Saturday, 23 June 2012

South America At Last!

Greetings again bikers, family and friends.  So, I never really said too much about it, but Dan finished his journey in Panama and I wanted to say a proper goodbye on here.  He is a little something that Dan wrote...

"Having reached Panama City It's time to change the Adventures of Clay and Dan to The Adventures of Clay.  The old guy will ship his BMW back to Canada, and Clay will continue on to Columbia, and the blog will grow with more stories of life on the tiger. Journeys end has mixed feelings, another thing off the bucket list, won't miss packing up and moving on, fitting everything back on the the bike, thank God we didn't camp as much as Clay wanted, having to carry the camping gear, DHL missed out on a few more dollars, and of course sadness that's its over. Striking off through Mexico and Central America has been a wish come true, getting to know Clay an added bonus, family is always important  but more so as you grow older. " Youngest brother oldest brother," on a road map most people dream about, I know we both compromised on the way, but not without its rewards (yes younger brothers are a pain). Ok I finally looked at the blog, keep up the good work, in closing Clay, may God's hand be on you till adventures end.........Old Guys Rule.......Dan"

We had good days and bad days Dan, but the adventure was great and I'm sure, neither of us will ever forget it.  Thank-you so much for joining me and putting up with me.   Let's do a short tour on KLR's in the Baja sometime!

The Fritz the Cat & the Tiger finally coming into Cartagena.
Adam's stoked to finally arrive...I'm sure we all are.
The colonial architecture and colors in the city are stunning.

I just love the face of this statue.  I can't quite put my finger on the expression.

City walls from the outside.  Motorcycle are not allowed inside the old city unless you are staying there.

I didn't make it into this Museum, but it's on my list for next time.

I did however manage to get into the Museo de Oro "Museum of Gold".  This was definitely something a little different and interesting.

This was one of this first times I saw this.'s a cell phone tied to a desk in the street that people pay to use!  Crazy.
I headed out of Cartagena and headed towards Santa Marta and this picture pretty much sums up the scenery on the first part of that ride.  
The scenery quickly improves as I head for Bucaramanga. Columbia in stunning!  It's a long ride to do in one day and I'm really glad I left early. I head in just before night fall.

I'm not sure why, but I didn't take a lot of pictures for about a week.  I think I was feeling a bit burnt out and lazy to be honest.  Burcaramanga was a nice city; I met some great folks at the hostel there and a great couple... Cat & Mike from San Gil.  They told me San Gil was THE place for adventure sports and it was only a short ride.  I visited the old colonial part of town "Giron"which was beautiful, but I didn't have my camera with me.    Honestly, you'd be better off visting Barichara if you were heading to San Gil.  I'd have to say it's just a tiny bit nicer.

The ride to San Gil was crazy.  The truck drivers in Columbia are crazy, don't like to be passed and hug the center line in anticipation of passing the vehicle in front.   The regular rules don't apply.  I had to be really careful on that ride.  There's also a huge canyon on the way with cable cars.  

I found another great place to stay in San Gil, but it didn't have a garage.  I was tired and left my octane booster strapped to my bike and someone stole that along with my beach/yoga mat that I was sick of carrying and left on top.  Later on I found another hostel that had a swimming pool and garage.  If I'm ever there on the bike again...I'll have to stay there.

The coolest thing about San Gil was the great people I met.  Richard & Henry (aka Redbull) was great hanging out with you guys, and kayaking and I sincerely hope we'll be able to do it again!  Richard is German and has been living in South America for awhile and Henry is a guide with the company there.  Great times, but too short!

I hooked up with some other great folks and we shared some dinners together, went on a great tour that included canyoning, caving, repelling and cliff jumping.  What a day that was!

I think I was the next day we headed to Barichara on a bus.  At that point in time I could count the number of times I has taken a bus during this trip on one hand and it was three.

One of the churches was small in Barichara, but the stones were amazingly colourful and it's definitely worth seeing.
There was a group of people in the town square singing and I wondered what the event was.  Turns out the church decided to have their service outside that day.  It looked like a very happy and uplifting and we hung out for awhile and listen to the great singing.
Will from Cali and the German girl (ahh I can't remember her name) walking up the street ahead of me.  There's also hostels in Barachara if you wanted to go and spend the night.  There was a couple of bikes parked on the street too.
Sometimes the plantains are cut the long way and I'm not sure why, but they taste better to me.

