Monday, December 25, 2017

I'm a Rambler, I'm a Gambler - Colombia Part 2 - Moto Trip: The Americas


We continue our journey through Colombia by visiting drug mansions, wax forests, riding the Devil's Trampoline, and more.
We left Bogota on December 4th at 7 am. The weather was cold enough to see your breath, and it was raining slightly, even though the forecast said it wouldn't be. We headed Northwest and soon after we exited the city we found ourselves descending through winding mountain passes, glad that we were wearing multiple layers. The roads were great fun, punctuated by regular amazing views and nerve wracking squeezing around huge trucks. Eventually we stopped at a trucker hotel off the side of the highway near Puerto Boyaca and had a surprisingly good dinner before falling asleep.

The next morning we woke to 90 degree heat, a perfect time to test our new lightweight body armor, and headed a short distance to Hacienda Napoles, the famous home of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. It has since been turned into a theme park with touristy restaurants near the gate. But we still had to get a photo in front of it. 

Then we continued west on a 2 lane winding road for several hours, dodging trucks the whole way, until we reached the small, touristy town of Guatape. There wasn't much to Guatape, but we came to see El Penon, a famous massive rock overlooking the whole area. 


Johanna climbed to the top, on what they claimed to be 750 steps. But there were more.  At the top she managed to get some amazing views of the surrounding area, which was filled with a lot more lakes than we realized from the ride in.


The following day we were headed South again, hoping to beat the heat. We headed down a wonderful curvy road to the small town of Sonson, grabbed some lunch and continued on to our stop for the night in Aguadas. The road turned to dirt and we spent 40 km going down and then back up a mountain through some technical dirt and rocky roads. 

The end of the day we found ourselves camping for free at Cerro Monserrat en Aguadas, a hilltop bluff overlooking a great viewpoint. It was a pretty fantastic end to a long day.



After a night spent listening to loud music from midnight until 4 am (apparently a nearby fiesta decided to have its after-party right next to our camp-site) we set out early and sleep deprived to our next stop, Steel Horse Filandia, an overlander hotel and campground founded by a couple of Brits who had done an 18 month moto trip (one of them on an XT!) through South America and decided to settle in Colombia. After far too many stops for road construction on the PanAmerican highway we finally arrived and met up with our pals in the 250 cc club, George, Kate and Flo who were staying at Steel Horse also.

George had to leave the next day because he had a timeframe to meet to get down to Cusco, but Kate and Flo decided to stay for another day since Kate and Johanna wanted to visit a nearby coffee plantation. A hike through the forest to view some waterfalls was included and they got to learn about how coffee beans are harvested. They also got to cuddle with a 26 day old calf.
 

Coffee bean berries
How the coffee beans are separated from the fruit.

The coffee beans are left out to dry

The aforementioned 26 day old calf.

The next morning we parted ways since we had been invited to Cali to go on a scouting trip with a local motorcycle tour company and Kate and Flo had to head back to Bogota to meet up with a Swiss friend of theirs.

In Cali we met up with Ricardo, who had started a Colombian motorcycle tour and rental company, EpiCo Moto Adventures after growing tired of the daily grind in New York City. He had invited us to accompany him on a scouting trip for a tour he was designing for a client. We enthusiastically accepted his invitation and we traveled with him for 5 days, visiting the Laguna de Cocha, taking the infamous Trampolin del Diablo, seeing the beautiful Tatacoa Desert and visiting the wax forest just outside Salento.

Laguna de Cocha
Chilling with a dog at our hotel
How is she sleeping like that?
On the Devil's Trampoline
 
On the road from San Agustin to Tatacoa
Our trip guide, Ricardo
Overlooking the Tatacoa Desert
Loading our bikes for a river crossing near Tatacoa

On the road to Salento
When we stopped in Salento, Ricardo showed us how to play a local game, Tejo. It involves throwing weights at packets filled with gunpowder. Kind of like explosive darts.


The Wax Forest near Salento

Water crossing near the Wax Forest
We had an amazing time and it was great to travel with a local person who could explain everything to us and show us all the great sites and places that we would have missed in Colombia otherwise. We definitely recommend EpiCo for tours - we are toying around with the idea of taking a real tour with Ricardo in a couple years after this trip - his tours sound amazing and we'd love to get the full experience!

We'd have liked to spend a couple more days in Cali after our tour, but after reviewing our trip plans we realized that we were running a bit behind our goal date of mid February to hit Ushuaia, so we had to get moving again. Our racks had broken again - we took too many speed bumps, aka "topes" faster than we should have and the poor things snapped so we had them rewelded in Pasto and then continued to the Ecuador border. We stayed one more night in Colombia in Las Lajas where we got to see the impressive Sanutario Las Lajas church before crossing into Ecuador.



We spent 33 days in Colombia and we can definitively say that the country does not live up to its infamous reputation. Everyone was super friendly and there were so many natural wonders and beautiful sites. Visit Colombia, and soon before the secret gets out.

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