Let Your Inner Peter Pan Fly - Louisville to Buenos Aires

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Derby City, Feb 11, 2012.

  1. Derby City

    Derby City Adventurer

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    Finally got my blog going. Here's the link.

    http://www.flypetefly.com


    Once I figure out how to upload it here, I'll get right on it.
    #1
  2. stromsavard

    stromsavard Sergio

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    Lorrainville, Québec Canada
    Good Luck guys!! Take care, ride safe, take lots of pictures and show them to everyone here!!
    #2
  3. Jedum1

    Jedum1 Adventurer

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    Looking forward to following your adventure! Good luck, and be safe.

    Cheers
    #3
  4. jguerin77

    jguerin77 I ride my own

    Joined:
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    Looks like a dream trip and experience. Looking forward to reading your ride reports!

    J.
    #4
  5. terrapinneck

    terrapinneck Been here awhile

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    Thanks for sharing your trip with us. I'll follow along wishing I could ride along. Happy trails.
    #5
  6. Derby City

    Derby City Adventurer

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    We're into Mexico. New posts on the blog.

    FlyPeteFly.com
    #6
  7. Derby City

    Derby City Adventurer

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    I'd always planned on posting my ride report here on ADV, but it took me 4 months to figure out how to upload photos. In my own defense, I wasn't trying that hard. At least I can share my trip through South America with fellow ADV Riders now. You can check out the account of my trip through Central America on my blog.....flypetefly.com. South America will be posted both here on ADV and on my blog.


    Portobelo, Panama to Cartagena, Colombia....on a boat.

    I’ve been out on a few charter fishing boats in my life. Only one time have I ever gotten sick, and it happened after I saw everyone else on board hurl their morning coffee over the side of the boat. I knew I probably should have purchased Dramamine before boarding the boat just in case, but I really wasn’t too worried about it. Besides, there were hardly any stores open at 9:00 AM in Portobelo, Panama so I wouldn’t have been able to purchase it anyway.

    Me and about 20 other travelers boarded the boat that morning. Fortunately the boat was big enough that there was enough space for everyone on board. It was a five night cruise in total, the first three days touring the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama before cruising two days due east across the Caribbean to Cartagena. The San Blas Islands are inhabited by a group of indigenous people called the Kuna. They are a small population, but they have somehow fought and maintained their independence from Panama, even though they reside just off the coast.

    Here’s what Wikipedia says about the Kuna people: The Kuna Indians worship a god named Erragon. They believe that this god came and died just for the Kuna people. The Kuna Indians were driven off Panama during the Spanish invasion and they fled in their boats to the surrounding 378 islands. The chief of the Kuna lives on an island called Acuadup, which means rock island. The Kuna are hunters and fishermen; they are a very clean people. On some of the islands they have opportunities to attend school. Most of the men now speak Spanish, although the women carry on older traditions.

    San Blas Islands & The Kuna People
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    The Captain of our boat bought us lobster and fish from some Kuna fishermen
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    I managed to get seasick on the first day while out at sea in the late evening. Fortunately the boat wasn’t rocking much the first three days as it was anchored in calm waters around the various islands where we could get off the boat and tour. My seasickness was compounded by the fact that all the desalinized water served on board had a bit of a salty taste to it. I really felt dehydrated on the boat, but I kept drinking as much of the salty tasting water as I could stomach. I was also able to buy some Dramamine from the captain for the ride across the ocean. Fortunately the ride over open water ended up being rather calm.

    Finally, Cartagena in sight
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    Here's where we got dropped off in Cartagena
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    #7
  8. Derby City

    Derby City Adventurer

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    Other travelers I’ve met along the way have told me nothing but good things about Cartagena. I was really looking forward to spending a couple days there to check the place out. Here’s how it went.

    Day 1 in Cartagena:

    We got off the boat in the morning, found our way to a hotel and began checking emails to find out where the container was at. To our dismay, the container broker we were dealing with informed us that they would not release the bill of lading until we paid an extra $75 per bike for adding them to the bill of lading back in Colon, Panama. After a little nap and some fresh water in the morning, we spent the rest of the day corresponding with the broker, and waiting in a Western Union office to get the money wired so that they would release the bill of lading. The residual rocking effects that the boat inflicted upon me had me stumbling around all day like a drunk man.

