Like most people who pass through, I took some dance classes in the Colombian city of Cali (tourist tagline: World Capital of Salsa). They were held at sunset in the attic studio of the pool house at our hostel, orange light flickering through mango leaves to finger the towers of downtown below. (Somehow, I fancied to do with the fall of the drug lords, a grand suburban villa had fallen into the happy hands of budget party hostellers. Sometimes, the gardener and I looked at them awry together.)

Luís, the dance teacher, was all snake, a graceful, muscular column with sinuous hips and an impressive tolerance of northern Europeans whose pelvises may as well have been in plaster. With him leading, twirling me with a twitch of his thumb, my lack of shimmyability was not an issue. I could dance well enough to have fun, to remember why in my London life I love to go to exercise classes. The sheer physical pleasure of moving your body in three dimensions, and the mental challenge of first doing it right and then doing it well. Feeling strong and alive all over, and better afterwards.



I love cycle touring. I’ve been doing it since I was 20 and there’s no better way to travel, any distance, anywhere. You move at the perfect pace. Fast enough to go places – across a county in a day, a country in a week or a month – but slow enough to be where you are. Outdoors enough to mainline on fresh air, obsess about clouds, watch the plants in the intricacy of their leaves and the extent of their spread. You can stop on a dime to look at something or talk to someone. And, as the title of our friend Cherry’s blog puts it, you get to see the places in between.

A bus traveller flashes from one top-ten destination to the next, missing destinations 11 to infinity. At the least, a cyclist has to stop for the night every hundred or so kilometres, and we see a much greater mix of places: some that have very specific raisons d’être (mining towns, truck stops, peanut-processing centres); some that don’t promote themselves as tourist attractions but are much more rewarding than many that do; some that are just plain normal, appealing or otherwise. All are of interest. And, boon upon boon, cycling justifies and works off all the food you can possibly eat.

And yet my guilty secret is that, per se, I don’t much like riding a bike. The efficient transfer of human force into forward motion via pedal, chain, hub and wheel is theoretically admirable (and politically subversive), but in practice I don’t find the mechanics of it particularly enjoyable.

The only part of your body you use is your legs, and those are trapped in a two-dimensional rotation. It helps to use your core muscles, and your arms and shoulders and hands develop some strength from pushing, bag-lifting and getting on and off, but generally your upper body is just sitting there, and sometimes painfully at that. I haven’t found the perfect set-up, and my neck and shoulders can hurt at the end of a long ride. I like doing leg presses, which are basically what pedalling is, but in three sets of 32, not all bloody day. When I’m climbing and there’s not even a momentary freewheeling break, the action can sometimes become so tedious that I get off and push just to have a break from it.

None of this bothers Will in the slightest. But then he isn’t much for dancing.

from Santiago de Tolú, Sucre, Colombia