On the way to become a Colombian TV star?!

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As I told in the previous blog, while filming an interview in “Necocli” with an emigrant from Venezuela, I was observed by a guerrillero. He thought I was a journalist, interrupted the interview and threatened me. At first I didn’t take it too seriously, but after the other people present told me that these people were not to be trifled with, I realized how dangerous the situation actually was. As a result, I decided to take the bus to “Medellín” the very next day.

We drove through beautiful jungle and mountain landscapes. At this moment I regretted a little not having ridden this section by bike myself. Arriving in “Medellín”, I met Juan Carlos in a café, who met there with his son for a coffee. The son Carlos Jr. took me on his moped and showed me the remote corners in the north of the city. I had only been there an hour and was approached and immediately invited to go for a little ride. It was super spontaneous and nice and totally unexpected.

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In „Medellín“ wohnte ich für die nächsten Tage in Chris Wohnung In Envigado einem Stadtteil im Süden Medellíns. Chris kommt ursprünglich aus Neuseeland und lebt seit einigen Jahren mit seinem 4-jährigen Sohn in Medellín. Zwei Monate zuvor lernten wir uns auf der Insel „Ometepe“ kennen, verstanden uns sehr gut und schließlich bot er mir seine Hilfe an, wenn ich nach Medellín käme. Eigentlich wollten wir nur ein Bier zusammen trinken. Da er aber mit seinem Sohn gerade seine Familie in Neuseeland besuchte, stand mir seine Wohnung in der Zeit zur Verfügung.

Am Abend bevor er flog, kam ich an und lernte auch direkt die Nanny Mariam kennen, deren Familie gute Freunde von Chris sind. Mariams Eltern waren von meiner Geschichte so gerührt und luden mich am nächsten Tag in ihre Kirchengemeinde ein, um mich eine hiesige Messe miterleben zu lassen. Am Abend zeigten sie mir das Nachtleben und die belebten Straßen Medellíns. Außerdem tranken und aßen wir regionale Spezialitäten. In den nächsten Tagen standen erst einmal viele organisatorische Dinge auf dem Plan:

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Have the bike checked, renew components, which was absolutely necessary after 11,000 km and perform a complete service. In some cases, I had to renew my clothing and take care of other small organizational items. For example, having my new T-shirts with the sponsor branding printed again was a challenge for me. With the help of a cousin of Mariam’s mother, who has a design company, it worked out. Her cousin took several hours for me, helped me find a printing company, and the next day I had new T-shirts with sponsorship logos at a spot price.

My time in Medellín was not only spent on organizational tasks. Among other things, I explored the city. The “Comuna 13”, a famous district on the steep slopes with small alleys, colorful houses, great graffiti and breakdance artists, was definitely a highlight. Just a few years ago, it was one of the most dangerous places in Medellín, where drug deals and gang wars took place. Now the city supports many neighborhoods/barrios and makes them interesting for tourism – a new source of income for the people. The metro and the Metrocable (the cable car that connects neighborhoods located on the hillsides) provide better connectivity. In terms of infrastructure, Medellín is far ahead of other metropolises in Colombia. In addition, local politicians are working to provide more education for children in order to support the people and reduce the crime rate as a result. People told me how much the city has changed for the better in the last 30 years since the famous drug lord Pablo Escobar passed away. Taking the Metrocable, I explored more remote comunas on the steep hillsides. That day I met a photographer named Hugo who was spending Sunday in town with his daughter. We struck up a conversation and they joined me and showed me some corners of the city.



In addition, my birthday fell during the period I was in Medellín. Henk and Antonita, the Dutch cycling couple (about whom I reported in the previous blog), also arrived in town the day before. On my birthday, we visited “Comuna 13” together and spent a great day together. In the evening we met up with Jo (Joana), my Baja bike companion, and Chris, who I had also met on the Baja, who as luck would have it also arrived in “Medellín”. The bike family was reunited and I had a wonderful birthday evening. The next day I got another visit from Mariam’s family, who brought me a birthday cake and said goodbye to me, because I wanted to continue my tour the following morning. After 10 days in Medellín, I can only rave about the city and the great people. Absolutely diverse and just beautiful.