    Day 2 in Cartagena:

    We were up early, piled about 7 people into a cab the size of a Geo Metro, and headed to the port. We spent the morning waiting and waiting. Then we walked down the road in the blazing heat to the customs office, waited awhile longer, and eventually spoke to someone who got the paperwork started on the vehicles. We weren’t driving away with our vehicles today, so we then went downtown to purchase insurance. It took about two hours because their computer kept crashing. We finished after the office officially closed, but fortunately they got it all done rather than turning us away with no insurance. Made it to the hotel about 6:00 PM. I took a quick walk around town, got a bite to eat and was in bed before long, tired from another day of waiting. Still hadn’t reached equilibrium from the damn boat.

    Day 3 in Cartagena

    Again we were up early to take a cab to the port. This time only four of us went because we were sure we’d be driving our vehicles out before noon. We’d already had two days of red tape BS. It couldn’t take much longer, right? Long story short, we drove the vehicles out of the port at about 8:30 PM after our most impressive day of waiting yet. I had a few beers at the hotel before retreating to my 100 degree hotel room for the night. Land legs were slowly coming back.

    Day 4 in Cartagena

    I really needed to hit the road to Bogota, but I decided to spend one more day in Cartagena just to continue my rehydration and see if my body could remember how to stand on solid ground again. I was able to meet up with my friends Chris and Alison again who I initially met in language school in Nicaragua. Coffee in the morning and a few beers later in the evening with them were the highlight of my day. The old walled in city in Cartagena really was impressive architecturally. Unfortunately I have no pictures of Cartagena. You’re just going to have to use Google Images and crop me into the photo.

    Except this blurry photo of the container crew the day we got the vehicles
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    #8
  9. Derby City

    Derby City Adventurer

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    It’s just short of 700 miles from Cartagena to Bogota on the main highways. I should probably mention that highways in Colombia are some of the twistiest roads you’ll ever ride through mountains that will take your breath away. The trip took about 3 days with a stop somewhere in the mountains and another in Medellin.

    I was hoping to make it to Medellin from Cartagena the first day. I knew mileage-wise it would be a stretch, but it was the goal for the first day. I got into some intense mountains in the late evening, along with some intense rain and fog. Driving off the side of these mountains could easily mean falling thousands of feet to the ravines below. I pressed on for a little while, but when the visibility dropped to about 20 feet in front of me, I made a U-turn back to the last town I passed that had a hotel. I’ve since lovingly referred to the place as the trucker hotel, because I was the only person staying there that wasn’t driving a semi. When the fog lifted in the morning, I found that the place was built on the side of a mountain with a spectacular view. Here’s a few pictures of the surprisingly nice and cheap trucker hotel in Valdivia, Colombia.
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    The view behind the trucker hotel
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    The next day I was off for a more relaxing ride to Medellin. The mountains continued to be spectacular. I pulled off at an overlook and was fortunate to catch a couple paragliders run off the mountain and float into the valley below. I must have stood there watching them for an hour and a half. I arrived in Medellin in the afternoon, and just kicked back at the hostel. Some of the people I met on the boat ride across the Caribbean were staying there, so we chatted over a couple beers. Medellin seemed like a really nice place. I wish I had more time to visit, but I needed to get to Bogota to meet up with my little sister, Emily who was going to visit us in Bogota. Actually her plane arrived while I was still in Medellin.
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    The third day was a long one from Medellin to Bogota. Again, the ride through the mountains was amazing. While taking a break from the rain under the shelter of an abandoned gas station, I also met a nice guy from Spain who was bicycling south from Alaska. Jorge, started 11 months ago in Alaska on his bicycle, and pedaled all the way here. I’ve passed a lot of people doing long distance riding on bicycles, but Jorge was the first one I’ve chatted with. That’s an Alaskan license plate on the side of his bike.
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    Traffic in Bogota was the worst part. Bogota is a darn big city, and driving there is nuts! I was riding in bicycle lanes and sidewalks just trying to get somewhere, and so were every other small motorcycle and scooter navigating the city streets. I arrived after dark to meet back up with Coco, Rufio, and my little sis, Emily.

