Sunday, December 3, 2017

Have Love Will Travel - Colombia Part 1 - Moto Trip: The Americas


We arrive in Cartagena Colombia and explore the North before heading for cooler climates in the mountains to the South to celebrate our 6 year wedding anniversary.
 
On the morning of November 16th, we all woke up early as Captain Ludwig had secured a location to unload our bikes, but it had to be done quickly. By the time we arrived, all the bags were above deck and we formed a chain gang that quickly got them onto land. After that the bikes were unloaded one by one. But half way through we learned that apparently the paperwork had not been correctly handled by the agent and we were forced to stop. We waited for at least 45 minutes until we were allowed to continue unloading, watching our bikes still aboard while everyone loaded their bags back up on their bikes. Finally, we were able to triumphantly walk our bikes off the dock and onto solid land.

The Blue Monster takes flight. Captain Ludwig offered to buy our bikes, since they do not exist in Colombia. But they are too important to us.
George walking his bike off the pier.

We quickly rode off with our usual crew of George, Kate, and Flo, as well of some stragglers from the boat and followed a convoluted path to the customs office. There we met Ludwig's agent, who handled our import paperwork, then had us wait several hours until he could return with our insurance papers. Apparently the Colombian government and the insurance companies are in a constant struggle about insuring motorcycles. Insurance is mandatory, but because 75% or more of accidents are caused by motorcycles here, the companies don't want to insure them, and will find any way they can to simply not sell it to you. Ludwig managed to get us some at the last minute (literally) and we had to wait for the paperwork for everyone to come in.

Waiting for hours at customs.


Once we had ours, our group jumped on the bikes and hit the road. We managed to secure an apartment in the Bocagrande neighborhood, and spent 4 days figuring out where to get some parts for the bikes, and where we would go next.



On our second day in Cartagena, the rain started coming down hard as soon as we left the apartment, and as soon as we finished breakfast we saw the streets had flooded. We watched for a bit as locals struggled through the streets before taking a taxi to a neighborhood full of moto shops. We went door to door looking for an adequate tire (Pirelli MT-21's were our preference) but nobody sold it. We finally gave up and returned to wait out the rain.


We also explored the old town of Cartagena, and had some time to act like normal tourists. We walked for hours, becoming thoroughly soaked in our own sweat. This city is HOT!

After a few days of laying around doing nothing, we checked out of our apartment and went to MegaMotos, where we had our oil changed and a new Shinko (aka GoldenBoy) 244 front tire put on Johanna's bike, then we said our sad goodbye's to our road family and headed to Barranquilla. 


Josh's old boss, Wayne from Bulk FR8, was opening a new office in Barranquilla and invited us to check it out. He hooked us up with an awesome hotel room at the swanky Movich Buro 51. Unfortunately Johanna had woken up sick that morning, so once we got there, she passed out and slept until morning.


The next day we enjoyed our complimentary breakfast and took our bikes to get washed. The crew couldn't believe how far we'd ridden, and we had a good time hanging out with them, and they were eager to help us swap out our air filters. Finally in the afternoon we headed East, stopping by the Shakira statue (she's from Barranquilla) before moving on to the tiny Isla del Rosario. This area turned out to be a flooded slum, but we found a surprisingly nice hotel there. It was empty and they allowed us to park inside the gate. Unsurprisingly, the power went out every 30 minutes or so, and we didn't take long to hit the road again in the morning.







From there we took the 45 South to the small city of El Banco. The last 20 km's into town were very scenic, but we were more than ready to get off the bikes at that point. There wasn't much to the city, and once again we set out early in the morning. 



We continued South on the 45 until we could head East on the 70. This took us high into the mountains on a narrow mountain pass with endless switchbacks. The views were fantastic, and the temperature was finally dropping. Near the top of the pass, we encountered a large amount of stopped cars and trucks. Since we're on bikes we don't wait in lines, so we proceeded to drive in the wrong lane to investigate the problem. 15 minutes later (it was seriously long) we saw that a truck coming the other way had lost an axle on their trailer and dropped it in the middle of the road. After waiting for some vehicles to move, we were able to squeeze through and continue to the town of Ocana. We had a great time there exploring the small town and checking every shop we could for tires. Unfortunately nobody had tires that would fit though.







The next morning we headed back to the 45, but of course hit another large traffic jam. Moving to the front of this one, we saw that a truck had been driving recklessly (what a shock!) and had collided with the guardrail and gone off the road. We waited for about an hour, chatting with the two local policia about our trip and getting some route advice. When they finally moved the truck, it became a mad dash for all the bikes to squeeze through ahead of the other traffic. 


Back on the 45, we continued South again to the small town of San Alberto. We once again searched for tires but had no luck, as the largest front tire they had was for an 18 inch rim, and we need a 21. 

This is what they brought out when we ordered a burger in San Alberto...
We went to bed early and hit the road at 7 am the next day. We had a long day of riding ahead of us, and were passing through Chicamocha Canyon, a place recommended to us by a Colombian we met in Mexico City. And it did not disappoint. As we rose up the canyon road, we kept taking photos of the breathtaking views, but the road just kept going up and showing us an even better view. In between staring at the scenery and trying to stay on the road, we were jumping into oncoming traffic, trying to squeeze around the endless amount of semi trucks that clogged the small canyon road. While it was technically an easy day of riding, it was definitely exhausting. 


 


 



At the town of Oiba, we pulled off onto a small road and headed towards the small town of Guadalupe. The road was paved for the most part, but had a large section that turned to dirt and mud, reminding us that we really needed new tires. After a short ride we made it to town and checked around at a few hostels before finding one with secure parking. The town was eerily empty, and we quickly walked every one of its few streets in search of food. We ended up finding a place that opened at night and served buffalo burgers, a rare treat for us, and a welcome change from the 'comida tipica' that we usually get.





The next day we took a break from the bikes and walked to the Cascada Las Gachas. A local dog begged us for some pieces of our breakfast, then proceeded to lead us all the way there, through a surprisingly muddy and rocky path that definitely could not be done on a bike. The Gachas are strange holes formed in a solid river bed. They fill with water and you can climb in and relax as the cold river water flows past you. It was a great way to beat the heat.












The next day we were back on the road for a few hours, taking backroads to the small touristy town of Villa de Leyva. The town is filled with large cobblestone streets, and an endless array of restaurants. But our main goal there was to visit the Casa Terracota. Unfortunately when we pulled up to the gate (which looked like something from a Tim Burton movie) we found a sign stating it was closed until December 6th due to some kind of legal violation. Oh well, it still looked impressive.






In the morning we packed up early and headed to the capital city of Bogota. The ride was pleasant until we entered the city limits, where we were reminded of the chaotic traffic of Mexico City. We squeezed between cars and tried to avoid being killed before making it to Biker Stock, where we met Nelson. He took great care of us, setting our bikes up for a big 13,000 mile service before treating us to lunch.





Leaving our bikes in Nelson's care, we went to our AirBnb we had reserved for the next six days so we could relax and catch up on some other chores. We needed to replace/repair several items that had fallen apart on the trip, and Johanna began to develop cauliflower ear due to so much time spent wearing her helmet. A doctor was able to drain the fluid before it became permanent, so hopefully it won't return.


We also celebrated our 6 year wedding anniversary with some fancy craft beers and bowling in the trendy part of Bogota.


After 6 days of catching up on sleep, errands, and a lot of Netflix downloads, we are ready to hit the road again.

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