As per usual, leaving the city was a task and a half. Road signs and street names were almost non-existent; my GPS, with its world map only, was about as useful as a bacon sandwich at a bar mitzvah, but eventually, by using my compass, asking several taxi drivers and following my nose, I eventually made it to the city limits. I passed a huge outdoor market on the outskirts of the city and had to pull in to investigate. I loved mooching round the markets, it is without doubt the best way to interact with the locals and immerse in the culture, and usually was the best place to eat great fresh food for next to no money.
As I rode through the market on the Harley, heads turned, usually with an inquisitive look, but a quick wave and a cheesy grin from me nearly always was followed by a smile back. I stopped and talked to a few of the vendors, tasted some of the food that was on offer, and had a quick rummage in some of the stalls before heading out, southward bound once more.
I rode out of the city and into the hills, unsure of what awaited ahead. I loved having Jacquie with me, but at the same time, I relished the times I had the bike to myself. I stopped a lot more often when I was alone, to take photos or just to chat with people I saw by the side of the road.
There were always people selling things by the side of the road, and on this stretch of road, it seemed the specialty of the roadside vendors was fish. All along the side of the road were little wooden stalls selling huge fresh fish, and a bit further along the same road, I came across three young boys, standing on the roadside, holding out long branches with Macaws and Parrots perched on the end. I simply had to stop for a photo, and as I pulled over , the boys approached me. They launched into their sales spiel, which amused me greatly. What on earth was I going to do with a bloody bird on a motorcycle? Was I expected to perch the bird on my shoulder and ride off into the sunset like some kind of pirate biker hybrid?
I asked the boys if they sold many birds, to which they replied, “ Si , Claro”, “of course”! I then asked them if they had ever sold a bird to a motorcyclist, they all looked at each other and then quiziically for a moment before all replying at the same time, “no, senor, usted puedo ser il primero !”-No , sir, but you could be the first!
We all laughed, I started my engine up, and returned to the road, watching the boys waving to me in my mirror. I threw a hand up to wave back and accelerated away. A little further on, I came across another group of young boys, holding up a recently captured and killed set of rabbits for any interested buyers, I stopped again briefly , for another quick snap and a chat, and was off again. I rode on through the beautiful Colombian scenery for another couple of hours before I had to look for gas. I came a cross a small but fairly busy town, and pulled into the filling station. Before I had even removed the gas cap, a crowd of local men had surrounded my bike.
By the time the tank was full, there must have been at least twenty guys around the bike and me. The standard questions followed. How much did the bike cost, how big was the engine, how many gears, where had I come from, and where was I going, and the Colombian favorite; what do you think of our country. It would be very easy to become a little nervous, after hearing al the stories of car or bike-jacking, thefts, kidnaps etc, but I never felt a single pang of fear. The Colombians were even friendlier than the El Salvadorians, who were amongst the most delightful people I had ever come across. Colombians were always really pleased to see foreigners visiting their homeland, and it was always a pleasure to be in their company. One of the guys admiring the bike spotted the speakers in the fairing and asked if the bike had music.
I turned the radio on, and played a track from the CD in the player. Moments later, we had an impromptu salsa disco in the gas station. The crowd around Garth and I expanded, and now included women and children, as well as the men. A random hand in the crowd turned up the music, and the party began. The forecourt of the gas station was now packed with kids and couples dancing to the music from Garth’s stereo. The whole scene was just hilarious. It was one of those “only in the Americas” moments.
Reluctantly, I turned down the music, started the engine, and rode slowly through the throng of revelers and back onto the road, waving to the crowd as I rode out of the town.
As the daylight ebbed away, I pulled into Monteria, a rather dismal, sprawling town that normally I would have ridden straight through, but daylight was a necessity for riding.
Apart from the obvious threat of banditos on the road at night, I had other considerations. My headlights had been out of alignment since the Yucatan in Mexico, so I had one light illuminating the trees overhead, while the other lit up my front fender, neither did a particularly good job of actually lighting the road ahead, so night riding was something I tried to avoid at all costs! I found myself some very basic accommodations and ventured out on foot to find some supper. There were no surprises in Monteria, I found a little street vendor selling some kind of meat on a stick, and ate it on my way back to the hotel.
I was up bright and early the next day, eager to get out of town and back on the road to Medellin, where supposedly the most beautiful women in Colombia awaited!
I stopped briefly at the fish market on my way out of town, as always unable to stop myself form having a nose round any sort of market.
In true fashion, Garth attracted a crown once more, the usual questions were asked, “how much, how fast ,how many cc’s, how many gears” , before I headed out for the road to Medellin.
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