• Colombia – Love It

    Posted by Murray on March 4, 2011

    Colombian people are great! We love them! In fact, we have encountered some of the friendliest people in this country that we have come across in our travels. Colombia’s sordid and at times very violent past was not evident at all whilst motoring through and mixing with the people in cities and villages; with the exception of a heavy presence of police and military. In more than one instance in the northern part of the country we passed a lone armored tank reversed up into the bushes with it’s fearsome turret glaringly at us like a ravenous long beaked monster, just longing to unleash its fury onto some cowering drug runner. The soldier poking out the top gives us the thumbs up as we ride by which we take as a good sign that he won’t open up on us.

    There are many examples of the overwhelming friendliness we have experienced and a few jump to mind. First, some background…..we are both equipped with GPS units however the default world map is very limited and for whatever reason we haven’t sourced and uploaded adequate maps. So, whilst our GPS s generally useful for the open road, it does diddly squat for us in the towns and cities. Central and South America is notably lacking in the road sign department so inevitably we become lost, repeatably. In fact, getting lost is a daily occurrence and if we don’t get lost it kind of feels weird. Murray to Loren – “gcrshhg, do you copy Loz, have we got lost today?” Loren to Murray “Yes, 15 times already, this is fun, can we do more?” Perhaps lost is the wrong term…. we are never actually lost, just very little idea of exactly how to find places in big cities…and little cities…and villages…..and country roads….. and yep, pretty much everywhere.  The solution is to ask. So many a conversation has been had by bellowing broken Spanish through the helmet to any willing listener at the traffic lights, street corner, traffic jam, service station, road block, police stop, house verandah, toll booth or local scooter rider. The responses are astounding and are always accompanied by waving hands, pointing and repetition. Sometimes when lost, whilst pulled up beside a taxi at the traffic lights and the animated driver is midway through his directions, the lights turn green and he keeps talking out his window, ignoring the instant chorus of blaring horns from belging vehicles rapidly queing up behind him. Meanwhile, 3 other local scooters have pulled up the other side and are firing questions of where have we come from, where are we going, how many cylinders, year model of bike, how much did it cost and is your belly button an insy or an outsy.

    For example, in Bucuramanga, we pulled up in the city centre and leaned out to ask an old codger for directions to where we were to meet up with Geoff. Within 30 seconds, a young bloke interjects and requests that we follow him. He jumps on his motorbike and off we go, weaving through traffic following the local yokel.  Upon arrival, before riding off, he grins and pumps our hands and says welcome to our country my friends. In Medellin, after a 7 hour ride we cruise around the city at night looking for somewhere to stay and a young guy on motorbike next to us at the lights starts chatting. At the turn of the lights and some slow side by side chat/riding he yells “Follow me and I will take to you to a safe part of town for a hostel”. Then he takes us on a night tour and is proudly promoting his city to us verbally at each set of lights. Again, after 15minutes and we have found a place and his recommended coffee shop, he shakes our hands and wishes us a safe journey before whizzing off on his moto. Another one; we miss a turn and end up rocketing up an exclusive bus zone on Sunday morning on the way to meet with friends and police stopped us on 2 occasions. After realising we were merely dumb tourists (which took about half a millisecond), they helpfully provided directions of some form. Again in Bucaramanga, I had a conversation regarding directions with the same taxi driver which lasted 3 three sets of lights before he yelled follow me. This was hilarious as he had 2 paying customers in the back, probably wondering where they were now going.

    We left Bucuramanga on Sunday afternoon after a hearty lunch with friends, thanks very much Geoff and Carlos and family. The ride across to Medellin was fantastic and truly showed what a scenic country Colombia is. The last few hours was interesting given it was raining, the road was windy and potholed and loads of trucks. Thoughts of a hot shower and a warm bed were certainly present as the temperature dropped and the rain started to trickle down the back of your neck as it inevitably seems to do, despite all the kit. We pushed on trying to make up lost time and by 9pm that night we were having pizza in the plaza after the first hot shower for about 4 weeks. We found a hostel, recieved the obligatory 4 handshakes from the lively proprietor, paid an all night security guard $2 to park our bikes near an ATM and unloaded our gear.

    The next morning found us at Ruta 40, the local BMW dealer to get some new tyres. Helpful and friendly guys. Loren had some new knobbies fitted up whilst I purchased 2 tyres to carry for a while until the existing ones wear out. Apparently not much choice for our tyres sizes further south in Peru and Bolivia. After both of us taking out a bank loan to pay for the tyres, (yep, eating beans for the rest of the trip) we headed to motorbike alley where every conceivable motorbike part could be found. Here I replaced a lock that I had lost about 5 countries ago and casually spotted some Pirelli tyres to fit my bike…..at one third of the price we had paid 1 hour before! I pretended not  to see them, thinking no, someone is playing a bad joke here. But, as they do, your eyes get drawn back there like a superpowered magnet. Ho hum, such is life, lets get out of here Lozza before our empty wallets start weeping. Note to fellow GS riders, if you are happy to put Michelin or Pirelli tyres on your beast, you will find them cheap in Calle 38, Medellin. However, the Metzler tyres are one of the best in their class so hopefully the extra outlay will help further down the track.

