December 15, 2009 GMT
To Monteria

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.
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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?
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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.
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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.
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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.

Posted by Dan Shell at 09:42 PM GMT
To Medellin

The route was another spectacular kaleidoscope of colours, mountains, valleys and gorges, I was forced to stop several times to take pictures of the breath taking scenery, but as ever, my camera never managed to capture the true beauty of what my eyes could see.
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colscen2.jpgThis road was the first time I came across a true Colombian anomaly.
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A young lady partaking of a mountain shower


The ingenious villagers living in the mountains had managed to create a routing system for the water coming down off the mountains to put it to good effect.
Around every corner, huge trucks were parked by the side of the mountain, and the locals were using the diverted water to wash them. The men would spray the trucks down, and the kids would climb all over the trucks to wash them down with soapy water.
trukwash.jpgIt was quite a sight. Water jets sprayed up from the side of the road round every twist, I rode through one just to get a quick shower and cool down, before continuing winding and twisting along the mountain road.
There was a lot to see on the road apart from the amazing scenery. I passed a bunch of not so young kids riding a trolley jack down the side of a mountain, more kids were clinging onto the backs of lorries getting free rides to the top of the mountains on their bicycles, then freewheeling down the bottom.
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I saw people perched on the tops of busses and on the back of trucks. There was plenty to keep me occupied!
I reached Medellin after a few more hours of gorgeous mountain roads, and without much ado, settled myself into the Pit Stop Hostel.
I bumped into a couple of the passengers from the Stahlratte, and made a few new friends in no time, and after a quick shower, we all headed out to check out the scene in Medellin.
A couple of days and a big night out was all that was required from Medellin, and I quickly tired of this modern and fairly bland city.
I packed the bike up early in the morning , and rode out of Medellin as the sun was rising over the city, onwards to Bogota.

Posted by Dan Shell at 09:58 PM GMT
To Medellin

The route was another spectacular kaleidoscope of colours, mountains, valleys and gorges, I was forced to stop several times to take pictures of the breath taking scenery, but as ever, my camera never managed to capture the true beauty of what my eyes could see.
colsecenery.jpg
colscen2.jpgThis road was the first time I came across a true Colombian anomaly.
mountain shwr.jpg
A young lady partaking of a mountain shower


The ingenious villagers living in the mountains had managed to create a routing system for the water coming down off the mountains to put it to good effect.
Around every corner, huge trucks were parked by the side of the mountain, and the locals were using the diverted water to wash them. The men would spray the trucks down, and the kids would climb all over the trucks to wash them down with soapy water.
trukwash.jpgIt was quite a sight. Water jets sprayed up from the side of the road round every twist, I rode through one just to get a quick shower and cool down, before continuing winding and twisting along the mountain road.
There was a lot to see on the road apart from the amazing scenery. I passed a bunch of not so young kids riding a trolley jack down the side of a mountain, more kids were clinging onto the backs of lorries getting free rides to the top of the mountains on their bicycles, then freewheeling down the bottom.
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I saw people perched on the tops of busses and on the back of trucks. There was plenty to keep me occupied!
After a brief stop for some hot chocolate, with cheese crumbled on the top ( A Colombian invention, I believe)I reached Medellin, and without much ado, settled myself into the Pit Stop Hostel.
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I bumped into a couple of the passengers from the Stahlratte, and made a few new friends in no time, and after a quick shower, we all headed out to check out the scene in Medellin.
A couple of days and a big night out was all that was required from Medellin, and I quickly tired of this modern and fairly bland city.
I packed the bike up early in the morning , and rode out of Medellin as the sun was rising over the city, onwards to Bogota.

