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Day 51 - Bogota, Colombia to Ibagué, Colombia
Neither of us slept particularly well last night, and today started out with us tired and uncomfortable after a night of tossing and turning. We'd set the alarm for 7AM so we could get out and acquire insurance before we needed to check-out, and that turned out to be perfect, because by 7:05AM, the hotel was full of noise; people talking, laughing and generally having a good time in the dining area just around the corner from our room. Even with the "windows" closed, it was loud. We couldn't have slept any later if we wanted to.
We decided to pack our stuff so it was ready to put on the bikes when we returned, and then head out in a cab armed with the addresses of three potential insurance places. After yesterday's disastrous search and playing "follow the cab" in the middle of Bogota, neither of us wanted to repeat that, so we thought it'd be safer to do our searching from *inside* the cab. Asked when check-out time was on our way out to hail a cab, and the guy at the desk told us 2PM. We understood, but Kay had a hard time believing it was 2PM as most places we've stayed have check-out between 10-12, so the guy eventually had to write it down before we'd believe it.
Walked out the front door of our hotel armed with our bike paperwork and hailed a cab instantly. Kay walked to the street and stuck his arm out and BAM! There was a cab. Kay showed the cab driver the address of the most-likely insurance company; Seguros Suramericana* - because it was a major headquarters on the 16th floor of a building, and while we had no verification that it was there after 2008 (the most recent post on Horizons Unlimited), it seemed unlikely that a major insurance company would move out of a skyscraper office. It also opened at 7:30AM, and as it was now 8:20AM, this played a role in where we'd go.
The cabbie knew the address and indicated he could take us there, and that the cost would depend on traffic and how slow we had to go. We got in, and had a pleasant commute through rush-hour traffic in Bogota as the cabbie was listening to classical music. Classical has a surprising impact on rush hour. It makes traffic much less stressful and driving in rush hour unexpectedly enjoyable. We attempted to ask the cabbie a couple of times who was the composer, but we got out of him that it was a 17th or 18th century composer - definitely not Vivaldi.
The cab delivered us right to the skyscraper, which we were awed to discover was just a few blocks from the face of the mountains themselves. The city of Bogota abuts the mountains near there; they've built and built up the mountains slopes are too vertical to build anymore. It's a really awesome sight, though. Found the address with no trouble and told the security guard we were looking for Seguros Suramericana. He indicated we should check in with reception. She kept telling us that she needed our documents, but when we asked her which documents, she just kept repeating "documentos" over and over until she eventually waved us on and told us a number that in no way translated to "16th floor." But that's what the instructions on Horizons Unlimited told us, so we figured we'd try there first.
Arrived at 16, walked out the doors and turned to the right - and there was Seguros Suramericana! Right where it was supposed to be! We were inclined to do a little victory dance right there, but we wisely held ourselves in check while we walked into the office and explained to the girls there that we needed motorcycle insurance. The first woman told us to walk down a few cubes to another woman, and that woman called another woman over to help us. (There was only one man that I saw in this office - the rest were women.)
She wanted to sell us a year, but we explained that we were tourists and only wanted to buy one or three months (as those were the quantities we'd heard reports of buying). She had a hard time with that at first, but she went and asked her boss (the one man in the office) and he explained that she could do that, so she came back and asked for our customs paperwork, asked us if two months would be ok, since that's how long we had in our passports, and then told us to go have a seat while she processed the insurance.
We went and had a seat. And admired the view of the city abutting the mountains from the 16th floor of Edificio Davivienda. And waited. And waited. And waited.
About 50 minutes after we'd walked in the doors, the woman came over to us with some paperwork and indicated that it was time to see the cashier. Yay! During the waiting, I saw her on the phone several times and consulting with several other people in the office. Don't know if she was processing our paperwork the entire time or if she was doing other stuff, but it seemed to be an unusual request and I wouldn't be surprised if she was just having trouble with it.
Paid the cashier with only some minor difficulties (i.e. we couldn't understand the number and asked her to write it down for us, and then she had to run off to find change when we produced our bills) and we had our SOAT insurance papers! Yay! Kay did a "we have insurance!" dance and I had to stop myself from cheering and disturbing the whole office. This was the final thing we needed to legally ride the bikes in Columbia, and therefore South America - and we had it! We and the bikes were free to ride in South America!
At this point it was around 10AM and we hadn't had breakfast yet, and we didn't know how late our hotel served breakfast (which was included in our room cost, but we skipped it because we were anxious to get the insurance wrapped up) so we headed out of the building and found a convenient cafe nearby to grab breakfast.
Got eggs with a variety of breads, a hot drink, orange juice, and hash browns. And when the menu said a variety of breads, we really got a variety of breads. They brought each of us a basket with various breads in them, including a lovely pastry type thing with DARK CHOCOLATE inside! Kay scarfed his down, and he's not usually much of a chocolate fan, so I knew it had to be good. I went for mine only to discover that it was 3/4 empty of chocolate, so Kay squeezed out some of his. Yay for surprise chocolate! The restaurant also had WiFi, so we used WiFi on my iPhone to plot a map course to get us out of Bogota, since neither of us had the vaguest idea of how to get out of the city from our hotel.
Bogota Street Art
Grabbed a cab back to the hotel, which was much faster than when we went out, and quickly loaded the stuff onto the bikes and headed out. The front desk guy seemed interested in the bikes - he came out to watch us load up, and then back out of the garage and maneuver into the street. He kept commenting on how big our bikes are, and he seemed to understand that they were heavy - he mimed falling over at one point and what a PITA it would be to pick up, and we heartily agreed.
Started the ponderous project of leaving Bogota at around 11:20AM. And surprisingly, with only one false turn which we quickly rectified when I realized we weren't going the right way, we made it out of Bogota proper by around 12:30AM! Yay! We were riding in South America!
Once we were out of the city, we found ourselves on twisty mountain roads. And it was beautiful. It reminded me of some of the riding we'd done in Costa Rica, but Kay said he liked it better than Costa Rica - something about the shape of the mountains really appealed to him. I was surprised to discover when I was reading our South America book that Bogota was located in the Andes - I always think of the Andes as being further down South America. The mountains we were riding through didn't feel like what I expected the Andes to be. They were pointy at the top and had some deep valleys, but they were covered with trees. Not the Andes I imagined, but beautiful mountain riding.
The road from Bogota
The only thing that marred it was the slow traffic. Lots of large trucks driving slowly down the windey mountain roads. Technically the speed limits on most of the road were 40 to 50KPH, but it felt like a 60-70 road to me and that's what the rest of the traffic that wasn't trucks was trying to do. Kay was riding in front, as usual, and I kept urging him to go around. Even when the trucks were already speeding. And even when we weren't in a passing zone. He kept remarking "You've gone native, woman!" but I still maintain that I never suggested passing on a blind curve - only when it was safe. And the trucks were going SO SLOW!
We stopped for lunch at a roadside restaurant just after La Mesa. It was after 1PM so we knew we should eat, but neither of us was particularly hungry after our late breakfast. However, they had meat on a stick, and there were a ton of cars there, so Kay suggested we follow our rule of stopping for meat on a stick and had a nice, tasty lunch. We each got the "three meats" plate, and realized too late that splitting one plate would have been enough for the two of us. I manfully ate all of my meat (chicken, beef, pork and chorizo), but couldn't finish the yucca side, the plantain, or the piece of corn flatbread. Kay, meanwhile - the actual "man" of the two of us - couldn't finish his meat and didn't even eat his potato, let alone the rest of the sides. But it was tasty meat.
Mixed meat lunch
The bill, with treats
Back on the road around 2:30 and we had descended over 1300 meters and the temperature had gone up again. Notably. In fact, it had gotten downright HOT. My temperature gauge was reading around 95 degrees and Kay's (which is in Celsius) read higher than that. And unfortunately, we kept getting stuck behind the slow trucks again going around 40KPH so we weren't getting any airflow and we were just hot. Did I mention hot? It was a big change from the 62 degrees of Bogota in the morning, or the 50 degrees while we were descending through the cloud cover on the drop down to La Mesa.
On the way to the next town we encountered an oncoming bus passing a truck, probably over a double line, and heading straight for Kay. The bus didn't seem interested in applying brakes, and wasn't capable of speeding up enough to get by. Kay didn't feel like making it easy for the bus as a matter of principle ("He shouldn't be passing into oncoming traffic"), but eventually was forced to go to the side of the road. It wasn't so much scary as frustrating, but the fates were with us and I caught it all on video.
The next notable destination on the road was Giradot, after which we'd turn east-ish to get over to a road that led down to Cali. In this part of Colombia, there aren't a lot of direct routes - you have to go over and around and sideways to get where you're going. Made it through Giradot relatively quickly - maybe an hour or less from La Mesa, in spite of the fact that it was twice the distance from where we'd left Bogota.
My map indicated that we'd continue on to Espinal where we'd catch up with 40 over to Ibagué, but shortly after Giradot, we saw signs for Espinal 10KM down the road, and Ibagué off to the right. That didn't sound right. But they were signs for the next city on our route, so we followed them. Turns out the signs put us on a lovely four-lane divided highway. Which had to be new. There was practically nothing along the highway; we saw one gas station under construction (the sign was up but they were still working on the structure itself) and it was a lovely, fast ride.
And surprisingly, from the highway, the view was beautiful. The mountains marched along off to our right, and soon we saw mountains ahead and to our left, too. A bit before Ibagué the highway ended (there was a sharp left and the highway itself continued straight for a bit but was blocked off and didn't appear to be going anywhere in particular) and we were back on what I assume was the old route 40. Got into Ibagué at around 4:30 and both Kay and I agreed that we felt like we hadn't been on the bikes long enough today, but we weren't foolhardy enough to attempt a mountain crossing at 4:30 in the evening.
The South America book indicated we'd be crossing a very high pass on the road between Ibagué and Armenia (over 3600 meters) and seeing that we'd dropped in altitude significantly, that would have us climbing over a vertical mile between the two cities. We know better than to take a mountain road like that late in the evening (we've done it a couple of times - once in Mexico and once in Guatemala, and gotten stranded by darkness in little mountain towns both times) so in spite of the fact that we wanted to keep going, we started looking for a place to stay.
Skipped the road leading to Armenia, and rode into Ibagué looking for a hotel. And rode. And rode. And didn't see a hotel. We followed the signs that said "Centro" but they left us surprisingly without a clue in a place called "Sena" and we still hadn't seen a hotel. We decided to turn around and head back toward the road to Armenia, and hope we'd pass a hotel there - but we saw a sign for a hotel on the right! We'd missed it before because the road was divided. We missed the turn itself, so we rode further until we could make a U-turn, rode back until we could make another U-turn, and this time we made it into the hotel.
I could tell immediately when we pulled up that the hotel was out of our price range. It smelled too clean. Kay went in to check anyway, and apparently they kept coming down in price from about $210 but stopped at $100 US which is more than we're willing to pay. They did, however, suggest that we might ride into Ibagué centro to a hotel there that might be more economical. While we were debating whether Ibagué centro was actually the way the hotel told us to go, the concierge came out with a tourism map of Ibagué that had the hotel on it, as well as several others, and showed us how to go into town. We thought it seemed fairly easy so we headed off.
Long story short, the map was very inaccurate and after much frustrating turning around and around on one-way streets, we finally found the hotel. Only to discover that it was also $100 US. Not very economical. They suggested yet another hotel that was down the road and around the corner for $40 US. Still high, but we were very overheated at this point and we'd been wandering around town for nearly an hour, so we just wanted someplace to stay.
We got near the hotel and a guy came running out to tell us we needed to turn around and park at a drive we'd just passed, about 20 feet down the street before the hotel proper, which we couldn't reach because it's a one-way street. The other hotel had obviously called ahead. So we went down and had to do another series of ridiculous turns because they're all one-way streets around here, so it took another 5-10 minutes to circle around to the parking lot. And once we'd parked, a guy came over and told us we needed to move the motorcycles - we couldn't park there, and was horribly ambiguous as to where we *could* park them. We were hot and overheated but we moved the bikes and Kay went in to check on the hotel for us.
10 minutes later, he came back with a guy from the hotel to help us carry our stuff. Hauled everything back to the room (up some stairs into the hotel, and then up an old-fashioned elevator with a guy who has to operate it with a lever up to the 6th floor). Kay wanted to shower and change into clean clothes before we went out for dinner, but I didn't have any clean clothes to change into - that's one reason we were so keen to get to Cali, where we'll stay for a day or two - so I went back out without showering and in my motorcycle pants and boots, still feeling hot and overheated.
Wandered around until we found a decent restaurant, grabbed dinner, and Kay went to check on buying some pirated DVDs. He's been talking about wanting to see movies lately (i.e. something would remind him of something he'd seen in a movie, and he'd say "I want to see X movie now" but we don't have any movies with us and probably don't have the bandwidth to watch any streaming from Netflix.) So Kay went to look for a pirated DVD table we'd seen, which wasn't there anymore, but he spotted another one on the corner nearby and ended up buying Red and the newest Star Trek for $1.50 each. Walking back toward the hotel, we spotted another pirated movie guy and Kay bought Gulliver's Travels and Tron for $1 each.
We may decide that the quality is so poor we'll just throw them away instead of watching them, but for $1 each, it was worth checking. And Kay is firmly of the opinion that one should bring a few favorite movies on a trip like this. Personally, I'm more a "favorite book" kinda gal - but movies require less work to look at after a long day of riding and spending an hour writing up a ride report, so video is definitely good.