    The trip the next day was anther great ride and we called it a day at sunset at a little village set in the mountains with a fantastic view. After cutting a lap around the cobbled streets of the main plaza and the Colombians lining the footpaths to look at the strange machines (the biggest bike in general here is a 250cc), we found a classic spanish motel set on a on hill. The place only had one double bed per room so we opted for 2 rooms, understandbly so. The immediate issue – one room was far superior than the other. We are talking – spa bath with a view, shiny knobs everywhere, clean tiles and a spacious balcony overlooking the mountains. So…. the 2 Colombians looked on in amusement as Loren and I went 3 hard rounds of rock/scissors/paper till the death. Needless to say, I conceded defeat on the last round with my wrong thought out paper and was content with my humble room while Loz kicked back in his spa, probably even had frilly slippers waiting for him. For $11 each for the night for a top class motel, neither of us had any complaints. Spa baths are over-rated anyway. Oh, I forget to mention – both rooms had their own personal garage for the bikes! Happy days!

    (if you hover over the photos a brief description will pop up)

10 Comments | Leave a Reply

  1. marlene on March 4, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    and here we thought us Costa Ricans were the friendliest :-) ) by the way, you need to seriously consider taking up writing as a full time profession…..you’ve kept us thoroughly entertained so far :-) )

    • Murray on March 6, 2011 at 4:10 pm

      Whoops – of course, the Costa Rican are up there as well :) Thanks for your feedback.

  2. Ted on March 4, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    you two are liv’n the dream! keep enjoying it. Love reading the blog and looking at the awesome pictures. Keep the stories coming and post lots of pictures.

  3. Mike on March 5, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    thanks for your email…in fact i have been an avid reader of your travels but have been unable to bring myself to comment mainly because of being faced with the reality of having to go to a conventional place of work.
    It has been so hot and humid that even getting out on the traily has not been an option. The sort of heat that can only be really enjoyed when wearing full mine spec at say Wybong in January!
    I read on with great relief that Loren has fitted knobby tyres to his bike…it has been stressing me out since your journeys began….especially reading about the the washouts and pothole stacks earlier on in your trip.
    I was surprised that you lost the scissor, paper, rock as you appeared to be quite good at that game when i was working with you. With the 150cc advantage may i suggest that you try outgunning Loren to the accommodation.
    The photos have been fantastic. My favorite is the one with the bikes in the dingy or zodiac.
    Hows the Ralley 3 gear performing? i have so many questions about the bikes and the gear so keep updating that section.
    Back home… well we’ve been keeping the home fires burning (coal) and it seems to be getting busier as the year goes on. Don’t you worry about that because it will all still be here when you get back.
    Me heading to Ningaloo reef at Easter for a swim with the whale sharks…should be awesome however still think that maybe its part of a cunning plan by GF to get rid of me!
    Keep up the great commentary and photos so that the rest of us can live vicariously through your adventures.

    • Murray on March 6, 2011 at 4:08 pm

      Thanks Mike – great to hear from you and thanks for your comment. Will get another section going on the site for Technical info soon and it should cover gear and performance etc. Enjoy Ningaloo, it is a magic spot!

  4. Jane on March 5, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    BREATHTAKING…..photos…writing….stories……gracious loser’s attitude. I’m relieved the journey picked up a little hoop-de-dee after Honduras. I have skipped straight from there to Mar 4, so have to go back and read Panama in my next sitting. Thank you both for your meticulously maintained website. It’s incredible. XXXX

  5. Anthony McNab on March 16, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    You left your light on Lozza.

  6. Kim-Marie on April 21, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    Wow, your trip sounds pretty amazing – maybe I should consider travelling not just for work one of these days. How about a book of your adventures when you get back Murray?
    Good luck KMC

  7. Isaac Valencia Arias on April 25, 2011 at 4:26 am

    Hola toda su travesia a sido muy bonita, me a gustado porque hemos bisto lindos paisajes y ustedes an podido conoser lindos paisajes en los diferentes pises. Cordial saludo de los hermanos de Bucaramanga.

  8. Paola Andrea Medellin on April 30, 2011 at 4:01 am

    Que buen viaje!!!!!! Qué lastima que no pasaron por BOgotá… Un saludo Murray :)