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After Medellín, I continued on to Bogota. But first I wanted to go to the nearby Guatapé, a well-known tourist place that you should definitely have seen. The drive there was quite a hassle. Anyone who knows Medellín knows how steep the mountains are here. To ride a bike in Colombia means to accept extreme differences in altitude. So I had to ride 1200 meters uphill on the 75 km to Guatapé, and then 800 meters downhill again. But the small detour was definitely worth it. Already from far away the famous rock “El Peñol” could be seen. A staircase with 735 steps leads to the top. From the top you have a fantastic view over the lagoon with its countless branching waterways and the picture-perfect landscape. As luck would have it, I met two guys from Munich at the top, whom I had previously met in “Leon” in Nicaragua.



From Guatapé we went over the mountains into the valley and further in the direction of Bogota. It went up the mountains to almost 3000 meters and then down again to about 400 meters. The temperature difference was gigantic: From 15°C at altitude, it went down into the valley into the jungle with extreme humidity and 35 °C. One night I slept in my tent. At a restaurant I asked for a place to camp. The owner was very friendly and showed me behind the house, a bit away from the road, a small hill with a roofed lookout. I was allowed to pitch my tent there and didn’t have to worry that everything would be soaking wet the next morning. I was able to take a shower in the bathroom of the inn and have some dinner. Shortly after dark, I made my way to my tent. Since it was incredibly hot and humid, I built up only the inner tent, so that I had at least some air circulation and did not have to lie like in a stuffy sauna. In the night, typical for the tropics, a decent thunderstorm started. At first I was still way too tired and convinced that the roof of the lookout would be big enough to keep the rain off. However, it started storming and thundering so much that I had to put the rain cover on in the dark at the last second before the whole tent got soaking wet. It was also very disturbing that the thunderstorm cell came closer and closer to me. I lay wide awake in the tent and counted the distance between the lightning and the thunder. The distances became shorter and shorter and finally the thunderstorm was directly above me. Every second the lightning struck and it banged. The thunder was deafening and the air shook. A feeling of fascination and absolute respect for nature set in. Then, when lightning struck nearby like an oversized whip, I was genuinely scared and just hoped that the roof would protect me enough. Anyone who has ever experienced a proper tropical storm knows how extreme the lightning strikes and how dangerous that can be.


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Being in a safe house and watching something like this may be very fascinating, but being exposed to the elements in a tent is a different ballgame and really scary. After a few minutes the storm moved on and after an hour and a half the rain ended. As quickly as it had started, it stopped and the night was peaceful as if nothing had happened. Sometimes you can’t decide where to spend the night, but I would like to keep such experiences to a minimum in the future. The next day we went through a long valley and then another two days of steep uphill to Bogota, which is located at 2600 meters. 100 km before Bogota I had to drive through a tunnel. Just before the tunnel was a restaurant where I had lunch and then wanted to get on my bike to continue my ride. Two cyclists who talked to me during lunch said that it was forbidden to ride a bicycle through the tunnel. Above all, this one had no lights and was on a curve. Since they had arrived by car and still had room on the roof rack for my bike, they took me with them and offered me to spend the night at their house. Leidy and Jamie asked me if I would like to go on a bike ride with their bike group the next morning. One of the people riding with them was Nelson. He is from Bogota and was visiting a friend. He was so excited about my story that he promised to take care of interviews there. He really wanted the media to report about me.

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The next day I drove to the capital. I have to be honest and say that I didn’t really want to go to Bogota. After being told by almost everyone how dangerous the city would be and that robberies take place everywhere, I wasn’t sure if it was such a good idea to go to the city. Besides, it’s always pretty stressful to ride a bike into such a huge metropolis. Bogota is one of the fastest growing cities in the world and has about 10 million inhabitants. The traffic is hectic and no one pays attention to each other. Fortunately, there are some bike lanes that make riding much easier. When I arrived at my hostel, Nelson called me shortly after. He told me that he had let his contacts play and had organized an interview for me in the largest television station of the country in the “Caracol TV”. His wife would be the niece of the editorial director of the well-known talk show “Dia a Dia”, where I was invited two days later. Nelson gave me the number of the editorial director, whom I should call immediately. Totally flabbergasted and quite perplexed but overjoyed at this great news, I immediately pulled out my phone and contacted Nelson’s acquaintance. It was clear that the program was live and would take place entirely in Spanish.

