October 16, 2006 GMT
Medellin to Quito


I left Medellin (the locals pronounce it med-eh-ZHEEN, where the "ll" is like a french J in Jacques or Jean) on Wednesday as planned. Paul at Casa Kiwi had suggested that I stop in The town of Salento for the night, and knew of a hostel there he thought I would like. The road south of Medellin was really slow going, as it was a twisty mountain road, with a lot of truck traffic, and small towns. It ended up taking me 5 hours to cover 150 miles. This highway didn't have anywhere near the military presence that the one from Bogota did. Salento was a small town, about 10 miles off the main highway. I found the hostel and cheaped out and got a dorm room, but there was no one else in it, so it was a private room anyway. There is a national park near here, but I decided I need to get some miles in, so I just stayed the night and left in the morning.

The next morning I got on the road fairly early, and had a pretty easy 200 mile ride through farm country to Popayan. This is a colonial era city, on of few that have survived with an intact downtown. It is diferent than anyplace else I have been in Colombia, but I don't think it compares with the colonial cities in Mexico or Guatemala. It's a nice enough town though, and i got a room in a hotel for $12, and that's for a nice place. It's going to be tough going bck to the US and paying American prices again, but I don't have to worry about that for a few months yet.

Shortly after leaving Popayan headed south, the road goes up in elevation, and the country gets drier, turning into grassland rather than the forest and farm areas I had been going through. It reminded me of Wyoming or west Texas, where you get those hundred mile views down a river valley. There was even cactus growing, which I didn't expect in Colombia. I thought I could get across into Ecuador today, but it started raining, which slowed me down, and by the time I got into the town nearest the border I was wet and cold and didn't feel like dealing with the border, so I got a room in a truckers motel.

The next morning, I had just a few miles to the border and got there by 8 am. I don't know why I was surprised, but his turned out to be one of the more pleasant borders of this trip. It took about 10 minutes to get stamped out of Colombia and turn in my vehicle permit, and not more than 30 minutes to get my passport stamped and my motorcycle permit on the Ecuador side. Ecuador uses the US dollar, which is one less mental adjustment I have to make in a new country. It was 150 miles or so to Quito, and there were several military checks on the highway, and I got stopped at one and had to show passport and bike permit, but no big deal. I got to some town north of Quito and there was a fork in the road, so I took it. Both forks were signed to Quito, but the one I took, didn't go past the equator monument hat I have seen in pictures, so I didn't get a picture of that, but I was in the southern hemisphere for the first time. When I got close to quito, a guy pulled up next to me on an XR600, and asked in English where I was going. I really wasn't sure, as I thought I would try the Moto Guest House, which is run by an Ecuadoran who runs guided motorcycle tours, but I didn't have the address. We went to an internet cafe and I looked up the address, and Roberto, the guy on the Honda, led me to it. It turned out that nobody was there, so I headed to the Turtle's Head pub, owned by a British guy, Albert. Albert rides a KTM 950 and also has a Husqvarna 610 SuperMoto, and he posts on Horizons Unlimited, which is how i knew to go there. Like so many of the people I have met on this trip, he has gone way out of his way to make me welcome here. My bike is parked at the bar, along with whichever of Albert's bikes he is not riding. Tomorrow he is going to help me make some phone calls and find a tire for my bike.

Myself and Paul, the owner of Casa Kiwi, in Medellin.

Colombian cycling team training on the highway south of Medellin.

Where do you think these last two were taken? Wyoming? Maybe west Texas? Nope, southern Colombia, south of Popayan.

Posted by Andy Tiegs at October 16, 2006 04:48 PM GMT

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