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Old 03-27-2013, 08:23 PM   #31
camitzi OP
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Costa Rica

The border crossing from Nicaragua into Costa Rica took forever. There were kilometers of trucks on the line on both sides. So we used one of those guys at the border who, for a tip, help you with the paperwork. On the Nicaraguan side the guy really deserved his tip. He helped us skip the line and we finished there quite fast. On the Costarican side, all they did was to show us where to go, but it took about 2.5 hrs to finish all the paperwork, so they didn't really help us much. Anyway, we managed to get out of there around 1.30 pm, and we passed again by hundreds of trucks that were waiting at the border to exit Costa Rica.

At the border we met again Cory and Kurt, the two Canadian guys we met in San Felipe when I was injured. We met them again at the border between Honduras and Nicaragua, then we met them in San Juan del Sur, and now again. There was another guy with them, Chris, who started the trip in Alaska. Since we are going to take the same boat to cross from Panama to Cartagena on December 27th, we are probably going to ride together until then.

So we all rode together and we stopped at Playa del Coco and checked in at Pure Vibes, a nice hostel with pool and everything.

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Kurt was supposed to meet a guy who brought him some parts from Canada for his bike. In the meantime Vasile and Chris decided to do the oil change on the bikes too. So while I was sipping some margarita, the guys were put to work

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Kurt, happy with his new shock

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The next day we all hit the road again heading to Playa Grande. Playa Grande belongs to the National Park Las Baulas (Leatherback Turtles), which protects Costa Rica's most important nesting site of the leatherback sea turtles. I really wanted to see those turtles .

We took the shortest route, on the coast, a really nice scenic gravel road, very bumpy at times, with some steep up and down sections. We even had a few water crossings.

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We got to Playa Grande and we found the Eco Centre, just so we are told that the group for that night's tour was complete. As these turtles are highly endangered, the beach is closed at night and it's protected, so they can come and nest in peace. There are organized tours for a limited number of people every night. It looks like we just missed one. In vain I tried to tell the guide that we cannot stay till the next day, since we have a boat to catch from Panama, the answer was still no. As I was so excited about this, the guys agreed to stay one more night in Playa Grande, so I can see the turtles. We just had to come the next day at 8 am to sign up.

The night was a very fun one, drinking rom and playing cards, with lots of jokes and laughter.

Here, if you go to a bar, the barman starts pouring you the drink and he looks at you to tell him when to stop. And this is what happens if you don't say when

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The next day Kurt woke up early and went to sign us all up for the turtle tour. The rest of the day we chilled out by the pool and on the beach and playing billiards.

At 6 pm we showed up at the Eco Center, as we were told, just to find out that as the turtles don't come on a set schedule, they could arrive anywhere between 6 pm and 1 am, so we would just have to wait there. As we were waiting, the guys got hungry and they went to eat at a little bar on the beach. $21 for fish and chips, and apparently the fish was frozen fish fingers. Costa Rica is extremely expensive!

By 8 pm most people were gone. Kurt, Chris and Cory left too, so it was just Vasile and I left. Around 9 pm we were preparing to leave too, since we were going to have a long day the next day, when we were announced that a turtle has been spotted on the beach. We were supposed to see the whole nesting process: the laying of the eggs, the covering of the nest and the turtle returning to the water. Apparently while they are nesting they are in trance, so they do not feel the human presence, that's why people can go close to watch. But while they are digging the nest they are not in trance, so we had to wait a little further for the turtle to prepare the nest. Unfortunately the turtle sensed us or something, because it decided to turn back into the water. That's when we were allowed to go close to it and watch it. We were half a meter away from this huge, heavy, 2 m long reptile, the biggest turtle in the world and the 4th largest reptile. It was magnificent! I felt like I was at National Geographic or something. Unfortunately, since leather-back turtles are very sensitive to light, we were not allowed to use cameras, so we do not have any pictures. But I was so happy I got to see it! This is a picture found on the internet, just to give you an idea of what exactly we saw.

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The day after, we woke up early and hit the road. As our friends were using the GPS, the GPS took us on the shortest road, which was some gravel again. But not too much, and soon we got onto paved roads again, since we had a long day ahead of us. We had to get somewhere close to the border, so we can cross the border the next day. So that day we rode about 500 km of * very busy roads. In Costa Rica the traffic was denser than in all other countries, on all roads. At some point it started raining too, which was a bliss in the beginning, since it was so hot, but after a while I got cold. I guess I acclimatized so well to the heat here, to *the point where when the temperature dropped to 24 degrees in the rain, I turned my heated grips on

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We stopped for lunch at a funky restaurant, Outback Jack, but very expensive though.

