Tejo & Alcohol & Gunpowder: Week 233

Locals at a tejo court in Minitas, Manizales

Tejo is underappreciated by the youth of Colombia. This great national sport combines throwing heavy objects with explosions and alcohol. That description alone should be persuasive enough. However, on a Saturday night, the tejo court in Minitas was filled with elderly men and crates of empty beer bottles.

While it was not the demographic I was expecting, the elderly tejo aficionados were very welcoming and answered all our questions. It was obvious that they knew what they were talking about because they played on a full court and their throws were very accurate. The sound of a gunshot frequently rang out from their lanes.

The first thing we realized was that there was no hourly cost to play. Instead we were expected to be ordering alcohol, as tejo and drinking go hand in hand. This was easily accomplished with a half crate of beer, a small bottle of rum, and two bottles of Coke. We were then given a xeroxed scorecard from page 90 of the The Practical Manual for Native Sports while our court was prepared.

A tejo court being prepared for play in Minitas: Manizales, Colombia

A tejo court has two wedges of clay at either end and both were moistened with water before their top layer was loosened up with a shovel. When the clay was smooth, two red triangular packets of gunpowder were plucked out of a plastic milk jug tacked to the wall. These packets were placed on the almost imperceptible lip of a metal pipe that was in the center of the wedge.

Each player throws their own metal disk (tejo). Once everyone had thrown in one direction, the points are tallied, the tejos yanked out of the clay, and everyone aims for the wedge at the other end of the court.

A mecha explosion during a game of tejo in Manitas: Manizales Colombia

There are four ways to score points: the closest tejo to the center scores one point (manos), exploding a packet of powder is three points (mecha), landing the tejo in the center is six points (embocinada), while exploding the packet and landing in the middle is nine points (monona).

A mecha might only be three points- but it felt like hitting the lottery. As soon as the tejo made contact, there was the crack of a gunshot and then a bursting flame. I jumped every time one went off.

For the regulars, our game was both a source of humor and an opportunity for instruction.

The regulars helping out during a game of tejo in Manitas: Manizales, Colombia

Maybe the reason why the youth aren’t crazy about tejo is that it’s not a glamorous sport. We didn’t wear our nicest clothes because everything was covered in a layer of red dust. When the sun began to set, a man walked over to our court with a bamboo ladder in one hand and a light bulb in the other.

Hanging out with friends at a tejo court in Manitas: Manizales, Colombia

Then, about halfway into the game, I realized that the little sink to the left of our target our target was actually a urinal. When people were using it, it was a bit of a distraction.

Hanging out with friends at the tejo court in Minitas: Manizales, Colombia

Truth be told, I had been feeling a bit depressed all week about leaving my 20s. But after celebrating my 30th birthday with tejo, I realized there is still a lot of cool stuff ahead.

Forget bingo- when I’m 80 I want to be drinking with my friends, throwing tejos, and exploding stuff. I also expect to be good enough the use the full court by then.

How to get to the tejo cancha in Minitas: Take a taxi or buseta to the intersection of Calle 63 and Carrera 11c. The entrance to the tejo court is on Calle 63, just up the hill from a Virgin Mary shrine.

A little girl hanging out at the tejo court in Minitas: Manizales, Colombia

The Neighborhood Pub Crawl: Week 216

The Rose Hotel in Chippendale: Sydney, Australia

I have often contemplated the curious color palette of The Rose Hotel on my way to work. In the nicest way possible, I would say the names of the paint chips were Victorian Christmas and baby vomit.

Although I was very familiar with the exterior of the hotel, I hadn’t been inside until the ‘fight of the century’ between Mayweather and Pacquiao. The main bar with the trompe l’oeil ceilings was full, so Barret and I found a wood bench in the spacious courtyard and ordered a round of Bloody Marys with lunch. With the exception of one loud group, the audience was cheering for Pacquiao and when he lost the hotel quickly emptied.

A laundry line outside a house in Darlington: Sydney, Australia

Barret and I followed the exodus of people back out onto the street, but the afternoon weather was so nice that we decided to take a different route home. From Chippendale we walked through a quiet residential street in Darlington before ending up in Redfern.

