A Month on a Bike in Colombia - 2019

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

  1. pro69ss

    pro69ss Been here awhile

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    In !
    I need some dental work next year too ! I don’t like the dentist. My wife wants a trip somewhere down there and this might be the ticket. Thanks for the trip report! Please keep it coming.
    #21
  2. Champe

    Champe Been here awhile

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    I hate dentists too. Have been to several in my area the last 10 years. The latest is the least bad. But he wanted to pull two implants I had done in Costa Rica 5 years ago. I wanted a second opinion. Juan, the crown specialist, examined them closely, and could not find a problem with one of them so it was saved. Dentists can be like lawyers - sticking together - so I really think he is on my side. They (the Colombian dentists) do not think much of American work. They pointed out several failings during the consultation that they have fixed. One was the use of metal crowns with ceramic coating. They crack. Zirconia is diamond hard, does not crack and is easier to color match. A lot of American patients go there for the service. They don't care so much about saving money.

    With a wife you would want a private room. The hostels have them for cheap... but I take the dorm rooms. Those are never full, and sometimes I am by myself. But if your wife is used to the finer things, a good hotel is very reasonable too. I would pick one near the dental office so you dont have to deal with the bus system though. Public transportation is very crowded in Bogota - and a prefered place for pickpockets to operate. I had no problem but I am very aware.

    I would suggest you do some of your own research - don't take my word for it. But I will be more than glad to help you to have a great experience there also.
    #22
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  3. Quindio

    Quindio Adventurer Supporter

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    In Canada I hate going to the dentist, in Colombia I have had a total different experience I don't mind at all going to see the dentist.

    here is a link to Dentix they are in most every city in Colombia.
    https://www.dentix.com/es-co/
    #23
  4. Champe

    Champe Been here awhile

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    Phone service.

    Most US phones will not work in Colombia. They use a different frequency than what is common in the rest of the world. An exception is the Iphone 5S (and probably some newer iPhones). Those can work on both frequencies. I had a spare iphone 5S that I brought along (bought on eBay for $100) and had the sim card changed.

    I did it wrong but it worked out fine. When I brought it to a phone dealer ( they are all over) he told me it needed charging first. I waited there about 10 minutes but that was not enough. So I said I would go for a walk and be back in an hour. It had enough charge when I got back. The guy did the swap and put an hour's time on my account. I did not understand the price but handed him a $20,000 peso note ($7). He said something about five, so I reached for more money. He said - no, wait here - and went around the corner. When he came back he handed me 15,000 pesos. So the cost was 5000 pesos - about $1.50.

    I told this story back at the hostel and they said I screwed up. The whole guts of my phone would have been removed and replaced with a worn out battery and other cheap components. I don't think so. The phone has been great, and was in a case when I handed it over. I saw him remove the case and swap the cards. There is way more suspicion of wrongdoing there than what actually occurs.

    Some of the things a local phone is good for are navigation and for a personal hotspot. I used mine to find hostels in big cities. Also, I wrote home every day. Sometimes there was no wifi, and the phone provides that. A couple of times I was out exploring and would pull up a map on the iPad. The hotspot feature would find my location on the map.

    For local (and international) communication Whatsapp is very popular in Colombia. I use that now to talk to my Colombian friends.
    #24
  5. SpiritAtBay

    SpiritAtBay Been here awhile

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    enjoying your travels. thanks for taking us along
    #25
  6. Throttlemeister

    Throttlemeister Long timer Super Supporter

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    Viva Colombia! One of my very favorite places to ride down South, moto heaven.

    You need to get to Medellin, the City of Eternal Spring. There is good reason why Pablo made it his home. Wonderful city, and the Piasa only make it better:)

    Can’t wait to get back once again.
    #26
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  7. Scribe

    Scribe £Bob£

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    In my natural state
    Almost makes dental work sound pleasant, and I hate dental work.
    #27
  8. Champe

    Champe Been here awhile

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    Almost done with Bogota. Heading North soon. But here are a few more Bogota scenes.