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Here we are trying our new prescription glasses

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We decided that we would cross a less busy border, Rio Sereno, so we rode through this beautiful landscape, with green luscious hills and nice winding roads. It was an epic ride! Sometimes when we travel we feel bad that we cannot take enough pictures to share with everyone. *But we fill our eyes with all those beauties, and we keep them in our hearts. Pictures don't do justice anyway. Here are some of the few pictures we did manage to take.

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We stopped in San Vito, a gorgeous little town on the hills. We found a nice hotel with decent prices (for Costa Rica, where everything is very expensive).*Then we went out for dinner and we had a great time. That led to another set of cards play back at the hotel, with more fun and laughter.

Next morning we cooked breakfast (we decided that we wanted to eat healthier), prepared some sandwiches for the road, and we left to the border. The road to the border was very rough gravel, thank God it wasn't too much, only 12 km. We got there, and just like most border crossings in Central America, a bit confusing. No signs to inform you of anything. So we put ourselves in a line, just to find out that that's the Panama immigration office, not the Costa Rica one. And we had to exit Costa Rica first. So we found the Costarican office, we did our paperwork and we headed to the Panama border. There were two different long line-ups: one for the locals, and one for the tourists. In the locals line up there were a lot of indigenous people. I loved the fact that they are still wearing their traditional clothing. We did not take pictures as most of the time they don't like to be photographed by tourists.

We waited on the line for about two hours, and when we got to the office they asked us if we have the insurance for the bikes. Well, how can we have the insurance for the bikes if we didn't go through immigration yet, so we don't have a stamp in the passport yet? Well, we need the insurance first. Can we go and get it right now and come back? Sure, but I have to go on my lunch break for an hour; but I'll take you in first when I'll be back.

So we went to get the insurance, but guess what? They are on their lunch break too. But the guy showed up in about 20 min. That's when we realized that there was an hour difference between Costa Rica and Panama, that's why the guy was back from his lunch already. It's funny, you cross the border and there is an hour difference right away.

In the meantime we figured we could have our sandwiches too, in the shadow of a tree:

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We finally managed to get the insurance, went to customs, did the temporary import permit, went back to immigration, got the stamp in the passport, back to customs for another stamp, fumigate bikes and off we go! We are in Panama! And it only took us four and a half hours
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Old 03-27-2013, 08:36 PM   #32
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Panama

We hardly made a mile into Panama, when the road was blocked by a fallen tree.

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We had to wait about 15 min until they cut some branches, just enough room for our bikes to get across. But then we entered a fairy tail land.

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Costa Rica and Panama look like a totally different world in Central America. A lot more developed, very clean, more people speaking English. And Panama even more so. And as a bonus, in Panama they use the US dollar. No more conversion headaches.

As we left the border quite late (around 1:30 pm) we did not have time to get too far. Plus, the weather was not really on our side: it was either too hot, or raining. So we had to stop on the side of the road and put the raining gear on.

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We rode about 180 km, and then we stopped at a gas station to gas up. There was a restaurant nearby, with a big lawn behind, so I went and asked them if we could camp there. "Sure, but is it safe for you to camp here?" (whatever that means). "Why? Is it not safe around here?" "Well, no, it's just that there are lots of venomous snakes and raccoons here. This is not Canada, this is a wild place". Well, we decided that we were not going to sleep-walk and we wouldn't step on any snakes, so we camped there. We set up our camp, we put the bikes under a palapa there, and then we had some burgers and local beer at the restaurant.

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As the place looked like a perfect scenario for theft and robbery at night, as it was behind the restaurant and right by the forest, we decided we could not leave our bikes unattended there, so Chris mounted his hammock right there under the palapa, between our bikes. And apparently there were quite a few people passing by in the middle of the night, for whatever reason.

In the morning we had some porridge and eggs and on the road again. We went all the way to Panama City. Here we are crossing over the Panama Canal.

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We stopped at Mamallena hostel, a very nice place close to downtown Panama City. As they had no rooms until the next day, Chris convinced them, in the spirit of Christmas, to let us put our tents in the backyard for one night.

