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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    After checking on the bike, I ordered lunch. They offered to prepare a coconut for me beforehand. If you have been to coconut country you know how this works. They trim the nut down and make a hole so you can drink the water with a straw. This water is supposed to be very heart healthy. Here is my waiter working on the coconut with a machete.
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    And here is the finished product on the table.
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    When you have finished the water , they cut open the coconut itself and you can then eat the meat.

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    While I was working on the coconut, it started to rain, as it often does in the afternoon. So I was glad I was under a roof and was taking my time. No need to rush out into the rain. So then a guy (not restaurant staff) came around and asked if I would like some coca tea. I have never tried this before and heard it was mild and medicinal. so why not ? He had a thermos of hot black tea that he poured into a cup and threw in a handful of coca leaves. And here it is.
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    Often I go by the adage - believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see - so I drank the tea and saved the leaves. Later in the hostel I took a picture of them. They're real.
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    There were no after-effects that I could tell. Maybe I was more relaxed riding home, but it was an easy ride anyway.

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  2. Champe

    Champe Long timer

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    At the restaurant in Palomino there was a guy that I noticed was moving from table to table. He would bus a table when people left and then sit down and eat what they had left over. He was not a restaurant employee, but his system worked for everyone. The restaurant got free help and he got something to eat. This is him
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  3. Champe

    Champe Long timer

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    Next is Minca, a small village in the mountains, known mainly as an eco-tourism destination. It has a lot of hostels and also offers tours of coffee farms. It is not at a very high elevation but it is a bit cooler. The vegetation is definitely the jungle type. I was warned that there were a lot of mosquitos but I missed those. I expected a rough dirt road to get there but instead there was smooth curvy pavement. With very little trafffic, it was one of the best motorcycle roads I was on. Here it is with a sign that says - dangerous curves.

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    The curves were the best part of the road. What they ought to warn you about is the occasional gravel at the apex, that gets dropped by the big trucks. Not really a serious problem though - just watch for road conditions. Going through a small village on the way a dog and a cat crossed the road right in front of me. I was going pretty slow but still had to brake hard. Missed the dog, but the little cat was not so lucky. It was a solid hit but somehow the cat made it across the road.

    Mountains were generally partially obscured by clouds.
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    On this trip I actually wanted to see if I could get past Minca, going higher up the mountain and deeper into the jungle. The answer was YES. Only after Minca, the road is dirt, with some short sections of badly broken up pavement. It is used primarily by hikers. I went up that for a few miles and it was going well. But my gas situation was not very good and I did not want to run out in such a remote area. So I went back, planning to hit it again with a full tank.

    Going back down, I mostly coasted with the engine off, hoping to see some wildlife. The quiet approach probably helped to not scare this peacock.
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  4. Champe

    Champe Long timer

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    Second shot at Minca. This time with a full tank of gas, knowing I could go well past . Google and Maps.me did not agree on the route. One showed a big loop all the way to Cienaga. The other showed a dead end.

    I was having an issue with the rubber trim at the bottom of my helmet coming off. I tried finding a hardware store in Santa Marta, and also a shoemaker. No luck. But I was on the hunt for a solution and came upon a hardware store in Minca, of all places. The young guy at the counter could not help. I had showed him the helmet hoping to get some glue. As I was leaving, an older guy said "hold on" and brought out a gallon jug of rubber cement. He poured out a little into a bottle cap and gave it to me. I asked him "Cuanto cuesta ?" - how much does it cost ? - and he said it's free. Wow - another generous Colombian. He even came outside and helped me apply it. This is both guys out front later.
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  5. Champe

    Champe Long timer

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    Going past Minca again, the dirt road was rough but passable. It had rained hard a day earlier and was wetter than before but not too bad. Until I got to this.

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    It was about 8 inch deep mud. There was a Toyota Land Cruiser stuck in it and two dump trucks loaded with gravel behind him. Some guys with shovels were working to get them unstuck.

    I had been through some shallower mud already and was sliding around some.
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    So I figured this would be a good time for a new plan.
  6. Champe

    Champe Long timer

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    The previous post was done on an iPad air, that I carried on the trip. It was less convenient to use than my home computer, but it worked well enough. I got it used, refurbished, on Ebay for $150. It does have to use an adapter to read the SD card.

    My main camera for the trip was a Nikon AW100 Coolpix that I have had for a few years. It is waterproof and can be had, used, now for about $50. I really like it for Trials photos, because it can do video, can stand rain easily, and is expendable if I were to crash on it. It has been great. I always had the quality setting on its lowest because that is what works best for posting items for sale on eBay, and it worked well for sending photos to my friends via email. I never noticed any problem with quality until I started posting here, and tried zooming in. So now I have stepped up the quality setting and will try that for a while - the next report should be better. There is plenty of room on the SD card.

