Due to unexpected circumstances, Tee and I had recently moved. The new apartment was close enough for our stray dog, Donna to happily move with us. Although the apartment was new, my big black travel bag was not and Donna recognized it as soon as it landed on the porch with a loud “Whoomp!”. I could see her shoulders sag and her head drop inside her makeshift doghouse. She is a stray but she has never been happy when I leave town. Luckily for her Tee usually stays behind and makes sure she stays fed while I’m gone. I had spent 6 weeks with Tee before leaving for Colombia. Other than the comically unexpected move, the stay in the country had been amazing. Instead of hectic days followed up with long nights, we enjoyed home-cooked meals before long nights of Netflix. Tee had always wanted to be pregnant at this period of her life. With her jewelry business thriving she was literally living her dream. Well, almost. She was 3 months pregnant, and I was headed to the Andes for a 1-month trip. As the taxi pulled up, Tee and Donna both sat on the porch with the same puppy-dog eyes. My assurance this would be my last trip before the baby came wasn’t enough to bring a smile to Tee’s face. Donna was much easier to win over. As I knelt down Donna perked up. Her tail hitting the porch boards with loud rhythmic “Thuds”, she quickly crossed the porch with her tail wagging and her tongue hanging. Tee finally gave way to a smile as I said goodbye to Donna with enthusiastic belly-rubs. The taxi driver reminded us he was waiting with a short beep, but I stood and held Tee tightly as I told her I loved her. Saying goodbye was harder than I expected with her being pregnant, but with the taxi waiting, I grabbed my black duffel and jumped in the backseat.
“Don’t slam my door!” yelled the heavy-set driver from the front seat without looking back. I could already tell this was going to be a fun trip. I was still taking the overnight bus to the city but at least this time I was prepared. Final checking the contents of my travel bag, the driver headed for the ferry and my trip to Medellin was underway. A couple of taxis and a relaxing ferry ride later and I was drinking a bud light on a shaded patio across the street from the bus station. Enjoying the outside weather, I knew after my last excruciatingly long and sleepless night winding through the mountainous terrain in a human icebox, I would be changing clothes in the bar bathroom before making the long voyage to the other end of the country. Retracing my steps from 6 weeks later, the ice-cold bus released me into the same hectic metro station with seemingly the same people scuttling about like ants controlled by their phones. I easily navigated the familiar building and hailed a cab for the International Airport. Medellin was a short hour-long flight away, and pre-pandemic travel was relatively painless. The taxi dropped me off at the front doors, I waited in a short line to check my bag before ordering a latte and sitting in a quiet corner to wait on my departure. As predicted the flight was quick and enjoyable, ending with the breathtaking views of Medellin as our Wingo flight descended the cloud draped Andes mountains. As enjoyable as the views are landing in Colombia, the serenity was shattered as I came to a stop at the end of the customs line. Doubling the entire length of the trip, I passed the same few faces over and over again as the line moved through its barriers like a giant game of human snake for the next hour. Then I handed the bored-looking customs agent my passport and entry paperwork, answered a couple of simple questions, and was waved past. Exiting the air-conditioned airport into the perfect mountain climate awaiting is a dream. “It’s always Spring in Medellin!”
This wasn’t my first trip to Colombia. Tee and I vacationed in Colombia in 2016. Beginning our trip in Medellin, we spent a month lazily moving to the Walled City of Cartegena and on to the shadows of the Siera Nevada Mountains in Santa Marta. Eventually, we spent a weekend with some friends who were building a resort on a river in the mountains, before returning to Medellin and, of course, home. All my amazing memories of Colombia came rushing over me like rapids as I took in the fresh air outside of the airport. Having been there before I knew I had about an hour taxi ride to my hotel in El Poblado. A beautiful drive over a mountain highway with priceless views of the city below, I considered the drive an hour well spent. Plus, it gave me a little time for logistical planning before meeting my first associate, Danny. At the time I had known Danny for over 4 years. A hard-working German with a not-so-German, easy-going attitude, whom I considered a friend. Danny being a coffee enthusiast, we were searching for different products on the same routes. Arriving a day before me, Danny was already waiting for me at a boutique hotel in the heart of the city. He had raved on and on over their breakfast, but described the hotel itself as “quaint in a city that wasn’t”. I couldn’t have cared less about the hotel. I was excited about the trip and the potential prospects it represented. We still needed to meet up with Miguel’s connection, and we had one more friend from the States interested in the supply chain, But the Colombia experiment was officially underway. Soldiers lined the shoulder of the highway for the entirety of the mountain. Recalling all my memories from the trip before, I knew Tee and I had seen nothing like this when we were in Colombia. Single file, each an arm’s length apart, scaling an entire mountain. The sheer number of soldiers it took was impressive. In the best Spanish I could achieve I asked the driver what it was. “El Presidente estan aqui” he said. I didn’t know why but the President was in the city.