Did the obligatory "search for Diet Coke for Dachary" and found a supermercado (super market) a couple of blocks from our hotel that had a single bottle of Diet Coke in the fridge. I'm thinking it may be a bit more difficult to find here in South America. Then we headed back to the room, I showered and did some laundry, worked a bit, and then we wrote up ride reports for today and yesterday. And now it's 10:30PM and we've been up and going since 7AM, and didn't sleep well - and haven't had any downtime. I still want a Dr. Who before bed but it's late and I'm not sure we'll have time.
Riding the bikes every day is a joy and I feel really lucky to be able to do a trip like this, but it's still nice to veg out and relax at the end of the day and we haven't really had time to sit still since before the fan died on Kay's bike in Costa Rica. We've been going pretty much constantly, all day, every day since then - snuck in a few episodes of Dr. Who but have generally been always researching stuff, doing stuff, or riding. I am VERY much looking forward to getting to Cali (tomorrow, if nothing goes wrong!) and relaxing for a day or two. I do have work to do for a client, but some relaxing is better than none at all. And hopefully we can wash our motorcycle gear while we're there. It stinks so bad now that we've put it out on our balcony just to keep it from stinking up the room like it did last night.
So yeah. Trips like this aren't all glory. There's stinky motorcycle gear (dear God, you don't wanna smell the boots, but the jackets and pants are bad too) and too little relaxation, and legs and butts get sore after long stretches on the bike. But so far Colombia is beautiful and some of the riding on this trip has been glorious, so I definitely wouldn't trade it for sitting on the nice comfy couch at home. Lack of clean laundry and abundance of nasty, stinky gear notwithstanding.
* The address of the insurance company in Bogota is Seguros Suramericana, Carrera 10, #28-49, Edificio Davivienda, Tower A, 16th floor. The important part to give your cab is the Carrera 10, #28-49, Edificio Davivienda. The hours are 7:30AM to 12:30PM and 1:30PM to 5:30PM.
Day 52 - Ibagué to Cali Colombia
Today has been a hodgepodge of emotions.
We took the elevator down to the hotel lobby, and one of the bell-hops asked us to wait, then ran back up to check if we'd grabbed anything from the "minibar" (fridge of soda, , and assorted toiletries). When he came back down he informed the desk that we hadn't and they then informed us that they'd accidentally only charged us the rate for one person and they'd need another 8000 pesos (a little over $4).
This, I felt, was bullshit. First off, hotel prices are entirely fictional to begin with. Especially the pricey ones. Second, it was absolutely clear there were two people who would be in the room, and they watched us both come in. They took down information from both passports. It was clear from the beginning that there were two of us. Third, when you do screw up and accidentally forget to charge someone a small part of your entirely fictional price you just leave it. It's not like they were loosing money on the deal.
Then, when we get to the bikes and start loading up, the garage guard/attendant comes by and asks for the plastic plaque we'd been told to put on the bikes. I'd started to gently wedge it between dash and windshield and a corner had snapped off the other day. I figured they'd be somewhat annoyed but didn't think to point it out to the guard who'd just handed it to me. I should have, because todays guard was all annoyed and wanted money for it.
I played stupid, and ignorant. I'm good at that. Eventually, with lots of intentionally confusing Spanish statements from me he said he'd go talk to the hotel. And, in the end they payed the 5,000 pesos for it. Which I felt good about because they'd pulled the bullshit with the 8,000.
Packed up, with escape instructions from google confirmed by the bellhop we started our ride up into the mountains. Beautiful twisting roads that went up, around, back, and up some more; gradually at first, and then more steeply, and sharply. It was wonderful, or, it would have been, if not for the semis… the endless, overloaded semis creeping up ahead of us.
We started out obeying most of the laws: passing only in designated areas, or long straightaways, but as the road became steeper and more windy those became few and far between, until eventually we were passing six semis at a time on the right, at speed, around blind corners, hoping that the shoulder would continue, and the trucks wouldn't swerve right until we made it to the front of the line.
We rose to 3318 meters and then started down through the clouds that had become wedged against the far side of the mountain. The trucks were now creeping downward, engine braking in first and visibility dived to maybe fifty feet so we were a bit hesitant to try passing on either side. Eventually though the clouds thinned somewhat, along with our patience, and we went for it.
It was brilliant. It was adrenaline filled, and it was something you should never tell your parents about.
(Dachary's note: Kay kept saying "You've gone native, woman!" yesterday when I was suggesting we pass in non-passing zones, etc. And yet today he was all like "Oh, they're going wide to the left - let's pass on the right!" Passing 6 semis on the right in a shoulder that may run out at any second (and occasionally did), btw? Friggin nerve-wracking and feels so wrong and yet… strangely glorious. I love riding a motorcycle. We made it up that mountain and back down again in a fraction of the time that a car would take because we could pass in tiny spaces where vehicles were never meant to pass. Oh yeah.)
We made it to the outskirts of Armenia where we pulled over for another enormous tasty lunch with chorizo, Chicharrón, ground beef, rice, lots of red beans, a quarter of an avocado, a fried egg, some plantains, and a teeny tortillaish thing.
Sadly, I wasn't feeling very meaty today, but I thoroughly enjoyed all the non-meat parts. I've also decided I'm not a fan of chicharrón, which is essentially sliced pig fat fried and held together by the skin… or, this version of it was.
So, on we went, unsure if we'd venture back into mountains, or not. Instead we found minor ups and downs as we bore down on a lightning storm. It wasn't clear if the road would skirt around the edge, or head straight into it, but we decided to pull over when we saw a gas station and pull out the covers for our tank bags, and got a beep and a wave from a passing adventure rider. We both thought he'd probably turn around and come back to talk, but alas...
We held off on the rain liners for our jackets because it was just too toasty to put them on "just in case", but soon thereafter it became quite clear that we were headed for the storm, and we pulled over and put them on. Neither of us bothered with the rain liners for our pants because neither of us really seems to care about our legs getting wet unless it's also cold out.
Not one kilometer later we saw a line of raindrops in the road: big, hard, fast, splattery raindrops. They fell so quickly that Dachary started in with the "ouch! these hurt!" I didn't notice so much because the material in the BMW jacket is thicker than the RevIt, but soon even it wasn't enough as the rain intensified and even I was smarting.
Our legs were wet within a couple minutes, which was fine, until a small rivulet started running down my left leg towards the boot. It hadn't occurred to me that the waterproof liner keeps the water out of the boot too. It's just been so long since I've ridden in rain… which is very odd for me as most years I'm regularly getting rained on.
We discovered that in addition to potholes, speedbumps, and missing pavement, latin americans are also afraid of driving in the rain. We were the fastest things on the road, which, thankfully had a speed limit of 90kph (about 55 mph). We both have the Anakee tires on and they're brilliant in the wet. The only problem was the occasional slippery painted arrow on the road. They gripped, and held, and the peaks on our helmets kept an enormous percentage of the raindrops from our visors so we just plowed on, occasionally slowing when visibility and speed combined to make it a bit dangerous.
But, we came through it, out onto the wide flat plains, with high speeds, and emerging sun. With nearly a hundred kilometers to go averaging about 90kph we we drying as we went. By the time we made Cali the shells of our jackets had nearly dried, although our legs and crotches were still damp.
As per usual, we drove in circles for a while, closing in on our destination, the Hostel Casa Blanca. Along the way we asked directions, and a bicyclist tried to help, but didn't know where to go until someone else walked over and gave us perfect directions. The bicyclist took off and we followed the directions… the bicyclist was too. We ignored the directions at one intersection, as the street appeared to continue. It didn't It took a right, and then another right even though we were in a fairly standard grid of streets. I shit you not. Calle 26N in Cali continues around three sides of a block. The bike came back, waved, and we followed, although we were about to go that way anyway. At the end of the block we took an illegal right to pull into the driveway of Hostel Casa Blanca. The bicyclist hung around waiting for one of us to give him a tip for guiding us the two blocks to the hostel, and I gave him 2,000 pesos (about $1US) just to make him go away and not have to debate whether or not a tip was warranted.
Inside I discover a rather nice hostel, with private rooms, as promised. With only one issue. No private bath. Now, we're not prudes, but our plan was to chill in Cali for three nights, and, quite frankly, we like being naked at night (neither of us brought pajamas), and being able to get up and pee when we feel like it without getting dressed first… especially in the middle of the night.
Dachary was definitely not into the idea of staying in a place with a shared toilet and shower for three days. She didn't want to stay for one day, but we had no idea where anything else was that would have safe parking, and neither did the girl working the desk. Sadly, with the heat, the rain, and the long day, Dachary was pretty beat, and actively avoiding making any decisions.
I managed to get an confirmation of sorts that she really didn't want to stay even one night, although she told me to "do what you want" with regards to it. So, we had two options: drive randomly around town looking for a hotel, or grab a cab and have them take us somewhere. Both involved getting on the bikes so I got her ready to mount up when the adventure rider who'd beeped at us earlier pulled up.
He thought, as we did, that there were rooms and probably they'd just been reserved, and he had a reservation. I had confirmed that there were absolutely no rooms with a bathroom available. He said he'd go check if his had one. We'd told him we weren't interested in staying in a place with no connected bathroom, as our goal was to chill out and relax for a while, and I think he was implying we could have his room if it had a bath as he suspected. Regardless, he returned with the news that none of the rooms in the place, including his reserved one, had a bathroom. Alas…
We chatted about our trips, gave him a card, and totally forgot his name, but he's from Montreal, and heading down to Santiago. Hopefully he'll drop us a note.
Pulling out I did one of those slow motion zero speed tip overs, and a passer-by "helped" lift it, and with thanks, we started off heading "that way". Dachary didn't seem too pleased with the randomness, and total lack of hotels we were finding and we discussed where best to hail a cab when we pulled up next to one at a stop light.
I asked him if he knew where a "hotel economica" with parking for the bikes was, he thought a minute, and had an idea. I said good, and told him to go, and that we'd follow him. And we did… the first place was like four blocks from a parking lot, which doesn't work for us. The second looked outrageously priced, but had no parking, the third was outrageously priced, and had parking. We talked with the guys outside and they suggested that we should go in and negotiate the price. I suggested that there was no way they'd come down from 350,000 to my upper target price of 80,000 ($40), and they agreed, discussed, and eventually sent me in to the lobby anyway to see what could be worked out.
As with most high end hotels, the staff are totally helpful even if you're not staying there. The receptionists debated, and the one who also spoke English started calling around. Outside we'd determined that there probably weren't any hotels in town, with parking, for under 150,000. They confirmed this inside, and I suggested that i'd maybe be willing to pay 120,000 if they knew of anywhere. While she called I ran out to give Dachary a heads up and see which would be worse for her, paying that much or staying at the hostel. Getting past the "do whatever you want it's your money" was a little frustrating, but eventually I discerned that yes, the lack of attached bathroom really bothered her.
As I went back in the lobby, she was on the phone with a place for 121,600 with parking. She was disheartened because it was above 120,000. I told her it was close enough, thanked her greatly, and ran out with the address she'd written down and handed it to the cabbie.
I put on the helmet, which connected me to Dachary's voice via the headset, where she informed me that some guy had gone out of his way to come up to her in the street and say something to her that she didn't understand, then stare at her smugly awaiting a response. He walked off after her "no entiendo" and the cabbie came over and informed her that the man had called her… he paused, and almost apologetically, mimed being fat. Then followed up with (in english) "All the women in Cali are beautiful." We suspect the cabbie was just saying that by means of explanation, but wasn't really using his brain when he did.
We pulled out… There wasn't much to say besides "What The ****?!" and "I'm sorry love."
The cabbie found the hotel, which is swank, although the room is small and after the bellhop showed us to the room Dachary got a big hug. I went to get the bags, and she went to cool off in a shower. Then I got the sweat off me the same way, and wandered out for food as Dachary was thoroughly depressed and not wanting to leave the room. I didn't really blame her.
Burgers were found, and cooked, while I read a fashion mag from 2006. There was one on most of the tables, and all were ancient. Apparently that month Michael Jackson was spotted walking around in a black Burka with his son's entire head wrapped in a black turban above his yellow t-shirt and jeans. I swear as soon as the man died everyone conveniently forgot how freaking tweaked he was.
Unfortunately, I wasn't paying attention, and my american mindset assumed that when you ordered burgers you got fries, or maybe chips, too, but no. Just burgers. "Screw it." I thought. I've been gone a long time, and Dachary may be worrying. I grabbed cokes went back to the room. Where a disappointed Dachary bit into a displeasing burger. She only ate half of it before declaring that she couldn't eat anymore, and then started in on some salted almonds we've been carrying around since the US to complete her dinner. Me, I kinda liked the burger. As per usual there was ham on it (HAMburgesa) but there was also a burger-sized slice of pineapple which was new, and tasty along with the ham, burger, ketchup, mayo, and whatever else was in there. I suspect that Dachary's emotions were effecting her tastes, as they so often do with us humans, but who knows. We won't be here to repeat the experiment.
Tomorrow we're going to sleep the **** in, and take off for somewhere south. I don't think we have anywhere in particular in mind, but we're hoping we can find a place where we can hole up for a few days and relax. We're tired, mentally, and physically, and our clothes are seriously disgusting, despite the fact that we keep washing them in the sink.
Our boots are nasty nasty nasty and are currently shoved into the closet, which may cause one of us to pass out when we attempt to retrieve them, and neither of us has clean socks any more. Our gear has not been washed at all, because you can't stick it in a dryer and it takes more than overnight to dry from a full-on washing. The plan was to go to a laundromat, or one of the many cheap laundry services, while we were here.
The clothes nastiness has not helped the general mood, especially since we were so looking forward to laundry.
As an aside, black people have been really rare in Central America, and here in Colombia, and I think I've discovered why. They're all at this hotel. I can't explain it, but 90% of the cliental is African American… or is that African South American? Still, us white folk are an even smaller minority, which is a refreshing change I think.
