Three Weeks in Colombia

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Sideoff, Mar 3, 2009.

  1. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Oddometer:
    789
    Location:
    Hood River, OR
    Hi ya’ll.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
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    I just got back from a three week moto trip in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:place w:st="on"><st1:country-region w:st="on">Colombia</st1:country-region></st1:place>. I had my blackberry and I emailed my girlfriend every day. Those emails are a thorough journal of the trip so instead of rewriting everything I’ll lift the text of those emails and post it here. Minus the sexy parts of course J And with certain details omitted. But with all the typos included.<o:p></o:p>
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    A big thumbs up for Mike at Motolumbia bike rentals in <st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Cali</st1:place></st1:City>. That is where I got the bike, a 1000cc Aprilia Capanord Rally Raid. Totally kick ass bike! Fast, fun, and way more dualsport capable than I thought just looking at pics. It tore up the dirt roads and river crossings no problem and was a blast on the paved curvy mtn roads too. I met Mike in the <st1:place w:st="on">Latin America</st1:place> forum of advrider a few months ago and he totally hooked me up. GREAT guy! He’s got a KLR for rent too. <o:p></o:p>
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    If you’re going down there, even if you don’t need a bike, definitely go find Mike on ADVrider, <st1:place w:st="on">Latin America</st1:place> forum. He can give you the scoop on <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Colombia</st1:place></st1:country-region>, where’s cool, what’s safe, what’s not. He’s done moto trips all over including 8-months from <st1:country-region w:st="on">Chile</st1:country-region> to the <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">US</st1:place></st1:country-region> and other adv trips in Africa & Europe, so he knows the deal. Prices are reasonable and he’s a solid guy. I have no business affiliation with Mike: this is just a straight up-endorsement from one SERIOUSLY happy customer!<o:p></o:p>
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    Before this trip I always associated <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:country-region w:st="on">Colombia</st1:country-region></st1:place> with cocaine, kidnapping, and guerillas. The reality there is SO incredibly different. All you guys who have ridden down there know what I’m talking about. The country is beautiful, the scenery stunning, the people friendly, the women drop-dead gorgeous, the roads curvy, fun, and safe, and the <st1:place w:st="on">Caribbean</st1:place> is full of warm, sunny beaches. Moto-tripping heaven. After maybe 10-12 different trips to Africa, Central America, and Asia, <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Colombia</st1:place></st1:country-region> felt like one of the safest, friendliest places I’ve been to yet. Highly recommend it! <o:p></o:p>
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    The one special precaution I took in <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Colombia</st1:place></st1:country-region> was to inquire locally about security before heading off the main roads. Sometimes I’d inquire several times throughout the day as well. Esp on dirt roads up in the mtns and/or off-the-beaten track areas near the coast. Twice I changed plans based on local advice. Both times were dirt roads and small towns that don’t get much traffic. All the big roads and cities are totally secure. There are military checkpoints everywhere and the cops are totally nice and honest, no bribing, and they love to chat, ask about the bike, and have their photos taken. I think they only actually asked for my documents once!<o:p></o:p>
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    So with that intro, here’s the emails and pics… might take a week or so get them posted. These were all written as emails to my (lovely!) girlfriend Michelle, who's nice enough to let me post the edited versions for my moto-addict buddies. J She's on her own adventure surfing and studying Spanish in the <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Dominican Republic</st1:place></st1:country-region>.<o:p></o:p>
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    Pete