Posted by Dan Shell at 09:58 PM GMT
Bogota

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After yet another awesome ride through more of Colombia, I arrived in Bogota, the capital.
Garth really needed a little TLC , and when I arrived in Bogota, I headed straight to the Harley dealer to book him in for some good lovin’.
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The owner greeted me and Garth went straight into the workshop for a once over. We needed a new pair of tyres, new brake pads, and a 25,000 mile service, and was hoping that we would be able to repair the lights that were still as useful as a pair of candles when it came to illuminating the road at night, and fix the MP3 socket on the radio .
It was Friday afternoon, and I was hopeful that our bike would be ready to roll the next day, as was the owner of the shop, Andres. We all hung around in the shop, talking bikes, roads, and the like and before I knew it, it was almost 10pm. Hector, the mechanic appeared from the workshop, and said that he would finish the bike off in the morning. I thanked him for his hard work and for staying on so late, said good night to Garth, and Andres paid for a taxi to take me to a nearby hotel.
By the time the cab found the “hotel” we were looking for, it was almost 11pm. Just enough time for a shower and my first taste of the famous Bogota nightlife, I thought to myself. Alas, this was not to be the case.
The owner of the “hotel” was a lovely old lady in her eighties, who had converted her family home , which she had lived in all her life, into a guest house. When I asked her or a key, she told me that she was the only one with they key, and I wouldn’t need it anyway as it was too late to go out.
“ But I haven’t eaten since midday, and I am thirsty too, and I wanted to go out and see the city on my first night” I said to her, to which she replied;
“Well, tomorrow will be your first night then, won’t it”. She smiled at me, went into her room, and closed the door. And that was it. My first night in Bogotá did not turn out as I planned!
I retired to my room, and sat on the bed. I didn’t feel tired, but when I laid down, I fell asleep almost instantly.
I woke at 8am, went downstairs, and said good morning to my hostess, before popping up to the Harley shop on foot. It was a ten-minute walk, which had taken 45 minutes in a cab the night before!
Once again, I was greeted by the owner and walked into the workshop where the bad news was imparted to me.
There were no rear tires to fit my bike in the shop, or indeed in Bogota. The lights would have to stay as they were , and the bike wouldn’t be ready by the end of the day. On top of that, the following Monday was a holiday, so I would have to wait for the bike until Tuesday. This also meant I would be missing out on the bike rally that was being held that weekend, and, even worse, I would have to walk, nightmare!
The only good news was that they would be able to fix the radio, and complete the service.
I was gutted. Jacquie was arriving the very next day, and I had really wanted to pick her up with Garth, as I knew she would be as pleased to see the bike as she would to see me.
Well there was nothing I could do about it, the workshop closed on Saturday afternoon, and there wasn’t time to put the bike back together.
I used Andres’ computer to e-mail my Spanish friend Marie Carmen who had just moved from Barcelona to Bogotá, and she came and met me at the shop and we went out to lunch together. It was lovely to catch up with my old friend, and we arranged to see each other later on in the evening. We said our goodbyes and I went off in search of a more suitable place to stay.
I checked out a couple of hostels before finding one with a lovely private double room, my first in months, in anticipation of Jacquie’s imminent arrival. Saturday night was a fairly quiet affair, Marie Carmen got herself invited to go see Depeche Mode in concert, I couldn’t get a ticket, so I hung around the hostel and chatted with other guests. We popped out together for a quick local drink, and returned to the hostel in time for a good night’s rest.

Sunday came, and I was somehow full of nerves. I had been alone for a couple of months, and although Jacquie and I had spoken frequently on skype, I was in a bit of a tizz about her arrival. I was really looking forward to seeing her, but also just a touch concerned about the loss of my absolute independence.
I spent the morning wondering around the flea market, pocking about in the heaps of junk that covered all the stalls, before heading into town to get the bus to the airport.
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I arrived a good couple of hours early, as the Sunday schedule for the collectivos to the airport ended at 4pm, and Jacquie wasn’t due in ‘til 6. I could have taken a cab, but decided I didn’t have much else to do, and so elected to go early and wait around at the airport. I have always enjoyed hanging around airports anyway, its one of the best places to people watch, and there was bound to be a MacDonald’s where I could secretly spoil myself.
I kept an eye on Jacquie’s flight number and all seemed to be in order. I killed time until about 15 minutes before her plane was due to land, when I popped for to visit the toilet. When I emerged, I saw that Jacquie’s plane had landed. I rushed over to the plate glass where crowds of people were waiting to greet their loved ones, and tried to get a look at the passengers leaving the terminal.
I could barely see inside the terminal, and 5 planes had landed at the same time, so the terminal was full of arriving travelers. After an hour and still no sign of Jacquie, I started to panic. I found a security guard, who could only tell me what I already knew, that the plane had landed.
I quickly walked around the terminal to see if I had missed her and she was waiting for me elsewhere, but that was fruitless. I returned to the glass doors, and twenty minutes or so later, Jacquie appeared.
We hugged and kissed, before grabbing a cab and headed back to the city and our cozy private room for a proper catch up.