Another side note, there were probably 10 toll booths between Ibagué and Cali, and while it's awesome to be able to use the free moto lane it feels a bit excessive. There was even one one about a third of the way up the twisty mountain road, which was a bit skinny and had some large concrete (i think) post at the start which I whacked with my pannier and, out of the corner of my eye, saw chips flying off of. These Happy-Trails panniers are really pretty bad ass. The bike keeps falling on them, I whack them into concrete and you can't even tell.
Day 53 - Cali to Inza Colombia
The day started off badly, but in the end, was one of my favorites.
Dachary woke up in a grump from last night, and our "personal communications" weren't particularly spectacular, especially after we spent a lot of time debugging the latest version of the iPad magazine app (still broken). And figuring out where exactly we were going at Tierradentro because Dachary discovered there were multiple sites and we wanted to be sure we were going to the right place.
It turns out there are multiple sites but they're all relatively close and connected by trails, although you probably won't be able to hit them all in a day.
Anyway, we go down to the bikes, pack them up, and once they open the garage door, I ride up the 45 degree ramp… which we kind-of had to approach form the side. No biggie, just had to be careful to not hit the pedestrians as you come flying out the top. Dachary came next, but didn't quite get the throttle / clutch balance right, and fearing she'd stall it if she let out the clutch too much ended up giving it lots of revs that didn't go anywhere except over.. on top of her, and the wall.
I heard it over the headset but couldn't see anything "are you ok?" "No. Help!" I threw down the kickstand and came running, but by the time I'd gotten there three men were lifting her bike off of her. I helped roll it down the ramp (in gear because i was on the wrong side) then, because Dachary was standing and brushing herself off, had one hold it while I hopped on and ran it up and out.
She whacked her left arm on something, put a small hole in her left glove "Yay glove!" I said, because it's much better than a small hole in her left hand. The plastic corner of her pannier that was slightly pulled away and fixed with stickers was now being held in primarily by the adhesive we put on the neoprene liners. Her left mirror broke off. And, her poor wind deflector thing popped off the windshield and broke into three pieces. We'll try JB welding that but i don't have much hope.
More stickers please...
She walked to the top, deflector pieces and mirror in hand, and set about fixing things. Opening the pannier and pulling out one of the two spare mirror screw/mount things we'd brought since it's a horrible design and pretty much everyone who takes our bike on an overland trip ends up breaking one or two mirrors off. I helped with that and she set about re-stickering the pannier.
Mostly, I tried to stay out of the way and let her work because she probably had about a quart of adrenaline pumping through her, was probably mentally frazzled already, and setting about a nice simple task like that was probably the best thing she could do.
We set out, found our selves inexplicably on the easiest road to the only real road out of town where we dodged busses, horse drawn carts (in the fast lane), motos, and mini trucks that struggled to do thirty without any load until eventually we were free of Cali.
Neither of us have a high opinion of it. Dachary's is probably colored by the ass-hole calling her fat, but I didn't really see much of it that gave me a great vibe or made me want to hang out longer. Bogota though…. Bogota gave us both a great vibe.
Anyway… we headed south and decided that while adventure riders take the dirt road all the way there we wouldn't make it today if we did because of our late start, so instead we took what tierradentrao.info said was the "recommended" way and should be paved 90% of the way. We figured we could take the dirt road back when we left since I really wanted to do it.
Now, either the author of tierradentro.info has never been there, or I totally misremembered because I would swear that it said that it was paved all the way to Inza when in fact, it's paved to just past Totoró which is about 25 of the 93 kilometers here. After that it's almost entirely dirt. [Update now that we have net: I totally misremembered, but they were optimistic too]
It is also the most extraordinarily beautiful road we've ever ridden on. There are still some parts I'm kicking myself for not pulling over and taking pictures of; parts where I was saying "what is this?! I've never seen anything like this in my life!" And parts that looked like a cinematographer's idea of a beautiful mountain town. And it just kept going. Sometimes it was good packed dirt. Sometimes it was a few inches of slippery sand with horse tracks down the side. Sometimes it was covered with gravel, sometimes with big rocks. Sometimes six inches of deep brown soil freshly moved by the giant earthmovers we had to squeeze past.
The road from Totoró to Inza
The road from Totoró to Inza
The road from Totoró to Inza
The road from Totoró to Inza
At one point we got stuck behind a truck and despite the daring passing attempts of yesterday Dachary wasn't up for attempting to pass this on loose, rocky dirt, through the cloud of dust it was kicking up…. So I chilled behind it, figuring that sooner or later the slow speed would drive her nuts and convince her to go. And, it did… so we did.
A little moto with two locals wearing old-school ponchos passed us and we spent the rest of the ride either behind it or ahead of it.
And it was brilliant. All of it. We are covered in dirt. Not long after the sand I looked down at my right boot and it was solid orange. I wish I'd pulled over and grabbed a shot because the wind and vibrations of the riding afterwards soon removed that beautiful layer.
We seem to have gotten a bit dusty
We seem to have gotten a bit dusty
We seem to have gotten a bit dusty
Horse waits patiently
The writing was on the wall though…. too slow, with too far to go. It wasn't just going slower for Dachary. It was also that the road was just too damn twisty and bumpy. Maybe ten kilometers from the end and Dachary had a near death experience with a Dump truck almost as wide as the road that came barreling down on her, and after that pretty much just wanted to get off the bike.
The road from Totoró to Inza
The road from Totoró to Inza
The road from Totoró to Inza
The road from Totoró to Inza
We came into the edge of Inza just as full dark hit and with it a gas station. We pulled in, because you always use more gas than you expect on dirt, and filled up. The guys there told us that yes, there was a hotel in town, and gave us the name. So we headed out, but dachary stalled her bike as she was turning after the pumps, and down it went. I was already starting on the road and said I'd turn around…but in an attempt to get to her quicker I stared my turn too soon and got caught between uneven mounded ground and a parked bus… and went down too.
The guys at the pump had gotten her up already and came running to the sounds of my engine revving and the bike going *thunk*… ON MY ANKLE… AGAIN.
I can not tell you how thankful I am for the malleous protectors in my boots. Without them there's no way I'd be able to walk.
So yeah, we went down, and with the help of locals, got right back up…. around the corner and down a hill into town "I hope we don't have to go back up that" we came to the main square and a bunch of parked trucks and motos. I pulled up to the motos and asked where the hotel was since I suspected I was probably looking at it but not seeing it.
Turns out I was. I just had to go into the hardware store and talk to the woman behind the counter. So I did, and she showed me a room, which was small, but surprisingly clean, although lacking a toilet seat. I asked about "agua calliente" and she said no, with a smile, and we ended up kind-of giggling over the idea. The shower, whilst clean, has no curtain, and the water comes out a PVC pipe that extends from the wall. But hey 16,000 pesos (about $8 US) and clean. We are happy.
But, she said she had a place to park the bikes… Unfortunately, Colombians have no concept of big bikes either, and she showed be this circuitous path up over a dirt pile over a step to a doorway, around a 90 degree corner, another one, through some construction, up a tiled step and into an office. I shit you not. We've got to get video in the morning.
We'd unloaded them, so we had a chance but of course, they didn't fit without moving a few bags and, once getting it half-way through the door dragging the front end over. There was no way I or Dachary would be able to do it, but the moto guys from the square ran over and happily applied their muscles to the task, and voilla… bikes are in. Well, I said **** it to the office because backing them out of there would have been a pain in the ass (if they even fit) and the extra locked door simply wasn't worth it.
I have no idea how I'll get them out in the morning.
Everything's covered in dirt.
Everything's covered in dirt.
Bikes unloaded, and locked away, we set out for food and found what Dachary calls a "guild hall". Lots of sections, each with a cook making something. I settled on the one with the best smell and a woman who just seemed more alive than anyone else there. She showed me what was in the pots, and then I just told her to give us a medium portion of whatever she recommended.
It ended up being lentil soup… ish kind of think like a side of beans, with a pile of rice, a slice of fried plantain, and two small pieces of thin grilled beef. It was delicious. Dachary didn't much like the carne, and commented that it tasted similar to beef jerky, which it did, and also got stuck in my teeth like beef jerky. But both of us agreed that the lentils were extraordinary.
Back in the room, and it stank, already, from our boots. Mine were particularly bad, but Dachary's were pretty bad too. She requested that the boots be moved farther from the bed somehow, and I remembered that the "window" was really just some wrought iron designs with a curtain over it, and stuck my boots out the window. A few minutes later, Dachary did the same with hers, so at least the stinkiest bits of our boots are pointing out an open window. It still smells in our room, somehow.
I also decided to wash the nasty socks in my boots. And they were nasty. Just running water in the sink, without any soap or scrubbing, the water turned brown. It took several passes with water and Dr. Brommer's to get them some semblance of clean. After two rinses and the first goo-ing with Dr. Brommer's, I couldn't see the tub stopper that was only a centimeter and a half below the surface of the water. It was that nasty. Dachary did a couple of pairs of hers that she's been wearing yesterday and today (when they got rained into and became quite stinky) and had a similar experience. So dirty.
(Dachary's note: Kay wants me to add something here about my thoughts about the dirt road we traveled. It should come as no surprise to anyone - least of all me - that I have very little experience with dirt and my first "real" dirt totally freaked me out. The hard-packed stuff wasn't bad. But the loose stuff - particularly the sand we rode through, but also the deep, loose, freshly-tilled dirt - made me completely uncomfortable. WAY outside of my comfort zone. I felt like I had zero control on the loose stuff, and I was mostly focused on trying not to do anything suddenly that could upset the bike.
While the loose stuff was freaking me out a bit, though, it was the near-death experience I had with the dump truck that pushed me over the edge and made me decide that riding dirt was not for me. We were going around a corner, and Kay was ahead of me, and said "dump truck coming - get over to the right!" I couldn't see it yet but I started pulling over to the right anyway. And then suddenly the wide truck was on top of me, and wasn't hugging the left - it was right in the middle of what was probably a 1.5 lane dirt road at that point. I pulled as far over to the right as I could, but the right side of the road was banked up at that point, and I couldn't go very far.
I decided that the safest thing to do would be to just stop and let the dump truck find its way around me, but stopping suddenly tends to lead to me falling over (I haven't gotten the hang of how to discharge the forward momentum yet, and the bike usually leans over violently to one side or the other and it's a crap-shoot as to whether I can keep it upright) so I was just having visions of me stopping and not being able to keep the bike up, and falling to the left (the direction the road was banked) and under the dump-truck's wheels. And that mofo wasn't going slow, either.
It was over in just a couple of seconds but my system had gotten super-charged with adrenaline and I was trembling and totally freaked out and overwhelmed by an emotional overload. I seriously thought that dump truck was going to kill me. This was the first time I've ever felt really endangered since riding a motorcycle (even the times that I've crashed have all been relatively minor - I might think "Oh crap" or "that's gonna leave a mark" but I never think "Oh, god, I'm going to die.") so it was a lot for me to process. Resuming our trek around loose corners, bumpety, rocky dirt and the encroaching darkness, all I wanted to do was get off the bike and sit quietly somewhere and wait for the sensations to fade. But I couldn't, because dark was encroaching, and even more than not riding this road, I didn't want to be riding this road in the dark.
But it left a lasting impression. Our route planning in subsequent days has been, in part, to avoid "scary dirt." I'm writing this note as we sit in Mocoa, Columbia, a few days after this encounter, and I'm debating between a "Death Road" that consists of dirt and mud over a mountain vs. a relatively flat, easy dirt road with the potential threat of Colombian guerrillas kidnapping and holding us for ransom. Personally, I'm leaning toward the guerillas. Which shows you how much this road and the encounter with the dump truck has freaked me out, and how much de-programming we're going to have to do before we get much further south, as the roads just keep degrading.)
Day 54 - Inza to San Andrés
Probably our shortest day on the bikes.
Inza wakes up around 6 AM and gets to work. Driving, moving, sledge hammering, phone ringing, clothes washing, etc. I'm not entirely sure how but we managed to get back to sleep a couple times until about 8:30 when we went downstairs and discovered a very full town square.
We extracted the bikes from their hidey-holes and into the town square with surprisingly little difficulty. I walked it forward and when we got to an unturnable corner Dachary and I (mostly Dachary) would grab the back end and pull it around in the appropriate direction.
By the time we'd gotten both out and come down from the hotel with the panniers we'd amassed quite a crowd. They appeared to maintain a pretty respectable distance from the bikes, but we know they were fondling them in our absence because when we rode off I couldn't figure out why my hands felt so damn hot until I looked down and saw that someone had turned on my heated grips (not possible to do accidentally). Overall the people have been both curious and helpful, and we regularly get thumbs up and smiles from the army guys we pass at checkpoints.
Crowding around the bikes
Crowding around the bikes
Crowding around the bikes
The road to San Andrés was about 11 k of dirt that was pretty but not particularly notable.
When we got to San Andrés we passed a couple Hospedajes and then saw El Refugio, the only real hotel in town. We'd heard that it was about $30 and went in to check. Yup. 54,000 ($27 US) for two people. So I meandered up and down the street to check the hospidaje's. The one right next to the hotel had an inner courtyard with a nice garden, and the rooms were decent, and clean, and had a single bed like we wanted, but it was obviously old and concrete floors acquire stains and such over the years no matter how thoroughly you scrub them. Also, no toilet seat. The next hospedaje down the road was all closed up. The one where MotoAdvendureGal stayed in was open, but only had rooms with two twin beds. It was definitely more modern and the bathrooms were way better (although not all have toilet seats), but after having grabbed dinner there for the past couple nights I can assure you that it's not a place I'd choose unless I had zero intent of relaxing there.