Same evening, one lady that was staying in the same hostel got robbed, right in front of the hostel. They stole her thick gold chain*she had around her neck. Now I don't want to insinuate anything, but so far, all the stories about theft and robbery that I heard here are something like this:

On Caye Caulker Island, two girls left the disco bar completely wasted and that night they got robbed in their hotel room. They didn't hear anything, but when they woke up the next day, their stuff were missing.

or

In Panama City, a guy leaves the bar late in the evening, drunk, and he wants to walk to his hotel; takes the wrong turn and he *finds himself in a bad neighbourhood and he gets mugged.

I don't know why it looks to me like common sense. Don't walk out there drunk or wasted, especially at night. And don't show signs of affluence, any travel website tells you that. I am not saying that it couldn't happen to anyone, just for being the wrong person in the wrong place, but most of the time it can be avoided.

And now leaving that aside, we went to see the famous Panama Canal from close, and see the big ships crossing through. There is so much engineering behind it, it's unbelievable. We all took a cab to get there. Vasile and I on the front seat, and the rest of the guys in the back :

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And here is the canal. There are different compartiments where they adjust the water level for a smooth crossing between the Atlantic/ Caribean and the Pacific.

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Then we went to see the Casco Viejo of Panama City (the old town). It is gorgeous!

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And also, this is the first proper downtown we've seen in Central America so far. It's beautiful.

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While walking around the old town, our friend Cory points out a sign to us and goes "I don't know what language that is". And guess what the sign was.

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That's right, that was a sign for Merry Christmas in Romanian!!! Who would have ever imagined that we would see a sign in our mother tongue in Panama! That was so funny.

Then on the 26th we had our Christmas dinner at the hostel, withThai food and sangria*.
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Old 03-28-2013, 04:25 PM   #33
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Am I missing something or are your photos missing?
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Old 03-29-2013, 07:54 AM   #34
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Am I missing something or are your photos missing?
Which post are you looking at? I can see all the pictures. Is anyone else having troubles seeing the pictures? Maybe they just load a bit slower??
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Old 03-29-2013, 08:14 AM   #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by camitzi View Post
Which post are you looking at? I can see all the pictures. Is anyone else having troubles seeing the pictures? Maybe they just load a bit slower??
For me these small pictures seem to take forever to load, probably due to your photo hosting site being slow...


Edit: 10 hrs later your pics are now coming up fast, did you fix something?

gunnerbuck screwed with this post 03-29-2013 at 06:33 PM
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Old 03-29-2013, 08:43 AM   #36
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Nice bike

Hi from fellow Vancouverites! We are currently in Costa Rica. Ride safe.

Cheers


Sara
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Old 03-29-2013, 06:51 PM   #37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gunnerbuck View Post
For me these small pictures seem to take forever to load, probably due to your photo hosting site being slow...


Edit: 10 hrs later your pics are now coming up fast, did you fix something?
Thanks for the feedback. My pictures might be a bit too big. I will try to reload them smaller, when the internet will allow me (unfortunately I don't have very good internet where I travel). Going forward I will make sure I will load them smaller, see if it fixes it.
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Old 03-29-2013, 06:54 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by Saralou View Post
Hi from fellow Vancouverites! We are currently in Costa Rica. Ride safe.

Cheers


Sara
Hey there "fellow Vancouverites". How far south are you going? Are you going to cross the Darien Gap to South America? We are riding back up now (a bit behind with the blogging on the adv forum). Enjoy your trip, it's gonna be an amazing one! Safe travels.

Cheers,
Camelia
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Old 03-29-2013, 07:09 PM   #39
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Hey, I had a brief encounter with y'all at the entrance to Torres del Paine a few weeks back!

I was the long haired, smelly guy that just got back from a trek. I rode my 1200 GS down from Chicago.

Great meeting you, and I look forward to more posts!
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Old 03-29-2013, 07:28 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by CleanWatt View Post
Hey, I had a brief encounter with y'all at the entrance to Torres del Paine a few weeks back!

I was the long haired, smelly guy that just got back from a trek. I rode my 1200 GS down from Chicago.