Sadly it was time to leave again, but I decided to leave late that day.   I headed out without much direction other than south and a plan to maybe stop in Tunja.  But....I missed my ficken turn off and was headed for Bogotá.

I got there just before dark and stopped at a cafe to get on the internet.  Then I tried to find a hostel and rode around in circles in the dark for what seemed like a long time.  I actually totally screwed up the address and headed out of town to the old part and then had to head back.  Some of the city seemed pretty sketchy that night and there was one or maybe two fires burning on the street.....I didn't get a warm fuzzy feeling.  

I finally gave up on finding that hostel and found another one on a very narrow street, and they had no parking.  I was so exhausted I asked if I could park on the sidewalk and they said try if you like.  I'm not exactly sure how the hell I got the Tiger up on the sidewalk; it must of been 14" high, and extremely narrow, but some how I did it and locked the bike to some wrought iron fencing along the wall.

The night I sleep hard and the police were there extremely early to tell me to move the bike. No big surprise, but I was tired and it just wasn't safe to ride any more.  With all the happened, I decided maybe Bogotá and me weren't made for each other and I hit the road without really seeing anything other than the city streets and old town at night.

I definitely started that day feeling a bit defeated, but the riding and the scenery lifted my spirits.  The amount of motorbikes in Colombia is crazy.  They definitely love their bikes, but they are mostly small and almost everyone was checking out the Tiger with probably a little bit of envy.

I rode that day and made it to a city called Armenia that I hadn't ever heard of.  I just rode through, picked a side street and low and behold I found a great little hostel with a perfect and safe garage for the bike.  I wandered out that night, and was pleased by this place.  It felt safe, they was a band playing in a grassy school yard and I listened for awhile and clapped when they finished a song.

I went down the street and found a decent dinner and then went to a different place for a coffee which was really good too.  I should of stayed another day, but I knew I was behind schedule and felt compelled to leave the next day and I did.  San Agustine was on the books.

The next day I rode through Popayán and found it impossible to find the road out to San Agustín.  I stopped two cops and they said "vamos" or WE GO and I thought that meant they were actually going to show me the way.  They rode around in circles, two up on their motorcycle and finally stopped at the town square.  Yes, I was a little puzzled and wondering where the communication had failed.  There were other cops there and they all started to gather around us and stare and me and the bike.  Then the pedestrians got curious and started gathering around too.  People were curious, looking and touching the bike.  One of the policemen asked what I wanted and I said I was trying to find the road south.  He said relax and they sent for a translator.  This turned into such a huge production, I couldn't help but just smile like a moron.  The translator arrived and I explained what was going on, and then it was agreed the same too policemen would guide me to the road.  I actually think they intended to do that in the first place and couldn't find it.  Maybe they got directions?  haha.  Anyway, after about 15 unmarked turns and 10 minutes they pulled over and told me that was the way, asked if I had lots of gas and wished me good luck.  

The dirt road, mostly under construction, turned out to  be interesting to say the least.  I was really worried about running out of gas, but finally found a station and settled for the low-grade stuff.

This gives you a little idea of the road.

I came across some locals selling their coffee to the guy in the truck.

I arrived in San Agustín and rode up a VERY steep and rocky hill to a farm/hostel I had bee told about.

The swimming pool is right before the really steep part of the road.

I checked into El Mako hostel and met some other travellers including a really friendly German couple travelling by bicycle. 

I booked a jeep tour for the next day and slept like the dead that night inside my mosquito net.   I never mentioned that I started taking my Malaria pills about a week before.  There are certainly were mosquitos in this area, but nothing a net and bug juice didn't fix.

The next morning I had a great breakfast and coffee and waited patiently for my tour operator to pick me up.  Finally after some calls, a bit of bitching etc. etc. I headed out on foot to hike to the archaeological site.

A passed a few other hostels on the way and without incident, found the site.

I couldn't believe how many pre-Colombian artifacts were there.  If you go I'd recommend setting aside the whole day.

It was a great day and I got tonnes of exercise.  I got back to the hostel late and remembered that I couldn't get dinner there any there was no one else staying there anymore.  Hmmmm. no food, no hot water, no company...I paid my bill and decided to leave.  I'm sorry, but I can't recommend El Mako Finca.