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Old 10-30-2013, 01:34 PM   #1
Haroon OP
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Location: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia/ Bangalore, INDIA
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Fascinating ride traves de Colombia- ARMED with a motorcycle, map & Google translator


A brief video summary of the Colombian ride




Prelude:
Over the past few years, having ridden thru a small but wonderful collection of some of the best motorcycling routes on the globe and cherished the experiences of riding thru various countries, most of which belonged to the ‘developed world’, our search this time was for something that was off the beaten track for us Indians. Ofcourse, the ride still had to be in a location that was relatively safe, scenic and met our individual requirements. Nothing fit the bill better than the glorious continent of South America. But we had a slight problem- Even on a fine sunny day, our best available knowledge of Spanish was limited to ‘We don’t speak Spanish, do you speak English??’. While, Argentina & Brazil were too large with distances far-far apart for our week long ride, so we had to zero into a relatively smaller country and the final shortlist consisted of Equador, Peru or Colombia. While Equador & Peru are great places for a ride, for us they had some shortfalls to do a circular loop trip given our limited time schedule, Colombia seemed the best option and so…..Colombia it is.

Back in college, I had read that Colombia was renowned for the two best Cs… Coffee & Cocaine! I also vividly remember reading a news article on the famed drug lord Pablo Escobar, his lavish lifestyle and how his reign of terror & intimidation ended with him being finally ‘put down’. Besides, a random mention of Colombia anywhere brings words like drug cartel, kidnapping, assassinations, crime etc and if you read any of the US travel advisories, it best suggests not to travel anywhere outside the US of A…… So then began our own research on how this South American country would be like. The google pics were all too inviting, the reviews were mixed but generally positive, and the lack of english speaking people was a concern, but we just decided, Colombiaaquí llegamos!

Thru our queries on advrider we got a general idea about things in Colombia, while Mike at Motolombia, where we rented our motorbike (www.motolombia.com), gave us all the information we needed on the route, places, costs and other local details. Although Mike specializes in very well organized guided motorbike group tours in Colombia, however, since we only rented the bike from him, his tips were of immense help for our self-guided trip. The remaining googling work was as usual conveniently dumped on my wonderful wife…lazy me!

In preparation, when I called the Colombian Embassy in New Delhi to get the visa requirements, they were reading out the list when I interrupted saying ‘we are doing a motorcycle trip in Colombia’…the phone went silent for a while and then the person asked can you repeat! I said we are riding a motorcycle thru Colombia. I think he found that very amusing or crazy (or probably both) and told me go ahead and send the passports and he will issue it immediately. And indeed the wonderful gentleman did it the same day. But then came the next challenge from our own country- Indians travelling to parts of Africa & South America must have a proof of Yellow fever inoculation before travel, failing which we have to spend 10 days in quarantine upon our return from those countries!! Well the inoculation procedure is simple, but the only problem is that they ran out of the Yellow Fever vaccine 3 months ago and have no clue when the next stock is expected!! So I decide we shall take it Saudi Arabia, where I work…..sorry they are out of stock here for past 2 months! OK, by coincidence we have a wedding to attend in Dubai, where we learn they have ‘adequate’ stocks. All seems good, but when we arrive there we learnt that Dubai residents pay a mere US$ 5 per injection, but for visitors like us to Dubai, when the Burj Khalifa is still the tallest building in the world, the vaccine is a whooping US$ 95 per injection!!! Damn. My Indian instinct of “no discounts?” instantly kicks in, but all in vain. I cough up US$ 190 and we both get our shots and the all important certificate that is valid for a good 10 years.