They both cost 24,000 ($12 US) but the one down the hill has a family, or two, living / working there with a gaggle of kids from two to maybe 20. Yelling, screaming, running, playing, with the adults hanging out back near the kitchen area chatting away. The kids would drive me batty, and the place has no soundproofing at all. So, if, like us, you're looking for a place to relax for a couple days you absoposiloutely want the hotel.
The pool is nice, but more importantly the whole inner area of the hotel is a calm, peaceful place to sit and relax. Except on Sunday afternoons (tomorrow) when it appears that much of the town comes to use the pool. We thought it was great that they did.
We made it there before 11AM and the room with a single bed was being cleaned still so we asked if the restaurant was open and decided to get an early lunch since we'd skipped breakfast. We went over, sat down, and the guy from the front desk asked us what we'd like to drink (in Colombia you have the choice of juice, CocaCola, or random Colombian soda they never want to list the flavors or names of) and we got the Coke.
When he came back we asked about food. He seemed surprised by this even though we'd just asked if the restaurant was open, but he recovered and told us it was Carne Asada ….. or Pollo. I'm not sure why "Pollo" seems to only get added when you sit there and ponder for a bit. Unless we're actually at a place that specializes in chicken it always seems to be an afterthought, "oh yeah, we've got that dead bird in the fridge…"
We ordered one of each and waited, and waited, and waited. Occasionally the dude would pop his head out of the kitchen and make sure we hadn't died yet. If I caught his eye he'd give me some hand gesture to indicate it was all good and food was coming. So we waited more…
An hour later food came. We suspect that 40 minutes of that was waiting for the one cup of rice that we both got, but we'd have happily skipped the rice to save 40 minutes. The Carne Asada was unremarkable and the chicken leg and thigh had been dropped into a frialator. I'm pretty sure the chicken had been in a knife-fight before, or when, it was killed because there were a number of stab wounds on the section of it that I received.
But, aside from the seemingly interminable wait, and the fact that he felt the need to crank the tunes for us, it was really nice. While we sat there we noticed a sign in the back denoting it as the Camping area. We didn't know they let people camp here! We pondered it for like 5 seconds, but in addition to seeing Tierradentro our goal here was to stop moving, relax, and just take a break. So we stuck with the room. The hotel has a nice lawnmower, and we met their dogs Lucy and Lucas. Who I'm happy to report rarely bark, except a few times in the day when Lucy tries to get the lawnmower to play.
I'm not sure what the camping costs, but there are bathrooms you can use and I'm pretty sure there are showers too, so it's probably your cheapest option, and one of the best.
Playing with Lucy
While we were waiting we met a Sweedish couple who've been driving their vanagon like thing around South America for a couple years. They suggested we get together this evening and they'd show us some stuff on the map. It sounded good.
We spent the rest of the day doing pretty much nothing other than reading. Which was exactly what we wanted. Around two we handed over our clothes, including our underwear, Dachary's bras, and the gear. I put it in two bags one they could throw in the dryer and one they couldn't… plus the gear which also needs to air dry.
We made a rather disturbing discovery along the way. We knew that the BMW Rallye Pro 2 suit had better armor, we just didn't realize quite how much better it was until we saw the knee armor side by side. Turns out, even my elbow armor is larger than her knee armor.
A slight difference in protection
Next trip I totally want to get her into some BMW gear. The armor's better and the material is thicker. Her RevIt Sand does have better ventilation, but I'll take slightly decreased ventilation with massively increased safety any day of the week.
Anway, the guy said two hours. So we went back to the room and read for three hours at which point we were somewhat hungry and interested in venturing out so I was sent to track down our laundry.
(all in spanish) "Yes. It's not done." "huh?" It was very mugre." "no entiendo mugre" "mugre mugre…mugre" Ahh…yeah, repetition didn't really help but, whatever. not done…. "dos mas houra?" "Si"
I return and break the news. "I'm not going out without a bra." In addition to the effects of gravity she was also concerned about the fact that since she was wearing a tank-top it was possible to catch a glimpse of boob through the side. I suggested that it wasn't really visible and it wasn't a big deal anyway, but there was no budging her and I was sent out to scavenge. Mugre, by the way, means soiled, dirty, etc.
I returned from the hospidaje / restaurant down the road with (surprise surprise) carne asada which I had ordered with french fries but received with two odd salads and a small glass jug of red juice which I was to return the next day. I also acquired a couple cokes from the Tienda by the hotel which I was also to return the next day.
We ate, in semi-darkness because despite the fact that the hotel was nice, the main light from the room was out despite my telling the guy that it was "muerte" earlier in the day, and the lamps on the side-table are very dim. I sound like I'm being picky. I don't actually mind the dim side-table lights, but I do want to be able to see around the room at night without squinting through shadows.
Dachary was somewhat annoyed about the laundry. I had pretty much expected something like this to happen and only annoyed that the guy hadn't actually said "manyana".
In the end we watched a couple episodes of Dr. Who, read a little more, and went to bed. Overall, a nice, relaxing day, and as dark fell the whole place became very quiet. No trucks. No loud neighbors. Just us, the crickets, and the dark… we never did get together with the Swedes.
The bikes take a rest
Day 55 - San Andres and Tierradentro
Yesterday was a glorious day of doing nothing (and waiting for our laundry to be done) after arriving early in the day in San Andres. Today the plan was to check out Tierradentro, which involved some hiking and wandering around. We slept in, and it was glorious. Glorious, glorious, glorious. All night, we heard the stream flowing merrily nearby, night-time bugs and sweet silence. In the morning, a cock crowed to welcome the day but there was no obnoxious noise of huge trucks driving by, or a busy town waking up noisily at 6AM. In short, it was peaceful, relaxing and lovely.
San Andres was a wonderful place to take some time off and relax.
Sent Kay off to check on the laundry, which was drying in the laundry room. He snagged a bra and undies for me and left the rest drying, so we were able to go have breakfast in the hotel restaurant and then off to check out the tombs. We had pulled info from the Tierradentro page, but didn't have a really good idea of where the tombs were located or how many we'd get to see. We read that Aguacate was a long hike and there were three ways to get to it, so we thought we'd take the "easiest" route up to Aguacate, and then the "difficult" route down to the museum and then across to Alto Segovia and Alto El Duende.
We discovered when we got down to a map of the Tierradentro sites that it wasn't going to work out quite that way. A security guard across the street from the map told us we had to pay the admission fee (10,000 pesos or about $5 US) and then enter the park there. Ok. So we'd start on the side that has Alto Segovia and Alto El Duende, and then circle back across to Alto El Aguacate later in the day. We went to see the museum, which they had to open just for us. It was cool in that it contained a lot of info about the local area, agriculture, etc. but nothing about the Tierradentro tombs. After we checked out the museum, we started our hike up to Alto Segovia.
The trail to Alto Segovia started with this really cool bridge made of bamboo.
The bridge to Alto Segovia
It flexed a little more than I found comfortable as I walked across it, but it was a nifty feat of construction and very fun to look at. Then we started going up. And up. The trail was a wide road-type thing for a while, that they could probably have taken trucks or horses up, but we both agreed that we wouldn't want to try it on the motos. It was quite vertical at parts, very rocky and washed out. I was caught off guard by how vertical it was. Before too long, we had to stop and take breaks for me to catch my breath (hey, you take a fat girl to a hike like this and expect stuff like that) but I was determined to see the stuff and wasn't going to let it stop me.
Just as I was starting to dread every twist in the trail that might obscure a new vertical ascent, I saw a fence, a green gate and a sign at the top. Yay! We'd made it to Alto Segovia!
We arrived at the first tomb to find it covered with a lid made of 2"x4"s and chicken wire. There was a padlock lying hooked through the lid, but it wasn't locked, so Kay opened it and looked down the steps. It was dark. I'd suggested that we bring a headlamp, so Kay brought his - and now he pulled it out and descended into the tomb. And got to the bottom only to find he couldn't see a damn thing because his headlamp wasn't powerful enough. Had we realized it called for that caliber of lighting, I would have brought my headlamp, which is much brighter (and heavier) than his, and a flashlight, too, for good measure.
Kay was frustrated at not being able to see anything and climbed back up. If this is what it was going to be like, it looked like we'd hiked a long way (ok, not that long, but it felt like it to me! It took about 20-25 minutes?) for nothing.
We closed the lid and moved on to the next tomb, and Kay donned the headlamp and went down. He could see a little better in this tomb. I waited at the top, in the meantime, and while I was standing there, a guard/guide walked over to check on us. He saw that I was wearing the wrist band that indicated I'd paid the admission fee, and heard me talking to Kay who was down in the opened tomb - and he walked over and flipped a light switch nearby. Ahh! Lighting! Suddenly Kay could see, and said this tomb was awesome. He took some shots and climbed back up, and told me I should really climb down to see. Before I could get around to the steps, though, the guide/guard closed the lid on the tomb and told us to follow him to the next one. "Oh, well, no big deal," - I thought - "there are tons of these things."
I thought wrong, as it happens. Some of the other ones were cool, too, but Kay maintained that the first one he saw with the lights was the best.
So we followed the guard on to the next tomb, and then the next one. Kay went down to look at all of them, and I went to check out the ones he dubbed particularly cool and worth me climbing down. Partially because I'm lazy and didn't want to descend/ascend three-foot stones down into what is essentially a hole with some paint on the walls, and partially because I have this problem with heights and didn't like that there weren't any handholds, and partially because I wasn't all that interested in Tierradentro to begin with - this was Kay's thing all along but it was clear he really wanted to go so I assented. Which I was regretting after the "road" across to it.
Alto Segovia had around 10 or more tombs (neither of us can quite remember) and Kay checked them all out, and I checked out a handful. One tomb had an example of some really well-constructed pottery inside.
Others contained painted drawings and carved faces.
Some were nifty, and some were essentially just holes in the ground with not much to see besides the impressive steps down into them.
While Kay was checking out the tombs, I chatted with the guard/guide guy (and then the actual guard when we got toward the latter tombs at Alto Segovia) about the motos, the trip, etc. My Spanish is still crap, but I'm able to tell people how big our engines are (everyone seems surprised when we tell them we're riding 650s), how long we've been on the road, where we've been, where we're going, etc. Almost everyone asks where we're going and where we've been in the country, and whether we like it. Columbia is a big two thumbs up - it's beautiful, and away from the cities, the people have been very friendly and helpful. In the cities, it's been much like cities anywhere.
At one point, he asks if we're going up to Alto El Duende. He indicates that it's a steep ascent and mimes something that I think means it'll be hard and a lot of work for me. That's ok, we tell him - we're going anyway. It's only a bit higher to Alto El Duende at this point, and then we can also go up just a bit more and across what is essentially a horizontal track to check out the statuary at El Tablon. He asks if we're going to Aguacate, and with the difficulty I had getting up to Alto Segovia, I know it's right out for me. So we say no, and he sorta laughs in relief.
We continue up the trail toward Alto El Duende, and I point out to Kay that the guys at Alto Segovia had a pair of binoculars, and are probably following along and laughing at me hiking up to Alto El Duende. Because what else are you going to do when you're stuck on a hillside all day? Watch things. So we turn around and wave at one point - dunno if the guys were watching then but I amused myself with that. After more huffing and puffing up another vertical ascent (and Kay was even starting to show signs of wear at this point, so it wasn't just the fat girl) we made it to Alto El Duende.
This site was smaller and had fewer tombs, we could see right away. Learning our lesson from the other side - that there were lights in most of the tombs - we decide to start with the guide/guard guy and have him turn on/show us where the lights are. So we walk over to the far tomb where the guard guy is standing and chatting with a tourist, and I notice that they're talking about roads to various places while Kay starts to go down the tomb. So I tell Kay "Hey, they're talking about roads" and we go over and ask about the road to Silvia, which is the route that most adventure riders seem to take to get out to Tierradentro. He indicates that it would be no problem for the two of us on motos, and we're encouraged about potentially taking that route back.
Kay resumes the tomb-touring, only to find that the tombs at Alto El Duende don't seem as good as the ones at Alto Segovia. Very few of them have lights, but there's a flashlight there for tourists to take down in the tombs. So Kay checks out all of them while I sit on a bench in the shade and enjoy the view. He returns to say that one of the tombs had some really nifty, well-preserved black paint, but for the most part, it wasn't anything particularly special or interesting. So we ask about the trail for El Tablon to the statuary, and head off in the correct direction.
El Tablon involves more vertical ascending, but eventually we climb out on a rough dirt road to Santa Rosa. We walk along the road for a surprisingly long time, and end up chatting about deep things to pass the time. Eventually we see a sign for El Tablon, and after some false starts, make it to the statuary. Which is extremely disappointing. After the statuary at Copan and even Atlantas de Tula, El Tablon is just… sad. There are six or eight status under a tin roof, that seem to have been moved here intentionally from who knows where.
We look and take a few pictures and then head back to the road to go down into San Andres. Neither of us realized at the time that there's a much more direct path back to San Andres, so we end up going by road which leads sort of the long way round. But Kay practices taking "action shots" of all the motos that pass us on the road, and we see lots of interesting people on motos, so we enjoy that.
Along the road down to San Andres, we encounter the Swedes who are camping in our hotel. We'd met them yesterday and it turns out they toured the tombs yesterday, did Aguacate this morning, and were on their way up to El Tablon this afternoon. They confirmed that the site at Aguacate wasn't particularly interesting (wasn't bad but wasn't particularly good) but that the view from there was spectacular. Kay and I agree that we've seen a lot of spectacular views and expect to see many more, and it's not worth hiking three hours on a "rough" trail that will certainly take me longer than that.
On the way down the road, we find what is properly the town of San Andres (I think) and see a restaurant. Yay! It's a different restaurant than the two in the immediate vicinity of our hotel, and we jump at the chance to eat there. While we're waiting for our food, an older woman who we saw using the hotel pool yesterday walks in and starts chatting with us. It turns out that she's visiting Colombia for two months, and is in Tierradentro because she's waiting for a friend to come back from working in the oil fields so she can visit with him. She used to live in South America and has traveled everywhere down here.
