Saturday, August 27, 2011

Last Snapshots of Colombia

By Adam Liebendorfer

The wind was howling and most of my body was out of the window.

My boss and I were driving along a cycling team in Colombia’s mountainous central state of Boyaca. Juan’s job was to drive and talk to their coach who was riding shotgun, mine was to film, photograph and get audio of the boys cycling.

It was one of three stories I worked on while in Boyaca. On that particularly day, we were covering a boy’s cycling academy for a multimedia feature for The Post and NPR. One of the team’s best cyclists invited us to his house, where we met his parents, siblings and peacock.Two days later we'd revisit the cycling team — at a 5 a.m. training session before the boys went to school.

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It seemed like we bottomed out every quarter mile.

Packed into my boss’s SUV were him, me, two biologists, a full rig of camera gear and some audio equipment for radio work. We had headed out early that morning in a quest to film some Andean condors.

Except, even in the highlands of central Colombia, that’s no easy feat. The handful of condors that fly in Colombia patrol hundreds of miles a day for any animal carcasses that need “taken out of the ecosystem,” as one of the biologists so aptly told.

Our trip took us to a mountaintop radio array manned by the Colombian army. The soldiers stationed there haven’t seen the effects of country’s decades-long internal conflict for years. So to break up the lulls between drills and meals, they’ve taken up caring for condors.

The base was 15 or so miles out on more of a mountain pass than a real road. Those 15 miles took an hour and half to travel one way. The temperature was a balmy 35 degrees, yet my pale self managed to get the only tan that day in my whole two months in South America: a sunburnt strip on the back of the neck.

We didn’t see any condors that day, but luckily for the video story I had footage from a zoo outside of Bogota that we could use and one of the biologists gave us video of them releasing the birds.

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The third thing I did in Boyaca was lay the groundwork for my big project of the summer: my individual reporting assignment. I went into Boyaca’s capital, Tunja, to talk to the coach of the women’s tejo team from there. The next several weeks were committed to perfecting my skills in the drunken sport of tejo, interviewing the team members and filming the Tejo National Championship. I’d explain the sport, but the link below does it more justice.

Whoever knew I was sports reporter?


"Tejo, Colombia's macho game, becomes a pastime for women"

"Colombian Cyclists Dream Of Racing Out Of Poverty"

"Colombian condors take flight"

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