We drifted into the Cartagena harbor around 10:00 PM. The rumble of diesel engine cancelled out by the whirring and banging of the container cranes to our right unloading a freighter.
To our left loomed the city high rises.
Up early and then played a waiting game for immigration. This is the week of the saints (Semana Santa) so nobody is doing too much except watching futbol. Finally Michel was able to pull enough strings to get somebody to stamp the passports but no way we were getting the bikes off the boat through customs. The bay was full of sailboats and a cruise liner all stuck in the harbor because nobody could stamp passports.
We got off the ship, checked some hostels, all were booked so the 3 bikers ended up in an overpriced hotel.
Cartagena is very hot & humid and really not all that nice.
The walled city:
Back at the hotel we settled in and then met up with the crew of the Independence for onelast beer and some food and then said our goodbyes. We will be meeting up with a couple of the German ladies later on in Ecuador.
Met Michel at the dock at 6:30 AM and started unloading bikes.
This process wasn’t too bad but again I wouldn’t want to deal with a really heavy bike.
After removing my bike (first one) I had to push the little launcha back into the water. My big toe was just off the side of my sandle while I pushed and eventually when I gave it my all there was a sharp piercing…..a puncture wound on some dirty fowl rocks in this filthy shit smelling harbor. The blood was flowing pretty good now.
I stood on shore waiting for the next vehicle but eventually had to abandon my post for a tienda to pick up some hydrogen peroxide because I couldn’t handle the stinging anymore. I walked through the store leaving bloody footprints while the locals just looked on with a concern in their eyes but no communication to be had. That is another thing, I now don’t know any Spanish. It has completely changed since Central America. Nobody knows what I am saying….even the simplest of things. DAMNIT!
After dowsing my foot at the dock some women who apparently saw me walking through the street was nice enough to bring same gauze pad and a piece of athletic tape.
Audios Independence & Crew
With all the bikes off we geared up and headed for customs to meet a fat German man by the name of Manfred who has our passports and necessary paperwork to bring in the bikes.
After some hassle finding customs (which is not far at all) we met up with Manfred….interesting gentleman.
We wait and wait and wait and the “Inspector” never shows up. Manfred tells us to return at 2:00 PM and he will try to employ a new inspector. During this time we did get insurance purchased but it was quite expensive at $50/each. However Manfred did tell us that it is the same insurance that was used when his son hit a car, killed both passengers, and put his son in a coma with brain damage and they paid for everything. So on the bright side it might be worth something.
On breaktime the 3 of us decided to go get another room for the night because we weren’t going anywhere today. And then some quick lunch. We opted for this fairly inexpensive joint but we find very small vertebrae in the soup that looked suspiciously like cat.
We return at 2:00 and wait and wait and wait. At 3:00 PM the “Pink Pants” inspector shows up and starts the paperwork.
At 4:00 PM we find out she screwed up all the forms because this was her first time so a new person took over and wrapped everything up by 5:30 PM. Manfred was quite pissed about the whole ordeal because he had other vehicles to import. He said this is not common at all. We each paid our $35 “helper” fee to Manfred and went on our way.
Legal and Imported into South America!!
It is 400 miles to Medellin and supposedly an 11 hour ride. The plan is to shoot for Caucasia which is in the middle but if we make it there by noon we will press on to the big city of motos.
Really a boring ride all the way to Caucasia. We hit it right about 12:30 and stopped for lunch. At 1:00 we decided this town didn’t have much for us so we hit the pavement and rode hard with few breaks.
One really cool thing was this soccer stadium made from sticks. Are you kidding me!!! That is incredible and incredibly unsafe I’m sure….Love It!!
Following the river front for a while was very beautiful with neat little towns. The hillsides are a brilliant green that for some reason my camera cannot do any justice to.
There is also a lot of natural water pressure or something because the primary business here is washing cars and big rigs on the side of the road. At one point I threw up my arms in a big “spray me down” sort of way and the local didn’t hesitate to give me a big dose of high pressure….NICE!
Then we hit the mountains. Climbing steep through twists and turns without too much traffic. It was nice but the asphalt was shit with large mounds and corrugation like ribs that sent the front wheel skittering sideways. Absolutely gorgeous nonetheless. This is the Colombia I have heard about and was looking forward too.