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Some of the cool old remenants of American dependency ion the streets of Bogota

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Check out the dude on the mobile!

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We spent the next few days walking around Bogota,seeing the sights, and taking in the atmosphere. We picked the bike up on the 4th day, paid a whopping $1,000 for the work, then headed off, southward bound, together again.

Posted by Dan Shell at 10:33 PM GMT
December 16, 2009 GMT
The Coffee Region

Our next stop was the Zona Cafetera, Colombia’s coffee growing region, we left the wet and cloudy Bogota behind us, and rode through even more breathtaking scenery until we reached Armenia, a short ride from Salento.
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We met up with a local biker friend from the ever useful Horizons Website, shared a delicious coffee served to us from the back of a Willys Jeep parked in the town centre, and then followed him out of town and on to the road to Salento.
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We immediately like the place, we rode into town and found the main plaza, and straightaway a group of locals were standing beside us helping us find Plantation House, our accommodation in Salento.
We found the hostel easily enough, and met Tim, the ever so slightly eccentric and quintessentially English owner, met us with a broad smile and a look of amazement at our choice of transport.
We unpacked and settled into our room, before descending to the kitchen to meet some of the other guests who had also arrived that day. There was an Irish couple, who had just had their back packs stolen off the bus, with all their belongings in them, leaving them with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Between us and the other guests, we loaned them warm clothes, boots and money so they would be all right until they could get to the embassy and arrange their insurance. We also met up with another English couple, and we all got along splendidly. That night we walked into town for dinner and a few bevies, and arranged to hike around the area together the next day into the valley and up the mountains that surrounded the House.
We set off bright and early, and after a hearty breakfast and another vitalizing coffee, we picked up a Jeep in the square to take us to the edge of the Cacora valley.
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The hike was gorgeous, but exhausting, and 5 hours later we were back on the Jeep returning to town absolutely exhausted. We had crossed log bridges, climbed mountains, visited a hummingbird sanctuary, walked through the forest of wax palms, and now all desperately need a nice rest.
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We spent the evening chilling out together in the kitchen and chatting and arranged to meet up again the next day to go on a small tour of Tim’s Coffee Plantation.
The story he told us was that after he had bought the house, the old lady that owned the coffee farm berated him for not buying her farm when he bought the house. He had told her that he didn’t even know it was for sale, and asked her the price, and after a few meetings with the bank, he bought the farm too.
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tim with one of his beloved beans


Previously the coffee yield had been on the low side, the very low side, but with help from the Colombian Coffee Growers association, the farm’s production was now on the rise, and Tim had some great ideas and plans for the place.
We stayed another night in Salento and then were off once again to Cali.

Posted by Dan Shell at 12:27 AM GMT
Cali, Biker heaven!

We had been in contact with another group of riders who were listed on Horizons, and headed straight for the Asturias bike shop in the town , where we met Jorge, the gregarious owner, and Harley rider, his wife Sory, and their French friend, Alain, who came to the shop hen Jorge phoned him to inform him of our arrival.
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The Asturias posse

Alain, walked us round the corner to the Casa Blanca hotel, owned by a young Dane called Mike. Mike had been traveling on his bike through the Americas when he met his now wife, and they had bought the Hostel in Cali. He showed us around the hostel, and we parked the bike in his garage. The hostel was spotless and brand new, and full of bikers and a cyclist as well as backpackers and Argentinean tourists.
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Me and Alain outside Casablanca

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The outskirts of Buenaventura, one of the poorest parts of Colombia