A faded and peeling wall in Redfern: Sydney, Australia

It wasn’t so long ago that Redfern was a rough neighborhood, but the last decade has brought about significant gentrification. Strolling down Regent Street, Barret and I popped into an antique shop and against better judgment we left with two small spoons made from cow bones. Thin black decorative lines were carved into the polished surface.

Front door of The Bearded Tit in Redfern: Sydney, Australia

A few doors down from the antique shop was an establishment called The Bearded Tit. It’s an LGBT-friendly bar named after a puffy white bird that breeds in the reedy swamps of Europe and Asia. The backyard housed a ‘caravan of love’ and the gender-less bathrooms had a large moose hanging near the sinks.

A coaster at The Bearded Tit: Sydney, Australia

The best part about The Bearded Tit was its support for art. Local and international artists can apply to have their work displayed in a number of unique ways- from a wall to a curiosity cabinet. A ‘taxidermy tableaux’ surrounded a TV that was perfect for video art and resident artists could receive free bar food and 50% off drinks.

A small bakery on the Regent Street in Redfern: Sydney, Australia

After a round of champagne, Barret and I continued our circuitous journey home. Small family-owned restaurants, bakeries, and video rental relics lined the rest of Regent Street.

A terrace house in Erskineville: Sydney, Australia

It was dinnertime when we reached Erskineville, but neither of us wanted to cook so we walked through our neighborhood and towards the southern end of Newtown.

The Union Hotel in Newtown: Sydney, Australia

The Union Hotel had a lively cover band in the front and a large self-contained restaurant in the back. We ordered food and sat down near a father and his young daughter whom were both reading books. While there are more charming hotels further up King Street, Barret and I were both drawn to the classic brick Aussie hotel circa 1946.

The reason that I like Sydney’s inner west neighborhoods so much is that they are a perfect combination of historic buildings, livability, and community culture. It’s definitely not a cheap place to live, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better area for a stroll and a neighborhood pub crawl.

How to get to The Rose Hotel: 52-54 Cleveland Street, Chippendale NSW 2008

How to get to The Bearded Tit: 183 Regent Street, Redfern NSW 2016

How to get to the Union Hotel: 576 King Street, Newtown NSW 2042

Homebrewing: Week 192

Equipment for bottling homebrews

This is what I know about homebrewing: not much.

It’s a hobby that interests Barret a lot, but I find myself drawn more to food preserving (although I’m no expert). Several months ago we bought some mystery fruit just because it was on sale. Before I could do some googling, Barret decided the best way to unravel the mystery would be to bite one of the hard, green fruits. Unfortunately for him, it was a raw olive.

After the bitter taste test, I looked up a way to cure the olives. I found a process that seemed simple enough, but after a while I noticed the olive oil brine kept overflowing and that glued moths to the sides of the jar.

Eventually I threw the jars out and decided I’d only try it again in the presence of someone more knowledgeable. That’s also kind of how I feel about homebrewing; it’s good to build off of other people’s experience. So when friends of ours invited us to their house to bottle apple cider and brew some hops, we headed over with willing hands and cheese and crackers.

Bottle sanitizer for homebrewing

Apple cider is much less fussy to make, especially when the first round of fermentation is already done and all you have to do is bottle it. Once the bottles were sterilized and filled, we dropped in a sugar tab for a secondary fermentation and hammered on the lids. Easy.

Although I did find out later that all the cider was dumped down the drain. Maybe the process isn’t as easy as I first thought.

Manual process for bottling homebrews

When that was out of the way Barret and John washed out the plastic fermentation tank and began to brew the hops. I won’t pretend I really paid attention to this part. It involved boiling a ‘sock’ filled with hops and grains until the kitchen smelled like a grassy pasture.

Because I am allergic to beer (and probably because I’d rather lounge around eating cheese and crackers), I just can’t get too excited about spending a few hours in the kitchen boiling a sock of hops. I’ll leave this one to the boys.

A good store to help you start brewing in Sydney: The Hop and Grain

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