Our ride started and ended in Bogota. And oh, we didn’t find any ‘Learn Spanish in 7 days course’ so gave up on that and instead bought a cell phone package with internet (so that Ms. Google Translate is available on call 24/7). NO, Colombia is not as dangerous as it used to be once…..things have drastically changed for the good since 2010 and like they now say “the only danger in Colombia is wanting to stay back”. There are friendly police & soldiers everywhere to ensure safety & security. Ofcourse, there are tiny pockets in any city or town that are considered dangerous (like any other country in the world), but just take the locals’ advice on the larger safer parts and use a good measure of your own common-sense. As for the rebel fighters, I understand they have been largely subdued and unless you do something spectacularly stupid deep in the forest, you are not going to make contact with them either. The people are very warm and friendly but probably we could have had an even better time if we could have conversed in a few sentences of Spanish. The women there carry themselves very well, some of them rather ‘too well’! The wide food variety is awesome and tasty, while the untamed natural beauty of the place is absolutely fascinating.


An indication of the route map of our complete ride in Colombia






Arrival into Bogota

With a really long flt & crossing many time zones/continents from Bangalore to Heathrow to Miami to Bogota (oooooff), both of us land into Bogota on a cloudy afternoon. We have everything from jetlag to hunger to exhaustion to…you name it. But seeing the chaotic traffic from our airport taxi, I know the actual ride is not going to be a walk in the park. We check-into the B3 Virrey Hotel in the heart of the city.



Departing from our home city- Bangalore




Midway arriving at Miami Intl Airport for a break






Finally arriving into El Dorado International Airport in Bogota















Wow, that’s a familiar marque from India











After a quick wash, we walk to the Centro 93 mall where we settle for lunch. The Spanish adventure starts from here! The menu is in Spanish, the waitress speaks no English and we are hungry. Luckily the manager speaks some English and we solve the first obstacle course and order our lunch which also consists of exotic local fruit juices Mora, Guanabana etc…….












We then go to buy a sim card for our mobile but with only knowledge of counting 1-10 in Spanish, here we are 2 english speaking Indians standing at the kiosk trying to explain we want a sim with internet package to the owner & salesgirl who I must admit speak very very fluent Spanish only! I used to be good with miming & mimicry in college, but all my theatrical prowess just doesn’t seem to make a cut here. Then I take the final lifeline option of ‘Phone a friend’…and the only friend I have now in Colombia is Mike from Motolombia far away in another city of Cali. He explains on the phone to them and finally when I see the smile on the salesgirls face I guess all is well and we have a fully functional Colombian cell number. BTW, I was impressed with the cell services as the net connection was working without interruption all thru our trip deep inside the rural country, on mountains, in the woods etc. Later in the afternoon, we take a gondola ride up to the nearby mountain Monseratte which is a small pilgrim destination with a 17th century church and also houses cafeteria, restaurant, souvenir shops etc. From the summit we take in the spectacular views of Bogota city that is spread far & wide into the horizon.



















We take the gondola ride back and walk around the streets of Bogota and also taste their favorite snack found at many street corners- Arequipe (caramelized goat milk) sandwiched between two rice paper wafers.





I think it was her fourth attempt explaining the snack to me……in Spanish ofcourse!








Later in the evening, Mike’s rep in Bogota, Juan (pictured above) drops off the black BMW R1200GS bike together with the sidecases, liner bags and also 2 reflective vests with the bike’s plate number imprinted on it. Seems it is a statutory requirement in Colombia for the plate number to be displayed on the back of your jacket or helmet. We have an early dinner and hit the bed as the ride starts tomorrow.

Do stay tuned….
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Old 10-31-2013, 03:48 AM   #2
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Day-1 (Bogota to Ibague)



We are used to the large & bulky sidecases of the R1200RTon our other trips, so Mrs Adventure, who also heads the packing department, was very upset seeing these narrow looking metal sidecases, but I assured her these will indeed carry more stuff than the odd shaped RT sidecases and I couldn’t have been more correct. The provided liner bags has the capability to hold a lot of things. Indeed, I came away very impressed with the fit, finish, ruggedness, waterproof qualities etc of these aluminum sidecases made by a local Colombian company MASTECH.