    Hola Emily! Emily says Hola!
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    #9
  10. Derby City

    Derby City Adventurer

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    When you hang around my sister Emily, bombs tend to go off. Here’s a picture of me and my siblings in Times Square on May 1st, 2010, the day some nutjob stuffed a small SUV full explosives. The attempted bombing was foiled by vigilant street vendors who immediately alerted authorities that were able to diffuse the situation. We had just attended my cousin’s wedding and reception, and were completely unaware of the attempted bombing.
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    Emily’s visit to Bogota was no different. Rufio and I rode off to a bike shop to get the bikes in order before we took Emily out for a ride in Colombia. Sure enough, a bomb being used to assassinate a former government official of Colombia exploded not far from the shop Rufio and I were at. Here’s the scene at the bike shop. They didn’t stop working on the bikes for one minute, or for lunch. Life goes on, it always does.
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    Is that a big glob of grease on my thumb, or did I just vote in Iraq? Who cares, at least I'm wearing the same blue shirt I always wear for pics.
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    After the bikes were in order, our first little excursion was not too far outside of Bogota to a salt mine converted into a church. All I can say about it is that it had a lot of neon, the gift shop seemed to be the main feature, and it was weird overall. So weird that we weren’t even sure it was indeed a real salt mine. So I licked the wall, and can definitively confirm for you that it was indeed a salt mine. Salt mines churches taste disgusting just in case you were wondering.
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    We did some more riding around before getting back to Bogota at rush hour to fight city traffic, and managed to get back to the hotel alive. Here’s a couple more photos of the outskirts of Bogota.
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    We also took the cable car up the hill to the overlook over Bogota. There's one hell of a view from up there.
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    We were also lucky enough to be invited to a vacation house owned by the family of Emily’s sister-in-law who resides in Bogota (Emily’s not married, but it’s easier to explain this way). Our old buddy, Ryan from Bellingham, joined us as well for the two night we stayed there. Emily’s sister-in-law, Andrea was nice enough to take us to a nearby amusement park where her dad used to work. We got in for free which is a really great price when you’re traveling on a budget. The amusement park even had a zoo with the best monkey exhibit I’ve ever seen. I of course have no pictures.

    Emily's final night in Bogota was filled with dancing and drinking at a happenin' club in North Bogota. Ryan from Bellingham got some photos, and you can click here to see them (have to scroll down a bit). http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=770001&page=16

    I think that about sums up Emily’s week in Bogota. It was great to see you Emily!
    #10
  11. foliver

    foliver Adventurer

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    Nice!!!!, good luck from Uruguay!.

    continue writing!!

    Thanks, and enjoy.

    Fabian
    #11
  12. Derby City

    Derby City Adventurer

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    We’re not done with visitors just yet. Our friend Niki flew into Bogota just as Emily was flying out. Among other Bogota activities, we toured the city’s Botanical Gardens before taking a little trip to the town of Salento.
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    Different shirt. Please take note.
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    As Rufio always says, guide books love to define small tourist towns as ‘Cowboy Towns.’ It was difficult to walk around town without stepping in horse shit, so I’d say Salento was truly one of them. The town had lots of charm, and lots of beauty in the mountains surrounding the city.

    Roadside break on the way to Salento
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    Lots of Willys Jeeps in town available to haul people around
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    Vista on the edge of town
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    We took the long way back to Bogota from Salento, just crossing our fingers and hoping for some amazing new sites. Well, we found it. Route 50 from the city of Manizales over to the city of Honda proved to be one of the most beautiful roads we’d ridden on this entire trip. The pictures can’t capture just how impressive the views really are.

    Admiring the view
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    This view
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    And another whirlwind week complete. Niki returned home, and we decided to spend a few more days in Bogota to take a short break after two weeks of visitors.

    Back to the Explora Hostel, our home in Bogota
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    #12
  13. Derby City

    Derby City Adventurer

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    Well the fun in Bogota wasn’t over yet. We got a surprise visit from Maria Camila, a friend of Emily’s sister-in-law, who we met just over a week ago when we went to the night club in Bogota. Apparently Maria Camila’s father is involved in restoring old cars and they were having a car show right across the street from our hotel. So we walked across the street to find a parking lot full of restored vehicles, most of them old American classics. It was just like a car show back in the States, but without Beach Boys music blaring from loudspeakers.
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    Spent a little more time walking around the Bogota before leaving. Here's a couple more pics.
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    From there I began planning where to go next. Things are about to change a little bit. More on that in the next post.
    #13
  14. threetwoseven

    threetwoseven n00b

    Joined:
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    Louisville, KY
    As a fellow rider from the Derby City, I'm glad I've found your blog. Looks like I know what I'll be doing the next few days. Be safe!
    #14
  15. Derby City