Alain the Frenchman came to the hostel the next morning to take us out to the afro Caribbean port town of Buenaventura, and after a fresh fish lunch in the colorful market, he dropped us off in the village of Cordoba. We left the bike at the house of one of his friends and said goodbye to Alain, while we walked down to the railroad.
The trains no longer ran along these tracks, but instead, the locals had come up with a novel form of transportation-the MOTO –Rail.
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The front wheel of a common 125 motorbike was bolted onto a wooden platform, which had runner on one side, connecting with the old train track, while the rear wheel sat on the track and drove the contraption. We sat on a little wooden bench on the platform, and the driver started the motor an doff we went. It was an ingenious mode of transportation, and as we rode along the tracks, Jacquie and I couldn’t suppress our maniacal grins. We passed over old railway bridges and looked down into the dense jungle below.
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We rounded a corner, and coming in the other direction another moto-rail contraption approached. This was a single-track railway and someone had to get off. Our driver asked us to get off the platform, and he and his co-pilot swiftly picked up the whole bike and platform combo off the tracks and on to the side of the railway, the other bike passed us, and we picked the bike back up and placed it back on the tracks, this happened another two or three times on the way to our final destination, some 25 minutes down the tracks, San Cypriano.
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We walked for 5 minutes or so into the village , where kids were running around all over the place and the local afro population regarded us with quizzical looks.
We found a room in a boarding house, and went for a walk around.
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San Cypriano "high street"!

A football game had just started on the village pitch, where the jungle had been cut back to clear land ofr this important pastime. We pulled up a couple of chairs and sat and watched the game with some of the other locals. It was a hard game to follow, all the players were shirtless, and we had no idea who was on what team!
We watched the game , which ended when the sun went down , and the hunted down a place to eat. Our options were, to say the least, limited. There was one restaurant open in the small village, and we sat down and asked for a menu. There was none. Instead we were told that if we wanted to eat, we would have to come back in an hour, and the food would be ready. “What are we having”, we inquired-“Fish” was the response.
“Very good, fish it is then, we’ll see you in an hour”.
We wondered around for a while, played a quick game of scrabble, and an hour later, we were sat in front of two plates, of fried fish and rice.
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The Eatery

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One of the local kids

We ate and played with the inquisitive local kids, before heading back to our lodgings in the dark. When the sun went down, the village went dark.
The next day, we took a pair of huge inner tubes and a couple of local kids as guides, up through the village to the top of the river, where we sat in our tubes and rode back down the river to the other end of the village. There were some fairly rapid parts of the river, which got our hears pumping a bit quicker, and at one point, my arse slammed into some rocks where the water level was lower than expected, but the four of us had a great time tubing the river and riding on the water.
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We got back to the village, packed up our stuff and headed back to the railway track for our ride back to Cordoba where, hopefully, our bike awaited.
We got back to Cali just before dark, and shared our experiences with the other guests at Mike’s Casa Blanca hostel.
Alain met up with us again for one last ride around Cali. We went up to the nearby Lago Calima, and stopped off on the way to sample some delicious roadside snacks.We stopped again for a quick beer, for Alain, and hot chocolates for me and Jacquie.
At one point on the way back to Cali, Jacquie turned round to take a photo of Alain on his BMW, and when he saw the camera pointing at him, he quickly stood up on his pegs, and with his arms straight out, assumed a Jesus-on-the-cross pose for the picture, at 50mph!
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Back in Cali, I had to get the lens of my camera cleaned, so, Jacquie and I took a cab to the outskirts of town to find the Panasonic service centre. The cab ride back into the centre was unforgettable. The Service centre called a cab for us, and when it turned up, we had to stop ourselves from laughing. The yellow fridge-on-wheels type Japanese cab was pimped up to the max. Low profile tyres sat on chrome wheels that were a good 4 inches wider than the body of the car, and the suspension was jacked up to boot. Inside, where a driver’s mirror would usually be, was a 14inch tv screen, showing bikini clad, big tittied Colombian girls grinding and shaking their groove thang to a latin beat.
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The music was pumping, and the visuals were outstanding. I don’t know how impressed Jacquie was, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen until we arrived back at the Casa Blanca, I almost asked the cabbie to drive around a bit longer, but didn’t think Jacquie would find it as amazing as I did, so we paid and thanked the driver and went into the hostel.
We popped in to Jorge and Sory’s shop to say we would be going the next day , and to thank them for their hospitality, but they told us that there was no way we could leave as a big bunch of Cali riders, led by Jorge on his ’97 Harley, were all going on a ride , and we simply had to go with them.
We agreed to meet at the shop the next day, and I went and took the bike for a clean in preparation for our up coming ride out.
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Ready for the Rideout
We turned up at Asturias at 9 the next day, to see half a dozen assorted “Alto Cilindraje” bikes already waiting. We got chatting to some of Jorge’s biker friends, and more and more bikes turned up. Come 10.30,around 40 bikes were gathered at the shop, and we started off on the ride.
We picked up a few more bikes on the way out of town, and when we made our first stop, at the Suzuki / Honda main dealer, there were over 50 bikes.
There was a mini show on at the dealers, and Jorge’s group and us parked up in the parking lot, where we were treated to a stunt show, and got involved in some bike games, slow races and the like. Jacquie and I were interviewed and photographed, and even won some prizes, and then we were all on our way again to stop number two.
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Garth in a slow race against a mini moto
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The Gringo biker being interviewed