In the morning looking out of the window, it’s a cloudy day. After gulping down a nice breakfast at B3 hotel and loading up the cases we started out from the big and busy bogota city in peak morning rush hour traffic. The Colombian capital city of Bogota, which is part of the Cundinamarca municipality located high on the Andes mountains at a height of 8600 feet, its the third highest capital city in South America.








Proudly affixing the tricolor






It’s the Colombian rule that either the helmet or jacket should display the bike plate no




The customary parting shots










With a population of about 8 million, it is indeed a crowded city and the traffic is chaotic. While most cars were keeping to their lanes, the small capacity commuter bikes (mostly Indian made Bajaj Pulsars, TVS Apaches and Hero Hondas), are zipping past us and splitting lanes at will.

Me with the fully loaded tall GS and its extra wide cases was not in a position to split lanes and flowed slowly with the car/bus traffic. At one point where the oncoming traffic lane passes 4-5 feet higher than our going lane, an oncoming bus splashes some water that lands directly in our face & mouth thru the open helmet visor. Yuk…. As we are riding out of town there is a lot of anxious moments mainly due to the complete lack of Spanish language reading skills (traffic signboards), which we hadnt thought much about while planning. The concern was more about being stranded on a deserted highway or forest with no knowledge of local language.














































Anyways the ride thru the Andes mountain range was very scenic with a welcome overdoze of greenery all around. We stopped along the highway for lunch at a small restaurant where we ordered our meal thru a cocktail of sign language and google translate! Enjoyed the lovely food served by a friendly mother-daughter team that ran the place.









Bikes just pass thru a dedicated narrow lane and don’t pay toll charges in Colombia


























The mother-daughter duo that run the eatery







Proceeding further our highway 40 passed the towns of Soacha, Silvania, Boqueron, Melgar, El Espinal, Chicoral and we ended the day in Ibague. We faced a mix of cool weather, rain, humidity and scorching heat(remember, we are close to the equator). Once in Ibague, it was a small town with tight streets and some dodgy looking streets as well. Anyways our GPS dumps us to the Hotel Dann Combeima. It is located in a nice part of town that is safe for 3-4 blocks all around and there are lots of shopping & eatery spots around.










Sorry, I only have one passenger, and I don’t intend dropping her off…..


























































In the night we went for a small stroll within the safer parts of the town, finished dinner & settled into bed.
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Old 11-01-2013, 07:31 AM   #3
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Day–2 (Ibague to Salento)



We wake up to the wonderful sound of rainfall tapping from the sky. The surrounding mountains were covered in low clouds. Ibague is the music capital of Colombia and located in the Tolima province and features a tropical rainforest climate all thru the year. Our hotel had a well laid out buffet breakfast and the friendly staff pointed us to one corner where there was the pipping hot Colombian favourite breakfast dish ‘Tamal’. Yummmy.















After breakfast, we started out on a gloomy morning from Ibaque negotiating the narrow & wet streets with continuous rain that has been pouring thru the night. Although it’s a relatively short riding day, today, we had to negotiate the beautiful and twisty Cordillera mountains, with heavy trailer-truck traffic and at times visibility due to fog down to almost couple of meters. With a few traffic jams high up on this mountain road together with wet roads, our riding pace has been considerably slowed down, however, we get intermittent stretches without traffic and I make the most of riding the GS. Riding on we stopped for quick snack & hydration break.
























































The weather was chilly and from there on our ride was a slow crawl along those majestic mountains sometimes again covered in thick fog, sometime with road repair work, traffic blockages etc. We continue ahead passing on highway 40 thru Cajamarka and a few small villages and then branch right at Calarca amidst the coffee growing belt of Armenia region. Getting off the main highway onto another well paved country road swooping thru the many twists & turns passing coffee plantations and finally landing us onto the rustic town of Salento. It’s a small & charming place located in the Quindio municipality with many coblestone streets perfectly bisecting each other at right angles, but its like a roller-coaster ride with steep climbs & dips. Most of the town has retained its brightly colored colonial architecture and is generally a laid back place where everybody seems to know everybody…at times it looked like a giant Hollywood film setting in a past era, just that the people are real, not the extras and they are warm & friendly to us. We check into the Hotel Salento Real and dump our stuff there.




