Monday, February 28, 2011

The OG Paisa of Caldas

 I’m a big cycling enthusiast, so every Sunday, when the Medellín Ciclovia closes the main highway in addition to several important thoroughfares downtown, I’m on my bike. Riding with the general public is fun enough, but the real challenges begin in riding with the weekend warrior clans.
Clad in matching lycra outfits, these titans of vertical cycling are hill conquerors in the mold of local Cochise Rodriguez (of Tour de France fame).  Sometimes you can spot them on the flats, but these guys crave the burn and subsequent release of grinding their way up the steep slopes of the hills going out of Medellín and cruising back down in a quarter of the time. Yesterday I found a pack of semi-weekend warriors headed to Caldas and tagged along for the ride.

 The city of Caldas is about 20 miles from Medellín, on a windy mountain road. It’s a gradual climb for about 45 minutes with a couple big hills. But the main traffic and buses that whisk around corners are few and infrequent on Sundays. I’d previously been to Caldas to purchase furniture and ceramics for the hostel, but as every trip by car, you end up missing the details of the journey, especially the sights and sounds. 

Caldas’ main square was moving at half-speed as the whole town lazily enjoyed a Sunday afternoon. And it was then that I saw him: Moustachioed wrinkled face, as well worn as the cowboy hat he was wearing, a freshly washed pancho slung over his shoulder and a big gold belt buckle catching the suns’ rays. This man was the OG Paisa. He was flanked by an entourage of similar-looking gentlemen with freshly ironed shirts, nice boots and panchos, but his moustache, hat, and demeanor demonstrated that he was the true leader of the pack.

As locals sauntered by, he quipped small jokes about women and the weather and the afternoon seemed to roll on, with every man over the age of forty-five dropping by OG Paisa’s bench. Backing up the whole scene was a troupe of local musicians, cranking out one classic after another and dueling with a duet of indigenous women singing ‘musica folklorica.’ The whole scene was indicative of many of the smaller towns outside of Medellín, but the accessibility by bike is what made it such a great experience to take in; that and the OG Paisa, who I may have to talk to the next time I’m there.

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