About 60 bikes were now riding together , and when we pulled into the next stop, I was surprised to say the least at our final destination, the car park of a nearby Police station, about 2 hours out of Cali!
As it turned out, the Cali bikers had been invited to come to the Police station, where the cops were having a family day / Halloween aprty, and all the kids were dressed as bikers!
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Jorge and a bikeful of happy kids!

The event was huge fun, the bikers took the kids, and some of the adults, out on short rides, with up to three passengers at a time on each bike, and the cops and their kids posed for photos atop the Harleys and other bikes in the car park. We were treated to lunch, and it was the first, and hopefully the last time I was served lunch by a uniform copper!
While we at the police station, the sky darkened and the clouds thickened, the bikers, looked dubiously at the oncoming weather, and at around 5pm, we made our way out of the car park, just as the rain began to fall.
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We made it just around the first corner, where there was a restaurant with a large covered area, and 50 or so bike pulled in out of the rain. We waited a wile to see if the weather would pass, but the rain simply became harder and harder, so we donned our waterproofs and started to make our way slowly back to Cali. We stopped on the outskirts of town and said our goodbyes before everyone made their separate ways home.
We had intended to only stay in Cali overnight, but had stretched that out to 4 nights, it was time to get on the road again and head for Ecuadorian border.

Posted by Dan Shell at 02:34 AM GMT
December 22, 2009 GMT
Ecuador

We set off at a reasonable hour the next day in gorgeous Colombian sunshine, but with in an hour of leaving, the skies had once again darkened, and as we neared Popayan, the heavens opened once more. We pulled into town in search of hot chocolate and nourishment, in the hope that the weather would clear up, but no such luck.
We decided to leave town anyway, Popayan didn’t look that appealing in the rain, so once more, we dressed up in our rain gear and got on the bike, we had ridded only a few blocks when I spied a couple on a BMW stopped at a junction. We rode over to them and asked where they were going. We got to talking to the young French couple, and decided that as we were all going in the same direction, we would look for a hotel in town and move off together in the morning. We rode around the town until we found a hotel with internet and parking, and just as we were getting back on the bikes to park up, another two BMW’s turned up. As it happened, a British couple that had met the frenchies previously in Cartagena owned these bikes. Now we were a real posse!
We all checked in to the hotel, and dined that night together in Popayan. We all got along great , and Jacquie and I were looking forward to riding with our new mates.

