Not too shabby eh? A nice little taster of the film we hope to compile on our return to London. Seriously, if you’re planning a trip around this region at least double the amount of time you have already given yourself for Colombia. You will not regret it. The one morning we did manage to wake without too much of a painful hangover, Senorita Leyenda insisted that we visited Guantape, a unique rock formation offering some incredible views.
The hostels in Central and South America have always been good enough to find a safe place for us to park the bikes during our stay. Our hostel in Medellin was no exception and we rode the bikes in to the locked compound and parked the bikes up on the football court out the back. Despite believing that everything was fully secure, every single tool that we owned was stolen off the back of Jon’s bike during our first nights stay. It was a gutting moment when we discovered what had happened but despite there being a sign up stating that the hostel will not be responsible for any stolen goods, the Irish owner of the hostel was genuinely disappointed when he realised this had taken place from within his own hostel. He insisted that he took us out the following day and replaced absolutely everything that had been taken. He also refused to charge us for the nights we spent in his hostel. A very kind gesture that will never be forgotten.
Fearing that nowhere could possibly top Medellin, on the 13th November we reluctantly packed up and said our goodbyes to Andrea and the others we had met there and headed south to the Ecuador border. During the pack-up I found a bag of Daz washing powder I’d bagged up weeks earlier and completely forgot about right at the bottom of my bag. I don’t know how this made it through the Colombian customs checks without raising any questions.
We knew it would be at least a two-day ride given our late departure after saying our goodbyes, with a stop over wherever we found ourselves shortly before sunset. The first day was relatively uneventful with little to report although progress was painfully slow due to the volume of traffic on the mountain roads. We ended up sleeping in a tiny little mountain town, which judging by the reaction of the locals had seen very few foreign riders pass through.
Reluctant to cross the border late in the afternoon, we’d agreed to aim for a town called Pasto that day and cross at first light the following morning. We’d been having a decent day. The traffic was much lighter than the previous day and the road provided some excellent views. We were no more than 80km short of our destination when the afternoon took a nasty turn and I had a high-speed off. I can’t be sure what happened during the moments before it occurred, perhaps my mind had slipped back to the girls of Medellin as it had done so many times previously that day but I found myself in a deep water ditch on the side of the road at around 60 or 70mph. As I was just about feeling like I had re-gained control again, I hit a huge concrete block which sent me and the bike flying. It was the only concrete block in sight so it was an unfortunate place for me to find myself wrestling with the ditch. It was a big old drop on the right hand side so thankfully the barrier stopped me from going any further.
After picking myself and the bike up, it was obvious that the damage to the bike was severe. There was oil and water all over the place. My sump guard had been completely ripped off and the block had penetrated all the way through the frame and the crank case. It really wasn’t looking good. The Forcefield body Armour took the brunt of the impact for me and short of a few cuts and bruises and being a little shaken up, I was OK. I had no idea what to do. My bike seemed to be a complete write-off and there was minimal passing traffic to offer any assistance. I was absolutely gutted and convinced it was the end of the line for the bike which had very nearly taken me around the whole world. All the work that had gone in to it, all the support we had received from Suzuki and various other companies and it was all completely over in an incident lasting no more than a few seconds. I was devastated.
We flagged down all of the passing trucks and large vans that passed by to see if they were able to stick me and the bike in the back to get us to Pasto but they all seemed to be full of goods which they were taking over the border to Ecuador. I pushed the bike further up the mountain to a group of 3 small shacks where we sat for hours just hoping that someone would turn up. Sun was setting and we were discussing our options. The locals we sat with made it clear that it’s not a safe place to be after dark and the chance of somebody passing after sun set who will be able to help was minimal. The options we were left with were to ride two up on Jon’s bike to Pasto where we knew we could get checked in to a hotel and perhaps find somebody to return with us the following day to pick up the bike. That is of course, if the bike was still there. There was no way we could put two lots of luggage plus two people on one bike so we would only be able to take the valuable stuff with us and hope that the other stuff was there on our return. Far from ideal.
Our only other option at that stage was to sleep next to the bike and wait for sunrise to see if we could get help then. Again, far from ideal but at that stage, it looked like the best option. We’d pretty much given up hope on finding help that night and had resided to the fact that we would be pitching up the tents next to the road when we heard the noise of an engine climbing up the steep hill towards us. When we realised it was a pickup truck with no load in the back I jumped out in front of it and explained my story to the driver, a character who was about to play a key role in the success of this Tough Miles mission, Ariel Moran!
Despite the bike still heavily leaking oil and water, once Ariel heard about my situation he was more than happy to get it strapped up in the back and cleared a space for me in the passenger seat. Yet another incredible stroke of Tough Miles good fortune.