Sunday, 21 October 2012

CHAPTER "DOWN THRU COLOMBIA"

Well it was all a very slow process leaving Cartagena. As part of the bike permit process you have to have compulsory insurance. So we paid the money for the insurance over to a delightful lady who promised the insurance certificates back by that evening. Well the evening came and went. So did the next morning. It was finally 2 pm the next day when we got our little insurance cards so that put our departure back a day. Until maƱana !

The next morning it was off out of Catagena. Unfortunately we hit peak time traffic so it was all a long slow haul thru weaving buses , students on motor scooters and general heavy traffic .

Another day in the office!








Leaving Cartagena




Anyway off we intrepid travelers went on our ride right thru heartland Colombia or to be more precise from top to bottom of the country. Never in my dreams did I imagine both of us ever traveling right thru Colombia on a motorcycle. But now we are ! Occasionally one has to pinch oneself!

First thing we found out as we headed south was that although the roads are mostly payroads or toll roads motorcycles are free. How perfectly civilized ! All the toll gates have a little lane down the side just wide enough for a motorcycle and thru you go.

The motorcycle lane



Of course at the first one we Ken not realize this. He did a little manouvre over the side of the lane and came crashing off his bike into the middle of the toll plaza. He broke a rib ( or two !) in the process and was somewhat winded as you can imagine.

As he sat on the side of the nearby petrol station in obvious pain I saw just several metres away an armed man with a big sawn off shotgun type arrangement. He was the guard for the petrol station. Thinking laterally I wondered if I should ask him to just put Ken out of his misery then and there. Then I thought they might be just a a tad callous with wife Shirley there. The other problem also with this course of action was what to then do with Kens bike ? However I did think some spare parts could be handy and I could certainly do with a spare GPS ! Sometimes on trips such as these there are difficult calls to make !




However on a more serious note we were amazed at the friendliness and helpfulness of the local people. One got the definite impression that if it had been a serious accident or breakdown then then there would have been offers of help for whatever assistance was required .

And that has been the story of Colombia. Lovely, helpful people with a very genuine interest in what we are doing Lots of laughter and smiles. Endless patience with our broken Spanish. We had heard that the police and army can be rough to deal with. However again at the relatively few army roadblocks we have been treated with utmost courtesy. The police have left us alone. ( so far! )

So we have been four days on the road down thru Colombia with another two days to go to get to the Ecuador border.

After Kens little tumble(s) on the first day we made a short day of it and stayed in a farming town of Sincelejo. Then the next day it was onward thru rolling hills to a small town on the banks of the mighty Cuasa river.

Could be a tight fit !




A room for two please!



The next day was one of contrasts. Firstly it was thru lush rain forest and then a long slow grind from virtually sea level up to the plateau at 9,000 to 10,000 ft. The road twisted and turned and was filled with heavily laden grunting trucks. It was like playing dodgems although the stakes were higher !











Up on the high plateau it was lush rolling dairy farming country not unlike some of the King Country or Taranaki areas in New Zealand. It did seem strange given we are just about 5 degrees from the equator!




From there it was a steep descent down to the famed city of Medellin. This was the headquarters of one Pablo Escobar who was so successful at the "little white powder " business he he offered to the President to pay off the Country's National Debt. Such generosity ! And in return he was shot by government forces. Life is tough ! Anyway that was at least 10 years ago and the city has had a renaissance ever since.

We did but pass thru the city but it looked to be humming as much as one can tell from a motorbike seat in the hour of passing through it!




After Medellin a little jaunt of 50 km to finish off the day ended up as a three hour grueling marathon as we twisted and turned over a steep mountain pass fighting for virtually every inch with heavy trucks going in both directions. It was a long day !




As I write this we have just finished day 4 of our trip through Colombia and we are now at Palmira just near the outskirts of Cali. It is a satellite city of Cali and has a strong University base and a strong agricultural base As we approached this ares we came down a long wide valley filled with sugar cane crops. It all looked very very fertile and lush. Another long day tomorrow and we are within sniffing distance of Ecuador !

Sugar cane machinery




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And the harvest -




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