2 Months on a Bike in Colombia - 2019 and 2020

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Champe, Nov 24, 2019.

  1. Champe

    Champe Long timer

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    One of my favorite things here is fresh squeezed orange juice. I have a favorite vendor from last year that is still on the same corner. But today I decided to try a ham, egg and cheese arepa. It was very good but I could not eat it all. Here is the arepa stand with my breakfast in the foreground. It was easy to order, even with limited Spanish. There is a sign that says 2700 pesos so I did not have to ask how much. So I just said... uno, por favor... one please. He said ... mantequilla ? (Butter ?), so I said ...si.... and he spread some butter and sprinkled a little salt on it. Done deal.
    DSCN1697.JPG
  2. WileyRTW

    WileyRTW Wiley

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    I love when the price is posted, no gringo tax! If you don't mind sharing whats the hostal room go for, looks like a nice setup. Also, how much did the skid plate and rack install cost you?
  3. Champe

    Champe Long timer

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    Happy to answer questions. Makes me think people are actually reading this stuff.

    This hostel gets $8 - $10 a night for bunks in 6-8 bed rooms. Seems they are rarely more than half occupied. Private rooms are $20 per night and include a closet and private bath. They were fully booked during the peak of Covid here, primarily by medical professionals that did not want to commute. If you travel as a couple, the private rooms are the obvious choice. For me it is a luxury. On the road last year, I paid $10 - $12 a night but they were pretty shabby compared to the private room in the hostel. Of course there are classier hotels where you can spend serious money too.

    Bike service is cheap. Installing the skid plate and rack cost 20,000 pesos ... about $6. On the ride in the mountains yesterday my check engine light came on. Everything seemed to be fine otherwise but I brought it to the dealer this morning. The mechanic fired it up and the engine light did not stay on. He came out to the street to check it .... no charge.

    Oh, the skid plate installer did not speak any English but held up two fingers when he was ready to be paid. Do you think he was only asking for 2000 pesos... 60 cents?

    The shoe shine guy wanted 3000 pesos but I gave him 4000... roughly $1.10. Tipping is actually not required, even in restaurants. Americans are seen as suckers when they tip what is normal in the US.
  4. WileyRTW

    WileyRTW Wiley

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    I mean, I am busy traveling around Mexico and yet responded in an hour.....we are reading this!@ (and still waiting for that cop story ahem)

    Awesome, and I see northing wrong with spending a bit more for a private room, I do the dorm rooms at times, private others. But a private room, especially with the moto gear makes a lot more sense at that price if one can do it.

    Hell yeah, good for you man. With todays situation we should al be spreading our money around a bit more, I never buy the tourist crap and already have 2 belts, a hat, a couple keychains, a magnet, etc. I am not changing lives, but we can all help the people around us a bit more.
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  5. Scribe

    Scribe £Bob£

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    Pretty cheap prices at 3,600 pesos per US dollar.
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  6. Mofrid

    Mofrid Been here awhile Supporter

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    I'm reading along. Thanks for posting!
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  7. Champe

    Champe Long timer

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    I am going to tell you guys the cop story. But I need a photo to go with it. You know how it is. Where are the cops when you need them ?

    The exchange rates on money are very favorable. Where 3600 to 1 is probably the official rate, what I am getting at the window is 3552 and 3554. Nice small margin there as well.

    In the hostel they think I am well off because I have a private room and a motorcycle. So this Colombian, Heimie , offered to cook me breakfast , and wash the dishes, for 5000. Just toast and scrambled eggs - coffee is on the house here. Someone else told me he is a good cook and he proved it this morning. Yes, I am feeling special.
  8. Champe

    Champe Long timer

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    Phone follies

    Last year I had a very easy time having a Colombian SIM card installed on a US smartphone. I hardly used it for voice but it was super handy for navigation. Unfortunately with a prepaid plan, if it stays inactive for a year , you lose the number. No big loss, I thought. Nobody knows my number anyway so I will just get a new sim with a new number. Wrong. They now want the “sales number”, not the serial number, that is found on the outside of the box of a new phone. The two iPhone 5s I have with me were bought used on eBay and did not come with the original box, so I am screwed. Apparently this is a move to reduce phone theft.