She seems more interested in the sound of her own voice than having an actual conversation with us - she asks questions and when we start to answer, cuts us off with her own answers. We get a slightly weird vibe from her, and we're dismayed when we pay and get up to leave, and she says she'll walk down the hotel with us because she wants to use their pool again. (She's staying in a cheaper hostel up the hill.) Neither of us wants the hotel administrators to think we've brought her in just to use the hotel pool, so we're happy when we stop to take pictures of the most adorable teeny kitten and she continues walking on ahead.
Eventually we make it down the hill and back to our hotel. It's around 2:30-3:00PM, and we're surprised to find that practically everyone in the town is hanging out in the hotel pool. Old, young - middle-aged couples, mothers with kids - everyone in town seems to have turned up to use the hotel pool. There are tons of wee motos parked all over, and it looks like everyone is having a good time. Neither of us minds the shrieking kids or the crowds of people who haven't paid to use the pool - it feels like a good place and a happy community, and we like that.
We go back to our room and open the windows and door and just chill. We read and look at pictures, and I proclaim that even though we had lunch an hour ago, I'm hungry again. I used up a ton of energy hiking this morning, and lunch, while tasty, wasn't enough calories to replenish it all. I'm looking forward to dinner. Eventually we decide we should shower, because we both got all sweaty hiking around this morning, but Kay doesn't want to shower until he can get clean clothes to put on. He asks me to go check on the laundry this time, as he's sick of it, and I evade the question because I don't want to. Eventually he relents and goes to get the laundry, and returns with our clothes and our gear.
The gear is SO CLEAN! SO FRIGGIN CLEAN!!! How did they do that? I was just hoping they could de-stink my motorcycle gear - I wasn't in a million years expecting it to be nearly as close to clean as they got it. And Kay's BMW gear looked beautiful. The blue was almost as vibrant as the day he got it. And wonder of wonders - it didn't stink! They'd somehow gotten rid of the smell! We gloried in our clean gear, and put the armor back in - and realized exactly how much better Kay's BMW armor is than my Rev'It Sand armor. Makes me worry a bit about my knees.
Get cleaned up and I ask to go look for food, as it's nearing 6PM by this point. The hotel pool has emptied out, and we head up to the restaurant and sit down because I remember their servings being large and I wanted a lot of food being so hungry from this morning's hike. After sitting for 20 minutes, it looks like no-one's going to come out. Kay goes looking for the hotel guy and can't find him. Eventually I opt for real food instead of theoretical food, and we go to the other restaurant in town.
The woman comes out looking kinda confused to see us there, but Kay asks if they're open and if we can get some food to eat in their dining room, and she says yes and starts giving us the list of available food. We end up with plates of spaghetti, carne, rice and salad. Small plates. I eat it all and wish for a second plate. Kay agrees that he's not full but has no interest in a second plate from here because the food was so uninteresting. We pay and head off, and I ponder where I can get more food.
As we're walking back toward the restaurant, we notice that the place in town advertising "Comidas Rapidas," which hasn't been open the entire time we've been there, is open. Kay suggests going to check it, but it's dark and I don't feel good about poking around in strange places in the town, so I want to head back to the hotel. I'm hoping someone else is eating dinner and I can get some kitchen service at our hotel's restaurant. Sadly, when we get there, there's no-one around and the kitchen doesn't sound or smell open. So we head back to the rooms, where I promptly ask if there's anything to eat.
Kay gets annoyed with me because I'm doing the "I'm hungry" thing but he says I won't do anything about it, or let him do anything about it. I'm all crashy because I haven't had enough food to offset the morning's exercise, and I'm WAY in the negative on calorie count today, which tends to make my brain unable to process things or make decisions. When I haven't had enough to eat, I literally get to a state where the need to make decisions overwhelms me, and I stand/sit around like a vegetable. It's really annoying.
I try to go to sleep since I can't find more food (and at this point, it's before 7PM) and Kay stays up to work on the blog entries. I wake up a bit later when he makes a loud noise (I think he banged into something?) and am hungrier than ever. I start whining (literally) and being snippy and Kay starts yelling and it degenerates into a massive negative shitstorm.
Eventually I grab the two protein bars from my tank bag, and eat them. They were gross and I thought I might throw up if I forced one more bite into my mouth, but I ate them anyway, because I was *that* hungry and knew I needed food. But two protein bars is only about 400 calories - I estimated that I needed at least 1000 more to put my brain in the "functional" category. So I ask Kay if he has any protein bars. He says he has some in his tank bag, and I go looking and find only one. Which I attempt to eat, only to discover that I've run out of water, so I go to pump some.
Which hurts like a motha-effer, because I've gotten a massive sunburn whilst walking around today. I normally don't wear sleeveless shirts out and about (fat chicks in sleeveless shirts are not flattering) but it was the only shirt I had while they did my laundry, so I wore it. And because I don't wear sleeveless shirts out, I have a very distinctive "farmer's tan." So the skin that doesn't normally see the sun was all pale, and I didn't think to apply suntan lotion, so it burned. Badly. The worse sunburn I've ever had. Moving was agony - getting up and down from the bed was agony - rolling over was agony - anything that involved my shoulders or the extended neckline that got exposed and sunburned was killing me.
Hungry, in-pain Dachary? Is a very bad thing. I was practically impossible to deal with, and a part of me knows that, but I was really put out that Kay wasn't doing anything to help me and was just yelling at me because he was frustrated. I ate his only remaining protein bar and figured I was still in the negative on calories, so I asked if we had any other food anywhere. Kay indicated that there was some beef jerky in the yellow dry-sack that was still on his bike, so I put on my headlamp and went out to get it.
Whilst I was futzing around with Kay's bike, the Swedes noticed me there and came over to invite us to their fire. They'd mentioned yesterday that they'd already traveled around much of South America, and had some good info to share about places to see, etc. I thanked him for the invite, and told him I'd go let Kay know, and retreated back to the room. I was in no state at this point to make polite conversation with strangers - I was fuming at Kay and my mental capacity was still questionable because I still hadn't really eaten enough.
When I got back to the room, I told Kay about the Swedes and said he should go chat with them. He did. I read for a while, and then dozed. It was after 11PM when Kay got back from chatting with the Swedes, and I still didn't want to speak to him. Our relaxing retreat in Tierradentro didn't end up quite as relaxing as planned.
Day 56 - San Andrés Colombia to Taqui Colombia
So yesterday Dachary decided we should check the oil. A sensible thing. She suggested her bike felt a little rougher. Then again, we had been riding over dirt for the past couple days so everything was rougher… Anyway, we check and there's nothing. We ran the bikes for like thirty seconds and still nothing. We kinda freaked.
It was decided that I should ride back to Inza (about half an hour each way) to procure oil because Dachary is ****ing sunburnt on her arms, chest and back and the idea of riding an extra hour with a jacket over burnt skin is not within her definition of "happy". Because I'm returning to the hotel, I leave my panniers and dry sack and ride with just the tank bag - the bike is light and unencumbered.
I go. I have a blast. Without the need to hold back for Dachary I'm flying down the road passing little motos left and right. This bike was made for this shit and it shows. Sure a 125cc dirt bike would handle it better, but the 650 is a joy to ride and when you get tired of standing up the Air Hawk adds an extra bit of shock absorption for your ass.
I get to the gas station we saw coming into Inza and sure enough, there's oil. Every gas station since the mexican border has had oil within sight of, or directly next to, the pumps. This one one no exception, although while there were about 12 choices of 2 Stroke oil there was only one choice for 4 Stroke. I throw the bike on the center stand, double check the sight-glass before adding oil and….WTF?! It's full. Like to the top, full.
This is why I don't check my oil. The bike never ****ing looses oil, at all… ever. I do check my oil and my own idiocy bites me in the ass. But, I decide that as we're heading into some parts where gas stations may be few and far between carrying a spare quart won't be a bad idea. I can throw it in my mini gas container as soon as I convince the Gas residue to finish evaporating. Also, I didn't want it to be a totally worthless trip.
I ride back, and along the way there's a skinny spot in the road and an oncoming truck. I pull over and wait. The truck drops off one kid and passes. I'm standing there with my left leg planted and give it some gas… a bit too much gas. The rear tire spins up, and whirrs the rear end of the bike around me and out from under me.
I'm chuckling inwards at my own idiocy.
I pick up the bike (surprisingly easy without the panniers) while seven kids who appeared out of thin air are walking towards me. I motion them to go by before the go. No…. no they were coming to see if I needed help. I think the oldest was probably nine. I do a 2 point turn to get the bike facing back up the hill, hop on…. and let it lean too far over. I drop it again and do that ridiculous one legged hop away from it.
Now I am laughing out loud.
I smile at the kids, walk back to the bike, and now they've swarmed it. They're going to help. "oh gods." I think, "this is going to be a cluster****. They've no clue how much this weighs…" "Ok. on tres…. " I say, and they all start counting. "Uno. Dos. Tres." We all lift; me on the handlebars and them on the seat and the back. And those kids? Badass little MoFo's. They did way more than half of the lifting.
I thanked them all, and they waited for me to take off in case I dropped it yet again. I'm happy to report I didn't.
Back at the hotel we lube Dachary up with some Burn Gel (Did I mention we have a really nice first aid kit with us?) load up the bikes and…. wait a minute…. Where's my taillight?!
The whole ****ing assembly is gone.
Shit. Ok. I can go back to Inza and see if it's laying along the road, although with the sheer volume of motos around here there's a pretty serious chance that someone has already stopped and grabbed it. I can't blame them either. I would too if I lived around here.
Dachary however, is freaking out about the road ahead. She's scared of more dirt. She's scared of not making it to the town she's decided will be our destination for the day because there's dirt between here and there and going back to Inza will add another hour. It'd add more if she came but with her sunburn she's definitely not up for extra riding. We can't stay in the hotel because we don't have enough cash to pay for another night, and it's going to be like 11 before we get out of here if I go to Inza.
I'm voting for running back to Inza because I'm pretty sure BMW would charge a minimum of $150 for a LED taillight assembly and I'm still annoyed by the price of that damn fan. Dachary's just kind of freaking. I offer the option of just dealing until we get to Quito where we can swing by BMW and grab a replacement (hopefully). That doesn't seem to help. There's stress, communication failure, etc.
I go to Inza. I don't bother unloading the bike because it's a pain in the ass and after all the stressing I'm really not feeling like adding any more frustration to my morning. I'm a bit more careful this time because picking it up would be harder. I make it all the way to the gas station and no light. I ponder stopping at the moto workshop there and having them bolt in some random light but Dachary has decided to check out and is waiting at the hotel and probably still stressing. So I hurry back as quick as I can to minimize her wait.
I don't drop it once.
Until I get to the hotel's gravel driveway and decide to slowly and carefully go around the loop instead of having to do a tight turn. Six inches of gravel and… *flump*. I just kind of stare at it.
I reach down, turn it off, and we lift it.
This is not a good morning.
I ride it around and park in front of Dachary's. She goes off to pee in the common bathroom before we leave and while she's walking back the hotel guy hops on her bike. Normally this would annoy the shit out of us. We're not fans of random people touching our bikes. But for some reason it doesn't this time, and it's great to see him realize just how heavy this is when he lifts it off the kickstand.
He gets off and makes big muscle arms and I explain to him that they're nearly 300 kilos (i'm guessing) with the panniers. That's probably more than they actually are but…
Anyway, we take off. Down random roads, which, because we're in Colombia, are unquestionably gorgeous. Unfortunately, I'm just not in the mood to appreciate them. I'm kind of in a funk because of Dachary stressing before, and because I know she's afraid of the roads we're on and physically hurting which makes me upset that there's nothing I can do to improve the situation. Also, my Camelback, the tire, my drysack, the gas container and the bike lock are conspiring to piss me off. Every time i stand up on bumpy dirt the tire slides forward. It's crooked on the bag. The lock decides to sneak out under the tire and dangle down by my foot, and eventually to the ground (Dachary is giving me the play-by-play as I look for somewhere where I won't be pancaked by an oncoming truck if I pull over).
I fix the lock, but for the next hour or so the gas can and the tire keep being annoyances and my Camebak is going to the wrong side and rubbing against my neck. My mood is not improved by these.
We ride on. It's still beautiful. I'm aware enough to recognize the beauty even if I'm not enjoying it, and take some pics.
Along the way there's an unexpected T junction with no signage. I ask the folks at the restaurant at the intersection if La Plata is in the direction I'm pointing and five adults stare at us blankly. Fortunately there was a kid about 8 years old whose brain was engaged and he said yes, and made the hand motion in the direction we thought…
We followed his instructions. He turned out to be right. Along the way, in an attempt to avoid being squished between dump truck and rock wall Dachary attempted to stop too fast and the bike tilted over against the rock wall. At least it wasn't the truck.
She hollers, and I come back, she extracts herself and we lift it. Of course, a moto shows up and watches to make sure we don't need help. I totally forgot to take a pic. We really need to go on another grand adventure with a cameraman, because there's simply too many important things that we'd love to have pics of that we don't think of taking pics of because we're too concerned with helping each other instead of photographing their distress. Damn prioritization!
Eventually the promised pavement is discovered. Then it disappears. Then it comes back. Then it disappears, etc…. Eventually it stays for a while and we make it to La Plata. We go a little ways into the city and I ask some passing pregnant woman where a Cajero Automatico is. "Just around the corner to the left." she says, and it is.
We get back on the bikes since we're parked in a no parking / taxi zone and decide we'll find some place to eat on the far edge of town, but the logical direction turns out to not be the correct direction and since we're headed back into the town square we figure we'll just get something here if we can find somewhere with parking in front of it.