Dropped into the Medellin valley around 5:30 and into the city at 6:00. It feels very safe, clean, and tidy here that riding at night really does not concern me. The road system is quite a maze and we finally gave up trying to find the hostels and hired a cab. He took us straightaway while we followed in tow. Very pricey but at least we are here. Problem is they are booked tomorrow night so we will have to press on to a new location.
Just to fill you guys in my good friend Robert (the guy that helped us out with a room, food, and tools in Los Angeles) is flying down here from Portland, Oregon for a short vacation in Medellin. He gets here on April 3rd so we have a few days to kill.
Got up and went for a long walk about the town. I wanted to take a look at the apartment we would stay in next week, find some good breakfast, and inquire at the Shamrock hostel if there was any room.
No rooms available but I spotted JDowns super Sherpa (from Nebraska) in the parking lot and had to go up to say hello. Really nice guy……we’ll meet up later.
No room at the Shamrock and no rooms available at 4 other hostels I bumped into. Ended up firing off an email to the owner of the apartment, Justin, to see when we could meet up. He immediately returned the message and told me that he would be at the Tiger Paw Hostel which he also owns. Great! Got the last private room but it is only available for one night. What a pain in the ass! You bust ass and lay down a bunch of miles so that you can sit in one place for more than a day and you end up having to repack and unload each night. AWWWWWWWWW………life is so hard!
Met Justin. He is an ex desert cop (overseas security stuff) and basically a big D-bag. Oh well.
Good beer and supermoto bikes……sign me up!!
So I’m sitting outside the hostel doing some typing and internet research when guess who rolls up? The fricken Dutch couple Marnix & Lisan. In Panama they decided against the sailboat due to all the bad reviews and flew their bike to Bogota where they spent a few days. Our hostel was full they moved along but we were going out tonight. Micah also sent me an email, he made it to Medellin so we all reunited at the Shamrock!!
Al and I had to sneak a pic on the famous Sherpa unbeknownst to John.
Got up…moved all of our gear into the hall because we have to “Check Out” at 11:00….wait for 2 hours…and then check into a different room on a different floor at 1:00.
Really didn’t accomplish much today. Everything is closed due to this holiday week so no Moto parts to be had.
I have also learned that prices here in Medellin are very similar to the states. Even more expensive for beer. Big disappointment since we are going to be staying here for a while.
Went and walked my usual route around El Poblado to get coffee and breakfast and swing through the grocery store for some fruit. On my way up Calle 10A with all the motorcycle shops I spotted a Barber above the Kawasaki dealer that was open. Thank Goodness!! I haven’t had a haircut in 3 months and it was really getting to me. It was on my list as first order of business in Medellin but everything has been closed.
Here is my barber. All I said was cut it short….because that’s all I knew how to say. And for $7 I got a damn good haircut.
Then we did the typical room swap. Move our shit out, weight for check in, etc…. Tonight we stay in a dorm for the first time.
Then Al and I decided to jump on the bikes and head to Gautepe to check out a big rock. Straight out of El Poblado you hit the twisties to scale the mountains that we have been nestled between. Not far out of town you reach a nice little viewpoint overlooking Medellin.
A local this morning told us how this used to be a favorite road of the FARC and how they would frequently stop buses and escort the Gringos off for a hot case of kidnapping. It has since been cleaned up. Not much to say, just a really beautiful place to be riding.
Some locals looking over a cliff where a truck had just careened off the edge….bummer.
On the way we stopped in the mountains for some local cuisine. Sausage, rice, beans, salad, plantains…..Perfect!
The rock is indeed large. There are 753 steps to climb to the top. I opted out and Al went for it. The view was already pretty good from where I was, it wasn’t cheap to get a ticket, my toe still hurts from the rock incident in Cartagena, and I’m wearing Motocross boots….so give me a break. I did sit and drink a beer while I gawked at all the lovely silicone trying to jump from the shirts of beautiful local tourists…..I believe I chose wisely.
Back in the saddle we jettisoned home but not before getting stopped by a group of cops. They just wanted paperwork but after talking for a bit we started joking around. They thought we were nuts for riding from the states to come down here. Then they started calling each other pussies and faggots and one asked Al to fight the “pussy”. “No sir he has a gun”. “Don’t worry he’s a big pussy”. Yeahhhhhhhh, so it’s time to get my paperwork back and I’m getting out of here before this gets any weirder.