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    #1
  2. Stiner

    Stiner Son of Dakardad

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Oddometer:
    52
    Location:
    Baltimore, MD
    looking froward to it! bring it on!
    #2
  3. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Oddometer:
    789
    Location:
    Hood River, OR
    2/8 from <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Bogota</st1:place></st1:City><?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
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    Hi baby... I am indeed ok! On my blackberry. It is beautiful here. I am on top of a big hill, waiting in line for a cable car down. Went out last night in <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">bogota</st1:City></st1:place> with some americans I shared a taxi with. The town is very cosmopolitan: I need to get some nicer clothes!!! Feels very safe here. It is sunday so a lot of the streets are closed in the city and everyone is out walking around, riding bikes, street performers, food stalls. So cool! I've been walking all day. Now going shopping! I need a towel... Totally forgot to bring one. How's the dominican today?<o:p></o:p>
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    2/8 from <st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Bogota</st1:place></st1:City><o:p></o:p>
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    Ok, so apparently my blackberry only works on top of the highest mountain in <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">bogota</st1:City></st1:place> J Hopefully it will work in other areas too. The hostel I am staying at has wireless but it’s in this central lounge, which kind of sucks because there’s like 10 other people in here, and having a conversation would be tough. I will try my room in a few minutes but I am not optimistic. Worst case we could always connect on video on skype and then IM each other instead of talking. Or maybe this lounge will clear out in a bit. I’ll look for a better spot. <o:p></o:p>
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    Today was fun. I walked all over <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">bogota</st1:City></st1:place>. Really beautiful city. Then I went to the posh part of town and went shopping. Bought a cool leather jacket for like $120 US. I have zero need for it down here but I liked it and it was cheap. Also got some nicer shirts for going out at night and a cool hoodie. <o:p></o:p>
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    I feel very comfortable here. NOBODY hassles you at all. I walked for miles today and I did not get harassed by people selling shit once. Well, one guy tried to sell me some emeralds but that was it. And he went away the second time I told him to. No beggars. Nada. There are very few foreigners here, even at the big tourist spots, and the ones I have seen are most from Europe or <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Australia</st1:place></st1:country-region>. The hostel is all tourists though, just not Americans. It feels very safe. There’s military people all over and basically everyone is just friendly. If it weren’t for being 2 feet taller than everyone else, I don’t think I would stand out here at all.<o:p></o:p>
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    Tomorrow I am headed to <st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Cali</st1:place></st1:City> to get the bike. Stoked for that! I don’t have a ticket yet, but I was thinking I’d just go to the airport first thing and figure it out from there.<o:p></o:p>
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    Oh yeah, it’s not hot here AT ALL. The temperature is freaking perfect. Jeans and a t-shirt and a light hoodie in the morning/night. Very comfortable. I think that <st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Cali</st1:place></st1:City> will be very hot, and also the rest of the trip after that. We’re pretty high up here in <st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Bogota</st1:place></st1:City>. Lots of mtns. <o:p></o:p>
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    Miss ya!<o:p></o:p>
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    Pete

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    #3
  4. kaiserkyhl

    kaiserkyhl The journey is the reward!

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2007
    Oddometer:
    479
    Location:
    Colombia, South America
    Wow thanks a lot Pete for the kind words!

    Glad you had a blast and I'm looking forward to reading the full report.

    Keep em coming!
    #4
  5. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Oddometer:
    789
    Location:
    Hood River, OR
    It was a great trip! Being back at work kinda' sucks. Turns out the world economy did not improve while I was gone :) But I figure if i post some ride reports here maybe I can continue living in denial for another week or so.
    #5
  6. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Oddometer:
    789
    Location:
    Hood River, OR
    2/10 from <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Cali</st1:place></st1:City>
    <st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on"></st1:place></st1:City><?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
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    Hi there. On my blackberry. Sitting in a cafe having lunch. Almost ready to leave. Test rode the bike, got it all packed etc. Today I am headed to <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">popayan</st1:City></st1:place>, only about 3hrs south. Good mellow first day. Supposed to be a mtn road. Then to san agustin, where there are some cool statues from a long time ago. I guess the area has been off limits for a while, and just reopened a fw yrs ago.

    Def a little nervous! Pre-departure jitters :). New country, new bike, unfamiliar!!