    Museo de Oro - gold museum. coca leaves. These are for sale in plastic bags by street vendors. Legal, or at least tolerated. I did not know what they looked like - came in handy later at Palomino beach.
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    Another exhibit at the Museo de Oro. I will let you figure out what it is.
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    And a live native Indian at the Museo de Oro

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    Here is a native Indian street vendor. He was playing Andean flute music that I really liked. And selling CDs. He told me he has been all over the world doing this. I first heard this type of music at a hostel in Jamaica. It was played really loud on a powerful system outdoors every morning. Very gentle and soothing. But I could never find any CDs for sale in the states. I bought some here.
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    This is the entrance to the parking garage near the hostel where my bike is now. This picture was taken on my third day in Bogota and I was still nervous. Normally I do not stand around and show my camera. But here I did. A semi-scruffy dude walked by in front of me and slowed down. Then he approached me. I got ready to defend myself. The guy started talking Spanish and I could not understand a word. Finally, he pulled some paper out of his pocket and showed it to me. It was an address - he was just asking directions !
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    This is inside the parking garage where the bikes are kept. $20 per month. You have to ask about the monthly rate because their sign only has the minute rate. If you use the minute rate you will pay $20 for the first 15 hours. I had to bring a Spanish speaker with me to get the lowdown. He was a roommate at the hostel. Name is Juan - lot's of Juans there. He is the owner of a Hostel in Sagamoso - about 4 hours to the North. It is actually a farm, and I plan to visit there.
    DSCN4351.JPG
    #28
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  9. Champe

    Champe Been here awhile

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    How to get around Bogota without a bike ? Transmilenio. Those are buses with special exclusive lanes. Often two or three wagons hooked together. They run every few minutes, there are tons of them, and they are usually very crowded. You buy a card that activates a turnstile - 2000 pesos a ride - go as far as you want, and change routes as often as you like. There are no maps available to buy at the stations and none posted. This one was on the wall at the hostel so I took a picture. My base was at the Heroes stop on the green line, to the left of the middle.
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    Here is what they look like
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    The hostel guys tried to scare me about the delay with getting my bike. Waiting 5 days seemed weird to me too. But this was no fly-by-night, hole-in-the -wall dealership. This is a photo. Multi-Story modern building.
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    My bike on display behind glass on the second floor. The sales manager has one just like it, only he has the crash bars and hand guards. Last time I saw it he had a broken clutch lever, just like me, too. Here's a shock for you KTM fans - a new stock clutch lever for the Duke is $14. It is 5 times that for a 690 clutch lever.
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    Some street art in Bogota - on my way walking to the dealership. I was a technician at a Porsche dealership in Boston in my younger days. I still like them. In most of Colombia you see artwork like this - not so much of the crap graffiti we have here.
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    Attached Files:

    #29
  10. Champe

    Champe Been here awhile

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    What else is good in the way of bikes in Colombia ?

    How about a Bajaj Pulsar ? Made in India in the same factory with KTMs. And use a very similar motor. I have seen reviews that like the Pulsar better, and it is much cheaper and more comfortable. Not as hard core performance wise though. Much more popular in Colombia.
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    Or the Honda - I think this is a 190. I really like the Repsol graphics. And the orange reminds me of KTM. I ride trials these days and it also reminds me of the factory competiton Montesa.
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    The hostel people thought I would come home with a Harley. They said the women go wild for them. There was a Harley dealership along the walk to the KTM dealer so I did look at them. I still have two Buells here at home. In 2001 I raced a Buell S1 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and was second for the championship in Heavyweight Sportsman. But here is a Harley copy I think is kind of cool. Says "Oily Rag" on the tank.
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    Here, but for the grace of god, go I.
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    I guess this is common in California and New York. But unknown in New Hampshire. I lived in Fargo, North Dakota for a couple of years too. They have a bumper sticker there : 40 below keeps the riff-raff out.
    #30
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  11. terryna

    terryna Adventurer

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    Awesome trip,thanks for sharing[​IMG]
    #31
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  12. knight

    knight Long timer

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    I had many soldiers give me the thumbs up
    After I had left the country I discovered that a thumbs up from a Colombian soldier ,is a signal that the road ahead is safe

    Passing slow trucks in the mountains is easy , catching up to them to make the pass can be more challenging

    #32
  13. TropicalDale

    TropicalDale The Adventures of Peter Pan

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    :lurk
    #33
  14. Champe

    Champe Been here awhile

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    Zipaquira - possibly the most popular tourist destination close to Bogota, was my first road trip on the new bike. It has the famous salt church, which was made from the converted salt mine. The tour involves a long tunnel with rooms on each side. Each room has a large carved stone cross and each one is dedicated to a special religious theme. The tour leader speaks Spanish. I stayed with the tour for the first five or so rooms but got bored. Going ahead I saw there were about ten more rooms - all looked similar to me. A religious person would probably be more interested, and understanding Spanish would have helped too. At the end of the tunnel are three big congregation halls. They are impressive. Off to the side of them are mining exhibits. I liked those best. Here is a cart full of salt.
    DSCN4379.JPG
    You can see the wall here - it is not solid salt. There is a lot of solid rock. Way too much work for just salt.