    I also have a higher quality camera - a Canon G16 that I bought new for several hundred dollars. It has a noticably better lens and can transfer pictures to the computer via WiFi. It is not waterroof though. It is always the case that the best cameras are not waterproof. I may bring it along next time anyway.

    In the past I have done some commercial photography. Weddings, aerial, and products. Mostly back in the film days. I do have a Nikon digital SLR but I find it too bulky for the stuff I do now. Out of the question for long distance motorcycle travel.

    The phone cameras often provide good photos, I see. But their shortcoming is a lack of adjustability. If the lighting is good and you don't need to zoom in or out much, then they are often fine. Quality seems to me on par with my AW100 on low setting, but I am going for something better.
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  7. Champe

    Champe Long timer

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    Where I ran into the deep mud was several miles past where normal vehicles turn around. There is still the occasional hostel though. This is the last one, where I turned off to try a drier road.
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    Back in Minca, you can rent motorcycles, or have someone take you back to trailheads on their bike. They are actual dirt bikes, or at least dual sports. I was warned back there, not to try this without good off-road tires and they were right. But I would give it another go with what I have, in drier conditions.

    Right here I noticed some bushes that had clusters of berries - and some had colorful flowers. I thought they might be coffee, since this is a coffee growing region. I sent a photo to my sister, Helga, in Massachusetts. She is an expert gardener, with a beautiful garden and member of a gardening club. She told me it was poinsettia.
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  8. Champe

    Champe Long timer

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    The drier road going left went through some interesting stands of bamboo. Maybe 4 inches in diameter and 30 feet tall. They grew in dense clusters - no way you could walk or even squirm between them.
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    At one point there was a nice walking trail. There was an unlocked gate in front of it so I thought I would walk. The bike would have made it fine, but I thought there might be a house and it would disturb the owner. Acually, the trail led to a small graveyard with a view of the valley. This was the only place I saw what looked like serious bugs. They were red ants and they were all over and moving fast. So I walked fast too. No way did I want them up my leg. Here is the trail.
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  9. Champe

    Champe Long timer

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    Heading back down to Minca, I saw my previous acquaintance, the peacock, again. The last time my photos of it were not too good so I tried again. She? was near a smalll cafe and ran behind a car. I think she might be a pet.

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    The car was an SUV with a guy standing nearby who wanted to talk. Then it began to rain. So I pulled the bike up close to a dense tree, and we both went to the cafe to stay dry. We got some drinks - guanabana juice for me - and sat down with some ladies at a table. One was his wife, and the others were in his party. It started to rain really hard and they loaned me an umbrella to go back to my bike and put on the rain covers. The hard rain continued for about a half hour, when someone came in and said there was a bike on the ground. We couldn't see it from our table, but yup, it was mine. The ground under the kickstand had softened with the rain and it fell over. Broke the clutch lever and scratched the fairing. Lucky that the clutch lever has a weak point cast into it and there was still enough there to use it.

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    I used the clutch lever as is for the rest of the trip. Bought two of them when I got home - $14 each.

    The couple at the table were Latinos, living in Santa Marta. They spoke perfect English, having lived in California before. They were traveling around the world, very slowly, living in different places for months at a time. The lady was earning money teaching English to Chinese kids online. This was really interesting to me, since I would like to to travel in a sustainable way also. She has to get up very early in the morning to make it convenient for the Chinese, due to the time difference.

    I have heard that it is easy to get a job teaching English almost anywhere. The problem is that it pays very little. This online teaching is something new to me - and seems to pay enough to live on.

    The whole group at the table was very nice. We talked about a lot of things, but religion was not one of them. When the rain stopped, we got ready to leave and they gave me a business card and invited me to dinner sometime. The card said they were Jehovas Witnesses.
  10. Davidprej

    Davidprej Davidprej Supporter

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    There are 4 letters in the name peacock that give away its sex. Hint, the opposite member is called a peahen:y0!.
  11. Champe

    Champe Long timer

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    Back in Santa Marta I enjoyed some walks around town before heading back South. I thought the name of this shoe store was funny.
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    There were several vendors on the street selling Venezuelan money. I hear it is almost worthless. In Bogota they were using it as paper, creating new art over it.
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    Some firefighting equipment in front of a fire station. I'm pretty sure it was just for show.
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  12. Champe

    Champe Long timer

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    Evening in the park- Santa Marta
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    At one time I played this game pretty well. Next time I may join in and see what their quality of play is like. For me, it is too boring to just watch. Kinda like baseball. You have to play to have fun.
  13. BSUCardinalfan

