After a couple of days of relaxation in the beautiful colonial city of Cartagena, it was time to move on again. So the morning of the 2nd, we all woke up early, went to find the insurance place and got insurance for our bikes. Then we parted ways with our friends Cory, Kurt and Chris, since they were heading to Venezuela, and we were heading South, to Medellin. But I’m sure we will meet again before the end of this trip. Good luck and safe and fun travels my friends! As I can see from your Facebook pages, you already had an epic ride to Venezuela:)
As I said, Vasile and I headed south just the two of us again. The exit from Cartagena has been chaotic. There are no traffic rules whatsoever. At least no one abides by any. Cars, trucks, motorcycles overtaking on both sides, on shoulders, or wherever there was a bit of room. Even if the road had two lanes, you would always see more than just two vehicles at once. Sharing lanes is not just normal here, it’s almost compulsory, otherwise you’re unsafe: everyone will honk at you to make room for them to share the lane with you. There is no such thing as dominant position on the lane here:) At some point one bus was moving onto my lane; I thought the driver didn’t see me, and I honked; and yet he kept moving over, so I had to move to the side as much as I could so I don’t get squished. They are so used to the small bikes here, that fit along with other vehicles on one lane. But our bikes are way bigger, plus the luggage, so it gets quite sketchy at times.
Also, the suburbs of Cartagena were not as clean and nice as the city itself.
But in exchange we were impressed with how nice and friendly all the soldiers and policemen along the way were, all waving at us smiling. We have such a great feeling about Columbia so far, and it just gets better and better. Columbia just has a special vibe. People are really nice and friendly, chatty, hospitable and fun. We feel very welcomed. Viva Colombia!
Once out of town, we took a little road that I don’t know if I should qualify it as paved, or gravel. There were little patches of pavement here and there. And it was so bumpy, it felt like a landmine (you can’t really tell from the pics)
It looks like in Colombia all road are toll roads. All of them! But fortunately bikers are exempt, so we just had to go through a separate narrow lane on the right hand side.
Along the way, as the traffic was very heavy and the road very narrow crossing through the mountains, we had to break a lot of traffic laws and go faster than the speed limit to overtake in areas where we were not supposed to etc. The rule of “whoever fits” applies here everywhere.
At some point we see a police van in front of us, with the emergency lights on, and a policeman on a motorcycle behind it. So of course we slow down, as the speed limit was 50 km an hour in that area. After a couple of minutes of “correct riding” (probably the longest time in this trip) we see the policeman on the motorcycle waving at us to pass them, and the police van moved to the right as much as it could to make room for us to share the lane with them and pass them. That was unbelievable. I never thought I would pass a police car in an emergency mission, speeding, in a blind corner and over a double continuous lane!
We kept riding until late in the evening, since it was difficult to find a decent hotel/ hostel with parking for our bikes. The ones that were decent didn’t have parking and the ones that had parking were too spooky. So by the time we managed to find something, it was peach dark outside. But we found a good place, and they let us put the bikes in the restaurant, downstairs. It was so well worth waiting to find a good place! We had dinner over there as well, and the food tasted just like back home, when my mom was cooking for me:) We both missed this kind of food so much! We were tired of burgers, fries, and beans with no taste that we had in the last few countries. It looks like Colombians are very good cooks! It’s time to put back those pounds I lost in the beginning of the trip:)
Here’s the little village we stopped in:
The next day we had one of the most epic rides of the trip.We started in the rain in the morning, and went up the mountain, on a nice twisty road. The only downside was that the road was very narrow, bumpy and uneven, with lots of washouts, and extremely busy. But on bikes we still managed to pass all the traffic and enjoy the ride. I was glad we stopped for the night in time the day before and we didn’t continue on this road in the dark, it would have been suicide.
At the top of the mountain, we entered really dense fog. I could barely see Vasile in front of me. It was a lot easier when cars coming from the opposite direction had their lights on, but that was very rare. Most of the time we would just find ourselves in front of a big truck coming towards us half way on our lane, and we would have to swerve quickly to avoid it.
We passed by some incredibly nice villages in the mountains. One wonders how they could build all those houses on those steep hills.
As people here seem to be a lot more laid back, it looks like they need several roosters to wake them up in the morning:)
Here is another little town in the brains of the mountains seen from 2300 m altitude (that was the highest altitude we reached that day crossing through the mountains).
The ride from up there to Medellin was epic
As we got closer to Medellin, the road became a lot better and wider, so we could speed up. We heard a lot of good things about Medellin, but despite that I was still very pleasantly surprised when I got there. It was a lot more than I expected. This city is like a jewel.