Great meeting you, and I look forward to more posts!
Hey, good to see you on here. Yes, I remember you. Where are you now? Still traveling or back to Chicago?
Cheers,
Camelia

camitzi screwed with this post 03-29-2013 at 07:35 PM
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Old 03-29-2013, 08:22 PM   #41
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Loving your report from up here in Washington, but I am still having trouble loading the pictures. What I end up doing is looking at 2 pictures, scrolling down 2 more pictures and hitting refresh, etc.
Again, enjoying the report, but damn, is it slow!
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Old 04-01-2013, 07:12 PM   #42
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Originally Posted by vicster View Post
Loving your report from up here in Washington, but I am still having trouble loading the pictures. What I end up doing is looking at 2 pictures, scrolling down 2 more pictures and hitting refresh, etc.
Again, enjoying the report, but damn, is it slow!
Thanks Vicster. I have made the pics smaller, please let me know if they load better now or if they still need improvement.
Cheers,
Camelia
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Old 04-01-2013, 07:18 PM   #43
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Originally Posted by gunnerbuck View Post
For me these small pictures seem to take forever to load, probably due to your photo hosting site being slow...


Edit: 10 hrs later your pics are now coming up fast, did you fix something?
Yes, I did make them smaller. I don't know if it was exactly within the 10 hrs, but I am glad it works now. Thanks for letting me know.
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Old 04-01-2013, 07:34 PM   #44
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Crossing the Darien Gap

As most of you know, from Panama to Columbia there is no road, so the only two options are to take a flight, or a boat. We opted for the second one. At that time, we read on the boat's website that there will be three days of relaxing in the Caribbean Sea, and then about 30 hours of straight sailing to Cartagena. So we though we could use some relaxation in the Caribbean islands, and then, how bad could those 30 hours be? After all, this is all supposed to be an adventure, no? Well, it looks like the adventure just started.

On the 26th of December we woke up in the morning and got ready. Here we are gearing up for some rain. Panama's weather is the most unpredictable.

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Then we waited for a truck that was supposed to come pick up some supplies for the boat in Panama City, so we were supposed to follow the truck to Barzukun, the place where we were taking the boat from, since apparently the directions were not very straight forward. After almost 5 hours of waiting the truck arrived and we barely had the time to jump on the bikes and left. It was all a bit chaotic, since we were five bikes following a truck in a crazy traffic. So at the first turn onto a busy road where we had to yield to traffic we lost each other already. We managed to find each other again, and then we had to ride very close to each other and almost cutting off traffic and sharing lanes so we can stick together. The first part of the ride was just regular. But then the second part was a mere roller coaster!!! Steep up, steep down, sharp turn to the left, sharp turn to the right and steep up etc. At some point, especially on the high points, I was feeling an emptiness in my stomach, and then the steep down sections were like a falling.

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And to top that up, there were washouts after every corner.

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At some point the road was so narrow due to a landslide that I was wondering how trucks manage to drive by? But going by this picture, it looks like not too well.

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That was even crazier, to see on that tiny narrow road traffic on both ways. In moments like this I am happy I ride a motorcycle, so I can*squeeze by. But I don't really see how two trucks or big cars can go by each other. This was definitely one of the craziest roads we've done in this trip!

And we finally got there. This was the end of our journey in Panama and Central America.

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Then we met Michael, the captain of the boat. And he tells us that if we manage to get a small boat to carry the bikes to his boat now, we can load them already. So far so good.

So now we are talking to these local guys that have a small boat, to take our bikes to the ship. The problem is, their boat has a roof, so we won't be able to pull the bikes up once at the ship. The solution: they tied up a canoe to the boat, so we put the bikes in the canoe. I know, it sounds crazy, but don't worry, it's even crazier than it sounds

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And then the loading of the bikes from the canoe to the ship. I have to admit it was quite stressful to see our bikes hanging on an old rope, above the water. Especially after seeing what their safety standards were.

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Once we loaded all the bikes and the luggage on the ship, they took us to Carti island, very close by, to a "hostel". It was probably one of the best experiences we had so far. The island was inhabited by Kuna Yala people, the indigenous of Panama. Nice little huts and narrow dirt alleys were making the little village.

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They were so friendly and open, and once we settled in our hostel, we went to a restaurant and we had some great food, and a beer drinking competition between our group and the Kuna group.

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When the restaurant closed for the night, we went on the dock with the Kuna people and continued the party. That was one great night! We were all regreting to have wasted so much time in Panama City instead to have come here. But we didn't know.

The next day they took us in a small boat to the ship, where we met the rest of the travelers and the crew. Here is our boat, our home for the next five days.

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The first day we sailed for about an hour and then we stopped by a small island for swimming and snorkeling. This little paradise was a very good start, but very misleading about what was about to come.

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The water was gorgeous for swimming. At night, they took us to the island and we had a beach party, with fire, music and drinks, after we had a great lobster dinner.