    I am told they can install the sim anyway but without that number it will be good for only two weeks. This might be ok for those that are making a fast trip through, but I need a month right now.

    So I asked about used phones. They found me an iPhone 6 for 500,000 pesos and a 6s for 600,000. My hostel owner says a fair price is 100,000 so no deal.

    Last trip I was not able to make my Garmin Zumo work. This time I have two different map cards - one for just Colombia and one for all of South America. Today I got the SA one working so maybe I can live without the phone.
  9. Champe

    Champe Long timer

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    Stuck buying glue

    The rubber trim around the bottom of my helmet came loose last year in Santa Marta and I got it fixed with rubber cement in Minca. The issue is back again. But now I am in Bogota, with lots more options. So I went to the biggest hardware in the neighborhood. Glue was on the third floor. The clerk steered me to some really good stuff.
    DSCN1699.JPG

    Cost under 4000 pesos ... approx $1.10. At the register he asked for my ID number or mobile phone number. So I said I only have this - a 50,000 peso note and no ID. Well, he persisted, saying he could not complete the sale, and called for assistance. So then I pulled out my fake wallet and showed my expired license. They liked that at first but then discovered my license number has letters in it. Colombia has changed all IDs to numeric only, so that did not fly. The computer could not accept that. So then I remembered the business card I had made with my old expired Colombian cell number.
    DSCN1696.JPG

    This was going to be part of a proposal to Edgar, the former hostel owner, but is not in play at this time. There is a mobile number with my name associated on it though. Sorry, needs to be a proper “documento”, and we can’t use that either.

    Dang, we are talking about a $1 tube of glue here. I spent a half hour finding the shop and another half hour at the register and it was not looking good.
    So finally, the clerk had an idea. He wrote a name on a piece of paper and sent me to a cashier on the first floor. I showed the paper to the cashier and he took my money. Then sent me to a pick-up counter. Waited there a while and finally saw it come down a delivery elevator.

    The receipt shows the name the clerk wrote for me and an ID number associated with that name. Another way to skin the cat.

    The helmet is fixed again. But the point of the story is that little things can develop into a big deal here sometimes.
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  10. Champe

    Champe Long timer

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    You know I like street music. Let’s see if I can send you a short video.

    dang, the answer is no. I have a short clip of a guy playing some lively sax in an alley with interesting acoustics. My videos upload to Facebook fine but not here, sorry.
  11. WileyRTW

    WileyRTW Wiley

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    And now the story of where the user name "Champe" has finally been told.

    Man they have you running in circles for the little things, what a pain.
  12. Champe

    Champe Long timer

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    Bogota to Salento tomorrow.

    My Thanksgiving dentist appointment Is done and I am free until next Thursday. So I am going to make a dash for Salento (coffee country) tomorrow. We have 40% chance of rain, according to the forecast, for the next several days. But the pattern is usually for nice mornings with an hour of rain , sometimes heavy, in the afternoon. I am only marginally equipped for rain and try avoiding it whenever possible. What has worked in the past is to just stop and have a coffee somewhere when the showers hit. Usually there are others doing the same and it is a good way to meet people.

    Quindio is based in Filandia, which is the same region, and I will try to visit his favorite hostel there. We have not heard much from him in the past year but he did make an appearance on this ride report so we know he is ok. I think his schedule is to be here around the time I leave this year.

    I also have a very special invitation to a short motorcycle tour in Medellin, which is the same direction, but a bit further. The date for that is not set, so if it does not happen this week, it will be the next one.

    The coffee region is also near Mt Ruiz, which is a glacier covered volcano that killed a whole town when it erupted a few years ago. That will also be part of my coffee tour.
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  13. Champe

    Champe Long timer

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    Am still trying to put a story together about the police adventure. I still have not gotten the right photo though. I had an even better solution yesterday, with a video I tooK 360 degrees around me while standing on a traffic island in the middle of a big intersection. I meant to show what traffic is like here - really not bad - and it conveniently included some typical cops on motorcycles, but posting that is not possible. The search continues. (Are the cops avoiding me now ?)
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  14. pro69ss

    pro69ss Been here awhile Supporter

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    Looking forward to seeing some pictures Champe !
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  15. Champe

    Champe Long timer

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    Made Salento today. This is heart of coffee country with really great scenery. Record tall trees- wax palms, deep canyons, manicured mountain sides. Hard to see much today due to rain all afternoon. My gear and I are pretty soaked. Lucky to be assigned a 4 bed dorm all to myself with a private bath.