Once in the city we went straight to a motorcycle dealership to buy a new front tire for my bike, since the one I head was worn out big time. Here, on a four blocks area, you can find anything you want for a motorcycle. There are motorcycle shops everywhere.
We found the tire, and for $15 they replaced it for me and balanced it.
Then Vasile replaced the crooked screws in my handlebars, so now my handlebar is finally stable and straight. Then he tightened the chain, since whenever I was gearing down, my bike was making a really funny loud noise.
Then Vasile decided that we should replace the rear tire too, since it has over 20,000 km on it already. And even though it looks like it could last longer, it would be a good idea to have it replaced now, when we can find everything we need. And good thing he did, since when he replaced the tire he realised that the rear bearings were gone.
So here’s my bike all fixed now, and with new shoes:) This should take care of all the wobbles at high speed and dipping at low speed.
Vasile also had his bike’s underfender fixed. For $15 those guys did a great job. Here is the before and after.
Then we settled in a nice biker friendly hostal, Shamrock, in the Poblado area.Vasile could not help not noticing the orange accent wall, orange sheets and the posters with bikes all over the walls of our room:)
The day after Al, the owner of the hostal, a biker himself and prowd owner of two KTMs, took us for a ride to Guatape, a nice little town about 80km from here. And as a bonus, he let Vasile try his bike, a KTM 990 SMR. Vasile was happy as a kid with a new toy. He came back more than excited (“OMG, this is awesome! You’ve got to be kidding me” – for those who don’t know him; those who know him, I am sure you can picture him:)
This was a good opportunity for me to try my new tires too. And what a difference! My bike feels so stable now, I can lean it as much as I want without having any wobble (I have to admit I left all the luggage at the hostal, I have to see how it feels when I put all the luggage back on) and at low speed it doesn’t dip too fast anymore. It felt like a different bike, I had so much fun on it! Well, except a little incident right after we left. I was having fun on some twisties, when my bike started acting as if it was about to stall. I was at 60km an hour, and on 3rd gear, so it wasn’t that I was going too slow on high gear. Then all of a sudden my speedometer dropped to 0 and when I pulled the throttle, the bike had no power whatsoever. I slowed down, shifted to first gear, pulled the throttle, and it worked now. So I thought I must have done something wrong, and I kept going. Thirty seconds later, my bike dies completely, no light, nothing on my dashboard. I was just happy that it didn’t happen while I was overtaking other cars, minutes earlier. I pulled over and told Vasile. And he goes “I think I know what it is, your battery must have disconected somehow”. I was so happy it wasn’t something more serious. I was already picturing my bike being towed to BMW dealership, and a couple thousand dollars leaving my pocket in haste.
Emergency fixing on the side of the road. Fifteen minutes later, my bike works just great. In moments like this I am so happy I brought Vasile with me:)
The ride to Guatape was very challenging but a lot of fun. Very busy, bumper to bumper, twisty, washouts (I know, I start to sound like a broken record), so we had to overtake all the time, on the oposite lane, sharing lanes, on the shoulder, wherever there was enough room. And if anything comes from the opposite direction, you just try to squeeze through, in between lanes. I think at the end of the day we were ready to drive in UK or Australia, since we rode most of the day on the opposite lane:) We were passing lines of cars for kilometers! The good thing was that the traffic is so used with bikes sharing lanes and riding on the opposite lane, that they seem to be very tolerant of it. No one honked at us for doing this, no one seemed mad at us. And this was the only way to do it, otherwise it would have taken us the whole day to get there.
When we got to Guatape I just fell in love! It’s the most beautiful little town I have seen so far! I could totally live there for a while.
After a couple of hours spent around walking on the narrow streets or having some amazing coffee, we headed back.
And just so the day was complete, on the way back Vasile had a flat tire. Thank God he was just going slow on the bike lane at a toll station when it happened, otherwise it could have been a disaster. Turned out that the tire he had patched in Baja, Mexico, gave up, and because of the heat the patch opened up. In a few seconds his tire was completely flat. We pulled over righ away, on an ambulance parking spot. When the ambulance arrived they only aked me to move my bike so they can park, and told Vasile not to worry. Everyone here is just so nice! They were all trying to help Vasile: the paramedics from the ambulance, the policemen, everyone!
And here is Vasile doing the dirty job:)
When Vasile put the new tire on, the paramedic noticed that he needed grease, so he went to their emergency station and brough some for him.
Lesson learnt from this: never ride with patched tubes, unless absolutely necessary. Otherwise this could spell desaster.
Once the tire fixed, we could get back on the bikes and head back to the hostel. What a beautiful day, what an amazing ride, how wonderful people! Colombia, I’m falling in love!