    The area is also famous for emerald mining. The stones are quite big - many larger than a thumb. Here are some rough emeralds in a glass case.
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    I was wearing my touring suit while in the salt church, which was a mistake. It is very heavy and I was sweating bad. So naturally I left sooner than I might have otherwise. Outside I took off the jacket right away and laid it out to dry. In the parking lot I talked to a BMW rider who was leaving also. Here he is leaving the bike parking area, going down a little ramp. That bike was a bit much, and he had trouble making the turn at the bottom to get out the gate. So I took his ticket (I was still on foot) and opened the gate for him with it.
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    While in Zipaquira, I stopped at the central square, to get my bearings. This is the statue in the square.
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    Maybe the best part of this little trip was the ride afterward. I went around the edge of town where the poor houses are up on the hill. Going up through them there the road was incredibly steep and I did not feel like turning around on it. So I went to the end. At the top, there was a real road that led back through the mountains. Perfect. That was some good stuff, with decent pavement, no traffic, and lots of switchbacks. Good views too. When I had enough I came back down the same way. This time there was another bike with me and we did the downhill dance together, kind of fast. Good thing he was with me since he knew the area. There were a few (not many) spots with gravel on the road, and I was still feeling out a new bike.
    #34
  15. Champe

    Champe Been here awhile

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    Great video thanks !

    When I go through a cluster like that I don't want to pull over afterward. I don't want to have to do it all again. Sometimes you have to though because you need gas, or food or turn off your go pro.

    One of the best spots to pass is where there are topes (speed bumps), also known as "sleeping policemen". Trucks have to practically stop to avoid jostling their load. Also, I have not mentioned passing on the right. Totally ok - just gotta make sure there is actually a shoulder there.
    #35
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  16. Champe

    Champe Been here awhile

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    Three more pictures of Bogota - then we're leaving for the coast.

    Candelaria is the name of the neighborhood where the tourists go. It is well South of my hostel so I needed to take the bus to get there. Montesratte - the church on the hill with the cable car - and most of the museums are there. It has the most hostels as well. Tourists are known to have money and are often naive and careless. So if you were a thief, where would you go ? This situation is known in the tourism industry and is described in Lonely Planet. So I was happy to spend most of my time outside of this zone, but I did want to see it. I had no issues, but when asking a cop for directions in the bus station, he told me to reverse my backpack and carry it in front. When on a crowded bus, I actually usually tuck it under my arm. But you do see a lot of people carrying backpacks on their chest - that's why.

    The one trip I made to the area was to see the gold museum. Afterwards I walked all over the place checking out various street vendors and street acts. This guy approached me with his llama. No, I don't want to ride it.
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    People in Bogota are very health conscious. I would estimate that one in five are wearing braces on their teeth. Cost plays a part in that - they are only about $1000 there. Another thing you see is that a lot of people are wearing surgical masks on the street. They think the air is bad. Wait til they see Denver. And quite commonly you see an office of people outside on the lawn doing group exercises.
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    I am a dog person. Raised / bred rottweilers for 30 years. Competed in AKC obedience trials and have a wall full of ribbons. Colombians love their dogs too. On one of the main streets near the hostel, there were some guys showing off what their dogs could do - I was impressed. I didn't have my camera then but I went back later. This is one of the dogs. He is off leash and not straying at all - paying attention to his master and not me. Good boy.
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    #36
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  17. Champe

    Champe Been here awhile

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    From Bogota, we are heading for Barranquilla, on the Caribbean coast. I met a woman in Massachusetts, who lives in Barranquilla, and offered me her daughter as a tour guide. We have a mutual family friend but I do not know her well. The daughter I have never met but hear she speaks good English and has guided another friend of mine.

    The ride is long, and the first half is all mountains. I expect it to take two to three days. I can't beat the bike too hard because it is still in the break in period. Also, I am a little concerned about fuel. The sales manager told me to map out fuel stops. Also, I am only supposed to burn "extra" grade, because anything else will foul the injector. I only found out later that this grade is sold mainly in cities. On the average, only one in five stations has it.

    I pick the most direct route from a paper map. It runs right past Zipaquira, where I have been before. Also, the main highway North (Autopiste Norte) is right near the hostel. I pick out an intermediate destination in Bucaramanga, the only big town between me and the coast, about a third of the way. I also write down the address of the best hostel there from Hostel World. Leaving very early, I wear most of my gear because it's cold. My suit is a Klim Adventure - top of the line.

    There was already stop and go traffic on the Autopiste, but in about half an hour I am clear of it and get up to highway speed. At that point I started getting cold, fingers getting numb. I pull over to close all the vents, put on a heavy shirt and put on the suit collar. A truck driver wants to talk with me so I lose a little time there.

