I just read a book on fruit at the Medellin botanical garden and tried to remember names of the cool looking ones. But all that info goes out the door once you’re on the street and vendors are shouting the virtues of their produce through loudspeakers on their home made carts. We picked up an egg shaped specimen at a bustling market called La Vacita. It was golden in color and felt like plastic. “Es Dulce?” I asked the older lady sorting through avocados “very sweet” She replied. That was enough to convince me.
Back at our hostel, the French owner cracked it open for us. I was shocked to find our golden egg was filled with what looked like tadpoles. Tropical fruit is always full of surprises but this one seemed dark and strange. It was like a Kinder Egg from a Guillemo del Toro movie. The gel covered seeds tasted like lychee but not quite as tart. They had a satisfying crunch but I couldn’t help but think I was eating frog babies. Delicious, sweet, gel covered babies.
“Op Ivy! Yeah!” I only packed 3 shirts for this trip and I packed my handmade Operation Ivy one so I could meet people like Max. He had bushy bright blond hair and a paint covered shirt. Brushes and tubes were scattered around the alley where he was working on a mural. His card read “community based art” and after chatting for a bit I learned he’s part of an artist collective and has been doing social art with kids in New Zealand and Costa Rica. It was getting dark but he invited me to come back and paint with him another day. I felt pretty stoked to find something right up my alley the first night in South America.
Two days later I see Max rapidly unloading painting gear. “I only have 40 minutes to finish this” he says, scrambling to squeeze paint onto cardboard pallets. He hands me a brush and we get to work. After a few minutes I notice Gonzalo getting agitated. Gonzalo is local who sleeps in the alley. I also met him the first night and had chatted with him the last few days. He has helped other artists before and considers himself kind of a protector, erasing simple grafiti when it turns up. He starts to yell a bit and I stop to ask him what the problem is. He’s concerned that the line Max has weaved around several works is disrespecting the other paintings. Max is in a hurry and dismisses Gonzalo’s protests; Max personally knows the other artists and has their OK. But there’s a mal communicado, a “bad communication,” something is lost in translation and things are escalating. Gonzalo starts to yell, Max tells him to back off, I’m trying to calm everyone down.
Then a cop shows up. Uniformed officers rip around the city on dirt bikes like it’s spring break in Estacada and usually pay no mind to gringo artists, but the yelling catches this one’s attention. Max pulls out his business card and tries to explain. Gonzalo is still worked up. The officer seems indecisive. Then two more pull up, they are less unsure. They want to see ID. Then another bike with two more officers. Max sees a bad situation brewing, packs up his stuff and says he will leave. One officer is still looking at his US drivers license. The other four are milling around. They mostly look board, one seems amused. It’s taking a while to decide what to do and one officer, who couldn’t be older then 20, starts writing his name on the wall with one of the stray paint brushes laying around. Gonzalo is still angry.
After a few tense minutes Max is allowed to leave. Gonzalo vouches to the cops that I didn’t do anything wrong and I also start to make my way back to the hostel which unfortunately is within sight of the whole scene. I’m a few yards away when I hear “Amigo!” Apparently they want to ask me a few more questions. And also discuss the cost of the “permit” to paint in the alley. Apparently it’s 200,000 pesos which is about 10 days of my budget. I play the stupid gringo card, but wish I would’ve slipped away earlier. After a few confusing minutes they ride away, but Gonzalo says they’re going to come back.
I grab my money and passport, take off on a bike, killing time peddling in the winding streets of the old city, trying to decide if this story is going to be a comedy or a tragedy. Don’t worry ma, the cops never came back. I booked into a different hostel just in case. Could have been better, but it could have been a lot worse too. I guess all I know is that I don’t know nothing.
Posted in adventure stories, art, traveling, traveling blog, traveling columbia
Tagged columbia street art, crazy bums, dont mess with la policia, gingo, low profile, operation ivy, police
Traveling brings out strange goals for me. Find the best taco, go to all the hot springs, pick up at least 5 hitch hikers. There’s something satisfying about completing a little frivolous challenge on the road. A few months ago I got an idea for a bigger challenge. Snowboard all the pacific rim. The Pacific NW, to Japan, to New Zealand, to South America. Heck, I was already 3/4 of the way there.
So I started researching spots in SA. The Latin American shreddin’ conversation is dominated by Chile but it was going to be a rush to make it that far south in the Southern winter. Then I heard about the Pastoruri Glacier in Peru. Pastoruri boasted a rope tow, first built in the 30′s from an automobile engine. Even though it’s known as being fast and sketchy, they held championship races there. Then I read about Chacaltaya in the Bolivian Andes, known as the highest resort in the world at 5,421 meters. These places were small scale, community run, and the only places to ride North of Chile. Until everything started melting.
For the past thirty years Pastoruri was receding several meters each year. It was also breaking up as it melted and became more unstable. Similar recession was happening next door. Scientists gave the Chacaltaya in Bolivia until 2015. It was completely gone by 2009. Pastoruri is now too fractured to safely climb on. Local scientests are experimenting with sawdust to insulate the last two patches of ice but prospects look grim. Chances for snowboarding in the Northern half of South America are disappearing with the glaciers.
It broke my heart a little bit; made global warming a little more personal. What sounded like an awesome snow community in an obscure part of the world is gone because of the ways we use fossil fuels. Researching made me think about home too; how would it feel if the Palmer glacier at Timberline melted? I’ll still be chasing my goal but I added some new ones; ride bikes, shop local, spread the word.
I know, I know. Japan is supposed to be all bottomless pow, tree runs, and pillow lines. Japow right? I’ve seen that side of this island. Last week it was puking light dry snow, direct from Siberia. But it stopped snowing three days ago. The sun is out, cooking snow like yesterdays breakfast.
The true believers are out there. They’re hiking the skyline ridge, splitboards and swallow tails in tow. Rumors are spread in the gondola; “go up the ridge, down the chute. If you hit it before noon there’s untouched patches, still light as last week!” I understand their optimism, nothing quite beats face shots in Japan, but you can count me among the doubters.
I’ve gone the other direction. I’m lapping the mini park. I’m trading my gore-tex for the Asics “Crystal Power” series, circa ’92. I’m exploring Yamabiko chair for natural hits. Today it paid off. It was like being in Inception with Jessie Burtner and Travis Parker, but instead of making mazes we’re dreaming up gullies full of stumps, bumps, jibs, and bonks. Imagine the Boneyard at Timberline, but three of them lined up like a triple barrel shotgun of fun. There’s a 10 foot wall of slush, rhythm lines, and a vert lip begging for backflip attempts. Don’t worry mum, the snow’s so mushy even a direct hit to the neck would result in nothing more then slush down the back.
The only thing missing was a crew to ride with. Fortunately I’ve meticulously edited the photos in Microsoft Paint to add shredders. Can you spot the real from the fake? Also here’s some updates from the Japan Journal.
Can you conquer the ultra wave?
F/S 540 tindygrab