints along the way. Luckily our taxi driver’s papers were all in order so each delay is not entirely brutal.

Preparing the San Cocho

When we finally arrive at the turn off for Palenque, Luis has already arrived (the bus beat the taxi, unbelievable), and there is a big 4 wheel driver cargo truck that will take us the rest of the way to Palenque as the roads are still a muddy, rutty mess from the rains.

The Entrance to San Basilio de Palenque

We all, taxi driver included, climbed into the truck and made the slow, bumpy, muddy and slippery journey into town. Palenque is what I expected thanks to Renzo’s vivid descriptions of the place. It was founded well by escaped slaves from Cartagena.

The people who live there today are all direct descendants of this brave group of runaway slaves. There is electricity but I understand that it goes out a lot.

Renzo with the kids and their "new" baseball gear

Luis’ family’s house is one of the nicer ones in town and it is where we set up camp to shoot and unload the food so the ladies could start preparing the Sancocho in the wood stove in the back yard. It’s hot and humid but I enjoyed getting to know the people from town.

There are lots of young boys and girls who were curious and came over to see what all the fuss is about. I was able to get to know a few of them as we shot.

Me and my drum teacher

I spent a little time with an expert on the Palenque language which is a unique dialect that combines elements of all the African languages represented in the village with Spanish. He taught me a few words, but considering I’m still having difficulty with Spanish, you can probably guess that my lesson was slow and painful.

Trying the pan de coco (Coco Bread)

I had even less success in learning the African drum, which is called the Alegre (a Spanish word for “happy”). I had more success eating the Sancocho whose delicious smells wafting through the house kept me motivated.

After lunch we headed over to the ball field where Renzo had brought some old bats, gloves and balls to give to the kids. They loved it! We played a few innings of baseball with palm leaves serving as our bases. The kids seemed unimpressed when I chased down a ball and helped get an out but these guys are hardcore baseball and soccer players.

When it was time to head back, Renzo decided to stay overnight and catch a bus back in the morning. So Moses, the taxi driver and I were loaded back into the big Cargo truck who took us back to our taxi parked at a friend’s farm. The cargo truck charged us $15 U.S. for the round trip, which is pretty expensive but the only other options would have been  to hitch a ride on the back of a motorcycle trying to balance expensive camera equipment over really rough terrain. I think we made the right choice.

We were sort of in a hurry to get back, to be honest, but we shouldn’t have bothered. After we got into the taxi we were not on the road  for half an hour before traffic suddenly stopped and we find ourselves in the middle of a traffic jam on a bridge in the middle of nowhere.

The church in San Basilio de Palanque

There had been a trailer truck overturned in the marsh earlier that day and they had decided to pick that evening to get it out. Just our luck. We’d sit on that bridge with hundreds of other cars, buses and trailer trucks for 2 hours before we could start heading back to Cartagena. As hard as it was for us, I can’t imagine what it was like for all those people crammed on the hot buses.

I walked past a couple and heard screaming babies and it reminded me of being stranded on a plane for hours on end, except no climate control, no bathroom or beverage service and mosquitoes attacking you relentlessly. And while maybe the passengers could disembark on a bus, I didn’t see any do it. They say patiently, screaming babies, mosquitoes and all, for 2 hours.

Drum Ceremony

Traveling in Latin America can really take some getting used to but seeing San Basilio de Palenque was worth it. The Afro-Latino culture is really unique in Colombia and they have their own unique history and culture that is worthy of exploring for the curious traveler. If you’re ever down in Cartagena, think about taking a day to go see the village of San Basilio Palenque. The roads will most likely be better and I think you’ll find the people very friendly and hospitable and the culture very worth exploring.

Check out more pics from our trip to San Basilio de Palenque HERE

Categories
Colombia

Food Market – Would you like flies with that?

CARTAGENA –  December 3rd, 2010

Today we visited the food market which is primarily Afro-Latino. It’s a muddy, unhygienic mess because of the horrible rain and flooding. I’ve been to markets like this before in Brazil and other countries and it takes some getting used to seeing the raw meat just laid out bare on tables, without refrigeration and crawling with flies.

Freshly caught fish at the local market in Cartagena

The one thing I always seem to notice is how everything gets used, we’re not just talking pig’s feet here, we’re talking pig brains, bull nuts, you name it they got it at the market.

And that is why the locals come here. It’s a cheap place to buy meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, but not just food, you can also buy toiletries, toys and you can get a haircut or buy some music, recharge your cell phone (or buy a cell phone).. it’s like a mall, not as nice by a long shot but way, way cheaper and full of mini entrepreneurs selling their wares and wheeling and dealing to make their living.

We get a decent amount of footage shot with Luis Towers providing the guidance, but once again just as we’re getting rolling, the rain sets in and dampens the rest of our shooting schedule.

