Costa Rica to Colombia – Toms Thoughts #3

This is Tom’s latest installment of the blog. Look out for Brendan’s update soon.

I’m now tucked away in the folds of the Andean foothills. Colombia is insane. the people i have met are incredible at being good humans and the landscape sometimes makes me want to keep my eyes open forever.  In the few weeks i have been in this country i have been blown away by what it has placed down.

So sit tight. there is a lot to get through since leaving Nicaragua. I have cycled through the countries of Costa Rica and Panama and jumped on-board a french yacht to sail my way to South America and plenty of adventures inbetween.

I’m going to keep the text to a minimum to make it short and sweet and in its place i will throw in some extra photos to move things along.

 

bike and road

It was good to be back on the saddle and heading south again. Costa Rica is quite unique to many of the other countries in Central America. It has its tourist hot-spots dotted through-out but in-between you become engulfed by the landscape.

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Meet Katy and Perry, yep their real names. Both are legends. These two snuck up on my one day when i was taking slow so we rode together for a few days and sung Katy Perry songs.

 

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We cruised for a few days planning our days ride around the world cup games.

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This dude was heading north from Chile. He funds his trip by performing fire-twirling, juggling at intersections and busking.


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An essential part of my food bag. expensive but worth it.

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My first day off in Costa Rica was in the sleepy coastal town of Las Lajas. good pancakes here.

 
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The Costa Rican travelling circus was passing through

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And look who i found in Panama City. 10 months ago Jesse Taylor and I were kicking back in our back yard of 3 barrington street, West Leederville, Perth. Since then Jesse has moved to New York to become a famous architect and i have decided to ride my bike for a while.

 

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Brendan had been chilling in Panama for a while and when i arrived we began the search for passage to Colombia. There is a stretch of land between Colombia and Panama that can not be accessed. there are two options to get to the next continent. One is to fly and the other is to sail through a pristine archipelago of palm cover islands. We both agreed that option two would be best.

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But first it was time to shed some weight from my bike. I had accumulated mass amounts of unnecessary nic-nacs that were not going to come with me through the mighty Andes. I have decided to unhook the trailer and surfboard for now. It was not the initial plan but the adventure will take a different direction for a while.

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This is Juan. The Swiss cyclist that has previously featured in The Dirty Two’s blogs. He had also made it down to Panama and is now somewhere in Europe continuing his adventure. A beaming individual who has been on the road for 3 or more years.

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It was time to dismantle. Most international flights will let you take your bike on-board as check-in luggage.

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All boxed up and ready to go.

I decided to wait in Panama for some mail to be sent through. So Brendan embarked on his sailing voyage to the next continent where you can find out more in his next instalment of the blog.

After almost 2 weeks of waiting for my mail to arrive i had had enough and decided to leave Panama. So i rode to the other side of the country (you can do this in less than a day) to the town of Portobello. This place has an intriguing history, it was the port that the infamous pirate, Captain Morgan (the rum is named after him) plundered the shores in search for stashes of gold that was stowed away here.

Soon after the town was abandoned and only the slaves that could not be taken with the fleeting Spanish remained. Today, the majority of the towns population are direct descendants of those slaves that where left behind.

The port is also where you can find sailors hanging out and hopefully catch a ride with them to Colombia. There is a legitimate business running backpackers from Panama to Colombia with some captains asking as much as $600 for the passage. However, if you have some time to spare there will always be a cheaper option.

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So i took some time to look around and find another option.

 

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I met a bunch of potential crew mates hanging around the harbour

 

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Enter Andrew Grady who is undertaking an adventure of epic proportions. His project The Magic Thumb is a mission to hitch-hike around the world – head to his site to check out what this man has already achieved. He became the mastermind behind our sailing adventure helping to secure a gorgeous yatch for half the price of what others where asking.

 

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And after a few days of searching we set sail.  Our sturdy vessel with the blue hull anchored in the San Blas islands

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My crew mates for the 8 day passage. Grady, Shane, De, Simon and Caroline exploring one of the islands

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The indigenous people of the islands still live a very simple life.