Later that evening google says this mean “Dangerous curves watch out your lane”










Keep wondering what those axle-cables do? Many small & big vehicles had them








Most road repair stretches had these valuable traffic controllers. Nice


























After a small wash, we quickly proceed to the famous Valley of Cocora renowned for its wax palms, the tallest palm trees in the world and the national tree of Colombia. It’s an absolutely mystical scenery once you are at the valley with the tall palms rising on the mountain slopes that are carpeted in rich green grass manicured by nature with the sunlight providing some spectacular visual effects, although today it was being interrupted at regular intervals by clouds. We settled in one of the restaurants there for a mouth watering lunch that comprised of Griddled trucha (trout fish) and Patacon gratinado con vegetarian with trucha soup, all this being gulped down while equally enjoying the spectacular view around.








































































Day-2 continued in the following post
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Old 11-01-2013, 07:36 AM   #4
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.

Day-2 contd from previous post





After a long lunch at the valley, we headed to a coffee plantation, but the ride in itself was an unexpected adventure which we hadn’t anticipated. Asking for directions to the plantation, we learnt the hard way that in the Colombian countryside Uno km (1 km) is how every distance, short or long is explained!! We started from the town center with ‘uno km to destination’, but after riding thru some really treacherous and slippery dirt track for about 8kms, we were again told its uno km…..Frankly the ride was like a rally route with all kinds of challenges and at one point we had a seriously close call when I fishtailed my rear in the narrow slushy road with the frightening view of the valley many hundred feet below with no guard rails, it was pure luck that I managed to keep the bike upright.


















Colombian art, souvenir and confectionery made locally










On our return journey, we had the added challenge of two stray dogs ferociously barking & running beside us, where one mongrel lost interest soon but the other continued its pursuit…. I had a heavy bike to steer, slushy road with a steep climb and trying to avoid our canine foe biting us!! As expected, I knew the dog would have scared the living daylights out of my long haired general, and I was myself sweating in my helmet with so many challenges and in a fit of rage, I screamed at the dog at 100 decibels in my native malayalam language ‘poda nayinde mone’ (crudely translates as - get lost you SoB) and the dog abruptly shut up and left us thinking we belonged to another planet!!! I asked my wife, did you get that on camera and she replies, “what camera?? my hands were trembling & I was thinking of a colombian dog bite as a souvenir to take back to India!!!” We had a hearty laugh afterwards. We finally ended a wonderful & eventful day in Salento.
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Old 11-01-2013, 07:54 AM   #5
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WOW! Amazing stuff!
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Old 11-01-2013, 07:56 AM   #6
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Nice RR and pics. I got an appetite for Columbia now....Thank you!
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Old 11-01-2013, 08:00 AM   #7
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I suspect I will be riding that bike next week when I see Mike of Motolumbia so I am in for this one!
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Old 11-01-2013, 01:31 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallbastid View Post
WOW! Amazing stuff!
Quote:
Originally Posted by dreamtour View Post
Nice RR and pics. I got an appetite for Columbia now....Thank you!
Thanks Tallbastid & dreamtour.
Colombia is indeed a riot of greenery, unending mountains and some excellent tarmac that is rarely a straight line- full of twisty stuff....a bikers delight

Quote:
Originally Posted by WhicheverAnyWayCan View Post

I suspect I will be riding that bike next week when I see Mike of Motolumbia so I am in for this one!
Mike is a great guy and keeps his bikes in good shape
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Old 11-01-2013, 01:36 PM   #9
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Day–3 (Salento to Medellin)



The previous evening when we checked into the hotel, I was annoyed at not finding air-conditioning. But the manager had smiled and said, firstly if you remove your space suit you will feel a little more airy and secondly, just wait for the night to arrive. He was damn right. We woke up to a very chilly morning in Salento. After a simple breakfast of fruits, fresh juice, freshly made Arepa (Colombian flatbread of ground maize) and omelette, we pack up & strap up soon and put on our inner jacket liners. We hit the road heading north wards. With a bright sun, its getting really warm and steamy inside our jackets so we shed the warm liners as the ambient temperature started rising and hence it was a hot & sweaty ride.