Moe and I head out at night to a new part of the city, Boca Grande, and eat Mexican (a nice change of pace from the typical Colombian food we’ve been having) and get some footage of the Chivas, Colombian party buses. Boca Grande is not as charming as the old city but it’s a nice change of pace from the constant touts and vendors hounding you to buy buy, buy!

Dinner @ Bazurto Social Club in Getsmani, Cartagena

The Next day, we shot some more in the old city during the day. We find an English speaking tour guide Rolando, who agreed to be on camera with me and gave me the lowdown on a couple of historic spots in the old city including the famous Plaza Santo Domingo, where  back in the day, slaves were bought and sold but today feature touristy restaurants with outdoor eating with live entertainment like traditional Afro-Latino dancing troupes, etc.

We get a few more establishing shots in before rain once again interrupts our plans.

Renzo enjoys some Champeta music

We chilled for a bit at the hotel and then headed to a cool little restaurant owned by my friend Flavia called “Bazurto Social Club”  on the edge of Getsmani for dinner. We were in luck because that night they were featuring live Champeta music,  which was perfect to get us in the mood for our trip to San Basilio Palenque the next day. Tomorrow was to be a long day, so we hit the hay early, but not before doing some damage on the dance floor. While Moe and Renzo were dancing for fun, I was doing my “please no more rain” dance. I hope it works.

Moe tearing up the dance floor at Bazurto Social Club

Categories
Colombia

African Dancing in the Old City of Cartagena

The weather the next day wipes out the planned trip to the beaches of Isla Rosario and we instead opt to shoot in the old city in between downpours.

Cartagena: The Old City's Architecture is Stunning

If you’ve never been, the old city of Cartagena is gorgeous with lots of history. The city is walled in and protected by forts, streets are cobblestone and some architecture dates from as far back as the 1500s.

It has a tragic history as one of the centers for the slave trade in South America and still has a very strong Afro-Colombian influence.

A Local Painter in the Old City

It’s a good romantic spot too, very international with cruise ships docking for the day throughout the week, guaranteeing a steady stream of tourists for the locals to hit up. Unfortunately, this is the only downside to visiting Cartagena, you WILL get badgered to buy, buy and buy some more.

Just put on your game face and be prepared to say “no, gracias” a lot or you’ll be broke before you know it.

Performance Artists Abound in Cartagena's Old City

But on the flip side there are some great local artists, from painters to performance artists to jewelry makers and most things are not that expensive so do plan on getting some cool stuff for friends and family back home (or maybe yourself!).

We ended up getting some decent shots during the day while the rain held off. Without the cover of constant clouds, Cartagena became it’s hot and humid self, but after days and days of soaking rains we were glad for it.

Renzo, still sick, battled valiantly but had to call it a day after lunch so Moe, Luis and I continued shooting. We took advantage of our “freedom” from our Supervising Producer to try different techniques, he, he. But we’ll see how many actually make it to air and how many make it on the cutting room floor!

Cartagena's History on Display

Luis shows us the major sites around town, but he couldn’t walk two feet without someone stopping him or yelling “Luis Towers” from a passing car. Dude is famous around these parts for sure.

Africa? No Cartagena

We wound up the day right with a perfect sunset watching some African dancing and drums. Not a bad day at all.

Check some video of Afro-Colombian dancing below and to see more pics from our trip to Cartagena go HERE!

Categories
Colombia

Guatape and Penol

We woke up early to head to the town of Guatape, home of Penol, the big rock, about 1½ hours outside of Medellin.

The weather was gorgeous as we headed out and were joined by our friend and guide Jonier, a longtime resident of Medellin.

In the morning we stopped off in Guatape and roamed around the town square, taking some b-roll (footage) and talking to the locals.

We took a ride in one of the three wheeled motors down to the lake waterfront where we ended up taking a canopy ride over the lake.

The "Rock" in Penol / Guatape

This was my first canopy ride and I wasn’t sure what to expect. After riding to the top with a guide who spoke no English, I rode down on my own at a very good clip. The water zoomed by underneath as the camera crew zoomed by to my right. I wasn’t really paying attention as I headed into home base at an even faster rate of speed, and to my shock, I did not slow down at all.

I wonder if this had something to do with what the guide was telling me at the top…?
I’ve really got to get out of that habit of saying “si” every time someone speaks Spanish and I can’t understand.

Were they telling me how to brake? Oh hell! Luckily there was a padded landing that I hit, albeit pretty violently. Thankfully it gives some time when I slam into it and a couple of workers come over to help me out of the harness. I’m ok but a little dazed by the hard landing.

When it was time for Renzo, the Supervising Producer, to take his turn I strongly urged him not to take the new AND expensive camera with him. MY new and expensive camera that I hadn’t even had a chance to shoot with yet since he’d commandeered it for use in the show.

He ignored my plea and headed up the canopy peak. I thought I was going to at least enjoy watching him slam into the mat and present him with a nice little bill for the camera when he breaks it.