We left Popayan early the next morning in a 4 bike convoy. Somehow I ended up leading the group, and of course got us all lost on the way out of town, but soon we were back on the Pan American and en route to the border.
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In Convoy with our new BMWist mates

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More stuning scenery in Southern Colombia

We all wanted to see one more sight before we left Colombia, the Cathedral built into the valley near Ipiales, so we rode down to the town , and found our last hotel in Colombia, a converted convent 5 minutes walk away from the Las Lajas cathedral. We parked our bikes inside the old convent, popped up the local eatery for dinner, and then returned to the convent to sleep.
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Parked up at the Convent


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The Cathedral at Ipaiales, built on tyhe spot where the Virgin Mary appeared for the 1st time to an indigenous Colombian


We walked to the Cathedral in the morning, our last stop before the border, and 2 hours later, we entered Ecuador.

ECUADOR

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In Ecuador, our man in the customs office was just plain mean and miserable.
We all arrived at the border together, our French friends, Thom and Flo, 2 up on their BMW, and Rik and Emily, the Brits, on a BMW each. Rik took great pleasure in taking the Mickey out of our choice of bike, but stopped laughing when he couldn’t keep up with us on the smooth roads.
So six bikers rocked up to the customs office. The girls stayed with the bikes while the boys took the papers to the office. I knocked on the door, and when no one replied ,I opened it and poked my head inside to see what I should do.
The lone customs officer shouted at me to wait outside by the window. I retreated hastily and apologetically, and went over to the window. I told Rik and Thom that the dude had screamed at me to get out and wait so, that was exactly what I intended to do.
After 5 minutes and no movement, Thom knocked on the window. The angry little customs man opened up and now shouted at Thom, “ I am trying to work here! Just wait”
Thom tried to ask if we should come back later, or how long we should wait, but the window was shut in his face and the conversation abruptly ended. Next, it was Rik’s turn. We had waited outside this guy’s window for half an hour, and still nothing. Rik knocked on the door and gingerly popped his head in. Thom and I waited for the angry screams, but none came . Rik re-emerged a minute or so later to inform us that the custom guy was now on his lunch break. There were now a couple of other people also waiting, one of them, a local, told us this was quite normal. I had had enough by this stage, so I walked over to the uniformed police office who was randomly checking the contents of passing cars, and told him what was going on. He was surpised that we were still waiting outside and went over to talk to the customs officer. This seemed to have some effect. We were told to get our chassis numbers checked by the police, and to get our papers ready. By this stage the papers had been ready fro an hour.
One by one, the customs dude saw us, and as he processed our papers he did not stop complaining about how much work he has to do , and how unacceptable his conditions are and so on. At one point, he moaned to me, in Spanish, that he found it disgusting how many foreigners passed through his border and did not speak Spanish. I protested that all three of us spoke Spanish, and as it was his job to deal with foreigners on a daily basis, maybe he should be the one with linguistic capabilities. Oops, shouldn’t have said that! Fortunately, my papers were nearly done, so I just had to listen to him rant for a few minutes. Thom was in next, and I think he took the brunt of our customs mate’s wrath! Rik looked like he was waiting to go see the headmaster after getting into trouble at school, I was just pleased it was over.
A mere two and half hours later, we were in Ecuador for real, and we immediately started to enjoy our newest country.

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Our first stop was at a famous cemetery, known for its huge hedge sculptures amongst other things. We split up and had a quick walk around here before bugging out and riding on to Otovalo. We followed the French who had already found a hostel with parking, and arrived at our lodgings just before the sunset.
We parked up, checked in, and went out for Pizza.

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The next morning, we rose early to see the market. Otovalo has one of the biggest indigenous markets in South America, and we spent a good few hours walking round the market, trying on traditional hats and alpaca sweaters. After spending a little too much money in the market, we split into three groups, the French went into town , Rik and Em went to see Condors, and Jacquie and I went to the nearby waterfalls.

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That evening, we all met up again and went out for dinner. I managed to persuade the waiter to let me behind the bar to make Passion fruit Caipirinhas for the table, and we got slowly drunk!
otbar.jpgotdrunk1.jpgotdrunk3.jpgotdrunk4.jpgotdrunk5.jpg The French looking slightly the worse for wear after one of my killer Caipirinhas!

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On our way to the Equator


Next stop, the Equator, we rode past the monument on the Pan American and dropped in to take photos with the bikes in front of the Equator monument before continuing on to Quito.
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Waiter , waiter, there's a foot in my soup!

