Out of place in Ciclovia

Sunday Ciclovia in Bogota
Sunday Ciclovia in Bogota

Bogota is blessing us with continued beautiful summery weather, which makes Sunday Ciclovia even more enticing for people, although today I felt rather out of place.

You see Ciclovia has a dress code. Ciclovia activities – walking, running, bike riding, rollerblading, skateboarding – are all categorised as sports, so you must wear sportsgear. It is expected that you will be decked out head to toe in matching attire. Your runners will match the colours in your lycra leggings and the top you wear. Anything else is not acceptable. Like, for example, my outfit of denim shorts, singlet and thongs (the Australian definition).

A couple of weeks ago I got incredibly burnt on the Ciclovia (even despite sunscreen applications). The backs of my hands were red for days and I still have a very pronounced t-shirt line. I didn’t want to get burnt today, but I wanted to spend some time outside, so my idea was to ride to a nearby park where we could buy a coffee and sit and relax (in the shade) outside on the grass. While the boys took a soccer ball and frisbee along, I had a book with me. Hardly categorising as a sweat-raising sport for me.

Edwin gave me funny looks when I refused to put sneakers on and when I didn’t pull out the lycra leggings. He tried to reinforce that we were going to Ciclovia, his stress on the words confirming the association between Ciclovia and sports. He still didn’t get it when I said that my bike was a mode of transport to get me to our destination of the park.

As I cruised along on my non-sporty bike with a non-sporty hat on, I was surrounded by Bogotanos who clearly haven’t understood that the weather is hot as they were riding and running in long pants and long-sleeved sports zip ups. I sat tall in my seat, soaking it all in and received a passing remark from another cyclist who said “You look very elegant riding with that hat on.”

It made me wonder if one of the barriers to more Bogotanos using bikes to get to work and other places is because the bike is seen as a sporting accessory, not as a mode of transport.

 

 

Stop it Bogota, you’re making me homesick

Mildura sunrise
I’m thinking about home

The past week in Bogota can only be described as glorious. The skies are blue from the mountains in the east stretching out west across the sheet plains of La Sabana. The weather is warm, a little too warm to fall into Bogota’s usual weather cycle.

 

When you step outside into the bright day, the warm air clings to you, offering up a gentle caress that you know could soon turn to a Chinese burn. At 2600m the sun has the same strength as in my land under the hole in the ozone. Slip, slop, slap.

This wave of homesickness hits me as I think of my hometown. It’s summertime there now. The temperatures there are pushing 40 degrees Celsius, but this unusual heat in Bogota, which is really only about 25 degrees, takes me to an Australian summer.

I can smell the sausages sizzling on the barbecue and feel the contrast against the tossed salad, cold from being in the fridge. I relax into the heat and see sunlight sparkling on the river where I’m waiting with my toes in the sand for my turn to waterski. I flinch as I feel the spray from the misters at the beer garden touch my hot skin. I can feel the delight as a cold bubble of water floats downstream, breaking up the warm surface water. I’m squatting beside the road by a tar patch with tiny bubbles on the surface and I can smell the tar as I pop the bubbles with my fingertip. I get sleepy as I sink into the carseat, the hot, trapped air lulling me into slumber.

But here I am, just basking in this glorious weather. Breathing in the lightness of the air that reminds me of holidays, and a slower pace of doing things.

The news talks about this strange weather, that bakes us during the day, and then in neighbouring farm towns just 40km away how it frosts the pastures with minus 3 degrees at night. It’s part of El Nino they say.

My phone tells me it’s cloudy and 5 degrees Celsius, but then again, I never look at or believe the weather prognostications here and at least another 20 degrees needs to be added to even be in the same ballpark as what’s outside my building right now.

This weather has taken me on a nostalgic journey back home. Usually I’m used to the weather nostalgia in name only as Bogota’s predictable four seasons in one day (twice over) is in line with Melbourne’s fame for having four seasons in one day. But now I’m reliving summers of my hometown, and desperate to cling to this sensation.

While this nostalgia brings me a certain sadness, the perfect weather is giving me an energy that was absent. I wake up with a smile and open myself wide to embrace what I’m sure will be a great day.

A love affair with autumn

I love autumn. I think it’s perhaps my favourite season.

I love the crispness in the air.

I love those beautiful mild evenings that take you by surprise and madden you with excitement for the world.

I like the change in the weather, and the scent of the earth as it begins to soak up the moisture that it was robbed of during the head of summer.

I love the sunny days and moonlit nights.

I love the kaleidoscope of colours, browns and rusts and oranges and golds.

