Colombia

Sms sent 28 February 2009....................Categenga
Praise the Lord for a safe voyage. Yesterday was a real rough crossing, this morning is ok. Now we are anchored in port Cartegenga, waiting on board for the immigration clearance.
Sms sent 2 March 2009..........Johan and James are busy with customs,and I'm looking after the bikes in the drizzle!. Thankfully it's warm.We have heard that it caould take all day to clear customs, thankfully James is good with Spanish so their wont be any messing around!. We went walk about yesterday in Categenga, nice but not as pretty and clean as Mexico. James has been here before,says the other Towns are nicer than Cartagena.
Sms sent4 March 2009.........Yesterday we drove from Cartagena to Planeta Rica. Today we will ride to Medellin.......Talk about slow, we got the bikes papers from customs at 5.15pm!.

Epos gestuur 5 Februarie 2009  ...........Medellin

Ons is in Medellin na twee dae se ry. Sover is ons nie hoogs beindruk met die land nie, te veel mense en paaie is sleg. Die deel wat ons sover gesien (tussen Cartegena en Medellin) het het verbasend baie armoede, en is in baie opsigte soortgelyk aan Tanzanie (wat armoede betref). Ons hoop maar dit raak beter na die suide. Ons soek nog die vriendelike mense en mooi vroumense waarvan ander ons so baie vertel het. . . . . . . . .........Ek sal later meer uitbrei, Medellin is 'n enorme stad. Ons sal more die motorfiets winkels besoek vir bande en diens onderdele vir die GS.

Sms sent 8 March 2009 .........................Bogota
Safely in Bogota, have spoken to Jurgen, he will fetch us at 7pm and we will have dinner at their place.

Email sent 13 March 2009.......................Categenga to Bogota
 

Weíve spent the last few days here in Bogota, the capital city of Colombia. Bogota is an impressively modern city with a good infrastructure and friendly people. Before we came to Colombia, we were told by many travellers that it was one of their favourite countries, and that the people are exceptionally friendly. Our expectations were high. . . . . . . .Columbia Charmaine & Johan

Shortly after our arrival at Cartagena, in the North of the country, we were disappointed as we did not meet the many friendly people we were told about. Instead, we were harassed by hawkers on the street trying to sell us all sorts of junk, even cocaine. The unhelpful custom officials that took the entire day to clear the bike just added to our negative first impression of Colombia. Cartagena and the surrounding area are also very poor in a similar way we experienced Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania. The roads are crap and confusing too. It was also surprising to see that most of the Hostels are nearly full; this is by far the most tourists weíve encountered so far in Latin America. We soon realised that a lot of the tourists that come to Colombia (Cartagena and Medellin in particular) come here to party, consume a lot of alcohol and experiment with cheap cocaine and other drugs. We had some unpleasant situations in the Hostel (Pitstop Hostel) we stayed at in Medellin, as guests partied right through the night and hang around drunk or sleep in the day. We were even told to be quite because people try to sleep at 11:00AM in the morning! But it is ok to play loud music and speak on the top of your voice at 2AM? That was the final straw for us and we packed up and moved to a more pleasant Hostel for about the same price. Hostels are not cheap in Medellin, as they are always near full, so the demand is high.

The 700km between Cartagena and Medellin took us two easy days, and was not interesting at all, nothing but poverty along the road. Military and Police everywhere. We were not bothered by them, and most of the time just been waved through. Medellin is a big, chaotic city that we did not enjoyed, mostly due to the troubled nights we had at the scumbag Hostel. After we moved to a nicer hostel in a better area, we got to see some nice things. The area was full of restaurants where wealthier people hang out with their nice big bikes (most bikes here are small) and fancy cars. We also got to replace the bikeís tires and broken spoke on the rear wheel. The friendly mechanics at the famous Ruta 40 (BMW dealer) noticed an oil leak on the dif, and wanted to check it out. Iím a tough customer, and did not want anyone to touch my dif, after all the troubles I had with it earlier on the journey, it is finally going really well. I also do not trust BMW mechanics anymore, the $350 rip-off service from Miami was still fresh in my mind too. He insisted, saying it will cause big problems later on, and if the seal needs to be replaced you need a special BMW tool. ďOkĒ I said, ďbut only if I stay with the bike and see exactly what the mechanic does, and first give me a quote that I donít get surprises like in MiamiĒ They agreed and it turned out to be a good thing, as the seal was completely gone, with half the oil leaked out of the diff. Note this was the seal to the shaft, and not the seal linked to the hub/ bearing. With the assembly I again was the difficult customer that made the final adjustments to the pivot bearings myself, as they left it with a great deal of play. I told them I donít want any play, and will rather do the final adjustment myself using their tools, on which they reply itís ok, but then there will not be any guarantee on the job. No problem mate, Iím leaving town anyway and will take the responsibility, besides, Iím the one that will be stuck if it breaks down in Peru!  Bogota