At the hostel we met some German & English folks and headed for the Shamrock for food and drinks. While there we forced John out of his room to tell us stories of his travels.
Then off to the clubs. Dancing is definitely not my scene but heavy peer pressure and too much alcohol and I become willing to shake a leg. Alex watched the sunrise…..I didn’t make it quite that long.
I’m never drinking again! Moved out of the dorm and into the hallway and a few hours later into a new room that is now back downstairs. Lying in bed typing. Don’t expect much to happen today.
Got up and today was no different. Switch rooms again. Move our stuff into the hallway and wait…..I peak inside room #7 (where we are to stay) and there is only 1 bed. Now I’m pissed. I’ve stayed at this hostel moving all over the place so they know good and well it is the both of us so why did they sell us this room. It is also expensive. We don’t have a problem with one bed and sleeping on the floor and all that good stuff but not for this price. Screw this I’m going camping!
Roof top of the Tiger Paw hostel:
Al wants to do laundry so he picks up a dorm room and I hit the road. I drive about 3 hours to Rio Claro where there is supposed to be some marbled faced river and caves, etc…. I get there and it is only 1400 ft elevation and too hot for me. Fine I’ll stomach it….how much? Twelve bucks for a crappy little piece of grass with no view. I don’t think so. Besides, I’m in this for the ride and it was a nice couple hours of twisty mountain roads and crazy traffic. I’ll take another dose please!
Awesome waterfall cascading over about 200 meters down the rocky hillside!
I drive half way back and roll into Guatepe (place with the big rock) around 5:30 where I heard there was camping to be had. Through town and into backcountry and didn’t see anything and the sun was just about gone so I turned back. Landed at the “Lake View” hostel where I found a Californian and an English man that owned the place and were happy to let me camp in the backyard for $5. They also gave me keys and a towel for a hot shower whenever I pleased. Beers are in a fridge and on the honor system. Just put tallys next to your name as you pop each cap……where were you before Lake View Hostel??
I crashed out in my birthday suit pretty early but was startled awake by fierce thunder and white flashed that lit up the whole interior of my tent. The rain was pounding down but after an hour or so I finally caught some Z’s.
Up early I was going for some offroad that Throttlemeister pointed out to me. First made some hearty oatmeal….wish they knew what brown sugar was.
Quickly dropped through some scenic mountains from 6500 ft. down to 3K. Then in San Carlos I stopped at a Tienda for some lunch. I ask for a can of Frijoles (beans) and a can of Salchicha (sausage) and the old fart tells me 5 mil. Okay, that seems steep but whatever. Handed him a 5 mil note and then he says 6 mil. I ask how much for each. “3 mil for frijoles, 3 mil for salchicha”. “okay I don’t want the salchicha anymore I’ll take the frijoles”. Okay, hand him my 5 mil note and he gives me back 1.5mil. I don’t know a lot of Spanish but I’ve got the numbers down pat. I snatch the 5 mil note out of his hand and tell him to keep is shitty beans. Off to the next store I get yogurt and granola for 2 mil. HA!!! Take that sausage man.
This has to be some of the best countryside that I have seen to date.
Overgrown road….so there is a nice rocky “go-around”
Then head up into the hills to take a peak at the Los Cascadas.
Back on the road the highway quickly turns to gravel/dirt with washed out sections to eek through. This is really beautiful country and probably only about 6 cars on the ride for the whole 60 km of dirt….and like 10 horses. All the military boys give me the thumbs up and I’m glad to have them around.
Fantastic day of riding and saving some coin.
Today Robert is coming to town…..Oh Jeez! First off I packed up camp and then took a short ride up the road to a trout like where a local lets you use a bamboo poll with some string attached. 50 cents for the pole rental; 50 cents for the bait. I caught an extremely small fish, quickly released it, and headed back to get out of town. Unfortunately the camera battery died on the way out to the lake so no fishing pics…….