We found suitable accommodations fairly easily, and set about doing what needed to be done in the city before moving south. I had to look up Ricardo Rocco, who had replied to my Horizons post, and also had to sort out a few bits and pieces for the bike, a new horn was desperately needed, riding without a horn in South America is almost suicidal, although I had gotten quite good at screaming warnings at drivers that were getting to close, I also needed to find a new hinge for one of the boxes and wanted to go visit the brand new Harley Dealer that was in the process of opening.
We met Ricardo in his office where he ran a Motorcycling School. He welcomed us with a huge grin and an even bigger ‘moto hug”. We liked Ricardo immediately; he exuded what they would call in Central America “Buen Honda” or “good vibes”.
We sat and chatted in his office for a while, then went out lunch. We talked more about bikes- Ricardo had 3, about bike trips, he was planning a trip in December from LA to Ecuador, and about the world wide community of bikers.
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Ricardo fell in love with Garth, and we loved him!!A real super guy


We had received so much great hospitality from bikers throughout the trip, and it was really heart warming to experience it. Lois Pryce’s name came, and the book that almost everyone we met on the road seemed to have read, and it clicked that this was the guy with the ”porn star name” in her book. What a coincidence!
We laughed about this for a while, and then Ricardo led us up to the Harley dealers to meet the owner, Roger, who very proudly showed us a round his smart, new dealership.
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Roger, on his spangly 2009 Police Harley

We fiddled around with the bike, still no joy trying to fix my headlights, and the horn I would have to find for myself, but the boxes were fixed, and I was given an old horn so I would know what to get .
Ricardo assisted me further by getting a mate of his to lead me round town to several moto accessory shops in search of a horn, which we finally found on the 4th try.
I went back to the hotel and fitted the horn, before going off to meet the rest of the posse. Today was our last day together, everyone off on their own journeys.
We celebrated Rik’s birthday at breakfast, then said our goodbyes.
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Jacquie and I were off to “Metad del Mondo”, another “middle of the world” kind of mini theme park.
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A shrunken head in the museum at the Metad del Mondo

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Who's that on my HOG??

We had a lot of fun at the equator, we did the experiments with the water going down the plughole, on one side of the equator the water goes down the plughole clockwise, on the other side, anticlockwise, and bang on the equator, it goes straight down. I had seen this experiment on TV before, and had been really looking forward to seeing it for myself. We had a look around some of the other displays; shrunken heads, mock ups of traditional style mud houses and a huge display of insects and spiders, participated in a couple more experiments, and then we were on our way again, on the long road up to Esmeraldas beach.

We rode for 4 or five hours through some beautiful Ecuadorian scenery. The land changed so quickly and so dramatically from scorched brown earth, to lush fields, mountains, and finally cloud forest, before we descended once more to the coast. We arrived at Esmeraldas, and continued straight back down the coast again. Esmeraldas was a built up beach resort, towering sky-rises, busy beaches, and lots of bars and clubs. Not what we were looking for.
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We rode on down the coast on harsh, bumpy roads until we could ride no more, and finally arrived at Monpiche. Our timing, once again, could not have been worse. We had pulled into one of Ecuador’s favorite beach spots in the middle of a long weekend. We traipsed around this cool, surfy beach town in search of a room, but lucked out. We were feeling despondent to say the least when a longhaired surfer dude came up to us and asked if we were looking for a room. He said he could let us sleep in a hammock at his place, as there were no rooms left in the town. We had a look, and I could see Jacquie was not thrilled at the prospect. We were desperate, so we said we would have another quick look around. Fortunately, a room had become available, and as we came out of our surfer mate’s pad, the owner shouted at us to come see the room he had.
It was nasty, small, smelly and dank, but it was a refuge from the mosquitoes, so we took it!
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Our stay at Monpiche was short and sweet , and we left after breakfast the next day for Canoas, the next beach town down the coast.