We do, and it looks like a normal little restaurant but we think it was actually some chain thing. My chicken burger patty is lame but they somehow made it taste decent. Dachary's was "disgusting" and "The worst food I've had in Colombia." Needing the protein she ate it anyway. While we sat there a man with an eye patch under very dark sunglasses came in, sat down diagonally behind us, ordered a single soda and proceeded to give us the heebie-jeebies staring, we think, in our direction.
But then the famous Colombian afternoon rain comes, and as we're finishing the last fries it is finishing up. We get up to leave, and I forget that I opened my tank bag at the table. EVERYTHING, including my camera, falls out. Eye patch man sucks nonexistent soda through his straw (he'd already finished it) and stares at us while I pick it up.
We get the **** outta there, but I notice the direction we think we should head doesn't jive with the GPS. Now, it's maps aren't spectacular but the listed town centers are generally quite accurately placed. I notice a road up a hill in the distance that appears to be going the right way, and we attempt to find it. We get close, ask at a corner, and a tiny moto at the corner is all "Follow me!" so we do for a couple blocks and then he pulls over and makes hand gestures for the next couple corners we need to take. We thank him, and go.
We twist, turn, improvise, and ask and eventually get going in the right direction… except it's the wrong direction… According to the GPS it's much closer to another road that'll get us there, but in more time. We say **** it and continue on. Then the road totally turns the other way and ends up being the right one. Then the pavement disappears.
Then, there's a pice of tape across the road and a construction worker telling us to pull over and that it'll be forty minutes. I accept it as part of life in Latin America, turn off the engine, and start futzing with my bike, replacing batteries in the SPOT tracker (thus the gap in the day's route) and generally improving things. Dachary starts stressing about not making it to the goal town by nightfall. I don't really care where we make it. I figure there'll be somewhere to stay at whatever town we do make it to before nightfall.
Thankfully, the truck/bus full of people behind us, including an old lady, all get out and start chatting. Half way through one of them says something to the others expressing her frustration about how we aren't even trying (with the spanish) and generally being annoyed that we have come to her country without first learning her language. We think we're doing pretty well thank you very much. There's a lot of "no entiendo" of course, but we get by, and we managed to communicate the gas mileage, where we'd come from, where we're going, how big the bikes are, avoided answering how much they cost before eventually giving in. Asking about the road conditions ahead, learning that there's pavement not far on, etc.
Side note: everyone in colombia thinks our bikes cost $10,000 US. I assure them they're much much cheaper than that since mine is eight years old and i'm the third owner (we think).
Eventually the tape is dropped and on we go. Then the rain that threatened us while we sat catches up, and we put on our rain liners. Not ten minutes later and it's gone. We start drenching in sweat, go through a little town, and …. the pavement disappears and stays gone. Dachary feels mislead by the map. I don't mind the dirt, and soon we go through a dry river crossing. I joke that it's our first river crossing, and Dachary comments that she doesn't mind "this kind" but then we encounter our first real river crossing, but it's only like four inches deep so I just line myself up and go for it, making a surprisingly large bow wave and, unsurprisingly, wibbling a little.
With the stress of the morning, and the sunburn (which is on its way to becoming second degree), and the maps betrayal, and the extra dirt, and seeing me wibble, she asks me to do it. I say ok, but she has to promise to take a picture of the little bamboo bridge. She's too stressed and hurting.
So I take it across, then go get a pic of the bridge. I wish I had a pic of one of us going through the water, but here's some of the locals daring the raging river themselves.
Dog vs. River
The horse walks past Dachary's bike and begins to absolutely freak out when it sees mine. Rearing back, twisting, trying to get away…. Dachary and I are both half convinced that it's going to kick my bike over. I am torn between thinking it would be an awesome story if it did and fearing the horse might hurt itself. Of course, as I'm not a professional photographer I stand there, jaw open, gaping at the unfolding chaos, with camera sitting unused in my hand. I think that's the difference between true professional photographers and amateurs. A professional's first reaction is to take pictures, and contemplate later… But, the rider convinces the horse to calm down somewhat and continue on up the road.
Soon we make it into Taqui and, with dusk approaching decide to hunt down a hotel. Turns out to be somewhat tricky, some guy keeps interpreting hotel and hospidaje as hospital. I keep correcting him, but he keeps overriding those around him who get it, until one of them speaks up enough and says "yeah right down there". We go, it's cheap, it has a bathroom with a toilet seat, and a pvc pipe shower almost directly over both, we're in no position to complain. They'll put the bikes in their house downstairs too. Sweet. Both of our moods improved dramatically once we had the bikes ensconced, had a place to stay for the night and could just relax. This was a Good Thing.
Instant crowd. Just add adventure motos
We take off the panniers since they'll never fit through the front door, wheel them in, and then look down the street. Wait… that's a motorcycle mechanic RIGHT THERE. We go over, explain our problem, "no no, not just a lightbulb… here come with me." he does. He examines the bikes (in the house downstairs). "What make? Oh BMW? No we don't have that." "No est importante. Yamaha, Kawasaki. whatever…" "but we don't have anything similar" "No bonito est no problemo." We go back to the shop, then I ask if it'd be better to just brink the bike over. It was, so I did, and a gaggle of children and teens gather around to watch the proceedings. They find something about the right size and the more senior mechanic proceeds to short the bike and blow a fuze. This is after repeatedly explaining to them that no, there is no way to shut off the lights. No really. They don't turn off.
Mototaller right next to the Hospidaje
Junior mechanic hops on a scooter to ride off and find a fuze. We're not going to mention we have spares unless they can't find one since they're the ones who blew it. Long story short, the bodge was completed, names were exchanged, stickers were stuck, and we were charged 8,000 pesos (about $4 US). Dachary saw a price tag on the light housing that was over 8,000 so we think they were just happy that we were so happy, provided and entertaining distraction, and wanted to know their names so we can put them on the net.
(Dachary's note: Kay wants me to expand upon the happenings in the shop, so here goes…
Kay keeps wandering off for various things (to grab something from the room, to grab food, etc.) and I decide that at least one of us should stay with the bike, so I hang out at the shop with the bike while they're working on it. Pretty quickly, they find an assembly that will fit in the hole left by the BMW taillight assembly. It'll need a little convincing to fit properly and the hardware doesn't line up, but they can make it work.
So they strip the BMW connectors from the wires, and start connecting the wires from the bike to the wires from the light, trying to figure out which wire was supposed to go to which. They get the taillight to light up, but nothing happens when you hit the brake. So they start switching the wires around, and grounding the wires against the bike's frame, which is how they blow the fuze. Whoops.
After the new fuse comes back, they find the right combination of wires and start looking at ways to connect the hardware. One guy finds some stiff rubber tubing and cuts a couple of short pieces off, and it looks like they're going to use it as spacers to hold the assembly and the screws into the bike. He cuts and measures and tries it and then cuts some more until he gets the spacers fairly even and has the hardware lined up and screwed in. And viola! New taillight.
During the time there, the little kids kept asking me stuff, some of which I could answer and some of which my Spanish was too insufficient. Then the woman who I assume is the wife of the guy who runs the shop asks me something - the same thing they asked us at the road construction earlier and I didn't understand then, either. Something that involved a hand gesture in front of the face. Something about the helmet visor, maybe? No idea.
I try to convey that I understand one of the words, but I don't understand the other word they're using - and a kid steps in and tries to translate. Apparently he's been telling all of them that he speaks English, and he says something in English that sounds like "Stop." Except it makes no sense in context. I tell him I don't understand, and they all start laughing at him. Apparently he doesn't speak English as well as he's been bragging. He tries to explain that he doesn't speak "Gringo English," but they've seen through his attempts to impress them. Everyone is smiling and amused except the kid, although he's taking it with good cheer.
I explain to them at one point about the trip - where we've been and where we're going. And while we're in there, some military stuff comes on the tv (it's playing the news) and one of the kids nearby gestures to get my attention and points at the TV. I watch and see that there's some military stuff going on and apparently there was a bombing somewhere that they're reacting to? The kid says "In Bogota." "In Bogota?" I ask. I try to convey that I was just there four or five days ago, but I don't have any sense for how to convey time - we don't know the words for now, or a few days ago, or last week. All we can say is tomorrow or "in x days". But I seem to have conveyed it properly as all of our eyes go wide at the thought that I was just there and just missed some bombing/military stuff.
In the end, they charge us less than the part cost for the part itself and for affixing it to the bike. They take some pictures and video of us, and we take some pictures and video of them. They seem flattered and happy that we asked for their names for our website. (Although the junior mechanic got all bashful at first, and when I was persistent, he eventually wrote down the names of everyone there. And then the people went around introducing themselves from the paper. And because we said we wanted to write their names down, here are their names! If you need a nice bodge, this is who you want...
(Diego's giving the thumb's up, and Consuelo's the grey haired lady on the right)
Almacen Motolimpico (is the name of the shop)
Diego Armando Gasca - Diego is the "junior mechanic" who helped us and did most of the running around
Maria Consuelo Gasca (A younger girl who was hanging around - maybe a daughter of the owner?)
Olimpo Gasca - Perhaps the owner? I forget and I feel so bad for forgetting who was whom!
Consuelo Mendez - she was the woman I thought was the wife of the owner, and she was very sweet
Alex Gasca - Perhaps the other mechanic? Or maybe one of the kids belonging to the family
They also wrote "Thank you much" in English on the bottom of the list of names, and I confirmed that was how you say "Muchas gracias" in English, and it was totally sweet and awesome. We were all richer for our encounter, I think.
Kay ran to the room and brought back some stickers for them, and our cards - and when he handed over the stickers and cards to the owners/mechanic, the kids all start reaching for them, too. Kay obligingly hands out our cards, even though I try to point out "It's in English!" and it's nothing they'd care about - they all want one or they'd feel left out. One kid realizes it doesn't help and hands it back to Kay, miming that he should put it back into the container where we carry our cards. They give Kay some stickers for his bike, including a rosary which seems to be a prerequisite for any Colombian vehicle and a "100% Colombian" sticker (Diego chose it), and they proudly help him stick them on. It was really cool and awesome.)
End Dachary's note---
While this was happening I tracked down a restaurant which turned out to be right beside us but we couldn't see it, and procured us some tasty dinner, which I haven't been able to finish for no particular reason.
In the end it was $4 for the light (and stickers) $12 for the room and $5 for the food.
Now we're going to relax and watch Top Gear… I think.
Side note: my bike's a 2003 and doesn't come with a rear flashing LED light like the new ones, but the previous owner had added it. While flashing is definitely as safety feature I'm very happy with my $4 bodge, especially when compared to the scary price the "real" part would cost. Bike Bandit claims about $100 US for the OEM with a standard bulb, but both of ours had an LED array that would flash when you first hit the brakes. Im not sure how much those go for.
Day 57 Tarqui Colombia to Mocoa Colombia
The day started out pretty well. We emerged from our room with smiles and found that the place with the tasty chicken last night also did breakfast. We weren't specific enough with our responses and ended up with hot soup with beef broth, and some of the most deliciously tender roast beef and rice. Neither of us like the idea of warm soup for breakfast on a warm day, but it wasn't bad. We'll be more specific next time.
The breakfast parrot
Bikes retrieved and loaded, we headed out, and to Dachary's great surprise, and joy, had paved roads the entire way. On the edge of Pitalito we pulled into a gas station to grab a drink and check the map. I, of course, came to a complete stop and promptly dropped the bike for no reason.
So much to love
The road to Pitalito
The guy whose bike I almost squished was instantly there to help me lift (again had no clue about the weight). And soon there were a handful of guys standing around contemplating the bikes. One of them mentioned something about a colombian plate, and pointed to Dachary's which made no sense to me. But later he pointed to my bike and said something about the plate. I looked and…. wait a minute! Where the **** is my Plate?!
My new light and... something missing
Turns out, it wasn't just my light that had fallen off. It was the whole damn plastic section that holds the light and the license plate. There is NO WAY I would have driven past something that large when I was looking for the light. So either it was picked up by someone or someone stole it from the bike while it was parked at the hotel. I'm leaning towards the former as I can't see why anyone around there would want the tail piece from a BMW since they've all got tiny motos.
The guys are talking and miming handcuffs. I'm not sure if they're serious or joking. I manage to explain that I lost it on the dirt road the other day and one guy steps up and explains, in Spanish, that I need to go to the police station and report it as being lost. It sounds like decent advice, so I ask where the station is and he tells me to follow him (and his girlfriend who hops on the back). So we do, and he talks to the guy in the windows but no, we have to go to the other police station. So we hop back on our bikes and he leads us the other way through town to a building that there is no way in hell I would have been able to find even if I was standing in front of it.
Nonono. You need the OTHER police station.
In we go, he explains the problem to a cop, who asks for a little over 2000 pesos (maybe $1.25 US) for the form (not sure why but it's way too little to have been corruption) around the corner to the registration room, and the woman fills it out for me. I mistakenly think I'm 36 instead of 37 and sign the result. Back to the bikes and I thank the guy hugely for the twelfth time. He grins, shakes our hands, and rides off with his girl.
I turned to Dachary and said, "I am so glad he didn't ask for a tip. It would have totally ruined it. Plus, while I'd have been more than happy to tip him, I haven't a clue what something like that is worth."
So. Word of advice. If you loose your license plate in Colombia, go to the nearest police station and report it. It's no biggie and then you've got a pice of official paper to show cops or military if you're pulled over, which, it so happens we do! Just as we're approaching Mocoa. You're still gonna have problems at the border, but that's no reason to not enjoy the country while your cohorts back home get you a replacement.
