Category Archives: 14 – 07 Columbia

Colombia – Coffee, Cacao, Crash and Rum – Dirt roads, Mountains, Rivers and Desert

Colombia offers an incredible diversity of landscapes, nature, flavor, music and welcoming people. Since three weeks we explored this country and we could easily imagine spending the same time again. But! If we want to make it down to Ushuaia without rushing through all the other countries we have to head further south. Otherwise we would hit the winter in Patagonia and at `Fin del Mundo´…

We are currently in Cali, southwest Colombia, at 1,000 meters above sea level. It is time to do some maintenance. Chris, an Australian guy who traveled the Americas with his motorcycle and is now living here kindly ordered new front tires for us. As well we are allowed to use his garage and currently Sascha is working on the bikes: New front tires, new brake pads, oil change and a new headlamp bulb for the Transalp. The bikes were covered in mud after several dirt tracks and needed first a proper wash. A good opportunity to do a general check of all parts and screws as we rode bumpy rocky roads and Sascha crashed once badly and Kerstin was hit by a car.

 In both cases luckily nothing REALLY bad happened. Sascha flipped the bike on a wet cliff while driving a wonderful road.  The Routa 60 is crossing from east Chiquinquirá to west Guatapé and is for about 120km a windy dirt road through a spectacular landscape. The crash happened in a tenth of a second and ripped of the side tank bag, the pannier and bended all lights; but the worst was that Sascha did a real somersault and banged his head on the rocks. Kerstin was in the back and even heard the loud bang. Sascha felt dizzy but after a pause and drinking a lot off water we were able to fix the bike and continue driving. The pannier and the loose side bag we stripped on and the lamps we bended back as good as possible. The over-run of Kerstin was luckily much less spectacular then Sascha’s crash. It just happened yesterday here in Cali while going stop and go. The last 1,5 km took us an hour and people went mad. At the same time they were all interested in looking at us and chatting with us while rolling every 10 minutes two meters… The car behind just pushed her down from the side and nothing happened to Kerstin or the motorcycle; the biggest damage probably got the car. Kerstin shouted a bit at the driver – isn’t the fact that we are all trapped in this dammed traffic enough?!? – and the people around helped to lift the bike and we were all just continuing squeezing.

The traffic on it’s own is crazy but all doable. On the windy mountain roads the big trucks starting to overtake just before the turn or while you are next to them. In the city one lane becomes easily a three to four lane and everybody is just going without ever looking back or in a mirror – IF they got one. The main rule is there are no rules. Somebody once said: ` It is like the Colombians are having two personalities; if they drive any vehicle they go mad, become aggressive and ruthless. But as soon as they get out they are the friendliest accommodating and calm people ever.´ this impression has spark of truth we think… J

As said, Colombia is packed with gorgeous places, stunning mountains and beautiful roads to ride a motorcycle. We went to San Gil and had a stop at the Chicamocha Canyon. One of the best experiences ever was visiting the Cacao Finca San Luis in San Pablo de Borbur. That was actually the reason why we chose to go the Routa 60. We heard it could be a difficult ride especially when there was a lot of rain but we risked it. And actually the road was really great and Sascha´s crash was just unlucky. If you ever have the chance passing by the Finca of Alejandro and Vivienne do not hesitate! It is such a beautiful spot and they are both awesome people. You will learn everything about cacao, from the seed to making your own delicious chocolate and far more about the region the fauna and flora. They do live in a paradise. The views are breathtaking and additional there are emerald mines in walking distance which you can visit. The people in the region are unbelievable welcoming. One car stopped us to welcome us to their country and gave us local coffee as a present. And when we stopped in Pauna for lunch nearly the whole village passed by to talk with us.

Our route brought us to Guatapé. It is located in the outskirts of Medellín, bordering a reservoir created by the Colombian government for a hydro-electric dam, built in the late 1960s. We stayed a little bit outside at the Lake Hotel. This place is owned by Dennis, an American guy, and his Columbian woman Martha. A lovely couple and living at a lovely spot directly at the lake. We had a visit at Santa Rosa del Cabal and Salento in the coffee region of Columbia. 