    Another half hour down the road it starts getting windy with elevation changes up and down. The game with passing rows of cars with a truck out front begins. All is going well for another hour or two until I go past the town of Tunja, and then I think I may have missed a turn. Also, I need gas. I pull in to the next gas station to get my bearings and get gas. No "extra" there . I confirm that I have missed a turn and get directions to a station with extra. Now I have to backtrack. Got the gas. And found a shortcut over a small pass to get back on my route.

    This pass was super nice. No traffic for a change. Decent pavement. Farmy countryside, with some good views. I had to take a leak and stopped to take these pictures :

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    I did not know what these plants were but my sister says they look like potatoes .
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    Unfortunately my Nikon camera battery died here. I have a backup Sony, and I used that the rest of the day. Unfortunately I have not been able to retrieve those pictures yet.
    #37
  18. Champe

    Champe Been here awhile

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    Continuing North, the next big feature is Chicamocha Canyon, just South of Bucaramanga. It is the Colombian version of the Grand Canyon - the second longest canyon in the world. You run along the edge of that for several hours. I did have photos , but they may be lost. We shall see. Near the end of the canyon, I got my first test for the rain gear. This was bound to happen since this is the rainy season - and it rains a while every afternoon. Only an hour or so, usually, though, so I stopped for coffee and carried on again when it slowed down.

    Bucaramanga was the acid test for my iphone navigation system. I had a Garmin GPS with me but no Colombia map for it. I was hoping to load an open source map but I could never figure out how. Even now I can't do it. So the iphone used google maps and told me the directions to the hostel through ear buds in my helmet. Worked fine.

    The hostel was pretty good - arriving around dark. The bike was invited to stay in the lobby. I was beat and thought I would stay an extra day. Next morning I felt better but it was raining so I was definitely thinking of staying.

    I was looking around in the morning, very early, and saw someone make a nice fried egg breakfast. I asked him if he would make me one and how much would it cost. He said it was included with the room and mine was on the table. Wow !
    Great ! That really hit the spot.

    The rain stopped around 10 AM and I was feeling good. So I packed up and made my departure. Getting out of town was not so easy. I relied on seat of the pants navigation and got lucky. Stopped once to ask for directions to Barranquilla when I was on a road that looked good. I could not understand most of the guys answer to my question but he did say "lejos" a few times, which means "far" so I figured this road was it.

    Bucaramanga is on a high plain in the mountains, much like Bogota, so leaving was mostly downhill switchbacks. And as you descend, it gets warmer. I was told it would be very hot by the time I got to the coast. But it was very comfortable at this point.
    #38
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  19. Champe

    Champe Been here awhile

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    Leaving Bucaramanga, you descend to the valley to the west of the Andes and the road gets straight. Some parts are 4 lanes. Passing is easy. The road is relatively smooth, but 100 km /hr feels a lot like 100 mph on a US road. I went as fast as I felt comfortable, which was between 100 and 140 km/hr. Through towns the road always narrows to 2 lanes and you are down to 50 -60 Km/hr. Those km/hr still feel like mph.

    I made much better mileage on the straight roads but still ran short on daylight about 200 km from the coast. It also started to rain. Darkness and rain while tired in Colombia on a motorcycle is bad. So I started looking for a hotel. I took the next one I could find and it was the opposite of deluxe. At least I was allowed to bring the bike into the room. And the bed was firm and clean. The A/C worked . And it was cheap at 40,000 pesos - $13.

    My complaints about the room were 1. no hot water 2. no handle on the shower spigot 3. no toilet seat

    Photos of the room:
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    #39
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  20. Champe

    Champe Been here awhile

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    At the cheap hotel, I was hungry so I went for a 1 km walk into "town". I asked for food at a few roadside stands but all they had was a local cheese. One guy offered me a chunk on the end of a knife. It was white, mild, and pretty good. But I wanted a meal. I found a little place that had roast chicken and asked for my usual - comida tipica. I got a half roast chicken with the usual fixings. The drink was a coke, which is typical there. I noticed that when a truck driver got the same thing. I switched my drink to a bottled apple "nectar", which was very good.

    Next morning I was out of there early. A couple of hours down the road I was going through banana country and I noticed a crop duster airplane flying nearby. I was getting close to my destination and it was early, so I stopped to check it out.
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    The crop duster had landed so I knew the airport was close. I found it and there were several planes like this there, but there was a lock on the gate. I am a private pilot and could have probably gotten someone to show me around but I know they have work to do and probably don't want to be bothered.
    #40
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