It is our first official police stop, or maybe army. It's hard to tell. They all wear green and carry machine guns. I pull out my papers and the guy holds out his hand for something else. He says a word. Nope.. not getting it… My license? No… he says it again… no, not getting it. He reaches out and shakes my hand, and I break into a huge grin. OHHHH That's what he was saying.
The papers are fine, he sees the thing about the plate, and notes that yup, it's missing, no biggie, I've reported it. Dachary's papers are good too of course, and on we go.
We drive into town and start stopping at hotels with one big question… "Usted tiene internet?" Because we need net, and we need it in the room so that we can put together a power of attorney (do that before you leave) and contact friends back home to go to the RMV (Registry of Motor Vehicles) for me and get new plates, and, of course, track the resulting FedEx package to our hotel which is sure to be expensive.
Eventually, we find one, and for 55,000 pesos (about $28 US) for two nights we're set. Dachary of course, gets curious about the town we're in and discovers we're in FARC territory, that they really don't like the US, and that the road we were planning on taking is the "Colombian Death Road" which she seems pretty set on avoiding.
No matter what road we take out of here she'll have had a chance to let her sunburn heal. We stopped by the pharmacy, and asked for Aloe for her sunburn. The pharmacist put something pink in a bottle of Johnsons & Johnsons Baby Oil instead. When we got back to the room we basted her. The official feedback is that "it doesn't hurt as much". So that's good….
Second Hand Mannequins
Riding through Colombia
Intersting story. Keep it coming.
About losing your brake light asembly and license plate from your bike. I had the same thing happen to me a few years ago while riding through Costa Rica on board a BMW F650 GS. After the end of a days ride along a number of nasty roads, I found that my brake light along withthe license plate had fallen off. I have heard the same story from a number of other riders. Must be a design flaw.
Recapping what's broken so far.
Recapping the items that have failed or broken in some way, so far.
* Airhawk - front strap ripped out of cover. Cory (Oso Blanco on ADVRider.com) had the same problem with his apparently.
* Beadrider - the heavy duty fishing line that holds the beads together is breaking apart and beads are falling out. It and the Airhawk appear to be from repeatedly being struck by the foot when throwing it over the seat.
* Touratech sidestand foot - Both have had the bottom layer of the edge closest to the bike (when extended) bend down either slightly or severely.
It's somewhat bent
* Metal loop on the kickstand in the photo above has broken off, which makes it very difficult to extend the kickstand. We'll get that fixed the next time we pass a welder and have 20 minutes to spare.
* Cooling fan for the F650GS on Kay's bike
* Fork seals on Kay's bike
* screw / bolt thing that holds the mirror stalk onto the F650GS (we brought 2 spares because everyone seems to break these)
* lost tail light assembly on kay's bike. Including tail light, license plate, and mud flap on Kay's bike.
* headlight (low beam) on Kay's bike.
* Rear left blinker on Kay's bike. This was an aftermarket flexible stalk blinker that the prior owner put on. I'm think he claimed it was Touratech.
* one inner tube (rear). Probably a nail in a Mexican parking lot.
Tube es No Bueno!
* Glasses (stepped on)
Entropy and glasses
* Laminar lip / wind deflector for the top of Dachary's windshield (broken when bike fell against wall)
* Corner of SW-Motech Trax case. Repeated drops at low to no speed ripped off the plastic corner. We're getting a piece of aluminum welded to replace it.
Damage to Trax case
* Quick-locks for SW-Motech racks. There's a vertical shaft with tiny horizontal rods coming out of two sides. The horizontal rods are what holds it on. They both broke off on both Quick locks. Without these in place the rack holding the pannier falls outwards and would bend and break if ridden in that state.
The horizontal pins have sheared off.
* cord pull tabs on two zippers on the BMW Rally Pro 2 suit.
* The electrical socket / connection in Dachary's Gerbing's heated Jacket. Yes, it's currently in the high 80's outside but we'll be climbing to over 4000 meters in Bolivia and the Andes and it'll be good to have working.
Solving the Gerbing's problem
* Sena SMH-10 headsets. - Multiple failures chronicled elsewhere
Taping the Sena
* Contour GPS camera. USB Port fell inwards. We've got it in a bag almost entirely disassembled. Just can't get the last bit of the tube open to get at the piece we need.
* RevIt Rival H20 Boots (zipper died)
The Zipper of Doom
* Digital 5 Function meters - These were never designed for motorcycles and Aerostitch should be ashamed of themselves for selling them. As soon as they get wet, they die. They come back… kind-of. My thermometer is convinced it's below freezing out when it's in the 80's. They both max out somewhere close to 100 deg. F. Mine now beeps randomly The only thing that's semi-reliable is the voltmeter which is either fully lit up 88:8 or accurate.
* Camelback bite valves. Dachary's now drips constantly and both of them have started to gradually slide off the stalk. Bring spares.
* Dachary's hair - lost to a Hairdresser in love with the 80's
* Kay's hair - lost in a vicious Honduran barbering.
Not quite broken but….
* Thumb of Joe Rocket Sonic gloves was too short and resulted in your thumb being jammed into the end as you twisted the throttle. Not technically broken but as good as. Attacked the stitching with a Leatherman.
* Aerostitch Triple Digit Rain Covers
Not broken. Just annoying and slippy. Won't bother using them again unless it rains during cold weather. First attempt at using resulted in large sacks of water surrounding each hand. Second attempt seemed to work as designed.
Day 58 - Mocoa, Colombia
We were hoping for good news this morning from the RMV back home, but apparently Boston just got another umpteen feet of snow dumped on it and the RMV is closed and the Governor has told everyone to stay home. So our friend will try again tomorrow, and we wait in limbo in Mocoa to see if we can get a new plate for Kay's bike.
In the meantime, we went out this morning to explore the town and see what else we could accomplish here.
Surgically Augmented Mannequins by CorporateRunaways, on Flickr
My SW-Motech TraX pannier has been held together by stickers through two falls now, and we decided to see if we could find an aluminum welder to replace the plastic cap that's broken off with something a little more substantial. Wandered a bit, asked a cop, who sent us over a block, down a block and over a block - but the cop next to him said we should just go down two blocks and over a block.
Neither was quite accurate, but with one more stop to ask directions, we made our way to a welder who was working on something on the sidewalk. The trick is finding a welder who can work with aluminum - most only weld steel. We'd planned to wander over and ask, but the thing we saw him welding in the street was a large aluminum frame, that looked like in better days it might be a window frame. Check. They weld aluminum.
So we went back to the hotel room, emptied my pannier, peeled the stickers off (they came off in one giant sheet and didn't leave any residue! Yet another victory for the stickers!) and walked back over to the welder. Along the way, we looked up a few words we wanted to make sure we got across - "strong" - "substitute" - we didn't want them to try to fix the plastic, but we wanted a new strong piece of aluminum there. Even with our poor Spanish we managed to get our point across.
Damage to Trax case
In the end, it sounded like they were going to use the plastic cap as a template and machine a new aluminum cap piece for the pannier. We asked how long, and they seemed worried that we needed it "rapido." "No, no, tomorrow's fine" - and they told us to come back at 11AM tomorrow to pick it up.
Yay! So now, hopefully, my pannier will no longer need the stickers, and will be stronger than before. We'll see what we find.
We went window shopping for little motos, which sadly took less than five minutes. We'd spotted a showroom yesterday that had a selection of Bajaj motos, which we checked out today. It turns out that they only have two models - a 135CC and a 220CC. Which both have the exact same body work, and seem to us very much similar to the new Ninja 250 we've looked at in the states. (We used to have an old school Ninja 250 - Kay had it before I bought it off him, and it was my first bike. I learned a lot from crashing and repairing that sucker.) Either Bajaj or Kawasaki ripped off a lot of the body work and design features from the other.
Then some poking our heads into the local supermarkets for Diet Coke. Diet Coke was readily available in Central America (although they call it Coke Light) and I've been missing it in Colombia where I can only get regular coke, or the rather odd Colombian brand sodas. Although Kay has discovered a soda called "Quatro" which tastes remarkably like Fresca, which we both like. But because our hotel room has a mini-fridge (did I mention $13 per night for fast internet, hot water and a… MINI-FRIDGE? Yeah baby. Luxury.) I thought I could grab some soda and keep it there for a treat. We did eventually find a two-liter of Coke Light, some snacky stuff and some cord for another bodge we want to do for our bikes, and then headed back to the hotel room.
All before noon.
While we may not be excited about our enforced stay while waiting for license plates, we're certainly going to get the most out of our stay in Mocoa.
Kay's note: I couldn't help but feel like we were playing a real live version of World of Warcraft this morning. First we received a quest to go find an aluminum welder. Then the welder gave us a quest to go get, and prepare, a pannier for welding. When we did that we got a quest to take it to the welder. When we dropped it off at the welder we got a quest to return the next day. Dachary said "what filler quests can we do in the meantime?" We're just hoping we don't encounter any random mobs while wandering around town the next couple/few days.
The afternoon was spent updating our blog and generally being lazy. Went out around 2PM looking for lunch, and apparently that's the wrong time of day to go out in Mocoa. Everything was closed and shuttered. The vibrant town that we had seen this morning was non-existent. In spite of the fact that we'd seen half a dozen restaurants whilst wandering around this morning, we could only find three open this afternoon. We sat down at one, which told us they wouldn't be serving food again until 3PM. We tried another, but they only had breakfast and juices on their menu. So we went back to the same place where we had dinner yesterday, and got the same dishes we had then. It's pricey but apparently it was the only place in town open and serving lunch at 2PM. Lesson: go earlier or later for food.
Got back to the room and spent more time poking around the computers. I got a new assignment from a client to write articles about this trip - YAY! and spent hours working on my first assignments. Kay tried in vain to finish the book he's been reading on his iPad via the Kindle app (it refuses to end). We watched some Dr. Who and chilled. It's been a very low-key day. Looking forward to picking up my pannier tomorrow and see what they've been able to do with it. And hoping for good news tomorrow with our friend and the RMV! (Although MotoAdventureGal has suggested a lovely Plan B that might just do the trick, so we'll see what happens.)
Mocoa at night
Day 59 - Mocoa Colombia
Wow, almost two months now.
Today our friend in the states managed to make it through the snow-drifts to the Registry of Motor Vehicles and procure a new plate (and registration) for my bike. It didn't require any convincing with tales of dangerous colombian drug dealers. In fact, all it required, literally, was a copy of my registration, which I find rather disturbing, because with the Mass. registration being so amazingly forgeable it seems that just about anyone could go in and **** with someone else vehicle.
There was one, minor, tiny, insignificant, little snag though. The whole getting it delivered to us? Yeah. No. We checked the FedEx web site… we could have it delivered to a FedEx location in Pasto, which is on the way to one of the two borders. That sounded good, so we gave our friend a heads-up. She goes, and discovers that the "hold for pick-up" location for Pasto is not exactly IN Pasto. No. It's in Bogota, at the Airport. A three day drive from Pasto. So, not exactly what I'd call "convenient" to anyone living there. It's a two day drive from Mocoa, and along the way is San Agust
Day 60 - Mocoa to Neiva Colombia
The morning was uneventful save for one thing. We got breakfast, retrieved or bikes from the parking lot across the street, started putting our bags on them, and then, checked the tires because my rear looked a little low, and turned out to be just as low as it looked.
So, I dug down to the bottom of one of my panniers for the CyclePump, pulled it out, filled it and the front up (Dachary's didn't need any) shoved it back in shoved the other things back in, squished my toiletries bag back in and pressed against the blade of my razor with the crook of my thumb, slicing open the toiletries bag (now no longer a dry sac) and the crook of my thumb.
It was raining, we were about to set off, and now the most flexed portion of my hand was bleeding. Wonderful.
I went in, convinced it to mostly stop bleeding, put on my jacket, wrapped toilet paper around the base of my thumb, then shoved it in my glove and hoped I wouldn't have to take it off for a long time… also hoped that it wouldn't start bleeding on the ride and give me a blood caked glove, because as OJ proved, leather gloves that have become soaked in blood have a tendency to shrink.
So on we rode, back up route 45, with comments like "Oh poor us, having to spend more days riding nicely paved roads with beautiful curves winding through the incredible Colombian landscape. Woe is us. " Honestly the only thing we mind about all this is that it's eaten up a week and by the time we finally exit Colombia we'll probably only have six weeks left for the rest of the continent, which, frankly, sucks. We're going to have to spend more time than we wanted on main roads, but there's no way we're skipping Bolivia and the Salar De Uyuni.
So, on we ride, until we get to one of the rare police checkpoints where they actually want to pull us over. I tell them we're heading back to Bogota to get a plate and point to the paper the police gave me when I declared it lost. He wanted to know something else, which I wasn't quite getting, and then he got interested in the GPS, looking for Mocoa (the town we'd just left) for some reason. Then a woman walked up and started chatting in English, not about what the cops wanted, just… chatting. Eventually I ended up telling her that out of all the places we'd been so far Colombia was absolutely our favorite, that the people were great and the country was gorgeous. She said how much she loved to hear people say that, that it made her feel proud of her country, as well she should.
If you need help in Popayan
She said that if we ever needed help we should just stop and ask the police as they were good. We'd employed this tactic before on a number of occasions, but it was good to hear a local suggesting they were good too…. and "Do you know Popayan?" It was ringing a bell…. then Dachary, who was talking with the cop, who'd moved over to her bike, heard me over the headset and reminded me where it was… "oh, yes, We turned just before that when we went to Inza and Tierradentro." I said, "we'll probably be passing through it when we head back towards Equador. "Well, if you're in Popayan and you need anything give me a call… well, give my husband a call, as I'll probably not be back yet." And she wrote down her and her husband's cell phone numbers. I gave her a card, took her picture, and thanked her greatly.
