June 02, 2003 GMT
Con mucho gusto...a la orden

It's not a long walk from the terminal to the carga area, less than 1km, it just feels like more when you've got a canoe-bag on your shoulder. Not to mention the jacket and helmet in the other arm.

A taxi stopped and insisted i take a free ride!
Welcome to Colombia. "con mucho gusto".
I had the advantage of knowing where to go; Mark (1150Gs) came through a few days ahead of me. He told me about the walk across the field to the customs offices.
So, the whole process of getting the bike in was easy, free and even enjoyable; particularly having to take the bike down a hallway, through reception and then down the front steps!
Bogota is great! I really felt at home. But it's a bit cool...i was glad of the 4 blankets on my bed.
As usual when you hit a capital city you have missions to accomplish. Mine were; oil change, yellow fever jab and new riding gloves. My leather gloves had all but disintegrated in the sweaty tropics of C. America.
I went along to BMW and asked to use some space to do the oil change. Of course this being Colombia and me being a woman...imposible to do anything myself.
Instead i had a taxi and driver at my disposal for the afternoon. We went first to a moto-boutique; it had relocated and we went miles to find the new shop. They didn't have a pair of gloves for me. Either too big, too expensive or just too ugly.
The taxi driver kept looking at his watch so i decided to head to the airport for the free yellow fever jab. The receptionist at BMW found out where i had too go.
It was prearranged that i would be left at the airport, only a short distance from the shop. I had to pay for this taxi ride...tsk.
Back in time to collect the bike and get to the hotel before rush hour. Un buena dia.
On sunday one of the main avenues and one side of a dual carriageway, are turned into "ciclovias"...closed to motorised traffic.
This is done on a weekday as well, which has much more impact, but the sunday has a real family and friends day-out feel. The street is lined with puncture repairmen with cycle accessories and stalls for juice, hotdogs and icecream.
There are so many good museums in Bogota. My favourites are the Gold Museum and the National Museum -housed in the old prison (two in one really).
I tore myself away from Bogota and headed to Medellin, a beautiful ride through coffee country.
Too many crazy truck drivers on twisting roads that sometimes felt like they weren't made right....?....just too tight. Couldn't get a nice rhythm Apparently this is the road where Ted Simon came to grief a few years ago.
I made a half way stop in Manizales, a city perched on a mountain saddle.
While in C. America, still undecided about coming to Colombia, i received a mail from Tiberio Jaramillio; the 'Horizons Community' in Medellin. He generously offered his help in what ever i needed, and welcomed me to Colombia.
It was good to meet with Tiberio. He just returned in december 2002, from his overland trip to Alaska on his 1100Gs. (We are waiting for your stories in the E-zine Tibe!)
We spent the afternoon taking parts to his bike south of town. After lunch we stopped for a dessert: a huge "communion wafer sandwich" of arequipa-caramelized sweetened condensed milk. I am a confirmed 'sweet-tooth' but i could only do 2 little bites!! Then we found me a pair of Axo gloves for $10! Mission accompished.
Medellin is a nice place, contra to it's reputation, and a real party town. Or maybe that is just the party animals at the Palm Tree Hostal?! I don't think so.
I had said to myself -"if i go to Colombia i will just head south"; like everyone else. But there i was in Medellin.
The next step of course is Cartagena...how could i be in Colombia and not go. Cartagena has been one of those places; one of those names. Pirates, romance...
There was a half plan to leave the bike with Tiberio and take a bus. However, when time came i couldn't face leaving the bike...for a bus!
The morning i left i stopped at a petrol stn to confirm my direction. The attendents, impressed with my brave journey, wanted my autogragh and treated me to a coffee and empanada.
Welcome to Colombia, con mucho gusto.
Colombia has a lot of toll roads, but they've got the right idea as far as the motos are concerned. We don't have to pay and we get our own little lane to scoot around everyone.
Of course i was a bit nervous heading north. I've written a quote in my guide book from The Lost World, Sir A Conan Doyle "...it's always easier when imagination stops and action begins."..... That is so true.