I cruised back over the mountain ridge and dropped into the sprawling city of Medellin just in time to meet Alex at the Tiger Paw and head off to the apartment. A few of you may remember Colorado Joe from the sailboat…..well, he had just gotten into town and didn’t have a place to stay and when he offered to contribute to the booze fund and sleep on the couch we couldn’t say no.
We stayed up late drinking waiting for Robert to get into town. Didn’t show up at the door until about 2:00 AM less one bag thanks to the airline.
4/3/13 – 4/10/13
As you all know I have been slacking pretty hard on the website updating portion of my life. I can honestly say that at this point I can not separate the days or nights from each other nor did I take many photos so I’m just lumping it all together. The only thing that is for sure is that I had a TON of fun other than a few rough mornings.
One last big night out with the boys. I was hurting pretty bad by the end of it. Porcelain does not hug back very well….
Just lied around most of the day and saw Robert off in the evening. Thanks so much for coming down here buddy! I had an absolute blast! Tomorrow Al and I will be lifting anchor and laying down some miles. Southern Bound!!!!
Today was great. We lifted anchor out of Medellin and finally got back on the road. I’ll have to admit I was a bit uncomfortable at first having not been on the bike for a number of days. Things are hectic out on the open road! The first half of the ride was perfect. Very nice rides and the typical snaking turns while you overtake traffic both from the right and left hand side….yeah it’s interesting. Some of the views were stunning so we had to stop for photos.
Coming down the backside of the mountains a good portion of it was following a muddy river full of rapids. We stopped once but weren’t in a very wild area of the river.
Once we got through the town of Pereira the road widened to full on highway and was rather boring.
Out of the corner of my eye I caught a KTM flying down a straight stretch of a supermoto track. Had to hit the first Returno and went back to the track. A lot of odd looks at first but I enjoyed just watching this guy rip it up on a KTM 450 SMR. Eventually we made conversation and showed them photos of my Husky 530 which they loved. A lot of these guys were racing 125cc machines and even a scooter out there with reinforced frame to handle the dirt jumps. It was short lived be we had a blast. Wishing us luck on the journey we got back on the road.
Notice the marching army in the background with Mr. SM airborn:
Entered the town of Buga and quickly got lost. We shot up a one way street in the wrong direction and got busted. The cop was stern at first and wanted documents so I gave him a homemade drivers license which seemed to suffice. Then some locals came over and said they just want money from us. The cops then got offended and said “no dinero” over and over. Eventually we apologized for going the wrong way and they escorted us through town to the hostel we planned to stay at.
Hostel Buga: Nice place. Owned by 2 guys. 1 is German that used to live in Portownsend, WA and then Eastern Oregon. The other is originally from Washington state. So naturally they brew their own beer and play a lot of Beatles in the bar…..food is great and the price is right. Definitely recommended.
Our hostel didn’t have parking so we had to leave the bikes in an overnight “Parcuedaro”. I was assured that this was the only 24 hour operation in the town. Got up at 6:00 and went to retrieve the bikes but of course it was locked up and nobody home. Sat around until a bit after 7:00 when they opened and got on the road.
First couple hours was boring but we made it through the “Hot Zone”. I can’t tell you how many people showed concern for us driving through this area given the recent activity of the FARC but there really aren’t any other options. No problems at all….didn’t even see sketchy activity. After that it was like a playground. I’m pretty sure the roads of Colombia were built with motos in mind…not cars…and especially not big rigs.
First bit was twisting and turning through proper jungle-esc Colombia. Climb to 8,000 ft. and then dropped and dropped and dropped into a hot desert region which temps around 100 degrees and an elevation just below 2,000. We even saw Cacti here in Colombia….wasn’t expecting that one.
Then back up all the way to 10,300 ft. Finally broke 10K!! Yes!! Highest we’ve been thus far. The soaring mountains are incredible. If you went off the edge up here it has to be at least a 2,000 ft. drop before you could stand on anything. Living in Oregon I’ve seen mountains but it seems very different when they aren’t layered with snow or a solid covering of furs. It is meadow grass and brush on a vertical face standing on end out of the valley floor. I was blown away by the scenery.
Nothing too crazy happened during the ride but we did make a small donation to a young girls’ family for her schooling and beauty pageant. She was probably about 8 years old whearing her sash with name emblazoned. At a construction stop some guys jumped out of a rig behind us and came up to get photos with us….pretty fun. Great people! Tunnels without lights are a wee bit too interesting for me.