Every autumn moment is precious to me, especially now as I prepare to move to a constant tropical heat, where there is no real fluctuation in temperature and where there definitely aren’t four seasons in a year. Going from Melbourne’s famous four seasons in one day to Santa Marta’s hot all day but occasionally with a rain shower is going to be a shock.

So I am luxuriating in my love affair with autumn and making every moment count.

What is your favourite season? What do like the most about it?

Dust storm

The dust storm coming in from the west

The magnificent force of nature where I grew up is best demonstrated by a dust storm.

A tsunami of red sand billowing towards you from the west, gathering dust particles from wheat and sheep paddocks, blocking out the sun and giving a rosy haze to the sky is quite spectacular. From the vantage point of the family home, perched atop a red sand dune is truly quite awe-inspiring.

A few years ago a major dust storm crossed Australia from west to east and arrived in Sydney carrying the legacy of our deserts. This caused widespread amazement and many photos of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House bathed in a red hue. But where I’m from, this isn’t so unusual. Granted, it’s not an everyday occurrence, but you get a handful of big dust storms each year that make you hurry home to close the windows.

The dust storm dominating the sky

I was with my parents in the truck on Good Friday and as we travelled back home, we drove into the dust storm. The sky darkened and the windswept red rivulets of sand across the highway. As we turned off the highway we started to come out the other side od the dust storm. The mirrors were filled with a stormy red sky and in front of us lay a wide expanse of blue with some wispy white clouds.

“We’d best get home quick to close the windows,” my parents said.

Arriving at home we ran to make sure all the windows were closed and take the clothes off the line and then we were enveloped in the storm.

Water tank in the dust storm
A water tank stands sentinel during the dust storm

There is something so ethereal about the light and a quiet eerieness to a dust storm, there is a palpable sentiment to the westerly winds carrying the desert. I wandered around the house, searching for the best lookout point and occasionally coughing at the gritty sand that was drying out my mouth.

As I’m about to move to a hilly green seaside town in Colombia, I really appreciated the red sand show nature put on for me.

Thank you blue sky

Capitol Reef NP
Views from the end of the trail

At the Capitol Reef National Park Visitor Centre, I wasn’t so sure about the 9 mile (14.5km) Navajo Knobs trail that hiking buddy Brian was so keen on.

For starters, the weather was grey and rain looked imminent. I didn’t quite have the heart to tell him then that if it was raining, there was no way I was climbing the slickrock and no way I’d do it for 9 miles. I was fully prepared to pike out like I did on the sunset.

The threatened rain appeared as I was pitching my tent in the beautiful Fruita campground. My enthusiasm waned substantially. I suggested we go on the scenic drive “in the meantime”, and so we got in Esmeralda and travelled along the not overly scenic road. At the end of the bitumen, I decided to turn around because the last thing I would want is to get Esmeralda bogged in the sticky red dirt.

As we headed back to the campground, lo and behold, the grey skies parted and showed their blue cousin.

So I found myself ascending 2400 feet (730m) over the undulating trail. However, the views were totally worth the climb and my inner petulant child that creeped out a few times during the hike. Thanks Brian for suggesting it and thanks blue skies for making me keep my word!

Hurricanes and tornadoes

I have no idea what a hurricane or tornado is like. I only have footage from television to inform me on this count.

So when Astra invited Movie Lass and I along to an artist’s talk at the Annenberg Space for Photography exhibit titled Extreme Exposure we decided to go and were fascinated by Mike Thiess’s presentation and commentary as a photographer and videographer of hurricanes and tornadoes.

We heard the story of how he documents these massive storms to show people why they should be evacuating and he gets right in to the eyewall so as to get the full brunt of the weather conditions rather than the relatively ‘gentle breezes’ of the outer zones where most film crews are getting their news footage after going through a major hurricane as a teenager in Florida.

We saw so many photos and video clips of hurricanes, the before, the during and the after, however I was most in awe of the tornadoes. The photographs of tornadoes are incredibly beautiful and totally blew my mind with the colours and contrasts and cloud formations. However seeing photos of Greensburg, Kansas tornado in 2007 where the entire town was torn apart and flattened, and seeing trees that looked like they’d gone through a mulcher had a great impact on me in terms of the severity and relentlessness of these storms. I don’t know how I could live in tornado alley where this type of threat is always a possibility.

In Australia we’ve had our share of major disasters this year with the floods in Queensland and Victoria and the cyclone in Northern Queensland, but for me, coming from a town where the major storm events are massive red dust storms and irregular floods, the idea of such strong winds is really foreign. But I now have a much greater appreciation for them.