No wonder we found Colombia a very clean country





















Along the way we are stopped at a military check point and in a friendly tone the soldier said something in Spanish with a small figurette of a soldier and all I grasped was the word ‘pesos’ (probably some military charity or whatever). Although I am into charity, I wasn’t sure if this was going to the right place, hence not wanting to take a chance with English, I brought out my best trick and started talking in pure native Hindi language- “hum log bharath se aayein hai aur….) explaining that we are an Indian couple and we are here on a ride and we loved the country etc…… his puzzled face said it all and we were waved thru with a smile…..but one thing I must mention here is that all over Colombia the police & military were extremely polite, friendly and very reassuring that they cared for our safety. Anyways getting back to the ride, we briefly ride Rte 50 passing thru Pereira, Santa Rosa and then branch left onto Rte 29 another wonderful piece of tarmac with its lovely twists & turns. By now it is time for refueling ourselves and our bike.



































Now that’s a familiar sign from India

















We fuel up the bike and for lunch we selected the adjacent truck stop for two reasons- safety & good/fresh food. It was an ordinary roadside eatery but lots of trucks and other vehicles around. Also there was a clean toilet for our use. We use google translate on our phone to order food and feast on another wonderful round of Pollo sopa, pollo frei with arroz al vapor (Chicken soup, Chicken fry and steamed rice). The service at this eatery was wonderful and always with a warm smile.


















We continue on Rte 29 northwards merging into Rt 25 which is a major north-south artery highway in Colombia. The ride went thro' some scenic mountains carpeted in green foliage and jaw dropping valley views. We also had our fill of negotiating thru unending 18-wheeler traffic crawling up the mountain, road construction zones, traffic jams in tight switchbacks making the ride a lot more intense and time consuming. We were gliding thru a series of small mountain passes with well paved motorcycling tarmac slow enough to enjoy the scenery but fast enough to enjoy the road. Our ride takes thru La Pintada, Santa Barbara, Caldas etc.















































Riding some more kms further down slowly the cluster of concrete jungle is coming into view signaling our final approach into the famous city of Medellin. From the city outskirts the traffic is relatively heavy and swift although we see a number of fixed speed cameras along the way. Around this time there is a light drizzle that is slowly turning into proper rain. We make our grand entry into the city of Medellin, which is the second largest city in Colombia cradled in the Aburra valley. As we near the city center, the skies have liberally opened up its reservoir and to make things worse, our GPS is just not able to recognize our hotel $#%@&*! That’s a complicated situation with rain and not speaking the language spoken in spain!!! We try all combinations with GPS, but no luck. Suddenly lady adventure tells me on the intercom that during her googling she remembers some museum is located near the hotel. We search museums and Bingo! Mr Garmin finally wakes up and directs us there before ofcourse taking us in circles thru some one-way streets etc, but finally to our relief bang opp the museum is our Ibis hotel…. We checked into our hotel dripping with water.































Day-3 continued in nest post..




.



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Old 11-01-2013, 01:37 PM   #10
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Day-3 contd from previous post




We wash up and go for an evening stroll to the nearby Mall where we have another comic situation. We ask the lady security officer for the super-mercado (supermarket) and she sternly says exito..I thought she was telling me its too late so get lost……! Anyways, I walked towards the exit of the mall and to our amusement we find that the supermarket there is actually named EXITO!!!












We ‘Easterners’ are surprised & DELIGHTED to see this spary in our bathroom!!










Respect for these guys to keep the city safe (sorry for the unwanted special effects!)






