Where the Finca you been?

My first 3 weeks in Colombia I was in the capital city of Bogota.  I needed some peace and a break from the city life.

The view from my office.
The view from my office.

A close friend I’ve made gave me the opportunity to go to her farm, or “finca” as they call them here.  I stayed for a week on my own, spending my days working on my writing and exploring the countryside by horseback and on foot with my canine friend Lucho.

A special thank you to my amazing neighbors; Luis, Mary Yibe, Alejandro, Lorena, and of course Lezlie and Brenda for the opportunity.  Your generous invitation was hugely helpful in my creative process and an experience I won’t soon forget.  Click the images below to see more.

In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play
Friedrich Nietzsche

What do Tom Clancy, a Nobel prize winner and a bookstore in Bogota have in common?

Authors BookstoreDeciding which books to bring is a difficult decision for every backpacker.  Knowing there will be times they’re your only source of entertainment means literally weighing the pro’s and cons of each book you pack.  Ebooks do make it easier, but nothing beats a real book.  That’s how I connected online with Steve Bieber,  the owner of Authors Bookstore in Bogota, Colombia.  I asked him the question; Which book would you bring on a backpacking adventure? His answer was Tom Clancy’s first novel “The Hunt for Red October.”  It was published by the Naval Institute Press, a tiny publisher in Annapolis, Maryland where Steve is from.  He loves the tight editing style, length, and of course the suspenseful story.  After a few more 140-character exchanges on Twitter I told him I would stop by when I arrived in Bogota.

My first week here I went to find Steve at Authors but unfortunately he wasn’t there.  However I did learn that the entire staff speaks english, and they recommended I go to the Gabriel García Márquezso exhibit at the “Biblioteca García Márquez.”  Not only is he an iconic Colombian author, but he’s also the only Colombian to ever win the Nobel prize.

Steve Bieber

A couple weeks later I went back and Steve gladly accepted my invitation to talk about his English language bookstore in the heart of this Spanish-speaking metropolis.  Before sitting dow he invited me to diletto, the small cafe next door, for an amazing cup of Colombian coffee.  Back in the bookstore he started by telling me how 8 years ago, when he opened the store, his business plan was to have 80 percent of his customers be foreigners and 20 percent Colombian.  Instead the opposite has happened,  80 percent of his business comes from local Colombians while foreigners make up the small remainder.  The state department has also been putting more money into bilingual programs and that means more children are learning English.  In many cases parents come to buy books even though they don’t speak English themselves but want to support their children’s education.

Another reason people are buying so many English books here in Bogota is because the country is much safer now.  People feel more protected and secure than they did in the past and because of that many Colombians that were living abroad are now returning to the country.  They usually have more disposable income and a higher level of education, now that they have returned to Bogota they want to read the classics in English, or they want to read the new Dan Brown novel in it’s original language, or they just want to buy the latest magazine from America.

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Bieber says he wants Authors to be a gathering place, a community centre for foreigners who are also looking for a bookstore.  They often host events at the store but the next big thing the Authors team is looking forward to is the Colombian Book Fair.  It is held from April 30th to May 12th each year in Bogota and is the largest book fair in South America.  It brings publishers, distributors, booksellers, writers, and other related professionals from all over the world.  There will be thousands of unique exhibits, so if you’re a reading/writing enthusiast like myself be sure to check it out, and if you are in Bogota drop in and say hello to Steve Bieber at the Authors Bookstore.

Adult section, Children's section

Address: Calle 70 # 5-23 Bogotá

Store Hours:
Monday thru Saturday
10:00 a.m. — 8:00 p.m.

Sunday & Holidays
10:00 a.m. — 6:00 p.m.

Contact: info@authors.com.co

My Last Look at Bogota

Click on any image below to see my photo journal from my third week in Bogota.

Bogota – Week Two

Click on any image below to see my photo journal from week 2 in Bogota.

The Gravel King’s 8 Year Moped Adventure

Willem first came to South America in 2005. Since then he has explored most of the continent by moped.  Now in Bogota, Colombia, he plans to purchase a new moped and continue his journey.  The Gravel King rides on…

The Gravel King

          My first week staying in Bogota I met a an incredibly fascinating Dutch man who goes by the name of Willem.  His first four years in South America he traveled extensively by moped until he finally ran out of money in San Rafael, Argentina.  He used that as a home base for two years but his adventures didn’t stop there.  He has ridden over 35,000 Kilometers since he first arrived in South America and now he just arrived in Colombia to buy a new moped and continue living in a way that would rival the Dos Equis Most interesting man in the World.”

One of the reasons he chose to stay and live in San Rafael is because of it’s history.  Established in 1805, it is older than most Argentinian cities by 100 years.  What he loved most is how it’s culture and history still remain a focal point.  The city is an agricultural heaven with the Diamante River weaving it’s way through the center of town.  It splits into canals providing sustenance for the many tree’s and vineyards that grow abundantly.  The locals call it the Oasis del Sur or, Oasis of the South, because of its fertile soil and endless supply of water.  He found a small farm whose owners let him live on exchange for helping out occasionally to cover his room and board.  From this landing point he he revved the engine on his trusty Yamaha V 50 Degree and continued his journey.

Chapada dos Guimaraes - de brom, Brazil

      His best memory from these later moped adventures was when he stayed five months in Paraguay.  In the winter time, it is not practical to travel in the south of Argentina because of the weather.  So he chose to stay in Paraguay until the roads became passable again.  He told me he doesn’t think people really know Paraguay, yet after 5 months there he came to quit enjoy the country.  I asked him why and he told me it was because of the way the people won him over with their hospitality.  That’s saying a lot because over the course of the those two years he made trips from San Rafael to; Suriname, French Guinea, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Chile.  He loves them all, but for Willem Paraguay is a special .

So why is he back in Colombia now?  33 years ago he was here for the first time and met some friends who he wants to try to reconnect with.  For me that sounds like an awesome adventure to be on.  It would be like if I went back to South Africa in 2047 and looked up some of the people I became friends with last year.  Whether they reconnect or not, it is clear Willem is going to be just fine on his Colombian adventure.  We sit outside in the courtyard of our hostel, sipping freshly brewed coffee and discussing all things South America and Mopeds. He doesn’t have to convince me why Colombia is so great, I’ve only been here 10 days and already I’m sold!

Click through the gallery below to see some of the amazing photos from Willems journey and you can contact him to plan your own guided tour by email ~ willemmieras@fastmail.fm

Bike: Yamaha V 50 Degre
Yamaha made ​​in China (2005). 
- 49 cc 2-stroke engine 
- 3 speed 
- 5 liters tank (and an additional 
   6 liters of fuel) 
- 6 volt lighting system 
- Kickstarter 
- Average consumption 1: 35 
- Top speed 60 km (depending on the 
   mounted sprockets) 
- Two luggage racks 
- Comfort: Good 
- Weight 75 kg