The owner and everyone was very friendly and provisional, the bill end up being 1.4 million pesos!  Sounds worse than what it is, as the exchange rate is 2500 : US$1.

James, our riding partner on his Honda Tornado, stayed at the Pitstop Hostel due to the fact that it was more suitable to his budget. The next morning at 7 we met up and drove out of the city in the direction of Bogota. The road turned into a bikerís paradise, from ugly concrete jungle to the loveliest road that winds its way up and down steep mountain sides. Scenery was breathtaking too, we finally got to experience the Colombia everyone was telling us about. The poverty also disappeared from our sights and we got to see a lot more wealthy looking people and houses. We spend a night in a lovely small colonial village, and hang around the main square till late.Bogota Church

Next morning, Sunday, we greeted James good buy, and went our separate ways. Our ride to Bogota was pleasant, we passed 100ís, if not 1000ís of cyclists on the steep inclines. Life here around Bogota seems very similar from where we come from.  Most travellers that visit Bogota stay in or around the historical part of town, and get to meet normal friendly people in the streets. That part of town is very nice, with a lot of character and history. We have a contact that lives in Bogota, family of Charmaine. Through this contact we got to see a very different part of society here in Bogota that many travellers donít get to see or experience. Karl is a CEO of a large company here in Colombia and the region. Because of his status and wealth he and his close family is a target for professional kidnapers (FARC). These militants kidnap people of importance for financial as well as political gain. The threat is very real to these people of importance, and the only way to ensure their safety is to have professional body guards take care of you, everywhere you go. The vehicles they use is armoured too, windows are 1 inch thick etc. They cannot afford to compromise when it comes to their safety. We only saw Karl briefly, as he went out of the country for business, and we spent some time with his son, Jurgen. Jurgen loves the lifestyle and enjoyed spoiling us with great eats at the top restaurants in Bogota, with dadís credit card. Thank you Karl and Jurgen, we appreciate it a lot. We really are blessed, and thank the Lord for the experience and opportunity to meet up with people in all walks of life. Like Paul, we also had the opportunity to stay with the wealthy in luxury as well as the poor in basic conditions. Life sure is interesting. Columbia Gold Museum BogotaOur highlight in Bogota was to visit the world famous Gold Museum, ok, maybe it is not world famous, but it is amazing. They exhibit gold and other artefacts of this region that predates the Spanish Colonial era. Lots of gold items are on display that was handcrafted by the native tribes a 1000 and more years ago.  So to answer the question whether Colombia is dangerous or not, I would say yes and no. It just depends who you are and where you want to go. We, and most other travellers, keep a low profile and stay on the main roads, so for people like us it is entirely safe.

Email sent 15 March 2009.............Popayan Colombia

We are in Popayan, in Hotel Achalay in the old part of town, known as the White City. 
We had a fantastic ride through coffee and sugar cane plantations. The roads are in pretty good condition and only a few places had damage from land slides which seems to be a huge problem in the mountainous parts of the country.  Yesterday we rode from Bogota which is at 2500m, we dropped down to 350m, climbed up to 3301m and then dropped back down to 970m - all in 300km's. 

Email sent 16 March 2009.......................Pasto Colombia
We had a good ride to Pasto on some very bad roads today, it took us almost 6 hours to do about 250km's.  The road through the mountains is badly effected by the many land slides.  On some sections there was big boulders in the road and other sections part of the road had sunk in and the edge slid down the mountain.  It was slow going!  I would not like to be part of the road maintenance team....Tomorrow we will ride to the border town of Ipiales and God willing we will see the Las Lajas Monastery.  Depending on the time, we will either stay in that town or cross the border.

Sms sent 16 March 2009........................Colombia
Colombia is beautiful in the south. We have crossed into Ecuador and we are heading for the town of Otavalo.

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