Xplore2Gether - California to Ushuaia

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by JimsBeemer, Mar 6, 2019.

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  1. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

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    From Salento, we headed to Medellin on Rt. 25. Unfortunately, this section of road is one of the many in Colombia that are currently in construction. I would really like to come back in ~ 3 years and ride some of these roads again, after the construction is over! There are going to be a lot of nice, new roads about then. But for now, the country is making a huge investment in infrastructure and that makes driving sometimes a nightmare. What should have been 4 hours of riding turned into about 6, due to the many stops with flagmen along the way. And it was hot - and stopping in full gear in 90+F temps is no bueno.

    We finally pulled into the "Hotel Mirador de Pipinta" just after sunset (violating our 'never drive after dark' rule) and were so happy to be off the bikes. As usual "the couple from the United States on motorcycles" were a topic of interest, and the owner, Ivan, was very keen to talk with us. He had a friend, Andrés, who was staying there who is a professor in Manizales, Colombia and spoke English well enough. Andrés gave us an alternate route for our next day's journey into Medellin that avoided much of Highway 25. I had seen the route on the map, but it was a small road up into the mountains, and I had no way to know if it was a one-lane dirt track or a paved road. With the assurance of a local to give me confidence, we took this route the next day, and it was just wonderful. No trucks, few busses, and best of all, no construction! Andrés also invited us to visit him in Manizales on our way to Cali once we were done with Medellin.
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    We saw the "Pare"a lot on this route. Level of construction we experienced on this section of 25 was similar to what we saw on our route to Cartagena
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    Typically we would come upon a line of stopped traffic, and if we could, we'd filter up to the front with the other motorcycles and scooters. Then at least you get to get out ahead of the trucks. Here we are "hangin' " with the other motos, waiting for "Pare" to turn to "Siga"
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    At the Mirador de Pipinta with Andrés, left, and Ivan & Pilar, the owners, at right.
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    The next morning Andrés showed us the observation deck at the hotel. It is a beautiful location, and we ended up staying there a second time, and I have more photos I'll post later. We highly recommend it. GOPR7165.JPG
    One of the little villages that Andrés route took us through on our way to Medellin from Pipinta.

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    We stopped at this stand along the way, and bought some "Guarapo", a drink made with fresh squeezed sugar cane and limes, served ice cold. It was hot out, and it was delicious. In the background you can see the young man with a machette processing the sugar cane for the press.
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    The view along Andrés route - no "Pare"- just "Wow!".
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  2. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

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    Our primary goal "in Medellin was to complete another week of Spanish language training - to follow up on our two weeks in Guadalajara, Mexico. We studied at the "Toucan Spanish Language School." This school was very interesting compared to Guadalajara; it was much more "polished" and "business-like". Not in a negative way, but Guadalajara was smaller, with a more "laid back" atmosphere. Toucan was at least three times larger in terms of number of students, and their facilities were more "polished" - the classrooms had double-pane windows and projectors, for example. And they run a cafe that is on the corner, next to the school, and they have a dance school (Salsa borders on religion in parts of Colombia!). All this catering to primarily 20 to 30-something back-packers, of which there were many in this part of the city. Carol and I had separate classes - I took a group class (6 students) that met 9:00AM -1:00 PM, and Carol took private tutoring (with the same teacher I had in the AM) from 2:00 - 4:00 PM. That meant that despite spending a week in Medellin, we really didn't get out that much!

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    Intrance to the AirBnB we stayed at for the week. It was easy walking distance to the school and lots of restaurants and shops. This part of Medellin (El Poblado neighborhood) is very much a tourist-oriented neighborhood. DSC00037.JPG
    One evidence of the interantional tourism focus was the number of brew-pubs! Medellin Beer Factory and BBC (Bogota Beer Company - national chain) were both near us and had reasonably good IPA and Pale Ale's on tap :-)
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    Carol in front of Toucan Language School She is standing in front o the cafee and the actual school/classrooms are to the left. They own a contiguous chain of buildings that take up about 2/3 of the block.
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    The mural on the wall of the cafe. This is a thing in the big cities of Colombia - we saw this in Bogota, Medellin and Cali. They have "graffiti tours" that you can do. But much of it is not, in my mind, in the category of graffiti. We saw graffiti as well, just like back home - spray-painted, crude block letters with some initials or slogan. But these "graffiti" murals are different - I would call it street art or something.
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    "Graffiti" on a large scale! This was on a building we walked by every day on our way to class.