    Am staying at the Viajero Hostel, which is a chain. Last year I stayed at the one in Santa Marta and I had to pry myself out of there. This one is a bit more rustic but still very nice....and the views are great from the yard.

    Hopefully it will be nice tomorrow so I can share some of the views with you all.
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  16. Champe

    Champe Long timer

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    Bogota to Salento in 11 hours.

    I was warned to start early. The route from Northern Bogota goes straight South, lengthwise through the middle of the city. Traffic picks up early because lots of other people have this idea too. I only know some of the Northern neighborhoods so navigation was going to be an issue.

    My phone service is not working and my Garmin Zumo with generic South America maps is untested.

    Got up at 5 (daybreak), showered and loaded the bike. Breakfast is at 8 so I missed it. Rolling at 6. Traffic was moderate already. The Garmin worked pretty well, giving audio instructions at the beginning. Missed a turn but rerouted to a very good alternate. Weather was cloudy and a little cold. Night time temperatures are around 45F. Was glad I picked the heavy suit.

    I have a Klim Adventure jacket and pants but they were way too hot for the time I was on the Caribbean coast. But for mountain riding it is great. Because of last years experience, I brought a Tourmaster mesh jacket with matching rain pants. That was perfect for day rides and around Bogota.

    The scenery improved greatly once out of Bogota. Took at least an hour to cross the city North to South though.

    The terrain then became much more interesting, crossing over several mountain ranges. They are like giant fingers that run North -South and I need to go West. So we play the truck game. I am not really a big fan of this except that once you get the job done you have a pretty good run ahead. Sometimes you run along a ridge with a deep canyon next to you. Impressive scenery. Windy roads. Most roads are semi-smooth so upper speeds are limited. But they are improving some sections with incredible investment. They are building a second 2 lane road parallel to the original. So with 2 lanes in the same direction, passing is easy, and not at all dangerous. There are still tunnels and bridges being built to make this section longer. As it is, it was probably an hour’s worth and really fun.

    Of course it had to rain. The usual rainy season rain is only an hour or so in the mid afternoon. But no guarantees. It could be several hours, or even all day. So I stayed on the throttle till about noon. Got into a race with a KTM 1190. Very rare here. We traded the lead a few times but in the mountain turns when he was leading, I heard a siren sound. It was my disk alarm/lock going off inside my tank bag. Some kind of fluke. Pulled over, took it out, worked the key a few times . Still going off. So I rapped it on a rock a little. Fixed. Off we go again. No way to catch that KTM now.

    So around noon it starts to rain. I pull over under a tree and throw my rain cover over the bike, I stand there looking around and a couple guys sitting in chairs across the street motion me to put the bike in their carport. Damn nice of them. But I already have it covered and see a restaurant nearby. Time to eat.

    They are cooking on an outdoor brick stove 12 feet long and three feet wide. Steel top with a bunch of kettles on. Two full figured ladies take my order. They are not buying my usual request - comida tipica. One of them starts listing things... pollo, arroz, sopa. So I just said si to everything. Then one of them starts asking if I am married, motioning to the ring finger. And she wants to know if I have any ninos. Then she brings over her daughter, who smiles like crazy with perfect teeth. She speaks no English at all and my Spanish is pathetic. So I ask if she speaks German. She thinks that is really funny.

    The meal started with a plastic pitcher of lemonade with a lid and straw. Then a bowl of potato soup with a pig foot. The soup was good, but I could not eat the fat. The foot is only fat and bone and you are supposed to eat the fat. I tried. But no. The meal was roast chicken leg and thigh, rice, potato, fried plantain. All in all, one of the best meals I have had in a while. $10,000 pesos...about $3. Beats the hell out of yesterday’s lunch in Bogota in a German restaurant.

    The rain lightened to almost nothing so I pushed on. But it strengthened again so I pulled over and hid under an awning with a bunch of other bike riders. Maybe 20 minutes later we all set off again. But then it started raining hard and most bikes pulled over again, including me. Another 20 or 30 minutes lost. After that the rain did not pour hard, but maintained a steady drizzle.

