Joined: Feb 2009
Location: Houston, TX
Puerto Colombia to Santa Marta 9/25
As we prepared to leave Puerto Colombia for Santa Marta, the weather was exactly as we have learned to expect. It was very hot and humid and we were soaked by the time we got loaded and left. The weather makes one want to ride without the riding jacket and riding pants, but we do believe in all ATGATT (All the gear all the time) so we deal with it until we can get moving fast enough for some air. And, it actually started to rain lightly as we left so we cooled down pretty quickly. We were riding the coastal road until the pavement suddenly stopped and turned into mud for as far as we could see. We rerouted inland and things went well until we hit a detour in a little village that I think was led Pies Descalzos where it was raining hard and we were sent through some narrow neighborhood streets that were in pretty rough shape with broken pavement, ruts, holes and water running down them. Joe picked a new ‘short cut’ to get around the detour and we ended up going down what was more an alley full of rubble for a surface. It was interesting to say the least. After reconnecting to the main road it was uneventful until we arrived at Barranquilla where it started raining cats and dogs. It was several miles through the city and not only was traffic bad but the streets were mostly flooded. I got the impression that there are no storm sewers but that the street is the natural drainage outlet. It was at least four to six inches in most places and in some it was probably a foot deep. Cars were stalled and movement was slow. At many cross streets there were rivers of trash and who knows what else flowing across our path. One memorable place had a standing wave at least two feet high that we had to ride behind where the fast water was only about a foot deep. That spot did push the bike a bit sideways and I was glad to have plenty of clearance and a heavy bike. After clearing the city, the rain stopped and the rest of the way into Santa Marta was uneventful both scenic and riding wise.
Santa Marta 9/26 9/27
As we arrived in Santa Marta the sun was out and it was once again hot. Our routing took us a roundabout way to The Dreamer Hostel where we were going to stay. It is on a side street and we passed it a couple of times before the owners girlfriend spotted us and came into the street and stopped us. We had failed to spot a gate with a small green Ho La sign with a white hand on it that is the symbol for Hostels Latino America. Esther was very friendly and welcomed us. We checked on rooms and found that they had no private ones available but had a four person one with air conditioning and a private bath. We booked that one, moved our bikes into a small area past the walk way gate and went to our room. Upon arrival at the room we found that it was also occupied by two women who had taken the bottom bunks. I’m not sure if they wanted to have two old farts sharing their room instead of some young stud, but that’s the breaks in a hostel. This was Joe and my first time staying in a hostel and my first time sharing a room with women I didn’t know. It took a day to really meet them because they came in after we had gone to bed and they got up later than we did. They and a couple of guys they were traveling with were interesting when we did get a chance to talk. The biggest problem was that Joe and I got in the room earlier at night and turned on the A/C and fan and when they came in, they froze and had to wear jackets to bed.
We didn’t do a whole lot in Santa Marta except take a break and spend an extra day to sort out all our traveling things and arrange them so that we could find something without emptying our cases every time we needed something. We needed to learn to pack and we finally have done it and don’t spend the better part of the day looking for something that we know we have if we can just find it. The hostel was clean and well run. It had a restaurant where we ate our meals as well as a bar to get some drinks. The prices were very reasonable and I would recommend it to anyone. Everyone was very friendly and English was spoken by several of the workers. The guests pretty much stayed to themselves and noise was never a problem as I have heard it is at some hostels.
Here was the secure parking at the hostel
And a nice pool area too.
Our room. Joe had 1 and I had 3.
Maria from Australia and Regula from Switzerland
The ride to Sincelejo was a nice ride. The country side started out with banana plantations and progressed into coconut palm plantations. There were many cattle ranches with varied types of cattle. I even saw one place that I would swear had a heard of cape buffalo grazing and lounging in the field. One thing that we began to encounter was a growing number of villages that don’t seem to extend past the edge of the road. They will go on for as much as a mile and in each one of them are speed bumps to slow the traffic. Lots and lots of trucks were on the highway and in the villages they would slow to a craws to cross the speed bumps and traffic was at a crawl. We had a hard time averaging 40 or 45 mph because of all the trucks villages. In the villages one passes many fruit stands, small open restaurants and markets. It was interesting to see the varied people, colors and goods. It was in one of these villages that we took the plunge and ate at our first roadside eatery. They were friendly and seemed to appreciate our business and we felt no ill effects. We are now ready to eat off the streets.
We arrived in Sincelejo and proceeded to find a hotel. The internet didn’t list hotels but we figured a city as large as this one had to have hotels. As we drove down the main street in the city center, we spotted a large one and checked on availability. They had one room with a regular bed and one twin bed. I said it would be fine (well I said in my best limited Spanish and they did have someone that spoke some English). We were probably pretty lucky to get the room because there was some kind of bike race in town and one of the teams and their support staff was also staying at our hotel. The hotel had secure parking, which is a must for us, and after checking in we went across the street to find something to eat and also to find some cold cerveza. To our disappointment, not only were there no restaurants in the area (we settled on fried chicken at a food court in a downtown mall) but because it was time for some kind of national election in Colombia, no alcohol was to be sold for the day. We also found out that, as was the case in our hotels in Puerto Colombia and Santa Marta, there was also no hot water for the shower or sink. Hot water in warm climates seems to be a luxury item that we in the states assume is standard.