    DSC00088.JPG Another example of graffiti.
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  3. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

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    We did do a bit of exploring; based on a recommendation of one of my classmates, we went to the "Museo Casa de la Memoria" (House of Memories), which is dedicated to remembering the country's, and more specifically, Medellin's violent past before the peace agreement; very similar in mission to the Holocaust Museum, with the intent that future generations should know and remember, so as not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

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    Entrance to the Museo Casa de la Memoria
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    I was very impressed with the museum - in this display they have an array of monitors that present videos of people, who due to the size of the monitors, appear more or less "life size". The people talk about their own personal stories of what life was like during the years of violence, mostly focused on the 1980/90 time frame, when the Medellin Cartel and Pablo Escobar were in power. The great thing about this display was that they had English subtitles. Many of the displays had English translations, and unlike other museums we have been to, the translations were impressively good - you could not tell from the gramer that they were translations.

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    At this interactive display, you could slide a time line from the 1800's to the present, and as you do, various events are highlighted, with hyperlinks to newspaper articles and other documents, and in the modern era, to radio and TV broadcasts related to the events. Very well done. However - it is all in Spanish. Was a good language exercise for us! Personally I got maybe 30%, but it was enough to get the gist of it.

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    This was haunting - you go into this totally dark room, and there are these little lights like stars, and an array of monitors, that cycle through pictures of people who were murdered, kidnapped or forcibly "relocated" during the violence. No sound - just face after face with a date and their fate.
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  4. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

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    Having posted those - I wanted to offer a quick comment on my impression (shared by Carol) on the state of Colombia, relative to the Colombia of the past. Obviously the country has made a huge turn around. As I thought about it, the fact that we visited Medellin is a singular testimony to that fact. If, 20 years ago, you had told me I would happily spend a week in Medellin, along with throngs of other tourists, it would have been inconceivable. At that time, I knew Medellin as "the murder capital of the world". The peace process has already transformed the country in a relatively short time - the process began around 2012 and the formal peace agreement between the government and FARC was only signed in 2016. But already, young adults we talk to - people in their 20's, more or less have come of age under peace and see the future very positively. Older people we have talked with are, in a word, hopeful. In fact I think that word describes the overall tone in Colombia better than any other; hopeful. It is palpable. In general people are happy to talk about it - it is worth talking to them about if you know enough Spanish or if you find someone who speaks some English. Interestingly, we learned that the process itself used Ireland as a model, with the United Nations overseeing the process. It is still a process and there are FARC splinter groups who did not agree with the process. Just yesterday we saw on the news that a group these dissenters had setup a roadblock in some rural location, and blown up a car. But this is the exception, not an everyday occurrence. When we stayed with Andrés, the professor from Monazales I mentioned earlier, he told us "Just the fact that there are two gringos (us) visiting and walking around in my city is amazing - people see that and they know how much has changed".
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  5. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

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    We also went to the Plaza Botero and the Antioquia Museum of Art. The museum focuses on the works of the Colombian artist Fernando Botero, whose unique art style has generated a self-identifying adjective, "Boterismo" (or simply, "fat", more or less!). And the plaza is filled with his statues.

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    The Palico de la Cultura at Plaza Botero.
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    There were a lot of people!
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    Carol - in the palza, checking out the sights. DSC00124.JPG
    These are the sights! These are the works of Fernando Botero. "Fat" was his style. "Boterismo" is the correct name for his style. DSC00128.JPG
    Some of his statues are "clothed"

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    But most, not! This was one of my personal favorites. DSC00135.JPG
    Large city plaza on a weekend - just like any other large city; performers, hawkers of all kinds. I used my zoom lens to get this shot so I didn't have to pay :-0
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    Inside the Antioquia Museum of Art, where many of Fernando Botero are displayed. His style carries over into his paintings.
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    One of his more famous paintings, titled simplyl "Pablo Escobar, dead".
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    Selfie to prove we where there!
  6. jowul

    jowul Been here awhile

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    FYI, the Tour de France cycling race has one "pro-forma" stage left and Egan Bernal, from Zipaquirá is the virtual winner of the Tour. 3 Colombian riders finished in the top 10. You are probably witnessing the emotions of this historic event for the country while touring Colombia.
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  7. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

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    And he did win! Read about it yesterday - quite an athlete. Seems that with young Bernal, Colombia will be in the cycling limelight for years to come. Unfortunately, we crossed into Ecuador before the last stage, so we missed the revelry that I'm sure ensued!
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  8. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

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    Our plan from Medellin was to turn south for the border (Ecuador), but with a couple of diversions. We were so close, we had to take a short diversion west to Guatape to climb "the rock" (El Peñon de Guatape), where we stayed at the hostel "Oak Tree House" at the recommendation of Fran and Yvonne, the couple on the Ural that we met on the Stahlratte. Having checked that box (worth it!), we heading south, but decided we would detour slightly to go through Manizales and take up the offer to stay a couple of nights with Andrés, the Colombian professor we met earlier. Diverting to Manizales had two advantages; we were once again able to get advice from a local (Andés) for an alternate route to Manizales that took us places "off the beaten track", and the hotel "Mirador del Pipintá" that we stayed at on our way to Medellin (where in fact we met André) was a perfect half-way stop on the way from Guatape to Manizales, and it is just a lovely place, worth a second stop.

