Colombia – South America here we come!

We unloaded from the cargo boat and officially set foot in Turbo, Colombia – the start of the road. The “port” was little more than a small wooden dock at the back end of a local neighborhood.

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I crossed my fingers with hopes that my bike would start… Oh please god… VROOOMMMMM!!!! Yes! I put my bike in gear and gave it throttle. It stalled and wouldn’t restart… ARGGGGHH!!!!! Not again! Charles left to go find a hotel and a pick up truck to tow me. Night set in and there I was, alone, in a poor Colombian neighborhood surrounded by a hundred locals asking me questions I didn’t understand, and touching every part of me and the bike while asking for money. I asked lots of questions to divert their attention from me and my gear. About 30 minute later Charles showed up and we get the local kids to push my bike through the back roads to the hotel which was only about a half mile away.

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We unwind for the night and are up early the next morning to work on the bike. The parking lot owner calls over a mechanic and he quickly diagnoses the problem – a clogged fuel line. After about 2 hours work we have the bike put back together and purring like a… burro? Turbo isn’t much a tourist place but the people that helped me out were extremely nice. Thanks so much!

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We quickly pack up and head north. Not more than 30 minutes out of Turbo we’re off the gringo trail blazing down dirt roads through banana plantations. The landscape is already so different from Panama and it’s beautiful. There’s not much day light as we continue north so we pull off in Sincelejo for the night at a little hospedaje for $4.50 USD per person. There’s a big festival in town and so we go to check it out. As we walk through the big crowds this man starts pouncing at Charles’ feet. What the??? He’s quickly surrounded by people and then the man gets up holding some cheap watch like he found what he was looking for. It doesn’t sit well with me and I tell Charles to check for his belongings. Yup, they stole his camera. It all happened so fast without much time to react. Fortunately, most of his pictures were backed up on the computer and it was a 10 year old camera with a broken battery that he wanted to replace anyways. It’s too bad to have something like this happen so quickly into the country but we try to keep our spirits up.

In the morning it’s off to Cartagena. There’s ridiculous traffic as we make it to the outskirts of the city and we find ourselves riding on the sidewalks, cutting through buses, and jumping medians to get through. Fun 🙂 The colonial city is beautiful. It’s surrounded by a wall built hundreds of years ago by the Spanish.

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Charles manning the artillery.

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We’ve been looking for new books and came across a used book market in the city. I found this book. Interesting. I saw my home town on the map and showed it to the saleswomen.

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On the backside of the city is an enormous old fort named Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas. Truly an amazing structure with an amazing tunnel system that was a blast to explore.

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We’re under attack!

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A few pull-ups. Need to work off that daily ice cream…

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Next stop, the Volcan el Totumo, mud volcano. This was a great tourist trap and well worth the $2 admission. This giant mound of dirt is like a natural hot spring. But instead of fresh water, it’s filled with luke warm mud.

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Tourists are herded up the mound and take the plunge into the mud. As you step into the mud you half sink and half float. It’s a very strange feeling.

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Charles and I post mud bath.

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Ya, that mud goes EVERYWHERE.

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After the mud dip we stroll down to the lake where women bath us to remove all the mud. With our skin freshly exfoliated we continue on until we reach the small beach town of Taganga. It’s set in a beautiful valley with a calm cove.

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The fishing boats.

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We haven’t been keeping up much with the news at home but tonight we have a strong internet connection and we live stream President Obama’s State of the Union speech. MURICA! (Democrats! –Charles)

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Now the real fun begins. Charles persuades me to break my cheap frugal spending habits and convinces me to go SCUBA diving. He has about 60 dives under his belt but this is my first time. I sign up for a mini-course where I learn the basics. I’m a little nervous at first but I calm down and am surprised at how natural it feels and how beautiful the environment really is. The instructor said I picked it up very quickly so we basically went out for 2 fun dives. WOW! What an experience. It feels like I’m flying through the sea. We see lots of sea life including eels, lion fish, a turtle, and all kinds of vegetation and coral. Every once in a while I look up and realize I’m 40 feet below the water’s surface. Amazing.

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And just when you think things can’t possible get any more awkward…

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In between dives we had lunch on the beach and helped the local fisherman pull in a catch of tuna. Also caught in the net were trumpet and puffer fish.

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The eagle ray is protected but these fisherman didn’t have any problems with killing this one for its meat. There’s little policing to stop these poachers.

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OK time to get back to work. The next day is a 400+ mile ride from Taganga to Barichara. Ride, ride, ride, eat, ride, ride, ride. That’s pretty much how the day went. It was exhausting but there wasn’t much to see in between so we made good progress and called it quits in the stunning colonial town of Barichara. By coincidence we ran into some other motorcyclists doing a 2 week tour of Colombia. Pedro has ridden all around Central and South America and knows every in and out of Colombia. He gave us some great road advice too.

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Back on the road the next morning and we stop for lunch in another beautiful colonial town, Villa de Leyva. Instead of showing another picture of another beautiful colonial town, I’ll throw in this one of Charles preparing to eat lunch. The food here in Colombia has been exceptional. The typical dishes are much tastier than Central America and the portion sizes are much larger. mmmmm food.

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A typical al muerzo (fixed menu lunch) of steak, beans, soup, grilled banana, rice with noodles, and a type of potato salad, all for $2.50!

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More fun to come. Stay tuned!

Categories: Colombia | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Colombia – South America here we come!

  1. Great blog! I’ve really enjoyed following your trip.

    Stay safe!

  2. John

    Smart move conditioning your beard with mud and spreading the glorious fame of H-town to the world.

  3. Amberlynn Gifford

    Does Charles grow facial hair?

  4. Andrew Davies

    Ben, I just found your blog and it is awesome! Looks like you guys are having a lot of fun. What an experience!

  5. Lisa/Jetboil

    Always love getting the new installment!
    I posted a link to from Jetboil’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. Some pretty lively interest right away.

  6. Emily Heff

    I seriously love that you found a copy of AMC River guide. Was Candia on there too? hah

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