Two days later, I was picked up at 6 a.m. by an employee of the TV station and taken to the broadcasting site. Countless policemen with their golden retrievers as drug-sniffing dogs were patrolling. I had to go through a security check with my bike, like at an airport, and was issued a day pass. Only now was I allowed to enter the premises and was immediately met by two journalists who were looking after me that day. Together we went to the studio of “Dia a Dia”. In a huge studio, countless people were already waiting. Presenters, make-up artists, cameramen and journalists were scurrying around everywhere. I was introduced to some guests who were to be interviewed before me. On this day, however, a well-known folk musician whom I didn’t know and I were the main interview guests. A total hustle and bustle, but also totally interesting to witness something like that directly. Before the broadcast went live, I once practiced my ride-in with my bike. Then I had to push my bike out of the studio and wait. The last program item of the day was my appearance. I’ve done a few TV interviews in the meantime, but none were live and, most importantly, completely in Spanish. I had only been learning Spanish for 6.5 months up to this point, and for the most part only on the street. I just thought to myself, “I’m going to do my best and if I make some mistakes, that’s not tragic either.” Nevertheless, I was nervous.

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Then it started right away. I was introduced, rode my bike into the studio, did a lap around the couch and the interview began. The presenters were particularly interested in my “bicycle kitchen”. That’s my bag with my cooking utensils, food and my gas stove. I hadn’t used my stove at all since Panama. Since Colombia is so cheap, I usually eat at small restaurants or stands along the road. I actually like to cook, but then with a proper kitchen, enough space and running water. Cooking somewhere in the pampas usually turns out to be relatively easy, since I can’t carry that much food at all. Then it also sucks to consider whether water is available at the overnight location or whether I have to divide my water reserves so that I still have enough water left for the night and the next morning. All these considerations lead me to prefer to get a quick dinner on the road. This I tried halfway to convey to the moderators in Spanish.

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At the end of my “kitchen tour” I was to demonstrate my stove, which first spits out a large pilot flame for preheating, which then slowly becomes smaller and can then be properly dosed for cooking. Since this takes a few seconds, I couldn’t put the fire out right away as the presenters expected. When the jet flame came, I noticed the nervousness of some in the studio. Probably employees were already expecting that a fire could spread immediately.

I was especially pleased that when I was asked about my tour and my goals for the tour, I was able to go into exactly what is especially close to my heart: “To inspire people to believe in themselves and to keep their courage even in difficult situations and to keep going”.

To the interview!

And exactly this worked out completely! After my interview, I had over 1000 more followers and countless messages on Instagram. Various people were thrilled, thanked me for the great story, were very inspired and wanted to meet with me.

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One boy, for example, wrote to me that he thought it was great what I was doing and that he would also like to be like me in the future, which I consider to be the highest compliment and was extremely pleased about it. Others wrote me that they also have bigger challenges and that the interview had given them courage again. A great message came from Diana, who recently had a stroke with paralysis symptoms. Her partner saw me on TV and said that it would help her if she would share with me. The next day we met at a coffee shop and talked as if we had known each other for years. I could relate to Diana’s situation very well, as I have had almost the same experiences. Some doctors had been very rude and uncomprehending with her, in addition to the situation about which no one had properly informed her, often brought her to despair. She felt heard and understood for the first time since her incident. It was wonderful to see how relieved she was. Our conversation took a lot of pressure off her and gave her some tips for her but also her family in dealing with her.

I am really touched and grateful and so happy that I could reach so many people with this TV interview. Also the meeting with Diana filled me up totally, because it is exactly what I want to achieve with my project, namely to help other people and give them courage!

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After the TV interview, I met with Nelson, who works as a professor of engineering at the Technical University in Bogota. He invited me to one of his seminars the following day, where I spoke in front of a small group of master students. I am very happy to have met Nelson because he is a great person. I am also incredibly grateful for his efforts and the TV interview he made possible for me.