    Derby City Adventurer

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    I'm never far from home! :rofl This trip started in the Highlands, right next to Cherokee Park....about 4 months ago.
    #15
  16. Derby City

    Derby City Adventurer

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    This morning I left Coco & Rufio in Bogota. For them, this trip was a chance to explore new places and settle down somewhere for awhile. Colombia had a way of pulling them in that no other country we’ve visited thus far was able to do. Rightfully so, it’s an absolutely beautiful country with great people, any climate you could want within a day’s travel, and a lot of culture. It also appeared to be a place where they could reasonably find jobs, so I’m sure that was very appealing to them.

    While I’m sure I could spend another month or so touring Colombia with a good deal of satisfaction, I decided that for me, this trip was about sampling as many of the countries that I’d set out to see. If I left only seeing one country in South America, I think I’d be disappointed with myself because the chances of coming back to do a trip like this sometime in the future are remote. So this trip now becomes a solo journey.

    I pressed on today just over 200 miles southwest of Bogota to check out a planetarium located in the middle of a desert region of the country. This country has so much to see, it reinvigorated the photographer in myself to try and capture some of it. Here are some photos of today’s ride.
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    This tunnel had to have been 2 miles long. It was good to get out!
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    Motorcycles don't pay tolls in Colombia. There's a lane on the right of every toll booth where motos pass for free.
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    This was new! I turned around and chased these guys down to get a pic. The kid on the back of the bike turned around at one point and gave me a 'what you lookin at' glare. Unfortunately that didn't get captured on film.
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    I finally made it to the observatory, but the sky was completely covered in clouds, so there was nothing to observe that evening. I was able to camp right outside the place though, so lodging for the night was extremely cheap…only about $2.50 for the night. It’s amazing just how varied the landscape is here in Colombia…similar to the United States I suppose. This place has every type of climate and location you’d want to visit; beaches, mountains, big cities, small 'cowboy towns,' deserts, etc.
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    My accommodations for the night
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    #16
  17. Derby City

    Derby City Adventurer

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    San Augustin, Colombia was the next destination after I left the desert. It’s another one of those ‘cowboy towns’ that also has some archaeological ruins from a long, long time ago. The minute I arrived in town, the heavens opened up dumping an inch of rain on me. To complicate things, the hotel I was looking for was down a dirt (mud) road with a really steep gravel driveway. I drove around town in the rain looking for other hotels, but eventually took my chances on the wet, steep, gravel driveway and made it up successfully.

    Sometimes you get to these hostels, and the group of travelers staying there is a really great group of people. This was the case in San Augustin. I ate dinner and hung out the first evening with the other travelers. Ireland, Germany, France, Argentina and the USA were all represented at the dinner table.

    The following day I went out to tour the archaeological ruins with some other travelers at the hostel. Statues here seemed to have funny expressions compared to some of the other ruins I’ve toured on this trip. Here’s a little sample of what we saw.

    I'm pretty sure this guy is a character on South Park
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    The following day, several of the other travelers left, making their way to other cities. I decided to stick around and tour the city and surrounding area on my motorcycle. Paula from Argentina, who was also staying at the hostel, was brave enough to accompany me on the motorcycle around town. We found a couple waterfalls, some more ruins, and lots more nice views.
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    Every kid took a turn sitting on the bike, some took two. Who wouldn't want to sit on a KLR (please keep responses to yourself)?
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    #17
  18. Derby City

    Derby City Adventurer

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    Anybody out there shipped a bike by plane from Lima, Peru to the United States?, or remembers seeing a thread here about someone who did? Any info would be greatly appreciated.

    Thinking about skipping the winter in Argentina and Bolivia, flying to the USA west coast, and riding home from there.
    #18
  19. Derby City

    Derby City Adventurer

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    When you look at a map of roadways in the United States, the major interstate highways are usually denoted with the boldest lines, other major State Highways with a less bold, secondary roads with even less distinct lines and so on. Regardless of what road you look at on a United States map, you can almost always assume the road is paved. Up to this point in Colombia, I’d been traveling on the roads denoted by the boldest lines on the map, and they were still plagued with landslides and the like. Today I set out on a road as denoted by the map as a second tier to the best roads in the country. It might have a couple more rough spots I assumed, but surely it was paved.