To my shock he glides slowly down at a very conservative rate of speed and lands effortlessly on the landing pad without so much as coming close to the crash pad.  What gives?

Turns out he had asked the operator to let him down slowly so he could take some b-roll footage with the camera. It sure pays to speak fluent Spanish sometimes. While I was disappointed that Renzo didn’t share my pain, I was relieved the camera would be operational for a while longer and maybe I’d even get a chance to use it soon.

After the canopy ride we broke for lunch at a beautiful outside hilltop restaurant that served typical Colombian food. The views were amazing but about half way through lunch it began to rain like Armageddon and we had to abandon the rest of the planned agenda and head back to Medellin, unfortunately before we even had a chance to climb the famous Penol rock.

We rested up and then shot a scene with my buddy Raul and I at one of his friend’s bar/restaurants in Parque Lleras. Raul is a videographer as well and is a Colombian-American from Virginia now living in Medellin. Raul has lived in Medellin for a few months and he’s gotten to know Medellin quite well, so I really wanted his input on what it was like for an American living in Medellin, especially one with Colombian roots and who speaks the language fluently.

Afterwards we headed over Parque Poblado area to hook up with the local punk band Los Suziox (LSZX) as they rehearsed. The rehearsal space was really tight for two cameras but the music was really good. LSZX plowed through their big “hits” “Armas Silenciosas” (Silent Arms) and “Perfeccion” (Perfection) before launching into some of their older songs  that they are in the process of re-recording.

Andres from the band "Los Suziox" and Robert

About half way through rehearsal they surprised me with a rendition of Social Distortion’s “Don’t Drag Me Down”. They knew it is my favorite song so they invited me to sing lead while Andres (lead singer) sang backup. It was a thrill and we made it through most of the song without a hitch, but I do shudder to think I’ll have to look at the footage when we review the dailies. Hopefully that will never see the light of day.

After a brief on camera interview with the band we headed back to the hotel to pack. Turns out I had neglected to bring sunscreen to Guatape and paid the price. I was sporting a beautiful farmer’s sunburn.

So far so good but I can’t say I’m comfortable being on camera just yet. I know it’s just a matter of time but I’m not sure how much longer I want to continue feeling this discomfort. Life was so much easier behind the camera, directing someone else.  Now I have to worry about bags under my eyes from lack of sleep, sunburns and what to wear.

Speaking of sleep I better get some. Tomorrow is another early day as we have to wake up early to catch the bus for the 5 hour ride to Pereira. I’m off to pack!

Categories
Colombia

Medellin

Paula from Medellin Tourism

1st day of shooting and we get an early start meeting with Paula from Medellin Tourism office. Paula has a whole agenda planned for us so we start the trip off with an intense schedule that includes stops all over Medellin.

We begin at Barefoot Park where I am forced to remove my shoes and wade around in the water, grass and sand and get in touch with Mother Earth. The park is tranquil and the weather is splendid but I am in desperate need of a tan. I probably haven’t been this white in months… why didn’t we start in Cartagena?!

I’m pretty nervous and not used to the camera following my every move. This is going to take some serious getting used to.

We head from there to the Metro Cable and take the cable car up to the barrio Santo Domingo, and to one of the five new libraries the city has constructed in poor areas throughout the city. The views from the Metro Cable are stunning! And looking down gives you a glimpse of barrio life from above. It’s a must do when traveling to Medellin.

Metro Cable - A Must Do In Medellin

Barrio Santo Domingo

After touring the library, we break for lunch and meet one of Paula’s counterparts, Cristina, from the Medellin Convention and Visitors Bureau. We have a delicious lunch and head over to Parque Explora to take in the science museum. It’s full of schoolchildren and the most memorable part was going in the earthquake simulator which simulates a 6.0 Richter scale earthquake. To be honest it wasn’t that bad, but that is of course without buildings collapsing around you.

Pueblita Paisa @ Night

Pueblita Paisa in the daytime

By the time we finished Parque Explora it’s getting late so we fight rush hour traffic and head over to Pueblita Paisa, which is a reproduction of a typical little town in Colombia. The view is incredible but it’s too dark to shoot much so we’ll have to come back tomorrow to get b-roll.

We head back to the hotel and I grab a quick workout before we head out for some legendary Medellin nightlife.  Our first stop is Woka in Parque Lleras, where we order a drink called La cucaracha or something like that and the bartenders set the bar on fire. Good TV!

Nightlife in Medellin

From there we head to a couple of really cool clubs and end up the night in Sabaneta at a place called “Dulce Jesus Mio” (My Sweet Jesus), that is a real trip. It felt like Halloween inside the bar with so many people dressed up in costumes, but to be honest I was so exhausted that I couldn’t really enjoy it. I just wanted to go to sleep. It was 3AM and I’d been up since 6AM the previous morning. All in all, a pretty intense first day!  Travel ain’t easy!

Renzo shooting in Sabaneta