Our first full day in Manizales turned out to be a light day of servicing our bikes, updating our blogs and tending to cloths etc. We did go into town and spent some time looking around and finding a place to eat dinner. Overall, there wasn’t too much to do and we took a taxi back to the ECO Hotel pretty early.
Our second day began with a great breakfast at the Hotel and then the owner and her daughter spent quite a while finding us a coffee tour and arranging an inexpensive taxi ride there and back. The tour was at Venecia, which is also a Hostel and from the looks of it a very nice one with great grounds, nice rooms, inexpensive with meals available too. Had we looked into it first, we may have stayed there. The tour, and lunch, was excellent. The tour guide spoke fluent English and was very knowledgeable about the entire operation. We toured the fields, the bean processing areas and also had a brief introduction into the different coffees of the world as well as samples of different grinds and brewing processes. If one wants to visit a coffee plantation and learn about the process from seed to cup of brew, Venecia is the place to do it.
Road into coffee plantation.
Hostel house at plantation. There is a pool and extensive grounds to explore.
Look at one of the several hundred acres of coffee growing.
The coffee beans on the plant. The red ones are ready for harvest. The beans are hand picked several times to insure that only the ripe ones are taken and the others are left to ripen.
Beans in a cleaning area where sticks, leaves and anything else not coffee is washed off and removed.
Machine that removes outer soft pulp, kind of like the olive meat on the seed.
Coffee beans being washed and deposited in tank after pulp removal.
Drying vats that have heated air pumped up through them so that a thin membrane can be dried and seperated from the beans.
Coffee beans that have been cleaned, dried and packaged prior to shipment to roasters and grinders and then on to the consumer.
Manizales to Quito 10/4-10/6
Our intent on leaving Manizales was to ride to Popayan and spend a few days touring the city and seeing the downtown area which is comprised of mostly two story building all painted white. Our ride down there was uneventful and mostly riding through a long valley where sugar cane was the primary crop. When we arrived in Popayan it was beginning to rain and it was also at the height of rush hour traffic. Especially crowded was the old town area where we ended up going through the center of the local market where people and goods were spilling out into the narrow streets. After riding around a bit we finally found a hotel, The Camino Royal, that was in a great place in the center of the old town. It wasn’t cheap but it wasn’t exorbitant either so we decided to stay there for a couple of days. The hotel appeared to be very old but well maintained with antiques everywhere. They had secure parking and the city looked interesting.
That evening we wondered around the streets, had a small bite to eat and then went to a nearby bar to check out the local beers. After a couple of drinks we decided there wasn’t too much interesting about the beer and headed back to our hotel. As we walked back we found a procession heading our way which consisted of a marching band (only beating the drums), eight men carrying a platform with what I suspect was a statue of a saint, several priests and others slowly walking along carrying candles. For the sound think of Fleetwood Mac and the drum line from “Tusk” played very loudly and echoing through the streets. The procession continued to march around several blocks of the old central city and disappeared into the night. We never found out what it was all about and continue to wonder.
Friday October 5th
As I said at the beginning of this segment, we had planned to stay for a few days in Popayan, however, that quickly changed and we were on our way to Ipiales by noon. What happened was that we had an interest in visiting the Galápagos’ Islands but had not made any arrangements. While in Santa Marta, the Swiss lady we met named Regula told us about a cruise service that she and her family had used a while back and it sounded like we needed to check it out. Joe sent an email around 10am and inquired about a trip. The service owner emailed back that there was a five day trip available, due to a last minute cancellation, and if we didn’t want it we would have to wait until November. Additionally she quoted us great price and after emails and a phone call we quickly changed our plans, packed, checked out of the hotel and we were out on the road by noon.