Posted by Dan Shell at 03:40 PM GMT
December 29, 2009 GMT
Canoas

CANOAS
We made a rare, early start from Monpiche, eager to get settled in time for a nice afternoon laze on the beach in Canoas, and left with the early morning mist still in the air. We headed down the bumpy dirt road and back onto the Ruta Del Sol, but after an hour of riding down the “Sun Route” there was still no sign of the sun.
The ride was bumpy but colorful, and we passed small wooden houses on the side of the road, mostly sporting brightly painted slogans on the side, and the children playing by the side of the road waved animatedly at us as we rumbled by.

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As usual , we saw more horses on the road than cars, and all along the side of the roads, varieties of beans, coffee and cocoa, were neatly laid out to dry.
We rode over a bridge and looked down to see the local women all doing their washing in the stream. We stopped to take photos and the women looked back at us, waving and laughing. We felt like we were a million miles from Quito.
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We rode on, until we came to the seaside town of Perinales, and decided to take a break for some Ceviche-the delicious South American fish dish where the fish is cooked in lime juice without the help of heat- in one of the seafront restaurants. We were just sitting down at a table when I was grabbed round the neck from behind. I thought my luck had run out, but then I heard the familiar laugh of our friend from Quito, Ricardo.
He was there with his family, enjoying the long weekend, and had done the same as us, stopped in Perinales for a lunch break before returning to the city.
We all sat together and enjoyed our lunch with a couple of drinks and a lot of laughter. Ricardo recommended us a Hostel with Cabanas on the beach in Canoas called Baloo, and when we said it sounded like a good idea, he phone them up from his cell phone and made a reservation for us.
We parted ways and after negotiating more of the “under construction” roads of Ecuador, we arrived in Canoas.
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The sleepy , sandy streets of downtown Canoas


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Our bungalow at Baloo

The town was a sleepy surfer town, with sandy roads and hostels, restaurants, shops and bars lining the seafront. We made our way directly to Baloo, checked into one of the quaint bungalows, and made our way down to the beach, the sun had finally come out, just in time!
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We sat on the beach relaxing until the sun began to drop down towards the horizon before heading back to Baloo for a sunset cocktail.

The manager was in the bar, and apologized for the state of the cocktail menu, saying they had been meaning to redo it for some time, adding some more exotic cocktails.
“I could help you there if you like” I blurted out, “ I am an award winning cocktail bartender, and could easily write you out a new list and train your bartenders”
The manager was overjoyed, and offered us a free night in the Cabana if I would work with her them for a day , redesigning their drinks list.
Jacquie was up for it, so we I wrote out a little shopping list for the manager, mainly fresh fruit and some juices, and agreed to meet in the bar the following afternoon.
That night I sketched out some ideas on a pad, and after a morning chilling on the beach, we went back to the bar to start shaking things up.
Me mixed, muddled and blended until all the hostel’s staff and guests, including Jacquie, were about to fall over.
The “training” went well, and the manager asked if I could do one more session, of course, we could have the cabana for free for another night. I looked over at Jacquie, who vigorously nodded her head in agreement, free accommodation AND free drinks, nice!

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I went surfing with one of the guests from the hostel, and then as the sun went down , went back to the bar for more training, more cocktails, and more fun.
We woke up the next morning slightly heavy headed, packed up , and made our way out of town to get the ferry across the bay to get to Ayampe, where Ricardo’s brother owned a Finca. Our trip was cut short when we arrived late for the ferry to see a huge line of cars waiting for the next boat. The tide had gone out and the water was too shallow for a crossing, we inquired when the next boat was due to cross, and were told that there wouldn’t be another boat for 4 hours. We were also told that the road round the bay was in terrible condition, and would take us about the same time, which would mean that it would be dark by the time we got to the other side. We decided to go back to Baloo and get an early start the next morning.
We turned round and rode back to Canoas, where we were given our old cabana back for one more night, in exchange for a few more cocktails and getting the staff drunk again, a sweet deal.
The next day we made it to the “Ferry” on time, gingerly road down the beach and onto the boat’s platform , and crossed over to the other side, where we continued down the Ruta Del Sol, once again devoid of sunshine, along the coast and to Ayampe.
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Riding down the beach to the "Ferry"

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And tip-toeing on board

Posted by Dan Shell at 01:36 AM GMT
 
 

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