    It might be a few days before I can skype again. This is the last big town I'll be in for a while. Hopefully I'll find internet on the way, but I do think the BB will work in most towns since everyone here has cell phones.

    Hope you're having a blast! Hope the surf improves!!

    Pete

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    #6
  7. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Oddometer:
    789
    Location:
    Hood River, OR
    2/10 from Popayan.

    I had a fun night last night at a nightclub in Cali. And shit can they ever dance here!!


    Then this morning was a total sweaty clusterfuck just trying to get out of town. But when I finally hit the hills on the way to popoyan the temperature cooled, roads opened up, and scenery was beautiful. Now I am in popayan chilling with a beer. Popayan is all old colonial architecture.

    I am definitely attracting a lot of attention on the bike! Maybe the only Aprilia Capanord in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:place w:st="on"><st1:country-region w:st="on">Colombia</st1:country-region></st1:place>? And huge by local standards. Everyone asks about it and when I roll through town, people point and stare. I kind of dig it but it's very different from my other trips where I was on a local bike and nobody noticed me.

    Tomorrow, off to san augustin. This is supposed to be a pretty rough mtn road. 8 hrs of riding. Hopefully good weather!

    I may have wireless at the hotel. I saw a signal on my BB. R u going to be around later?

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    I am not eating much... lots of beer tho! The food here is def good tho. Lots of meat.

    Pete<o:p></o:p>

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    2/10 from Popayan<o:p></o:p>
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    I'm across the st having pizza at this totally chill little restaurant where I am the lone customer and this little old colombian lady is making the pizza. Making it truly hilarious, Nelly "Hot in Here" is playing in the background! The lady was SO stoked when I came in.

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    #7
  8. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Oddometer:
    789
    Location:
    Hood River, OR
    2/11 from San Augustin<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
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    I made it to my destination in san augustin after a really fun day of riding. Got up at 6am. Dirt roads most of the way except some pavement at the start. Great fun. Beautiful views. Waterfalls. Mountains, mud, rocks, cool! Total jungle-ish stuff. At one point I came through a major downpour and got completely soaked. Mountains and fog blowing around them, deep river gorges. Lots of little villages on the way... People were like "what the fuck!" when I rode thru on the big bike covered in stickers. If I stopped they all had a million questions about the bike. They do love their motorcycles here! Great day exploring.<o:p></o:p>
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    Now I am in this beautiful little hotel for like $16 and chilling out for a bit. Not much to do right now. Town is tiny and its still early, but I am going to go see the statues in the park tomorrow, so I'll probably spend two nights here and then bee-line to <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:place w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">bogota</st1:City></st1:place>. Or maybe lv tomorrow. We'll see. Right now I'm headed into town to get some whiskey.
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    Hope your surf and classes went well today! Surf improving?<o:p></o:p>
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    Pete

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    #8
  9. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Oddometer:
    789
    Location:
    Hood River, OR
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    It is so freaking cool here! I've been out on the deck drinking whiskey with one of the construction workers... This place is rad! Totally new, and hardly any other guests so far as I can tell. Covered deck. Its raining out now, with thunder.
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    Had so much fun today I am re thinking the trip. Maybe more time in the mountains, jungle, dirt and less time at the carribean coast. The only problem here is that I can't just go charging off wherever due to the safety issues. But there are soldiers everywhere, and I've been asking them for advice. From what I can tell this area is pretty much tranquillo.<o:p></o:p>
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    Pete

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    #9
  10. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Oddometer:
    789
    Location:
    Hood River, OR
    2/12 from San Augustin

    Last night after accidentally polishing off half a bottle of whiskey while reading on the balcony of the hotel i wandered into town late night for some food and ended up spending a few hours helping these cute two little colombian girls study for their english test at school the next day. Everybody in the restaurant was helping out, even though they spoke zero english :)
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    Had a small mechanical issue with the bike clutch, now fixed thanks to the local bike mechanic named chici.<o:p></o:p>