We picked our destination city as Ipiales because it is as close to the Ecuadorian border as you can get being less than 5K away. It is not a city that I would recommend for travelers, that is unless you are looking for a dump and plenty of prostitutes. I say that because not only was the city dirty and run down but everywhere we would stop to check on a hotel several pimps would approach us. Having left Popayan in a rush we had not made hotel reservations and it dark was approaching as we arrived. Just the time that I guess some people may have been looking for more than a room. We ended up going all over town and finally picked what looked to be the best one in town. The lady at the desk was quite nice and we didn’t have any problem booking two separate rooms at only about $12.00 US each per night. We may have been some of the rare people that just wanted a room for the night to sleep. The inside of the hotel had several paintings of nude women on the walls so we got some idea of what else it may have been. Our bikes were parked about two blocks away at a secure lot with a 24 hour guard so we didn’t worry about them. Other than noise in the hall and lots of street noise outside our windows, it actually wasn’t too bad a room. Well, with the exception of no toilet seat on my toilet and no shower head or hot water in Joe’s room, but we made do by sharing.
Typical sugar cane field that was on both sides of the road in most of the long valley that we traveled through on our way to the border.
Hotel in Popayan. It says Hostal but it is indeed a hotel.
A look down the street in front of our hotel. Notice the buildings are all white and two stories.
The view from our room.
The view from our room in the fine city of Ipiales. Notice the other hotels across the street. Rent by the hour I think.
Saturday October 6th
We were out of Ipiales and headed to Quito by around 8:30am. The border crossings weren’t really too bad and a few minutes looking around at each one was all that was need to figure out the proper line to get into. The bikes had to be inspected and the papers we received from the DIAN (customs for importation) office in Cartagena were turned into the inspector. He checked for the VIN numbers from about 30 feet away so he must have had really good eyes. Leaving Colombia only required a stamp in the passport and the motorcycle inspection and entering Ecuador took only filling out one form, getting our passports stamped but no motorcycle inspection or even listing them. At no time when we rode out or in was there someone on the road checking for proper documentation so I have a feeling that someone could easily just drive out of one and into the other country without any regard for the border crossing.
Ecuador at once had the appearance of a country that was more prosperous and refined. The small towns were cleaner and the buildings were much better kept. In one larger city, Otavalo, I missed a turn at a traffic circle and ended up going through the middle of the old city. I was very impressed by the newness, cleanliness and order in that area.
The reason I had missed the turn and Joe didn’t alert me was that we had become separated a few miles back as we exited the mountains. Joe had passed a car and most likely some trucks too before I was able to also pass (not a new thing because we often get separated by a little distance while passing in the mountain areas) and I was trying to catch back up with him. We were running low on gasoline so Joe stopped and while he was stopped I passed him. Perhaps a car or truck had blocked him, and I kept going assuming he was ahead of me and I needed to catch up with him. Some distance on I decided I could go no more without stopping for gasoline myself. While filling up my bike, Joe rode up beside me and said hello. It was nice to be back together since we didn’t have a location in Quito programmed into our Garmins. What we would have had to have done is either both find a place with internet and email each other or use our Spot’s to find each other. Joe has a data plan on his phone but I have nothing but my computer. We have decided that if we are separated again, I will stop and send out a message from Spot and then wait for Joe to receive it and check my location. I will have to just wait around but we will be able to locate each other. We will also try not to repeat the situation.
Things were going very well for us that day for finding our destination in Quito too. The address we had for the hostel where we would stay (Casa Girasol) was where our tour would begin, but it was not showing up in our map searches. We just headed into town, rode quite a way and then decided to stop for some lunch and try to figure it out. While eating I asked a local about the address and upon looking at it he said we were lucky and that we were only three blocks one way and two the next from our destination. After that we were able to locate the hostel which is joined to the travel agency (Cometa Travel). We spent the night, had a great breakfast and left our bikes securely parked in the drive in front of the owners car (the hostel and drive are inside a gated courtyard). The owner, also travel agent, handed us our airline tickets to the Galápagos’ Islands then drove us to the airport and waited to make sure there were no problems.