All of this has been made possible even though my intention to come to “Bogota” was originally a completely different one. One reason I wanted to visit the city was to visit a children’s cancer clinic and to meet the “Señor de los Libros”. Unfortunately, after much back and forth, the visit to the clinic did not work out. But Jose Alberto Guiterrez, a former garbage truck driver who collects old books and donates them to needy children, schools, etc. and is known in the media as “El Señor de los Libros,” I really wanted to visit. Since he uses his work and his books to give poor people and especially children new perspectives and to make a difference, I was eager to meet and interview him.

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Unfortunately, he lives in the very south of Bogota in one of the poor districts, which can be very dangerous in some corners. The general security situation in Bogota is not exactly exhilarating and many people have therefore recommended that I rather skip the city. Generally, in Latin America, I was always warned about certain cities and regions that were particularly unsafe and dangerous. Then, as soon as I reached these places or passed through dangerous areas, I was told that the other region I had been to before was much more dramatic, but that it wasn’t so bad in this area.

In the south of Bogota, similar to the “favelas in Rio de Janeiro”, the poor and slum areas of the city line the hills. It is here that the city is growing particularly rapidly, and the people build their houses with the simplest of means, usually illegally, and often without water or electricity. Only rarely does the garbage collection come by here, and the police don’t stray into these areas too often either. Originally I had agreed with Jose Alberto that a policeman friend of mine would escort me on his motorcycle for safety. Since this had unfortunately at short notice no time, I drove alone with my wheel. Jose told me that it was quiet “tranquilo” in his area and I definitely did not have to worry during the day. However, he would advise me against unnecessary stops. It was a Sunday and, as in all major cities in Latin America, the main streets were closed to traffic, allowing cyclists and pedestrians to move about undisturbed. Up to the city center, which is relatively far to the south, the ride was totally relaxed. The further south I went, the more the quality of the roads deteriorated and more and more garbage lay on the roadside. Partly I drove through very scary areas and followed Jose’s advice to drive through quickly and without breaks. Most of the time, however, there was a lot of life on the roads; people were listening to music, drinking coffee, and talking. Although I didn’t feel unsafe, I was looked at funny quite often – probably just because foreigners rarely stray into these corners of the city. The last kilometers went steeply uphill and at over 2800 meters I arrived quite exhausted and out of breath in front of his house.


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Jose Alberto welcomed me like an old friend and led me into his house. The basement was crammed to the ceiling with books. Compared to a few years ago, he said, it was relatively empty. Back then, you could only walk through the house by narrow corridors. He lives upstairs with his wife and daughter. The gigantic book wall in the living room and the bedroom shelf were the only places upstairs where his wife allowed books. Jose Alberto proudly showed me his two favorite books: “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse and “War and Peace” by Tolstoy. In his opinion, the Hermann Hesse book was also decisive for a documentary to be filmed about him as a co-production of ARTE and Bayrischer Rundfunk. Highly recommended, in my opinion: https://bernsteinfilm.de/buecher/.

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We talked all morning and it was fascinating to see what he has accomplished in 25 years of running his project. He has been invited to speak at congresses in many countries around the world about his project. He told us with a smile that he sat among important people and politicians at these congresses and was always announced with dignity as “El Señor de los Libros” but was actually just a simple garbage truck driver from Bogota. His wish is to continue to drive and expand the project for many years to come. Unfortunately, this is not easy, since he depends exclusively on donations. Just a few years ago, the city provided him with a van as a mobile library. He used it to travel to remote regions of the country to supply people there with books. Since Corona, however, there have been new regulations and cost-cutting measures, and the city has asked for the car back. Despite this, he is positive about the future and hopes to find more supporters. His greatest wish, however, is to go to the largest book fair in the world, in Frankfurt, once in his life.

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I am really grateful that I made the journey to “Bogota” and to Jose Alberto. This day was an absolute enrichment and incredibly inspiring for me. All in all, I’m really happy and I have to repeat myself that I’m so grateful for everything that has happened to me on my adventure so far. Never in my life would I have imagined it would be like this.

So it goes on!

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