    The hostel owner in San Augustin was a real nice guy, and also a motorcycle rider. When I paid him in the morning for my stay there, he informed me that the road I’d be taking to Popayan was only about 30% paved and 70% not paved. The hostel owner told me he’d been running the hostel for 19 years, and from what I could tell in my three day stay there it didn’t appear that he left the place very often. I was hoping that maybe the road had been paved in the last couple years and he was just not aware. It didn’t matter though, it was the most direct route back to the Panamerican Highway, and I didn’t want to veer too far off the beaten path in Southern Colombia for safety reasons.

    Rain started falling about 5 miles before the pavement ended. I only stopped once at the beginning to put in my rain liner before pressing on for 3 hours in 1st, 2nd and occasionally 3rd gear on a nasty, muddy road. I had to keep the helmet visor wide open to keep from fogging up, and since I wear glasses, my vision was further impaired by the rain pouring in my helmet. This particular region of the country receives a lot of rain, so turning back to try it another day would have been pointless. It was the longest three hours I’d spent on the bike so far. There were moments when I wondered what the hell I was doing and wished I was back at work. I wish I had more pictures of the bad spots, but I was a man on a mission, and the mission didn't include stopping for photos. These couple at the beginning are all I have.

    This was as good as it got for 3 hours, and really isn’t a good depiction of the road traversed
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    As I got closer to my destination, Popayan, the skies cleared up and I started to dry out. It’s a good thing too, because I was really starting to get cold. Here’s a couple pics of the final miles on the non-paved section.
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    When I finally arrived in Popayan, I stopped in the town square to find the hotel I was looking for and was accosted by a drunken shoeshine man. Most town squares are heavily policed in Central and South America and this guy was so drunk, it really wasn’t a threatening situation. However, he grabbed my arm a couple times and wouldn’t let go. When I finally ripped my arm out of his grip, he fell over on his back on a concrete post. I felt bad, but didn’t help him up because I wanted to make sure he didn’t think he was dealing with a nice guy (even though I am indeed a nice guy). I had told the guy “no gracias” 30 times already, just spent 3 hours in the rain, was covered in mud, and really wanted to get to a hotel. When he came to his feet, he showed me his back and I told him it was alright. He then gave me a fist bump and went on his way. The next day I found him sleeping under a bench in the park at about 11 AM, one shoe off, one shoe on. I liked him a lot better when he was asleep.

    But don’t let the drunken shoeshine man impair your impression of Popayan in any way. It’s a college town full of really good looking Colombian college women, and I was happy to be there. There are probably college guys there too, but I didn’t notice any. I spent the next day walking around the city, which is almost exclusively painted white. I was told they repaint all the buildings white before Easter week just to make the place a glaring sea of white for the religious holiday. If you go to Popayan, I have one recommendation. Don’t go on a Sunday as the city shuts down at about 3:00 PM. I was lucky to find dinner.

    My friend's legs hanging out from under the park bench
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    Wretched non-white building. Conform already, Conform! :lol3
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    #19
  20. Derby City

    Derby City Adventurer

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    The guide books don’t have anything good to say about Pasto, Colombia, but it’s close enough to the border to make it a good stopping point before crossing into Ecuador. Most of the ride was mediocre until about 50 kilometers outside of Pasto. The road turned into pathways carved into the side of the mountains. I broke out the camera to get a couple photos, but kept my eyes on the road because guard rails were lacking. Any misstep could have meant falling thousands of feet into the ravines below.

    Here’s a few photos of the good part. If you're looking for guardrails, they're not here
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    Pasto turned out to be alright. People were out and about in the evening on a Monday night. There were tons of shops open, and people were shopping. The city was also a lot larger than I expected. I wish I could have spent a couple days there, as there had to be something the guide books were missing.

    On my way out of town, I was stopped at a red light next to another motorcyclist who chatted me up. Apparently he was an English and French teacher at a local University. He took an interest in my trip, asked me how many days I’d be in Pasto, and I was almost embarrassed to tell him I was on my way out of town after only one night there. This was consistent with my interactions with people in a restaurant the previous evening. Pasto is begging to be liked by anyone willing to go there.
    #20