Colombia has two mountain ranges that run most of it’s length. We descended from the mountains in Bogota and into the valley. It was hot, sweaty, and with little wind. Soon enough though we started climbing up the other mountain chain and made our way to Medellin. It was a full days ride and let’s not forget about the dog that ran into the street. Ya, this kind of thing happens all the time but this was the first time it made contact… A small cocker spaniel mutt raced across the street and before Charles could even react he ran over it with both tires. THUD THUD and the dog rolled but quickly got up and scurried/limped off the street. I was right behind Charles and saw it all unfold in a split second. We kept on. Unfortunately there was nothing we could do. If we stopped we could be scammed by some local for $$$ for running over his dog (if it really was even his). Well he should have had it on a leash… It was terrible, yes, but we had to move on. So
dog killer Charles and I pressed on towards Medellin.
The road into Medellin had beautiful pavement with fun winding switchbacks. Once considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world, Medellin is now spectacular. The orange/brown color of the building roofs and the clean streets were quite a sight. Casa Kiwi hostel is our home in the city and was founded by a New Zealand guy who road south from Alaska and fell in love with Colombia. They have a garage for the motorcycles and even a discount too!
Here at Casa Kiwi we met another biker Carl from Denmark who started his journey in Buenos Aires then down to Ushuaia and is making his way up to the USA. We exchanged some tips on roads/borders/sights as well as stories. The three of us also rode the bikes about an hour outside the city to check out the 200 meter tall monolith of El Penol. The road took us out to the middle of nowhere until we saw this giant right in front of us.
After slugging up the 600+ stairs we arrived a the summit with a spectacular view of the countryside! (Click on the picture for a larger version).
Beautiful calm finger lakes and deserted forested islands went on for as far as the eye could see. There were three 20 year old Colombia girls at the top. The started talking to us and turns out that they hitchhiked here from their home. They asked where we were going and if they could ride with us back to the main road where we would then part ways. We agreed but it was lunch time so we decided to get some food in the nearest town first. Even though they giggled constantly it was still a fun conversation to speak only in Spanish with some locals. When the check came (or rather we asked for it – because the restaurants will let you sit for hours without bringing the check) us three guys paid our portion and the girls just sat there… 10 minutes goes by and nothing… Carl and I nominate Charles to ask the awkward question. They don’t have any money… Ya, we could pay for them but just the fact that they assumed we would pay and that we’re already doing them a big favor by giving them a list we think it’s only fair if they each pay the $3 for their meals.
Charles continues the awkward conversation and asks how they stop giggling. Again, we could pay but it’s the principal and now it’s actually kind of fun watching the situation unfold. So after about 45 minutes of calling on the phone, discussing options, yada yada yada, they tell us they can get money from a bank in the next town. OK, we load up and ride there. Another 20 minutes passes and it’s quite confusing as to what the problem is with getting money. Eventually they do and decide they don’t want a ride any more. No problem! We’re anxious to fly down the twisty roads and get back to Medellin! What a fun awkward experience though. You can’t buy that from a travel guide!
Back in Medellin I read an article in the local paper about two Americans who live in Medellin and working on a photography project called Lighten Up And Shoot. I see that our photography styles are very similar and I drop them an email. They swing by later and we chat the night away over a few beers. Good times and good company.
The next morning we leave Medellin. Ya, so soon. We barely saw any of the city but we had a great time. I could certainly come back here for a week, month, or year… But we need to continue south so we’re up at the crack of down and leaving for Cali.
Cali is significantly lower than Bogota and Medellin. We’re sweating as we roll up to the Casa Blanca Hotel. The owner, Mike, is a motorcycle legend. He road his bike from the USA to Argentina and then back up when he fell in love with a Colombiana, married, had a child, and opened up a hostel and motorcycle/ATV tour company Motolombia. Mike is super friendly and spends all day helping us find tires, getting work done at the mechanic, and sharing travel stories. He’s had more than 200 motorcyclists come by since he opened up the hostel in late 2008. If you’re riding through Colombia, you must stop here!
Thanks to Santiago for all the mechanical help, last minute, on a Saturday, at a very fair price!
Also at his shop was a $20,000 BMW 1200 GS. I tried to get him to trade straight up. No luck, so I had to steal it!
We’ve decided to get a set of knobby tires for later down the road (or lack there of) in Bolivia. We hear the roads are treacherous and don’t want to ride there on street tires. Mike brought us to a few shops but we didn’t find quite what we were looking for. Then the manager at one shop gave Charles a front and rear tire that he had used previously for a rally race. He gave me a front (because he didn’t have my size rear). The tires still have good tread left on them and they are hard to beat for the price – FREE! I still need to pick up a rear tire – I’ll try in Ecuador. We’ll hold onto these tires and put them on somewhere in Peru.
Visitors don’t come to Cali to see churches… They come here for the salsatecas! Cali is the salsa capital of Colombia and when in Rome… At the hostel we met up with Marty (from that country north of the USA – New Freedomstan?) who just bought a KLR with the help from Mike. He’s going to be riding through South America. We also met Simon at the hostel and the 4 of us went out for a night on the town to experience Cali’s salsa culture. The night before, Marty had met a Colombiana , Paola, and we met up her and her friend Diana. Another great conversation that took place only in Spanish. My Spanish is still poor but I really enjoying talking. These girls were super cool and man could they dance… I’m pretty much rhythmically challenged. I asked Diana when she started dancing salsa. She said she started when she was in her Momma’s belly. I believe it. The girls taught us some salsa moves (which we performed terribly but with great enjoyment). We had a blast and danced until 5 in the morning.
While walking past a clothing store downtown, Marty saw a manikin that looked like me. We all laughed. Here’s this manikin with a bald head and a big beard. We ask a cleaning guy outside if we can go in and take a picture with it. Immediately he understands why and starts cracking up. The same with the lady inside the store. Well here I am with my buddy. It just goes to show you how truly good looking I am and how the Colombians define fashion and beauty. I am a sponsored athlete-model after all…
Plenty more to come. Stay tuned!