    BSUCardinalfan Been here awhile Supporter

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    I have met colombians that tell me they are scared to visit the USA because of all the shootings.....I've only been uncomfortable once, in Cali. Even the taxi driver didn't want to take me to the address that I gave him, and the 'receptionist' at the factory I was visiting had a sidearm. We later decided to stop using that vendor :)
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  14. Champe

    Champe Long timer

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    Being scared of the US because of the shootings is just silly. But it does illustrate the thinking behind being scared of travel in Colombia. Sh## happens everywhere. Almost all can be avoided through situational awareness. What cannot be avoided is so rare that it does not pay to worry about it.

    I have only been traveling to Spanish countries for about 10 years. I do remember being a bit shocked by the bars on the windows, and the many armed security guards early on. It is certainly different than here at home in New Hampshire, where you can leave the key in your car (not really advised) and leave your house door unlocked. Then again, we are allowed to have and carry guns, which is generally not allowed elsewhere.

    At the Bogota hostel I was asked if I had a gun. I told them I had a collection, and they were blown away. They do not understand that an armed society is a polite society.

    Their gun laws are one of the few drawbacks to living there. But I am just about ready to move anyway. No place is perfect.
  15. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

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    Just enjoyed reading all 6 pages of your report @Champe, what a fantastic adventure. Appreciate you taking the time to document your travels and take us along. I think it's damn cool that you bought a bike there and traveled the country with plans to go back and possibly be an expat living there?

    Really like/appreciate your last post and comment about $hit happening everywhere. Been to Baja a couple times now and get odd comments from people that just don't get it.

    Looking forward to following along for the rest of the report :thumb
  16. Champe

    Champe Long timer

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    You probably already know that motorcycles get favored treatment in Colombia. They never pay tolls. There is always a lane at the extreme right, that is narrow, for bicycles and motorcycles. There are always speed bumps included. Usually two types - short and long. Here is a photo of one. The long bump is closest to the camera. There are a couple of short ones further back.
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    In Bogota, cars can only drive every other day. Even plates on even days, and odd plates on odd days. Motorcycles can drive every day, regardless of the plate. I saw a few cars violating the rule, but not many.

    These speed bumps are used all over the country, especially on major roads going through towns. The short bumps are often done in a series of 7 or 8 close together. Makes it inconvenient to do a nice wheelie off of them. The big ones work better. Probably not a good idea to practice wheelies at the toll booths though, since there are usually cops around.
  17. Champe

    Champe Long timer

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    Last post of the Viajero Hostel in Santa Marta. I highly recommend this one, but there are about six more in the country. I went past one on the main road to Palomino too. You can get a discount if you stay at one and book online for the next one. I never book ahead though, because I want to keep my schedule flexible.

    One of my favorite things about this place is the breakfast buffet.
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    At the extreme left are hot drinks - tea, coffee, hot chocolate and milk. It is common in Colombia to use hot milk in your coffee. Next is a toaster and 4 kinds of bread. The chocolate bread is outstanding but disappears fast. Mango jam. Next is the hot food, which is resupplied often. That is usually eggs, cooked a different way every day. The big glass jar is fresh juice - also different every day. Looks like Mora (like blackberry) in the photo. Watermelon was one of my favorites. Next is two types of cereal (one is granola). And at the end are cold milk and yogurt. The two big bowls in front are fruit - also changes every day.
    I particularly liked the pitaya (dragon fruit). Watermelon, papaya, kiwi, strawberry, cumquats and pineapple were also offered. It was always perfectly ripe.
    You get all you can eat for 8000 pesos - less than $3.

    I would always get small portions on the first round, and go back for seconds on what I liked best. One day there were hot mini-empanadas instead of eggs:
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    And another day it was hard boiled eggs
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  18. BSUCardinalfan

    BSUCardinalfan Been here awhile Supporter

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    my wife is from mexicali. Her parents have bars on the windows, block wall around the house, the whole deal. yet we go visit all the time. some people just don't understand.

    sorry to get off topic - love this report! I love colombia and the people there and this is inspiring me to spend some free time next time i go and explore!
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  19. z1rider

    z1rider Adventurer

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    Champs

    Oh how I regret not checking your ride report a few days ago. Paul and i were in MincaTh, Fr and left Saturday. The old iPad I use didn’t get along with the Hostel internet for some reason so I went dark for a few days. We are headed north but today will make a short run to Barichara. Will check back when we get there. We’re only about an hour away
  20. knight

    knight Long timer

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    I was a little apprehensive when riding between elevations of 1980 - 2600 ft ASL