I had an excellent ride though the northern reaches of the Andes. Good roads sometimes lined with pink flowering trees. Magic.
My half way stop was near Planeta Rica. Hotel with pool and hamacas for only $4. I rang Tibe's cell phone. 2 ring code so he could see where i was calling from and not worry.
There was one quite long, lonely stretch of road before Cartagena. I was glad of the police check points.
The "rules" for safe driving in Colombia: leave as early as possible; stay on the main routes; take local advise; don't drive after 3 or 4 o'clock...Guerillas like to work at night. You can spot them, apparently, by their long hair, beards and wellington boots!!
But really you'll stop for anyone in uniform with a gun...
I stopped for some Cub Scouts, until i realized they were unarmed! Actually they are the only ones who got any money out of me. I thought it was worth $0.25 to support their 'clean up Colombia' campain. And i got a sticker to boot. Sticker fiend.
Cartagena. Cartagena is lovely. Playa Blanca is gorgeous. What more can i say...you'll have to go.
Whilst in Cartagena i received a mail from Erik, the Belgian i met in Nicaragua. He was along the coast doing some scuba diving so i went to say hello.
Taganga is a quiet fishing village on a lovely bay, just the other side of Stanta Marta (which is the other side of Baranquilla).
I enquired about doing some "refresher" diving....I haven't done any diving since i first got certified in 1986! ..."why not do an Advanced course...?"
I needed an evening in the hammock, with a few cuba libres to decide....again with the 'imagination/action thing'. (in combination with money...)
Next morning -hung over, nervous and sea sick i set out to become an Advanced Diver. I won't bore you with details; it was a great experience. I especially loved the night diving!
After a week or so i moved to Rodadero, a high rise community on the beach, the other side of Sta. Marta. Erik had rented a flat there. On the way to drop him at the airport we told the landlord i would take it over.
Nice to have a sandy beach instead of rocks....and a little kitchen, a balcony, a swimming pool and a sauna. A splurge at $10 night!!
After a week of that it was time for Carnaval!
Baranquilla is billed as the best place for Carnival, outside of Brasil. When i arrived i pulled up at an overpriced hotel; looking for my buget one. The guy at the desk said one of the staff would show me... i thought he would point up the street and tell me how many blocks etc... He trotted ahead while i drove the 7 blocks!
Welcome to Colombia, "a la orden".
The "con mucho gusto" changes up north.
I met up with a Suisse guy i'd spoken to in Tanganga and we went to the saturday parade.
Now i wouldn't use the word 'hate' but....i really don't like parades. Or marching bands....overdosed as a child....I come from Moose Jaw, the "Band Capital of North America".
Anyway...we were near the finish line; lots of very tired dancers, astronauts, bears and donkeys schlumped against the wall. Smoking, guzzling water and talking on mobile phones.
That made it interesting. Not to mention the water sprayed over us and the talc powder rubbed in our faces! A bit different than a M.J. parade....the square dancing is a little different as well.
Before it got too dark and the pickpockets got better (there was a lame attempt), we hitched a ride back to town on an empty float.
The place to go for the evening was Fiesta de la Cerveza, up in the swank area. Neither of us wanted to pay $5 entry. Across the street was an overflowing bar, so we joined all the other cheapskates and danced the night away!
Great party. Hasta luego Baranquilla!
I was curious about Cali, the home of the most beautiful women in Colombia, some say the world. I didn't see any one that really amazed me. The dancing is good though!
The southern slide to Ecuador took me through Popayan, with an excellent Nat. History museum. And then Pasto, where it rained for 4 days.
I had a mail the other day from a friend in Mexico. How good it was to hear from me....like Marco Polo, nothing but good news....Well here's the bad news Joaquin!
Yeah everyones nightmare.
I was keeping an eye, it was very minimal, but coming from the sump...
On the way to the border it worsened. I hoped by changing the washer it would get me to Quito. When i took the nut out my heart and stomache dropped...stripped threads. whaaaahhh (The new washer got me to Quito.)
Not a nice departure from Colombia but it won't change my good feelings for it.
Con mucho gusto!! ciao

Posted by Jo-Anne Smith at 06:25 PM GMT

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