If you look at the pictures you will recognize that we do meet other travelers in different places again and again. That gives us a nice opportunity to exchange experiences, having a meal or a beer together or even riding sometimes parts together. So it was when we met Jason (Canada) and Geroge (USA) in Salento again and we spontaneously decided to make a loop to the Tatacoa Desert and San Augustin together. The desert is not just a desert, but a tropical dry forest. The area is heavily eroded and crossed by dry canyons that develop transiently in the winter months. These shapes are created on clay surfaces, creating labyrinthine gullies in the landscape that can reach 20 meters deep. San Augustin is located in the upper basin of the Magdalena River in the eastern foothills of the Colombian Massif. Beside the waterfalls and canyons it is famous for the statuses which present features from crocodiles, bats and jaguars. The dates of the status are uncertain and the origin of the carvers remains mystery. From there to Cali the road is partially dirt and unfortunately after the rain not only rocky but as well slippery on the washed clay. But we all made it and a great three days together!

When we leave Cali we will head south towards the border of Ecuador… our next exciting adventure on the way to the `Fin del Mundo! The “Trampoline of DEATH” is waiting for us… let´s see… ;

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Arrival on a new Continent: Sur America

Sur America and a looong process to clear the motorcycles!

The flight itself from Panama City to Cartagena, Colombia was at noon; it was quick and without any problems. We booked rooms in a hostel together with Adeline and Francoise. The taxi driver was not really amused to drive to the part of Cartagena where our Hostel was – he said it is a dangerous area; they shoot people there, even at day time… We chose that place because they should have safe parking and it is not too far from the port area as well not far to the old town center.
The hostel was a little nice place with a little fenced front yard with an friendly owner and nice employees. We asked about the area, where to get foot and how to walk to the beach. We strolled around and we did not feel unsafe at any time. Of course there were some side streets you which were not really inviting but all people we were talking too were friendly. We received the information that Monday is a bank holiday in Cartagena – they shifted the All Saints’ Day from the last week to Monday. The upcoming weekend they celebrated the Independence Day and the celebration starts already on Thursday. Realizing we chose a bad timing (we all had a check for any upcoming bank holidays but the calendars we looked at were not showing all these days). We worried a bit because in fact we have only 2 days to get the vehicles out and for the third day we have to pay already the storage fee. If not we have to wait until next week Tuesday. Nothing we can do except being prepared as best as possible and so we used the Monday to explore Cartagena.
Tuesday morning we went early to the port. Maybe you know `The Twelve Tasks of Asterix´ so you have a good idea of what we had to go through. We had 21 steps and were running from one place to another, back and forth, waiting getting another paper, walking back and forth, waiting… But the second day we finally had the bill of lading, the TVIP and even the insurance done. And the moment we opened the container we saw our motorcycles as we left them and left happily the port in the afternoon.  
First time driving in the Colombian traffic and in the rush hour. For about 5km we needed 40 minutes. Sascha’s horn was not working for longer already and now Kerstin’s was not working anymore as well. Surely we have to work on that ASAP – here a loud horn is really needed to make your way through the traffic. We spend the evening sorting and washing clothes. Early the next morning we drove just 10km north to La Boquilla. There we found a perfect place, parked next to the pool to work on little things and jumping into the pool in-between. Kerstin´s horn was fixed within an minute; it was just not correctly connected to the battery. Great! For Sascha we have to find a new one on the way.

After all these days in the cities in the heat and processes and bureaucracy we ached for mountains and fresh air. Our next destination we chose was about 250km north of Cartagena: Minca. It is a small village at an elevation of 650m in the Sierra Nevada above Santa Marta. On the way we managed to find new horns for Sascha which he fixed as soon as we arrived in this much cooler temperature than the boiling cities. This was a perfect place to plan our further route, to work on the blog, to fix small thinks and to explore the lovely area. We were staying three nights and we relished the spirit of this little village with several beautiful nature spots close by. You can easily hike to the Pozo Azul, a popular swimming hole with two small waterfalls. As it was weekend when we went there the pool was packed with people, 300+, tssss. But when we climbed up we had the cascades at the upper falls just for us. Las Piedra is another river bath place just around the corner. And if you spend more time here you can learn about its organic coffee plantation or explore the bird-watching places.

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