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    Then this morning I checked out some cool statues from some long gone civilization. Apparently they only found them because the farmers would cut down the jungle trees for farming and they found these big crazy looking statues and tombs. The jungle is so thick outside of the farms here I don't know how you'd find anything at all! But the statues were pretty rad. Now the farmers don't tell the govt about what they find anymore because its such a pain in the ass once the govt is involved. So there's probably hundreds more things like that out there that they're not telling about.<o:p></o:p>
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    #10
  11. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Oddometer:
    789
    Location:
    Hood River, OR
    This afternoon I went on what was suppsed to be a 9km jaunt but instead turned into a multi-hour dirt trek into the mtns to find what is apparently the second largest waterfall in s. <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:place w:st="on"><st1:country-region w:st="on">america</st1:country-region></st1:place>. One of the guys in town told me about it. When I finally found it I had to wonder if the guy had ever been there himself: it was most certainly not 9k! Maybe he meant 90k!! My spanish is not so good... Anyway, very fun riding. Rivers, mud, views, gorges, and little mtn towns with super friendly people. I was totally lost the entire time... Tons of wrong turns and I had to stop at every intersection and find someone or wait to ask where to go. Just these little dirt roads snaking through the trees for miles. Everone was super nice. Waterfall was big and when I got there I was literally the only person, there was a building there like for toursists or whatever but all the windows were broken out etc. I don't think this spot gets a whole lot of visitors.

    Kept my gps on and was able to trace breadcrumbs back home just before dark. Even with the gps though I still somehow got lost and came home a totally different (but much faster?) way by just taking whatever turn pointed toward my original waypoint.

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  12. calrider

    calrider I'm Lost Too!!

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2007
    Oddometer:
    699
    Location:
    Calgary, Canada
    Love the report, Sideoff. Good to see more reports appearing about the amazing, beautiful and friendly country of Colombia!
    Can't wait to see more.
    #12
  13. WrenchRider

    WrenchRider Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2009
    Oddometer:
    44
    Location:
    In the garage
    :thumb Great pics , Looks like a great ride.
    #13
  14. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2002
    Oddometer:
    66,982
    Thanks for giving us a tour of beautiful Colombia!! :thumb

    :lurk
    #14
  15. DrSmooth

    DrSmooth I am third

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2008
    Oddometer:
    556
    Location:
    Hellinois
    Thanks for the great report! What a beautiful country.


    Waiting for more...



    Terry
    #15
  16. HBN

    HBN lostwithmike.com

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2008
    Oddometer:
    12,066
    Location:
    Seat of my Ruckus
    Looks like you had a blast! Good thing that railing didn't give out - looks like a long way down:eek1
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    #16
  17. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Oddometer:
    789
    Location:
    Hood River, OR
    Thanks for the comments guys.

    By the way, if anyone is wondering why I'm wearing that bright orange vest in all the riding shots it is because that's the law: everyone on a moto has to wear a riding vest with their license plate number on the back. Also a sticker on their helmet with the license plate number. Several people told me this started back when Medellin was struggling with it's notoriously high murder rate and Pablo Escobar was still huge with the Medellin Cartel and all that. Most of the shootings were done by people on motorcycles. Because they could zip through traffic really fast and get away from police and not be tracked. So they put in that rule about the vests with the license info.

    Everyone in the center of the country and in the big central cities, like Medellin, Bogota, Cali, and Neiva wears one. Up around cartagena/santa marta etc on the coast it was way more relaxed. I stopped wearing it on the coast if I was just going out for a cruise and nobody hassled me.

    Will post more emails/pics today. Traveling alone I always seem to take photos of everything.

