En route from Merida to Cucuta at the Colombian border and thence to Bogota, seven bridges had washed away or collapsed as a result of the same flooding that had so devastated Caracas whist I was lying low on Margarita.
Two of the crossings required getting wet, and on the last one I nearly lost it all, as I became stuck and the fast moving water, rising to my thighs, threatened to stall the engine and topple me. It certainly entertained the locals, though.
I arrived in the "City of Eternal Spring" more infamously known as the home of Pablo Escobar and the Medellin drugs cartel at a strange time. The city has far more about it than the latter, and a sensationalist and egotistical article in the National Geographic was causing ructions amongst these hard-working, ingenious and friendly people.
Love him or loath him, one thing's for sure, he's dead and buried...
The descent into the modern, but pleasant city was spectacular. The trip from Bogota was largely uneventful with army lining the road, in some cases sporting heavy armour which reminds one of the precarious state this country is in.
But still, my determination to reach Medellin meant that I arrived after dark and as I spiralled into the valley, the view resembled a Star Wars movie as the brightly lit, well-planned roads seem to hover in a veil of mist below me.
These are wonderful hills to ride in, the roads good and twisty. Many of the fincas resemble farm buildings and homes you might discover in the Alps or Pyrenees, a legacy of mountain colonisers. The abundance of shops selling artesan goods and rustic and colonial style furniture give clues as to the status of these people as hard and skilled workers.
I rode either by myself or in the company of Dan from Sweden, who had been here three months. My host also, Paul Thoresen from Seattle, en route to Buenos Aires from Alaska, got stuck some two years ago and has now taken root.
Starsky & Hutch...
Although Medellin boasts scant trace of it's forbears, the pueblitos perched in the hills, previously seats of conflict in Colombia's most famous war, display their colonial heritage proudly. However, the country now fights a war of attrition against bad publicity, a weapon wielded by unfriendly states and their allied publishing empires. But, everyone who comes to see first-hand falls in love with the climate, the surroundings and not least of all, the people.
I spent far longer than I was supposed to in Medellin. I dropped reluctantly from the Antioquian Highlands on a two day ride in search of a boat to Panama. I kept my oft-broken promise of riding only during daylight, and for the first three or four hours was escorted by Paul and his girlfriend, Monica, during which time we refused to stop at roadblocks and Paul took some great photos. I treated my "Mangoes" acquired hangover to regular doses of "Aguila" and "Club Colombia", and by nightfall I had made pretty good progress.
In 2 days, the 31st of March, I leave South America after journeying across her for 6 months. I have seen wonderful places, but it is the people who I have met along the way that I will remember. They have changed my life forever.
My journey has not finished, however, and after a voyage by sailboat lasting six days via the San Blas Islands, I will continue rapidly through Cental America where I will begin my voluntary work, in Guatemala.
The excerpts here are but a fraction of my written journals, and I hope to continue adding to this blog from time to time to time.
Loading the bikes on deck - earlyish...
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