An offer like that really means a lot to me. I hope we never have to call her, but it's good to know we can. So, Adriana, Thank you. From the bottom of my heart.
At a military checkpoint
As we rode off Dachary informed me of what had been happening over at her bike. While the guys were gathered around my GPS another had come and asked to look in her panniers. This was the first time anyone in Colombia has asked to look, and the first time anyone at all has asked to look at Dachary's. She opened one up, and he seemed somewhat disappointed that everything was bagged up and not visible. He picked out almost everything in her left pannier, opening some of the bags, and a few bags from the right, but in the end it was too much trouble for too little return. "Oh look, wodged up clothes." "Oh look. cords" Dachary was secretly waiting for him to look inside the bag of tampons, but alas, he got bored just before.
After not quite finding what he'd wanted in the GPS my guy wandered off to her bike, noticed the map on her tank bag, and asked if it was of Colombia. "Yes", and set about finding Mocoa, again, and then tracing the route northward to roughly the current location, asked for a pen, which she didn't feel like digging out, but pointed to the one I was offering to Adriana, which he didn't feel like asking for. We're still not sure what he wanted to do with it, but soon thereafter we were back on the road.
Around lunch time we made it into Pitalito, where we went into town, to find food, passed a restaurant full of people, circled the block (one way streets) passed through the moto-everything block of town, and pulled up alongside the restaurant. There were no empty tables, but the guy behind the counter motioned us to squeeze in at a six seater that only had two. So we did.
The wife was very talkative, and like many Colombians, willing to work around our limited vocabulary. When I asked what you called the lentil soup thing her hubby had on his plate she said "lenteah" (or something that sounded like that) and hollered for the waiter guy to get us a bowl of it. I didn't stop her because we'd had it elsewhere and it was freaking delicious. Turns out, the whole meal was delicious. Dachary ordered pasta and beef and i'd ordered pasta and chicken. We'd gone for the pasta because he mentioned it and I think we're both sick of carne asada. The pasta was awesome. Big wide linguini strips that had been cooked in some delectable chicken broth. So good. The chicken, beef, and lenteah were also delicious.
While we sat there she asked if we were going to see San Agust�*n and we said no, because, whilst it was on the way, last night we'd both commented that we had absolutely no desire to go there. It just wasn't calling to us. But as we sat there she kept going on about it, how beautiful it was, how it was only thirty minutes down the road, how easy it was to get too, oh you'll love it… She, like everyone else in Pitalito and the surrounding area, seemed so proud of it. They loved it. They thought everyone should see it. It wasn't the "oh we have a tourist attraction that people come to see" kind of feeling. People around here really love San Agust�*n, and as we set out on the bikes we both felt a little guilty for still not having any interest, and continuing northward.
The riding continued to be spectacular. The Andes have been to our left all day, rising up like giant dark shadows behind the mountains we can make out. Frequently I didn't even realize they were there. I thought it was just darker skies behind the mountains until I'd notice that one part of the darker sky had a cloud curling around it. Dachary says that one of the peaks to our west is nearly 6,000 meters.
(click through for the full panorama)
We covered nearly two hundred miles today, and as we approached Neiva we were drained, and not looking forward to dealing with finding a hotel in a city this size, or the price. A sign came up, Hotel 500m. Hmm…. We found it. We pulled in. It's a nice place. I have no idea what it's called, it has a restaurant on site, and the guy wanted 100,000 pesos (about $50). Nope, not paying *that* much. I told him so, figured he wouldn't come down enough, and asked him to recommend a place. He did, the semi-tourist town we'd passed a turn-off to 8k back. And by the time I was walking out the door he'd talked himself down to 70,000. Still more than I wanted to pay, but tempting because we were so tired, and really, really not wanting to deal with a city….
I talked to Dachary. "If it means not having to deal with a city…." We took it. In the end they got their 100,000 because the food was pricey (no surprise there), but it was fairly good. As we were putting on normal pants to go out to the outdoor restaurant and eat it Dachary asked what that sound was, and wondered if it would be going on all night. I hypothesized that it was cicadas, but that I'd never heard so many as to make a chorus affect. We stepped out the door and, as if they'd been waiting for precisely that moment, they came to a whining crescendo that sounded like fifty weed-whackers grinding their metal plates into submission.
"That can't be cicadas." she said, but it was.
It's 10:29 and the temperature has dropped enough that they've shut up. But their droning tone has been replaced by the screams and yells of children playing in the pool.
Some parents need to be seriously bitch-slapped.
Side note: Dachary's been picking at her sunburn since she took off her shirt. She's obsessed with it.
Day 61 - Neiva to Zapiquira
At some point in the middle of the night the rain started. Torrential downpours. It would pause for a few minutes, then start back up again, and continued in that fashion until the alarm went off.
We were not thrilled.
When it rains it pours...
We dawdled a little as we packed, or, I did, hoping it would let up, but it didn't seem interested, so we put in our rain liners and started hauling things out to the bikes. The overpriced hotel restaurant had all the chairs up on the tables, so we didn't even consider breakfast there, but as we lugged things out, the guy in charge enthusiastically offered us some juice. Which, it should be noted, is never from a jug. Juice in Latin America is always fresh-squeezed / blended.
I asked if they were serving breakfast, and yes, it turns out they were. "Do you want breakfast?"… "I don't know…" Dachary was focused on getting things loaded, but after that, she decided that yeah, it would be better than hunting for breakfast, so we sat down, and voila, one of the best breakfasts we'd had in a while. Turned out it was included with the room too.
By the end of breakfast the rain had become a light sprinkle, and Dachary took off the rain liner in her coat. I was not so bright. Ten minutes after hitting the road and the skies were clear. I took off my coat's rain liner, but both of us still had the pant liners on, and it was 104 deg. F in the shade when we finally pulled over to a gas station with a teeny bathroom to remove them.
We rode through more beautiful roads that looked like the Colorado plains, then up into lush green China as we rose to greet Bogota, then past its outskirts (bleh), and through some town where everyone seemed to go to eat. It was packed and there were literally corrals to funnel the crowds, but on we went into the darkest rain cloud either of us had dared to ride into. We stopped to put our jacket liners in just before, and were very grateful we did, because it was another downpour that ended just as we made it to Zapiquira.
Now, you may be wondering, "Why Zapiquira?" well, an ADVRider pointed out that since we needed to be near Bogota, we might want to check out the Cathedral De Sal, and I remembered seeing a number of programs over the years that spoke of it in glowing terms. Dachary wasn't so into the idea, but she was willing to go along with it.
So, we pulled in, and knowing we'd be stuck there for two nights (waiting for Monday morning to pick up my new plate in Bogota) checked the best place in the travel book. The price was a wee much but not too bad and it had internet, but there was something weird about the room. It wasn't available until 8pm (it was a little after 6 at the time), and if we wanted it we'd have to put down money to reserve it, and then, when I said ****-it, sure because it was the nicest one recommended by the book, the price suddenly went up another 27,000 pesos. Hmm… no, I think we'll go look somewhere else.
So we did. We checked the two other places in the book, and another that was next door, picked one that had net (in the lobby only), unloaded, and wandered out for food. Unfortunately it was a tourist town, and all the restaurants seemed to be catering to the bar crowd. Loud, with a side-order of can't think. We finally found a chicken place that seemed quiet from the doorway, ordered, and walked around to the tables in the back, where we gingerly assaulted by the days soccer highlights on the TV.
Something about Latin America and loud volumes. We don't get it.
My fish was good, Dachary's chicken was lame, but back in the room we were happy to report that the Hotel seemed surprisingly quiet. We're not used to hotels that are actually quiet. So, we booted up the iPad and watched some Top Gear and Dr. Who, read a bit, and fell asleep.
Not a bad day, but the miles did leave us rather tired.
Day 62 - Zipaquira and Catedral de Sal
Upon checking into the hotel that had semi-functional internet access last night, we discovered that Kay's new license plate had already been delivered to FedEx in Bogota. We figured we could scrap the plans to see Catedral de Sal and ride to Bogota, grab it and get on the road, but Kay was really interested in seeing it and since we'd already gotten there, decided we should stick around and see it. So I did some research and found lots of great reviews about it, and info saying that it would take a half day to see everything there.
We decided that after seeing Catedral de Sal, it would be too late to get into Bogota, locate the FedEx thing, and get out again - we'd get stuck hunting for a hotel in Bogota. Which didn't sound good to either of us. So we decided to take the room in Zipaquira for another night, and make a day of it. I wanted to check some stuff on my bike, and Kay wanted to remove the annoying Aerostich multimeter thing, so we had enough to do after seeing the Catedral.
So we got up at a leisurely pace, had breakfast, and went to see the Catedral. Got there around 10AM, bought our tickets (around $10 US per person for just the Catedral de Sal and some 3D movie thing) and headed in. We realized too late that we were going in with a Spanish-speaking tour group, and we could have waited for an English-speaking tour guide, but Kay opted to just go in with the Spanish guide instead of waiting around until later, figuring that the place would be interesting enough to hold our attention even if we didn't understand the guide.
The Catedral de Sal was… disappointing. One of the reviews described it as the "Eighth Wonder of the World" - we beg to differ. It was impressive from the standpoint of being a salt mine, and Kay was very impressed with what we saw from a mining perspective… but otherwise, it was a bunch of crosses lit up in mined-out caverns which represented various "stations" in Jesus' life. The main cathedral itself was somewhat impressive, but the rest of it was kind of… lame.
Cathedral De Sal
Cathedral De Sal
Cathedral De Sal
Cathedral De Sal
Also? After seeing just the Catedral and the 3D movie (about mining, and the infrastructure of this mine in particular, which was somewhat interesting) it was barely even 12. Obviously we miscalculated, and had we not taken the room for another night, we could have probably made it into Bogota, gotten the license plate, and made it out again. But we'd already paid for the room, and there was still stuff we could do on the bikes, so we simply headed back.
Cute for sale
The most noteworthy thing about this visit was the fact that the altitude kicked my ass. I was short of breath after walking up just a few flights of stairs toward the mine - far more so than normal. And then walking along the flat roads. And walking downhill later. I don't remember having this much trouble the first time we were in Bogota, but I also didn't do much walking around then. By the time we finished with the mine, I was ready to go back to the hotel room and crash for a bit. So we did - went back and watched an episode of Dr. Who and then went out to futz with the bikes.
My bike was having its first problem. I'd noticed vibrations between 60-70KPH. It was worse when decelerating, but it got quite bumpy from time to time and I was worried about it. So we pulled up the F650 forum (the Chain Gang) FAQ, which Kay had archived the entirety of on his iPad for quick reference, and I stared going through the vibration FAQ. Checked this and that and nothing really seemed to apply. In the end, we tightened two of the engine bolts, which I was skeptical of but was easy enough to do so there was no reason not to do it. I also discovered that my steering bearing is notched, but I have no idea how serious of a problem this is and haven't had a chance to look it up on the Web.
Checked some other fasteners - notably my taillight, after Kay's had simply fallen off - checked my front sprocket, which requires removing the stupid BMW guard (this is a bitch to remove if you have the Touratech engine guards - we Dremeled a bit out to make it easier but it's still a PITA) and did some general checking and maintenance. The bike didn't really seem to need anything else, although the chain is showing signs of wear - my Loobman seems to be doing an insufficient job of lubing the chain. Guess it's time to find a moto shop and buy some lube and a cleaning brush and do it the old fashioned way.
Kay took the opportunity to disconnect and remove the Aerostich multimeter, which had been failing on him for a while. After the rain in Neiva, it had gotten to the point that it beeped incessantly every 5 seconds, and NONE of the things worked anymore. So he had to take off the seat, disconnect it from his Fuzeblock, and remove the multimeter and wires. Before trashing it he chopped off the wires to use as extra reinforcement for the license plate.
Mine, by the way, is still fully functional, except for the fact that the clock keeps losing time and some of the LCDs on the clock don't work anymore. I think being more inside the cockpit has afforded mine some protection, but these still aren't meant for use on a motorcycle. Shame on you, Aerostich, for selling them to motorcycle owners. (They're meant for inside of a car, we now know.)
Otherwise were fairly lazy, aside from some minor medical ailments. We had to go to a drugstore to request some anti-histamines for me, because I seem to be developing some obnoxiously itchy red dots. Akin to Chicken Pox, actually - I noticed them first at the hotel in Neiva, and they've been getting worse since then (i.e. more of them, itchier). Not quite sure what to do about it, except to give it a few more days and see if it goes away on its own. Also had to get a laxative, because I've gone from one extreme to the other - so now I was glued to the bathroom for the rest of the night.
There was a pizza place next to the hotel, and we'd had no luck getting pizza there for dinner last night. I sent Kay to try again while I stayed close to the bathroom, and after much to-do, which resulted in the pizza shop lady coming back inside our hotel and talking to the hotel receptionist, who apparently called a pizza shop somewhere else and ordered pizza for us, we finally got an order in for pizza. 45 minutes later, we got two "personal" pizzas. And they were TINY. Still, we dug in optimistically… and agreed that we've had better pizzas from a box in the frozen food section. The crust was lame, there was no sauce and the cheese tasted… odd. The only saving grace was that it was cheap. Kay went out a bit later to get a second dinner for us to share - chicken and potatoes. That was much better.
Kay's note: the Pizza place didn't have pizza, wouldn't make pizza, didn't have the lasagna that was on the menu, and I suspect didn't have the hamburgers on the menu either. Also, the woman who ran the pizza place was unaware that pepperoni was a form of salami.
So word of advice? Ordering pizza in Colombia is a crap-shoot.
Also? I'm now in a position to say decisively that laxatives are NO FUN. Wish I didn't have an opinion, but… my digestive tract has been taking a beating on this trip.
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