The hotel restaurant didn’t open until 8:00 so we couldn’t get too early of a start so we had a leisurely morning and when we went to breakfast we found most of the place filled by the bike team. It took a while to eat and pack as well as look for a hotel in Medellin. It was around 10:00 when we left and we figured we had plenty of time to make it before dark. Well, plenty of time was a fleeting expectation. Riding to Medellin was a beautiful ride but at times it was excruciatingly slow because of truck traffic in the mountains. We had been traveling at less than 500 feet of elevation. Just to get over the pass and up to the higher elevation where Medellin is located, we ascended to an elevation of over 9,600 feet. The road up the mountain and back down the other side almost makes the “Tail of the Dragon” look straight. The grade was extremely steep and the corners blind. We literally rode up the mountain and into the clouds. At the upper elevation we were in fog so thick that I could only see Joe’s tail light if I stayed within 25 feet and he had to stay that close to a truck in front of him. The speed was so slow that one had to use the clutch in first gear to keep from stalling the engine. Even when there was no fog, if a truck was in front it could hardly move and passing openings were limited. It was very nice to have all the extra horses that the KTM 990’s have available when we get an opening. As with the lower elevations there were many villages clinging to the roadside with the uphill buildings dug into the mountain side and the downhill buildings on stilts. The vegetation was lush and green and the weather was getting cooler too. Other than the trucks, and we would often get open road to ride upon, it was excellent riding with amazing vistas of valleys and hills below.
Our decent of the last of the passes and entry into Medellin was in the dark because of the slow driving conditions. Our ground rule for this trip is to not ride after dark. Well, we will learn from this experience to not expect to make anything like the estimated drive times that Garmin gives to us. It was only about an hour of real darkness and most of it was on the roads with the trucks and we were two of many inching down the back side with the trucks that were being careful not to overheat their brakes.
After our long ride we were looking forward to a good meal and cold cerveza that we had missed the day before. We were staying in a downtown area and being Sunday, not too much was open and we settled to a “Hard Rock Café” that was a couple of blocks away. But, guess what, still Election Day rules applied so the cold beer had to wait. Well, kind of wait because I drank three non-alcoholic beers (Joe only had two but I’m such a lush) just to quench my thirst.
Stop for a roadside mean on the way to Medellin
What I had. Beef (thin and tasty too), rice, beans and some mashed/deep-fried plantains called "patacon" (Thanks SS in VZLA for letting me know what they are.)
Medellin from hotel.
After spending a night in Medellin and realizing that it was just another big city with high prices, we decided to head south to the coffee region. I guess the good thing about Medellin was that the hotel had hot water. The ride south was one of the prettier rides with mountains and river valleys and farm lands. All the country side is green and lush as there is plenty of rain in the area and the temperatures are not extreme. We probably rode in mid 70’s to low 80’s most of the day. One puzzling thing that we saw, which was also on the road to Medellin, was that when we were by a river and there was a steep mountain or hill side on the other side of the road, there would be pipes with water spraying into the air or onto the ground. It would go on for sometimes miles. At several places either truckers or locals were washing trucks, cars or motorcycles. I’m wondering if the water is not from streams far above and is pressurized by the elevation of the pipe inlet and there is no reason to turn it off because it would be lost anyway as the stream flows into the river.
Probably the best of the roads was one that was not on the map for our Garmin’s, but one that Joe had found on Google. It was almost a U turn from a highway intersection and I was reluctant to go that way because it looked like something that a friend “Rob” had taken us down several times in Mississippi only to have to turn around and go back. A local was riding past on his motorcycle and Joe asked, in broken Spanish if it was the road to La Cabana. He said si and to follow him. It was an amazing, although narrow and winding road, that went around and over some beautiful areas and hillsides where our first sighting of coffee growing was to be seen. Houses were perched at the side of the road with long bamboo supports holding the back side of the house from falling down the steep hillside. It was truly amazing how the people were clinging to every scrap of ground. Our speed was slow and there were no trucks that I was afraid would pass us so I was able to relax, stop and take some photos. We then rode on to an amazing local hotel, ECO Hotel La Juanita, that is outside of town and sitting on the top and side of a hill overlooking the surrounding mountains and valleys. The hotel is far from plush but is exactly the kind of place that I wanted to stay and experience the local lifestyle. The owner Ricardo and his wife Rosaria run the place and it is built with a main house and some separate cottages if you can call them that. They are small and rustic but clean and freshly painted. Breakfast, a huge one at that, was cooked for us and we are enjoying a day of blogging, catching up and doing some bike maintenance. The prices are so low ($27 US, which includes breakfast) that we got separate rooms, which is good because they are small and all our traveling stuff takes up room. There is hot water too. For dinner last night we went into the city to a roadside restaurant, a real restaurant with waiters too, and had a good meal. We also went to the local market and picked up some cerveza to bring back to the hotel (the elections are finally over). Tomorrow we will look into coffee tours and a zip line.
Just one of many water sprays. Also see a pipe pouring out water past spray. Joe is waiting in the distance.
Some of the lush country
Coffee growing on the hillside. Look close and the building past the coffee is on bamboo poles.
This is the little back road that was so nice. Just large enough for one at a time in many places.
My room. Notice the bamboo theme.
"Right is still right if nobody is right, and wrong is still wrong if everybody is wrong," ~Archbishop Fulton J Sheen
Cisco_k screwed with this post 10-03-2012 at 06:06 AM
Reason: To edit placement of photos.,