May 14, 2006 GMT
Sir Francis Drake

Had another of those days yesterday.

Up at sparrow's, and followed the directions of the parking chap to get out of Maracaibo. An hour later I finally managed to get out on to the road north, thanks to a helpful truck driver at the BP station.

As with most countries, police checkpoints proliferate the nearer the border yout get, and at one on the 60-mile ride north the policeman tried to tell me that the road to the frontier was the little one to my left. Not likely. Don't know if he was trying to have a laugh, but even my navigation's better than that (city escapes notwithstanding).

Anyhow, when I reached the border the Venezuelan formalities were pretty simple, as was getting into Colombia; me, that is, not the bike. I went to DIAN (the customs service) to do the bike paperwork. It was now 10:30, 35 degrees and extremely humid. No-one to do the paperwork. "Ten minutes" I'm told.

Three-quarters of an hour later the lady arrives. Much shuffling of carbon paper while a soldier casually leaves his AK47 (or whatever) on the chair next to me and makes photocopies of the appropriate bits of paper. Then the forms are filled in. Next problem. The chief who needs to countersign the forms is in Maicao (five miles away) and isn't coming to the border today. All I have to do is take the papers to Maicao, find the Police Command Post and Major Cerano, get his signature, then return to the border so they have their copy. I know border towns - absolute bear gardens and I don't fancy my chances of finding either the Command Post or the Major. But I really, really need to have the paperwork correct. Then a very nice Venezuelan chap (Carlos) who also needs signatures says he knows where the place is and I can follow him there; not only that but he's giving a couple of soldiers a lift there. So off we go, having the usual tollbooth game (you have to go round the side, I can't go backwards, but, I'll pay the toll, Oh, OK) on the way. And sure enough we dive into the middle of the beargarden on dirt streets. Carlos and nice young soldier #1 take my papers and go in while I sit outside chatting to nice young soldier #2, and five minutes later I have my signed paperwork and Carlos is happy to take my copies back to the border as he has to go back there anyway. Hurrah.

So I was now running rather late, with 400 miles to Cartagena and only seven hours of daylight left.

Colombian roads are really good (when they haven't been washed away) so I was able to make pretty good time. What really helped was that there was a fairly heavy army presence all the way along the road (thus reducing my chances of being shot at by FARC) who have also appropriated most of the police checkpoints, so I only had to stop once for a document check. There was only a quarter of an hour of torrential rain (albeit more than enough to be soaked through) and I managed to get to Cartagena just as it got dark.

OK, so I'm lost again. I stopped at a petrol station (er . . . BP again) to consult maps, and a nice young man asked (in English) if I needed help. So I explained which hotel I wanted, and asked him to flag a cab for me to follow; he did so, and not only that but went in the taxi as well, and ferried money between me and the driver when we arrived as I wasn't in a position to get off the bike.

Cartagena is absolutely beautiful; the old and extremely impressive city walls were built after Sir Francis Drake laid siege to and nearly destroyed the city. My hotel is in a 17th-century monastery which has been wonderfully restored. Like Venezuela, many people speak English, often self-taught (and many have bemoaned the fact that the BBC World Service no longer broadcasts to South America). Both countries also claim zero illiteracy; you see hoardings saying "Now everyone can read this message". I don't know how true this is. Oh, and BP was front-page news in today's Sunday paper.

If you read the Foreign Office's Advice to Travellers about Colombia you'd probably think twice about coming here.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at May 14, 2006 07:32 PM GMT

HU DVD Summer Special!

Now that summer is here, get On the Road! Take 30% off the Achievable Dream - On the Road! 2-DVD set until August 31 only. Get On the Road! Learn the tips to staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure!

Our veteran travellers share their tips (and great stories) for staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure.

"A fantastic, informative and inspirational DVD."

"It's brilliant - thank you very much!"

Check it out at the HU Store! Remember to use Coupon Code 'ONTHEROAD' on your order when you checkout.

Renedian Adventures

Renedian Adventures

What others say about HU...

"I just wanted to say thanks for doing this and sharing so much with the rest of us." Dave, USA

"Your website is a mecca of valuable information and the DVD series is informative, entertaining, and inspiring! The new look of the website is very impressive, updated and catchy. Thank you so very much!" Jennifer, Canada

"...Great site. Keep up the good work." Murray and Carmen, Australia

"We just finished a 7 month 22,000+ mile scouting trip from Alaska to the bottom of Chile and I can't tell you how many times we referred to your site for help. From how to adjust your valves, to where to stay in the back country of Peru. Horizons Unlimited was a key player in our success. Motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world are in debt to your services." Alaska Riders

contest pic

10th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is on now! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!

NEW! HU 2014 Adventure Travel T-shirts! are now available in several colors! Be the first kid on your block to have them! New lower prices on synths!

HU 2014 T-shirts now in!

Check out the new Gildan Performance cotton-feel t-shirt - 100% poly, feels like soft cotton!

What turns you on to motorcycle travel?

Global Rescue, WORLDwide evacuation services for EVERYONE

Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!

New to Horizons Unlimited?

New to motorcycle travelling? New to the HU site? Confused? Too many options? It's really very simple - just 4 easy steps!

Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.

Susan and Grant Johnson Read more about Grant & Susan's story

Membership - help keep us going!

Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.

You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.

Books & DVDs


All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.

Motorcycle Express for shipping and insurance!

Motorcycle Express

MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!

Story and photos copyright ©

Sorry, you need a Javascript enabled browser to get the email address and dates. You can contact Horizons Unlimited at the link below. Please be sure to tell us WHICH blog writer you wish to contact.

All Rights Reserved.

Contact the author:

Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.

Hosted by: Horizons Unlimited, the motorcycle travellers' website!
You can have your story here too - click for details!