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The second day we sailed for about two hours and then again we stopped by another island for swimming and snorkeling. In the evening we went to Elefant Island where they made barbecue for us and we partied again untill late. And here we are leaving the island to go back to the boat. Our little boat didn't have enough horse power so it needed a little help

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The third day, we sailed for four hours, and then again stopped for more swimming and snorkeling. So far so good, no? It looks too good to be true. But after this last stop, the real adventure is starting. We are supposed to sail for 30 hours straight to Cartagena, against current, against wind, against waves. And the seas here are famous for being very nervous. On top of that, the captain tells us that this is the worst time of the year for sailing on these seas.

So here is starting to get real: waves splashing everywhere, getting into the boat, to the point where they had to lock all windows. The boat was rocking so bad that it was impossible to walk around. As I started to be seasick right away, despite the Dramamine taken every four hours, I was laying on a bench in the leaving room area. For 35 hours I had to lay there, and didn't dare to seat up, since I was getting nausea right away. I would only seat up to eat quickly something, three times a day. It was almost impossible to use the toilets, since the boat was rocking so bad that things would splash everywhere. Also the generator that was helping flush the toilets were down each day for half a day. In the leaving room area stuff were falling off the shelves everywhere, and the crew were barely keeping up with it. Looking by the window I would see waves taller than the boat. Vasile went upstairs on the deck a few times and he said that many times, when the boat was tilting to a side, the waves were actually splashing all the way over the boat. We were very happy that we tarped the bikes so the salted water didn't get to them, despite the promise of the captain that no water will get to them. This was pretty much a horror movie. An 85 ft boat was tossed around in the open ocean like a little nutshell. The good part was that I was so sick that I didn't even have time to panic or to get scared. And as you can imagine we have no pictures of it, since the camera would've flown all over the place.

At some point the wind ripped off one of the wind generators that flew right by two of the guys that were laying down on the back of the boat at that time.This was not a big threat for the boat, since the boat had another generator, but it was just dangerous to continue with it like that, since as it was turning, broken, the blades were flying off everywhere, so the captain stopped to fix it.

I thought I was the only one that felt so bad, but when we finally got to calm see, and everyone came out of their cabins, I could see their green faces, so I realized that all passengers with very few exceptions have been very seasick, even though everyone onboard was taking pills. So I guess this time the sea has*won. I could hear everyone around me swearing that this was the last time they would put foot on a boat

The unloading of the bikes was another shit show. Complete chaos, disorganised, bikes on the little dingy and off to the shore. But thank god we got there safe and sound, and bikes in alright condition.

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Now the next challenge was to do the immigration and customs quickly, since it was the 31st of December and they were closing at noon. The good thing was that the captain's girlfriend (very smart girl) took care of our immigration, so we didn't even have to go there, we only handed her the passports. Then she put us in contact with a German guy who, for $35 each, did the customs for us, so we managed to finish before noon. The only thing that we didn't manage to do was the insurance, since insurance is compulsory in Columbia. The offices were closed already. So we had to stay in Cartagena until the 2nd, to get the insurance too. In the meantime we took our chances and rode the bikes through town to find a place to stay. Well, that wasn't easy. We walked through all the hostels, all the hotels, and there was nothing left. We were even considering camping on Playa Blanca now, when we met this Jamaican guy, Donald, and he offered to rent us two rooms in the house he lived in, for $10 per person. This was great! We took the offer right away, and here we are unloading our stuff, and doing laundry (after all the boat ride, we so*needed it!) and washing our bikes so the salt doesn't damage them.

In the meantime Donald cooked dinner for us and we all eat and had some beers. Then we went out to town, since it was New Years after all. It was nice to watch all the fireworks and all the people dancing on the streets. This was a totally different New Years celebration! But as we were very tired we did not party until the morning as we would normally do, and around 1 am we were nice and cosy in our beds, sleeping tight.

So far we love Columbia! More about it to come in the next post.
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Old 04-01-2013, 07:48 PM   #45
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Cartagena to Medellin

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 Columbia!

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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)

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It looks like in Columbia 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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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We passed by some incredibly nice villages in the mountains. One wonders how they could build all those houses on those steep hills.

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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
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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).

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The ride from up there to Medellin was epic

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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.

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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.

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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 realized that the rear bearings were gone.

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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.

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Vasile also had his bike's underfender fixed. For $15 those guys did a great job. Here is the before and after.

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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:)

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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)

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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 died 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

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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.

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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!

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And here is Vasile doing the dirty job

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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.

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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! Columbia, I'm falling in love!
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