Since my last very recent blog, I’d just arrived in Panama City leaving you in suspense of how to get to the continent below (no doubt you have been on tender hooks ever since!?). Well I’m no longer sitting in Panama City and have replaced that town with another, this one in another continent, a few countries down and in the Southern Hemisphere. The star alignments I don’t know anyway seem a little more familiar.
You could bike to Colombia, but there ain’t no roads.
San Blast Islands
After deciding the gap was a bit much for me, I then jumped on a backpacker boat, not having the patience to lurk around the shipyards spruiking how good of a cook I am then surprising them at sea that I can’t actually cook. 5 days at sea beckoned.
Bomba Estéreo en Colombia
Straight away there was a different feel to Colombia, this was noticeable from the bloke driving the dingy to the jetty. These people are inquisitive and love a chat, which is good for a cyclist cause us folk loving scoring free food and accommodation and Colombia had plenty of that. Bomba Estéreo is a colombian band i’d recommended having a listen too.
Same but different
After a few days in Cartagena where I bought too many burgers it was time to commence the south American leg. Having seen enough of the coast I made decision it was Mountain Time for a good while and south was the direction. With some new gear and cleaning up a bit it felt like starting again. Photos below are from Categena to Medellin.
Colombia was good fun, amongst the cyclist circles everyone goes on about Colombia, blah blah blah. But it’s pretty true.
After Medellin is was back on the roads to the general direction of Cali.It was touring as normal camping were i can, staying with the bomberos buzzing my way through the coffee district. But i did have one of my most memorable lunches on this leg where I rolled up for lunch in a small town which I guess don’t get to many gringos passing through. It was pretty hot and I couldn’t stop sweating it was pouring off me, they first went and got me a towel – no request needed. They decided the towel wasn’t good enough and starting speaking some Spanish I didn’t understand, I normally highly rely on context and guess my way through conversations and get there in the end, but this time I had no idea. So the Colombia restuarenter went and showed me what they were talking about – a shower. I kindly accepted the offer showered up and hit the road fresh, just another day in Colombia. Hospitality Colombian style.
Who the FARC?
The FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) are probably the most well known an irregular military organization involved in the continuing Colombian armed conflict since 1964. They get there money through kidnapping, extortion and trafficking of illegal drugs. There definitely still getting around my friend Stefan who is travelling by motorcycle got robbed of everything whilst on route to Venezuela. But don’t get the wrong idea, just like Mexico they ain’t to interested in a tourists that much.
Rolled into Cali, the salsa capital of Colombia very dirty and lined up a couchsurfing host – Emmanuel. Went to one of the biggest malls to meet him and the police basically thought i was a bum/crazy gringo (i was in a expensive part of town) and wouldn’t really leave me alone. I needed to call Emmanuel and went to ask a local when the police tried to intervene cause i was about to jump him or something. It was an interesting situation as normally as a gringo in wealthy areas your treated like a rich man, this was the opposite however the local was a legend and dealt with the police. Used his phone, called Emmanuel and more hospitality ensued.
Typically in latin family everyone lives togeather from the children to grandma and sometimes cousins and that. It’s a family affair, upon entering Emanuel’s house had fresh juice and a meal waiting just for me, dirty clothing asked for to be washed and my own room. The generosity was overwhelming and would have been great to speak some more Spanish as there were offers to visit a few schools to talk about riding a bike (its very complicated), something that would of be great to do.
I bid Emanuel and his family goodbye after a couple of days because getting used to this treatment the bike may have been put in mothballs, instead I headed for a town called Inza.
Inza was just a place on a map in the middle of really nowhere no research was done on roads etc and just set off cause i got told it had some cool indigenous ruins etc. Whilst mentioning where i was going a lot of Colombians had no idea where this place was.
You can bite the hand that feeds you
After Inza, Ecuador was now on my mind but a few unplanned incidents occurred. But not before some for more staggering scenery.
Less is more!!
So i made it out of the dirt tracks and got to a place called Garzon on a highway. It had been biking as normal but my luck finally run out on my bike and three men outta nowhere jumped me at a corner whilst I was checking directions in the middle of the day like I’ve done a hundred times before.
Given some of the unique places I’ve slept on the streets of a town in Mexico, (Tom ended up under a car that night to espcape the street lights), town squares, random fields with no permission, the deed was done in broad dayling at normally a busy intersection.
It wasn’t a normally robbery of sorts with the main weapons of the crooks being their teeth. I did mention I would give it away in my last blog (where i got robbed at gunpoint but in this case had nothing on me) when met by force but instinctively when someone tries to grab a phone out of my hand I held on to it and started pulling it back (whilst at the same time holding onto my bike and having one foot still clicked in to my pedal) the thief decided to use both hands but that wasn’t really working so the teeth came out. By that time i realised if he wants it that bad he can have it but it was too late and two others grabbed my camera (lost some good photos which was annoying) and some other bits and bobs and shot off. This occurred all in about 30 seconds. So I was left on the side of the road with a few less things, but it goes with the trip motto of late, less is more! Spoke to the police and they said they were sorry. I was a little shook up, but strangely riding was a nice way to calm down and regain my thoughts.
Trampolina de Muerte
But no biggie as insurance shall cover it and rolled in to San Agustin, quaint little town chilled for a few days resting and sorting out insurance etc. After that I decided it was time for a real brush with mortality and to ride “one of the most dangerous road in South America” statistically anyway, which was nicely named Trampolina de Muerte being the trampoline of death.
On route to the tramp met some Dutchmen who heading that way as well so made sense to ride together. So bounced down the tramp and then spent the last few days camping through Colombia. The two Dutchmen were students with a tight budget so camping was always the only options which was great.
After the tramp sights were set on Ecuador
Some countries you get to a stage were you counting the days till you reach the next, your ready for a change. Colombia was not one of these it was literally oh i’m in Ecuador now.
I was going to do Ecuador as well but Colombia took way to long! Its a great country that’s truly alive and one of my favourites so far.