“I am writing these initial words at a charming plaza in Barichara, a small pueblo in Colombia that looks like a scene out of a Gabriel García Marquez’s novel. Colorful birds are singing their freedom songs; an elderly woman dressed in black is feeding a cloud of pigeons; sexagenarian men wearing cowboy hats are playing chess and talking about soccer; kids are running around flying their kites and the church bells are inviting the village to the afternoon mass.
I write these words on a state of deep and absolute happiness, and I feel an indescribable connectedness with the world around me – with life in its broadest sense. I feel part of a whole I would never be able to measure”.
These were the very first words I wrote on my diary during my 4,000km bicycle ride from Bogotá (Colombia) to Lima (Peru) in the first half of 2016.
The idea of crossing Latin America on a bicycle had first crossed my mind some years ago, when I first read “Open Veins Of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent”, by the late Eduardo Galeano. That was the book that sparked my curiosity and fascination about our history and cultural diversity.
Many others have followed. From Pablo Neruda to Mario Vargas Llosa and Gabriel García Marquez, the more I read the more I wanted to explore and discover firsthand all those fascinating stories, places, landscapes, cultures and traditions that were on the pages of my books.
I didn’t want to do it the traditional way, though. I wanted to travel at a slower pace so I could see and learn more. It was not about the final destination. It was about discoveries: of the many worlds around me, of myself.
I also wanted the physical and mental challenge. I wanted the adventure, the unknown. I wanted to embrace serendipity so although I did have a general idea of where I wanted to get to, I never really had a specific route to follow. Plans were made and changed day by day, based on tips from fellow bikers I met along the way or from friendly locals who were often shocked with my idea to cross an entire continent on a bicycle.
I spent about 4 months on the road and I am currently preparing for the second leg of my journey, which will take me from Lima (Peru) to Ushuaia (Argentina).
The pictures I am sharing here show only a fraction of what I was fortunate to see and experience. I can’t even find words to express how much this trip has changed me for better, and I will never forget the pure generosity of everyone who helped me during the unforgettable days I had while cycling through the “open veins of Latin America”.
The stories? There were just so many of them…
Like Eduardo Galeano once said:
“Each day has a story that deserves to be told, because we are made of stories. I mean, scientists say that human beings are made of atoms, but a little bird told me that we are also made of stories. And so, each one has something to tell that deserves to be heard”.
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Bernardo Salce is a a Brazilian photographer whose work seeks to celebrate cultural diversity and raise social-environmental awareness. Having previously lived in Cambodia and Colombia, he is now based in San Diego, California. You can follow his work @bernardosalce.