Wow, after Mrs & Mr Adventure just gained some more wisdom on EXITO, we picked up some fruits and small groceries and finished the day with a simple dinner. It was a long and tiring day for both of us but nevertheless enjoyable.
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Old 11-02-2013, 07:33 AM   #11
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Day–4 (Medellin to Guatepe to Doradel)



After a sumptuous breakfast at the Ibis Hotel, we started the day with a mini-tour of Medellin city. The second largest city in Colombia with a population of close to 3 million inhabitants, its also known as a city of ‘Eternal Springs’. The locals are known as Paisas (In India that’s more to do with the currency). Medellin is rated the most progressive city in South America and its notorious past is now put behind its back with the govt doing a thorough clean up over the past few years and the city is a vibrant place to visit. Although the city is relatively safe, we are ‘advised’ to stay away from deserted side streets and stick with the main thoroughfares., we make a quick tour of the prominent Plaza Botero which is prominent for the oversized sculptures & figures made buy the famous Colombian sculptor, Fernando Botero (one of his figures was also targeted in the past with a bomb by the infamous Pablo Escobar gang and it has been kept like that probably to remind people of the tumultuous & violent past this city has had). Downtown with its exciting & colorful attractions and other odd stuff was an enjoyable experience.
































Fruit sellers with a mic & loudspeaker is common sight in the cities!




The global Indian brand- Mahindra in Colombia








We then ride up the hill to El Pueblito Paisa where we do some curio shopping and take in the magnificent views of the sprawling metropolis below. What we noticed about Medellin is that nearly most parts of the city, buildings, parking areas etc are under heavy CCTV surveillance. There are lots of very friendly but fully armed cops around most parts of the city. Mrs Adventure also exchanges greetings with a lady cop.


The rider is a lady cop (we meet her later for a pic)


















We then head back to the hotel and check out. As we ride out everything is on schedule, however a local cycling event meant some main roads have been blocked off for the ‘0 hp bikers’ and our GPS goes completely cuckoo taking us in circles around the city with its unending traffic signal intersections. We are behind the clock by an easy 1 hour on a day when we have lots of riding/sight-seeing to do.











Our hotel’s guest relations executive, Karen who spoke excellent American English and who guided us on what to see, do and not-do in Medellin. Thanks Karen





The customary departing shot from the city of Medellin





















Once out of the city we are heading eastwards taking the wonderful highway 60 with a riot of greenery all around. We pass thru beautiful mountain roads, cross a tunnel and continue on the same winding smooth tarmac for many more kms.



Motorcycles take the extreme right lane, and NO, we DON’T pay toll charges…he he!






















Colombian fruit- Zapote






Day-4 continued in next post



.

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Old 11-02-2013, 07:34 AM   #12
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Day-4 contd from previous post






About 50 kms into the highway-60 we reach the town of Marinilla where we take a detour left on a narrow but well paved country road that ascends with amazing twists & turns as it snakes its way to Guatape, famous for its 70 million year old monolith rock 'El Penol', which can be scaled thru its 650 odd steps. The views of the nearby Gautape lake and surroundings from atop that spot is simply astonishing. It’s a hot day and we constantly hydrate ourselves. We soon ride into the heart of town where the locals are enjoying a leisurely Sunday afternoon. There is Spanish music everywhere with loads of local and foreign tourists. This place is also renowned for the Zocalos carvings on all the houses in various patterns and we are delighted to see that the Indian made Bajaj autorickshaw (trikes) rule the roads hauling passengers from one place to another! We have a nice lunch of Arroz, Ensalada, Papitas, Tajada, Frijoles, Huevo (Rice, salad, French fries, deep fried plantain slices, beans & fried egg).





















The El Penol in the background






Well…..a Colombian biker chick!







Zocalos carvings on houses


























The humble Indian Bajaj autorickshaw with a South American touch!

