    Pete
    #17
  18. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Oddometer:
    789
    Location:
    Hood River, OR
    2/13 from <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Neiva</st1:place></st1:City><?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
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    Hi there!<o:p></o:p>
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    Just pulled into my destination for the day: a town called <st1:City w:st="on">neiva</st1:City> that is about 4-5 hours south of <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">bogota</st1:City></st1:place>. This town doesn't have any coverage in my guidebook so I just b-lined for the biggest hotel downtown which, alas, is muy expensivo and definitely not worth it but there was now way I was going to wander around in the heat and all my moto gear looking for a hotel. Plus this place has totally secure parking for the bike.<o:p></o:p>
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    So today was interesting. I was going to go to this town call tierradentro where there are more statues and tombs. But I was going to come at it from another direction than I think most people do: on dirt roads from the east. I had asked about safety in san augustin and they all said no problem. Guidebook said that their had been on-off guerrilla activity in the area so inquire locally. The locals were all thumbs up so my inclination was to go.

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    However, when I got near the turnoff I saw a group of soldiers walking down the middle of the road. Maybe 100 of them. All young guys, fully armed, GPSes, packs etc on their backs and they were funneling off onto a trail off the road. So I stopped to ask about security. We had communication difficulties obviously, but with lots of smiles and hand signals it was clear they did not recommend that I head up that way. They were all super friendly but the message of calle peligroso was clear. Even though this was different from what I heard before I am not about to second guess a bunch of soldiers. So I turned around and scrapped the tierradentro idea.

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    I'm bummed to leave all those great dirt roads and cool temps in the mtns, but oh well. I'm glad I stopped to ask again! That was the area I was saying the other day that made me a bit nervous. After tomorrow though I'll be back on the main roads so less to worry about. Very glad I took this different route down south though. Totally worth it! The last few days in san augustin were really wonderful. Even if I left today this trip eould be a success! <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
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    So anyway now I am in this relatively sizeable city that was totally not on my radar until now, which is kind of interesting. And it's friday night. There are some nightclubs near the hotel that I might go check out later. Then there's a spot about 40k e of here called the dessierto de tatacoa that I want to see tomorrow. Also not an often-visited spot. Its supposed to be geologically weird. But I need to go crazy early in the morn, otherwise it's too hot.
    <o:p></o:p>
    Then probably back to <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">bogota</st1:City></st1:place> for sat night, and begin the long trek across to the carribean.
    <o:p></o:p>
    Hope you got some good surf today! Missing you as always!

    Pete<o:p></o:p>
    #18
  19. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Oddometer:
    789
    Location:
    Hood River, OR
    2/14 from <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Neiva</st1:place></st1:City><?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    I've had a weird vibe ever since I checked into this hotel. The lobby is really nice but the place is ludicrously overpriced for this town and this quality at $60/night. It does have a stunning swimming pool tho. And there is a thumping and apparently popular nightclub in the basement. Oh, and within a 2 block radius of here are like 5 casinos and 2 strip joints.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    So I just went for a swim. Which was rad. But I didn't want to walk through the lobby in my surf trunks and get stinkeyed by the surly desk guy plus the club patrons. So instead I was going to sneak down the dark indoor fire escape in the back. When I got to the first floor tho, where the pool/lobby is, the door had been plastered over but the stairs continued down. I checked it out, and the back stairwell leads directly into the main room of the nightclub. That seems a little weird? I guess so you can sneak back to your room with your new girlfriend.<o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    Anyway, I'm headed down to the nightclub for a drink late-night to check it out.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]<o:p></o:p>
    #19
  20. Sideoff

    Sideoff Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Oddometer:
    789
    Location:
    Hood River, OR
    Ha ha... this email cracks me up!

    2/14 from <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Neiva</st1:place></st1:City>, 3am<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
    <o:p> </o:p>
    I am at a nightclub called manhattan in <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">neiva</st1:City></st1:place>... partying with a couple of guys and their girls whose names I can't remember... and who won’t let me take photos of them (shady!)… But the upstairs bartender (girl) knows whoi I am... Gringo alto... Just in case anything bad happens... Yo estoy boracho! Hope your night was good!<o:p></o:p>
    #20