The Curse Of Bogota.
7.8.09 Valdivia, Colombia
Bogota eh? Not a pretty name, and it's not a pretty town. The weather's a bit grim too; and you'd have to be dear old Ferdy Magellan to find your way from the outskirts to the centre in less than 2 hours. On top of all that there's The Curse Of Bogota. Within 24 hours, my camera disappears (with every picture I took in Ecuador, Popayan and Cali), my iPod craps out permanently, and someone at the parking place manages to wrestle a pannier off my bike. Not to steal it, you understand, but it's not supposed to be wrestled off, so it gets a bit bent, and I get a bit narked.
Despite The Curse, I manage to have a spectacular time in Bogota, due almost entirely to Adam, Neil and *sigh* J. J *swoon* is 27 and ooohhh mahh Gawwwd just about perfect *gazes out of window* ...Eh? Oh yeah... so, eventually, having been told in three Bogota camera shops that the replacement camera I want (which is advertised on TV in Colombia every 20 minutes) isn't available in Colombia, it's time to head for Medellin (where - oh look! - it is available), home of The Barking Spider.
The Spider is a brand new motorbikin' pub, and after 2 weeks in Medellin I'm ashamed to say it's almost all I can accurately recall about the place. Apart from the phone number of a girl I met there (only because she wrote it on the blackboard and I photographed it, though I couldn't tell you her name) and a club full of naked ladies (don't know where it was or what it was called).
If you're at all interested in "fun", particularly the kind that tends to crop up between opening time and bed time, I strongly recommend Medellin. Bring plenty of cash. It ain't cheap, but it's worth it.
8.8.09 Planeta Rica
A young family gambols happily on a late-afternoon beach. A slightly smug twentysomething voiceover artist begins to murmur inanities about our "fragile world" and delivers vague reassurances that efforts are being made behind the scenes to save it. At this point, as usual, it's time to guess which planet-raping multinational is behind the ad. Texaco? Shell? Nope - this one's Lockheed Martin! Exsqueeeeeeze me? Lockheed Martin the arms company? Manufacturers of the Hellfire missile? Creators, in 2002, of something called the Integrated Warfare Development System? And something else called the Millennium Gun?
Is that not deeply, richly hilarious, and at the same time the most insultingly cynical, breathtakingly mendacious half-minute of television of all time? Wouldn't it be cheaper, and more honest, just to stick a flashing neon "FUCK YOU!" sign on screen for 30 seconds?
I still haven't managed to find the time to buy any insurance. Now that I'm 250 miles from my final South American destination, and bearing in mind that I haven't been stopped once in Colombia, I'm beginning to doubt that I'll ever get round to it.
If there's a better feeling than rolling into somewhere called "Planeta Rica" at 4pm on a sweaty, sea-level Saturday, parking 'Er Ladyship in the dining hall of a six-pound hotel and settling down to enjoy numerous roadside Aguilas in a pair of relatively clean shorts, I haven't discovered it. By the way, six quid hotels in PR come with 3 beds, a telly, a ceiling fan and a bathroom.
9.8.09 El Carmen de Bolivar
Aguila, like Poker, is a 4% swigging lager perfect for the heat. Served - distressingly - only in small cans or small bottles, it's near-indistinguishable from Poker, but Poker is clearly a better name, so Poker wins. Make sure you don't accidentally order Aguila Light - it's gassy water with yellow food colouring (although the label claims 4% alcohol).
Good, clever telly
Unless something goes as wrong as Hitler tomorrow, I've got one half day's ride to my final South American destination left. Not even that - it's 80 miles to Cartagena and the Caribbean coast. From there it's a 4 day boat ride to Colon in Panama. That'll be nearly 14000 miles in South America: no punctures, no serious bike problems, several entire cows, pigs and sheep, several incidences of nearly boiling to death and nearly freezing to death on the same day, 3 cameras (one broken, one either lost or stolen), six colds, 10 months and 1 day.
Thousands of miles in a straight line, hundreds of miles of hairpins, 15,500 feet, sea-level, good cops (Argentina and Colombia), bad cops (Peru), and no discernable improvement in my Spanish in the last 6 months. Not proud of that last one (though I suspect Northern Colombian Spanish, like Chilean, is more tricksy to the European ear than that of some other countries).
1.5 sets of tyres, dozens of episodes of "House" - great telly - two episodes of "The Nanny" - total shit - mad bikers, sane locals, insane locals and normal bikers, lovely ladies and women who look a bit like Jay Leno, probably a hundred episodes of "Two And A Half Men" (superb), late nights, great tights, early mornings and surly warnings, mountains and fountains, lakes and shakes, wines, pines, lines and fines, highs and lows, pies and nose-blows, and the most beautiful, faultless, forgiving and unstoppably eager 11-year-old Africa Twin on the planet. Cheers!
11.8.09 Cartagena, Colombia.
Tierra del Fuego to Cartagena with no insurance! Eat that, copper! (Unless I get nicked in the last 1.5 miles to the docks...)
Posted by Simon Fitzpatrick at August 22, 2009 07:52 PM GMT