Soon after the relaxed lunch break we start our downward journey back to Marinilla from where we turn left and continue on Hwy 60. The ride is absolutely enjoyable going thru most parts under the tree canopy with lots of unending sweepers and climbs & dips. At one point just after a curve, we are suddenly facing an oncoming van barging at us in our lane and I luckily manage to steer onto the shoulder (watch intro video). The roads are well paved, but in many parts there is thick fog for kilometers on end which slows us down considerably. And our late start in the morning means, it is quickly getting dark and then we are riding on a dark highway with very little traffic and just the headlight of the bike and brightly lit screen of the GPS for company.


























Although I have a self imposed rule not to ride at night on our global rides esp with a very valuable piece of cargo on my back seat…we still somehow ended riding in pitch dark conditions for couple of hours which I must admit can sometimes border between stupidity & adventure. Anyways inspite of our best efforts in the dark we overshoot our destination- Doradel as the resort was not on the main highway and the GPS just goes blank. We end up in Puerto Triunfo where everybody seems to be having a gala dinner time eating & drinking and nobody speaks English! In the dark with great difficulty and some google translate services on the mobile phone we get directions from a local to backtrack 15 kms to our resort which is located just off the highway but at a very secluded place with no other signs or sounds of civilization except the sound of a rare passing truck or car, while its pitch dark all around. Doradel is absolutely hot & humid. The lady at the counter handles the resort, the kitchen and the restaurant- an all rounder at that!











We have a quick dinner with only the insect sounds or crickets or katydids in the background. Exhausted we hit the bed after another enjoyable day of riding...In the middle of night we did hear some sounds in the distance like a tat, tat, tat (!) sounded more like gunshots, but told my wife they are firecrackers, go to sleep…..Good night! I don’t think she bought it, but nevertheless she went off to sleep.
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Old 11-03-2013, 06:52 AM   #13
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Oddometer: 534
Day–5 (Doradal to Puerto Triunfo to Honda)



Our room was air-conditioned so we had a good nights sleep but there was no hot water in the bathroom (as if we needed it in a hot & humid place!). After an early morning stroll in the sprawling garden of the resort we were staying at, we were treated to a nice breakfast of Arepa, bread, cheese, fried eggs, fruits and some Colombian coffee.





















We started the day with a trip to the ranch of the once most dreaded drug lord in the world, Pablo Escobar. From the main gate, it’s a long ride on a well paved dirt track with greenery on either side which was indeed ‘a walk in the park’ for the wonderful Bavarian thoroughbred GS we were riding. The Late Monsieur Escobar’s private wildlife collection and theme park have now been converted into an amusement park. His former luxury home I am sure has seen better days but now lies in a little desolate condition, probably since the Colombian govt does not want to glorify the guy who once wrecked havoc in the country running an almost parallel govt with the drug mafia. Anyway for our mixed luck, part of the attraction was closed for maintenance.









































As we leave the ranch, I notice that my tire pressure monitor is blinking on the dashboard & warns me of pressure dropping in my rear tire. It was an extraordinarily hot & humid day and both of us were completely dehydrated after this small ride. Along the ride we stopped to check our tire pressure and as we were doing that we are profusely sweating…One of the men sitting there gestures me to a guy selling some stuff on the other side of the road. At first I didn’t understand, but then presumed it may be some tourist trap stuff. Damn, how wrong I was. Actually, the good soul seeing us dripping in sweat was just telling us to go and have a hydrating drink. Still with some reservation I went to the push cart guy that was selling something called ‘Salpicon’…. When I had a glass of it, believe me, no Red Bull or whatever energy drink could be so thirst satisfying on such a hot & humid day as this local refreshing Colombian fruit drink Salpicon. Wow, this drink made up of freshly cut fruits dissolved in cool watermelon juice & crushed ice was absolutely rejuvenating and thirst quenching. We downed atleast 4 glasses of the stuff and headed back to the hotel. Infact my lady loved it so much, she got very annoyed at me for not stopping the next day at a Salpicon kiosk along the highway!