    During the rain, the GPS quit. Dead battery. Not sure why the cigarette lighter outlet is not working. So I managed to get off track a couple of times and ended up going through some city centers. Oops. Probably lost at least another half hour each time.

    Around three thirty I was really getting tired of the rain as it was starting to penetrate my boots. And my gloves were totally soaked. Last time they took three days to dry. I also made a turn I was not sure about so I stopped for coffee and directions.

    Now I was in coffee country. I had passed several Juan Valdez looking characters on the road. One of them had six horses loaded with coffee sacks. The restaurant had “artisanal” coffee, served in a bowl. I am a lightweight coffee drinker and had mine con leche. They put the sugar on the side and it was totally unnecessary. Very mild, nice tasting coffee. Damn, it’s still raining. Otro por favor. Another please. Along with the first one I got a chocolate corn meal arepa with a slice of white mild cheese 5/8 of an inch thick. Wow. Delicious. Totally unknown to this Northern white boy.

    Leaving there it was still raining but now I knew I would make it to Salento today. Once you leave the highway and head up the primary access road to
    Salento, the views become picture post card. And most was obscured to me by fog and rain. This road is very windy with decent pavement , little traffic and no trucks.

    So I finally arrive at the hostel around 5. That is 11 hours on the road. Google, Maps.me and Garmin all disagree on the proper route, particularly through Bogota. Their time estimates are four and a half to seven hours. So I would say more like 9 hours in good conditions with no stops or mistakes and pressing hard.

    The hostel here does not provide parking. First one for me. But there is a private gated yard across the street where the guy rents parking space. Reception said it would be 10,000 per day. Went there and there was a carport with a car in it and a guy waving me over. He said he was moving the car out and for me to park there. And he said it was 6000 for a motorcycle.

    Took a walk around, like I usually do at any new place. There is a main square that is touristy but looks kind of fun. A flute player and a guitar were busking and acted profusely thankful for the coin I threw down. They had no collection plate but did have a little rug with trinkets for sale.

    Another guy was painting portraits. I looked over his shoulder to see if he was any good. He was. But he stopped painting to talk to me. I asked what he charges. He said a dollar. And his name is “Dollar Bill”.

    Ok, I am really tired from the ride and the walk. But I am also wound up as hell. Excited to be here and see this place. Writing this because I can’t sleep.

    Gonna try though.

    Buenas Noches
  17. Champe

    Champe Long timer

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    This morning the boots are still wet inside. Not good for your feet. Been walking around in flip flops but you have to watch your step. A lot of the roads in this town are very steep. Imagine an encounter with newly rained on and run over horse apples at night wearing flip flops on a steep road. Or riding at night and not noticing it.

    A main quest here is to see a glacier near the tropics. I think Colombia has something like 7 left. Several have disappeared in the past couple of decades. So I think I saw Mt Ruiz early this morning when the sky had only a few clouds. It looked like a white mountain peak with snow on it, but it was indistinct due to some light clouds. A Colombian sitting near me at breakfast confirmed it, but I am not sure if he realizes that there are actually 2 or 3 glaciers in that general direction. Ruiz is just the biggest and the one that erupted causing a disaster.

    Found a couple of prospective dirt roads right out of Salento. One they run you and a bicycle up the mountain by Jeep and you ride it back down. I can wait for decent conditions and give that a run on the Duke.... maybe.

    Weather says rain at 2. Wet boots means nothing major until they dry. They are propped up at a dryer outlet right now. I could cruise around town in flip flops. Mmmm.

    Photos are building up. Now I can’t find the dongle and cannot get the Camera WiFi connection going either. So later for those.
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  18. Champe

    Champe Long timer

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    Dongle found. Nice out . Pictures later.
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  19. Champe

    Champe Long timer

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    Here is my little donkey, ready to go Friday morning.
    DSCN1720.JPG

    82 Hostel is in the background. My private room is behind the windows at the top right of the building.
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  20. Champe

    Champe Long timer

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    Waterfall along the way. This part is 2 lanes in the same direction. New, smooth pavement with lots of switchbacks.
    DSCN1722.JPG
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