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And ours was pretty simple too

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rum was drunk

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and tall tales were told

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Siestas were taken

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these guys would come and visit us each day

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After 8 days in paradise we arrived to the next continent. Our french First Mate, Tomar smelling the colombian air as we sailed into South America

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Captain Lucien and Tomar keeping a look out as we entered the harbour which had a big concentration of navy vessels guarding the port. The passage we sailed is a main artery for the cocaine trade

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Simon kept us entertained with his German precision

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Once anchored in the port of Cartegena it was time to shake off our sea legs. Shane making sure the bike gets to tierra firma

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We had arrived in Cartegena, Colombia and nothing says Colombia more than the multi-coloured fruit lady

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The walled city was a maze of narrow street and spanish colonial architecture.

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The place was alive with street performers

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Clowns around every corner

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Fernando Botero, Colombia’s prized painter and sculptor was every where

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Here he is again

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Vendors lined the streets with all sorts of things to take home.

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But the best thing was the food. This is Arepas, its made from maize dough and then stuffed with cheese.

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cheese yes please cheese please

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A few bucks gets you lunch which usually starts of with soup

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And then a big plate of meat, rice, salad, lentils and fried banana

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Just outside the walled city is the suburb of Getsemani. Its a good place to explore the back streets

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA After a few days it was time to say good-byes to our sailing family and hit the road

Back on the road and the lunch became even cheaper

Back on the road and the lunch became even cheaper

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I was heading inland towards the swamp marshes of Mompos. Plenty of little towns to pass through with plenty of hole in the wall shops to get some fresh juice. It was hot around these places

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And plenty of mobsters to bring you lunch

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To get to Mompos you need to take a series of barges and small boats to traverse the Magdelena river and it surrounding marsh land

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The area around Mompos was once one of Colombia’s most important trade centers. It was the main route for the Spanish Gold trade now its the used transport the local people to and from the day jobs

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The kids had to guide the boat up some small shallow streams

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Gangsters

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trying to do business

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We decided to forge a new route through one of the Lilly marshes.

This the begining

This the beginning

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and two hours later we had made it through!

 

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The might Magdelena

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A few days rest in Mompos and i was on the road again.

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Mondays must be sport day for the school kids of Colombia

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Leaving Mompos you follow the banks of the Magdelena towards the town of El Banco

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then you have to jump across to the other side of the river

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where this man will sell you a cold drink and give you a place to sit in the shade for a while

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Then you pass the boy flying the kite

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and the kids peeping through the fence

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When you arrive at El Banco you can stock up on things you need

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Like some new sunglasses

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or some more bananas

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Then its time to hit the road again. today was a slow start

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The sun was out and the cows were hogging all the shade

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However i did find plenty of fresh fruit stalls to keep me going

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It was a hot 4 day ride from Mompos to the bustling city of Bucaramanga. I found a cheap hotel and got a few things organised for the next leg

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My bike had taken a few bumps getting out of Mompos so I checked her in for a bit of a tune up

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The next morning I set out from Bucaramanga towards the town of Zapatoca. The ride starts of with rolling hills through mainly agricultural land. Pineapple’s were in abundance

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As were tobacco leaves

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and by afternoon you reach climbing country

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To get to Zapatoca you have to go up and then down. I think this will be a regular pattern for the next few months

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An oddly parked car

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There are plenty of shrines along the way

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I arrived in Zapatoca late in the afternoon. Is a quiet old town. The buildings were old

 

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and the things inside them were old

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From Zapatoca a dirt road drops you back down the other side of the mountain past some live stock

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And through the town of Galan

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These towns are pretty sleepy but when someone on a bike loaded with bags and shaggy hair rides through the main street they seem to wake up

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Down at the bottom of the mountain there is a river with some fun cascades. A perfect spot for lunch. this day i crashed a local picnic

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everyone was hungry

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I filled my belly up on two bowls of soup to prepare me for the afternoons climb back up the next mountain

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After a hard push up a bumpy mountain i arrived late to the town of Barichara. One of the most beautiful towns i have visited . I spent the next day hitting the stone paved streets

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Old things are everywhere in this town

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old timers

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and old cars

 

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However, there were some new things around. I managed to find this guy devouring an icecream

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but even still, most things were old

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Colombia has only just begun. there is huge potential in the country to find the quieter back roads that meander through the mountains explore the towns that sit within the creases. Its getting me a bit excited. Until next time.

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