On check-out the credit card machine just would not make wireless contact to the mobile tower or satellite or whatever (that’s how its done in remote locations in Colombia without a land line). Anyway the receptionist was kind enough to do it manually and call the bank and get the approval. By this time I again gulped down atleast 2 more full bottles of water…the humidity & heat was killing and with all the riding gear I was worried I may black out.….yeah the heat was so intense. It was almost noon time and hence we had a light lunch and then checked out. We headed off on highway 60 which initially had its regular twists & curves, but on one particular stretch for the first time in our ride we encountered arrow straight stretches for kilometers together. Would have put me to sleep!. Anyways, we continue further and subsequently branched right onto highway 45 towards the town of Honda, our destination for the night. It was another hot day and to make it more challenging, my rear tire was again rapidly losing air pressure. I stopped midway and fixed the puncture (atleast that’s what I thought) and finally landed in Honda completely dripping in sweat.

































































Day-5 continued in the next post







.

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Old 11-03-2013, 06:54 AM   #14
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Day-5 contd from previous post





The sprawling town of Honda has nothing to do with some Japanese manufacturer of automobiles! It takes its name from Ondaimas, the indigenous people that inhabited the banks of the massive Magdalena river. The city is nestled along the river in Tolima province and was once the main river port of Colombia from 1850 to 1910. This place is super hot & humid almost throughout the year so not a great place for daytime tourism! We are staying at the historic Botique Posada Las Trampas Hotel built in the 1600s. The city has its own charm with narrow cobblestone streets with lots of old and well preserved buildings.

























Good the English text was there…or I would have presumed something less moral!!




Late evening view from our window






We went out for an evening stroll to the main town square that had kiosks selling cut fruits, ice creams, and other stuff, but we settled for another enjoyable Colombian snack- plantain fritter. Later in the evening we dined at a local eatery with some excellent food and then went into a super market for some grocery purchases, most important being a gallon of WATER! Also picked some freshly cut fruits - lulo, mora etc. We had to give up on other stuff since it was all in Spanish and google translate was going bonkers with our overload of translation requests!!















Flat and out in bed after an exhausting day in the hot scorching Colombian sun.

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Old 11-04-2013, 12:13 PM   #15
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Day–6 (Honda to Bogota)



As usual we had a nice breakfast served by our host and went around the Posada Las Trampas hotel enjoying its old world charm. Honda being an extremely hot & humid place, we had to repeatedly gulp down huge amount of water to fight off dehydration (remember, I told you we bought a gallon of water the previous night). Still the ride started with both of us dripping in sweat.















That’s a choice of Indian tea (not the strong variety we Indians are used to sipping!)






No harm in a bit of help from Google-Translate to order the choice of eggs!






Our friendly hostess








The ‘Tea-kit & kettle’ we carry on all our global rides




Yeah, that’s a whole damn gallon for the heat & humidity!!!







Load up the bike and slowly made our way out of the narrow streets of Honda city and onto the highway heading towards Bogota. Again my dashboard flashes low pressure in my tire. Fortunately, there was a gas station nearby where I went and had the puncture fixed once & for all.


































Soon we were ascending the mountains with lots of road repair stoppages as well as landslide clearance. One thing that particularly impressed me is that any road construction zone is well marked, well manned and motorists are also well mannered waiting in line patiently. Seems it is also customary to have a lot of street vendors who sell their stuff at these road repair sites. We also saw a ‘mobile cafeteria’ lodged on a small Bajaj Pulsar 150cc bike…. By now we both are also familiar with the 2 boards that road repair crew hold directing traffic – PARE in red color (means STOP) and SIGA in green color (means GO)…wow, our Spanish knowledge has substantially increased!! It was foggy in places (a hallmark of Colombian climate), while there were some more fresh landslides and slushy road repair works along the route.

















Wow! A mobile cafeteria…probably missing only a cappuccino machine!!












Rear pic…..No, we are not on the wrong side of the road.



































Day-6 continued in next post




.

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