Rolled into Pasto at 2:00 PM. We had set a goal that if we made it by 2:30 we would push on to Ipiales which is right on the border. The next 60 miles were breathtaking like usual. Diving into mountain crevasses, making a tight 170 degree corner just to be spit out on a ledge of a road with a shear drop that compares to nothing I have ever been on. Then finally found our hotel in Ipiales by 3:30 PM.
The hotel owner pointed us to a restaurant where I had the best Colombian meal I have had thus far for a whopping $3 (Chicken, steak, rice, beans, plantains, salad, potato soup). Not having eaten today it was perfect! After a 3 hour nap we went back and had the exact same thing for “dinner”. We also discussed breakfast the following morning and how we would be there at 8 sharp for a good meal. They were quite excited.
Last night when we got back from dinner we had a note under our door. It was from an English teacher that lived downstairs and wanted us to teach English for one hour tomorrow at her class. We wanted to do it but time was short with everything that had to happen tomorrow (see the church, cross a border, find the campsite, pitch a tent, all before dusk). We decided to go for it.
In the morning we show up at “our” restaurant at 10 minutes to 8:00. I really thought that the owners would be there already preparing the food given how excited they were to have our company yesterday. We sat on the curb staring at the chained gates until 8:10. Not able to wait any longer we fetched up the English teacher and went for a cab. While were standing there the restaurant owner comes running down the street telling us that they are ready to do breakfast. I did my best to explain that we were waiting for the past 20 minutes and now it is too late. She wanted us to come back for lunch and refused to take No for an answer…..so I gave her a yes that I had no intention on following through with. Your turn to wait sweetheart.
During the cab ride the teacher was very pushy with us staying longer and asked 50 questions why we had to be in Peru by this date and BA by that date, etc… Feeling pretty turned off we started to regret the decision. Arriving in class the teacher introduced us to the professor and took a seat. He was very energetic and pleased that we had come. He also completely understood the timeframe so wanted to get started right away. The classroom ranged from 20 year olds up to about 45 with a total of about 20 people. Basically Al and I just stood in the front of the class and the students asked us questions. They who could speak English asked in our native tongue and those who couldn’t the professor would translate. Then he would translate our answers back. Most of the questions had to do with the United States and traveling. Common/Favorite food, hobbies, cost to travel, favorite country, where are the most beautiful women, and then turned to family, siblings/parents, married/single, children or not, all the while the young girls are snickering away. Most of these people are trying to work for the chamber of commerce right next door in positions dealing with international business. We also asked a few questions of our own and then exchanged contact information. It was really a fun experience and quite happy that we decided to go for it.
The original teacher escorted us back to the hotel and introduced us to her daughters…..she really really wanted us to stay longer. After a few more photos we hopped on the bikes and she started to cry. This is getting a little out of hand now….back to the emotionless pavement.
I will say that if any of you roll into Ipiales for a night on the border go and stay at the Gran Hotel Ipiales. The hotel and staff are very nice and it is only a bit more than a hostel (and has great parking).
About 15 minutes out of town we came to Las Leras where the famous church resides. You can’t see the church from the parking lot and you have to walk about ¼ mile dropping over 500 ft in elevation.
Al watched the bikes and hustled down, got my photos, peaked inside, and then hustled back up. He took off down the hill and I snagged some sausage on a stick for a little breaky. Also made friends with the Llama owner because I wanted a photo so when Al got back up the hill. Bam!!
Another 20 minutes later and we’re at the border. Exiting Colombia took all of 10 minutes. Midday on a Saturday afternoon and there was no line at all to get the passports stamped. Exiting the bikes was just a matter of handing over our import papers and we were on our way to Ecuador. The buildings are nicely marked and nobody is begging for money….we are off to a good start. Al went first this time while I sat with the bikes. An hour later he was stamped and imported in with insurance. The only cost to get in is the necessary insurance for the bike which is $3. I took off and with Al’s information I made it through in about 35 minutos. During this time we met a Colombian Adventure rider on a Versys on his way to Argentina as well as a Texan couple that flew to BA, purchased some Honda 125’s, and are now riding them to the states. Good conversation and some nice pointers from them about Peru.