    From Manizales we continued to Cali without diversion, taking two days, where I had arranged in advance to have service (including new tires - sticking with the TKC70's, really pleased with them) at Motoservicio Asturias, which was a recommendation from inmate 95Monster who came through last year (having takled South America, he is now somewhere in Alaska or Canada - his ride report is a great read, recommended!).

    The map below shows our route from Medellin to Cali
    Medellin to Cali Map.jpg
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  9. jowul

    jowul Been here awhile

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    So you made it to Cali, the Salsa capital of the world :rilla
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  10. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

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    El Peñon de Guatape! The views of the reservoir and surrounding mountains are just incredible. There are about 675 steps to get to the lower platform, and another 50 or so to the upper level. Quite a hike, but doable even for two old people like Carol and I :-) And well worth it - we were glad we made the decision to make the diversion to see this. We rode there from Medellin on a Sunday (July 14, 2019) and the roads were really crowded with people getting out of the city to the countryside for the weekend. And there were a lot of bicycles - reminded me of rides we would take in the coastal hills out of the San Francisco Bay area on any good weekend - more bicycles than cars! But it was a lovely ride, despite having to navigate a detour due to a road closure.

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    "The Rock" Picture was taken for us by a Colombian couple also on motorcycles.
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    It was crowded - but not to "overcapacity" Parking was tricky - they have these motorcycle parking "corrals" where these little 125CC bikes just pile in four or more deep - I saw someone literally picking up their bike and walking with it to get it out of the jam. Obviously we couldn't do that and finding a place where we could park and be at the outside of the "skrum" (Rugby reference - look it up, fits) was difficult. Then - once we parked we were bombarded by people wanting to see our bikes and ask about them and our trip. We had to leave our riding gear and boots "loose" on the bikes while we hiked, so that made me nervous - but read on.

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    Here are our bikes (zoom photo) in the parking lot. The effect of the covers is amazing - something I discovered many years ago. Before the covers go on - our bikes stand out like a sore thumb, and attract a lot of attention - unwelcome attention if we are not right there with the bikes to deal with it. But once the covers go on, it is like they are invisible. No one bothers them. With the covers on our bikes, we have never had a problem leaving our bikes for a few hours while we do something "touristy", not on this trip or many others. Anecdote: Back in Honduras, we connected with Greg (inmate ThirtyOne), agreeing to meet up in a little village outside of Tegucigalpa. We arrived first, parked and put the covers on our bike, and then when he arrived (having parked right next to us) he asked "where are your bikes"? When I showed him that he had parked right next to them, he replied "those covers are like invisibility cloaks!" and that is what I now call them. Best bit of security I have come across for deterring casual theft.

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    Carol climbing the steps - they have every 50th step numbered so you can track your progress to the top.

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    You obviously have to stop and rest on the way up - but all along you are afforded with incredible views. The lake houses and resorts looked incredible - would have enjoyed spending a week on the lake in one of these. Next time.

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    When you get to the top it is sort of "party time!". Lots of places to rest, check out the view, and buy food and drinks, with (as typical) loud music playing.

    DSC00204.JPG View from the top looking over the parking lot - our bikes are down there in the midst of the other motorcycles.

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    View from the top.

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    I got a zoom shot of this party boat on the lake. Look carefully at the bow, 2nd level, and you will see a hot tub!

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    Beer with Mango was the "thing" at the summit. Beer in a salt-rimmed glass with slices of "unripe" mango. The (to me) unripe mango is actually the way most Colombian's prefer it. It is sort of apple-like in consistency, and the way they eat it (if not in beer!) is to squeeze lime on it. As was explained to us by someone, the "ripe" mango preferred by westeners is to "messy". We found similar in Central America.
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  11. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

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    On the way to Montizales, we stayed again at the Hotel Mirador del Pipinta. In said in an earlier post I would show more pictures of the place ... Great place to stop along the way out-of or into Medellin, if it fits your schedule. Inexpensive, but the bed was of the "hard as a rock" variety, which seems to be the norm for non-western hotels since Guatemala. But the facilities, location and views are fantastic. Here are some photos - I didn't get any of the pool (which we used) and many other facilities, but you can see their website (link in name, above).
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    Carol conversing with someone at the front of the hotel - we were able to park very close to our room, which is always appreciated.

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    Restaurant area. Both times we stayed we were the only people there, but they still fixed dinner for us.

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    This was the view out of our balcony window.
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    The hammock room - I loved this place. It is right on the edge of the "cliff" looking over the river gorge. I spent hours here reading and napping.

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    The somewhat rickety stairway down to the observation platform, from which you get incredible views up and down the steep valley/gorge that the river runs through.
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    View in the morning when the mist is on the mountains.
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    There are a lot of interesting birds about the place, including the ubiquitous black vultures. They are ugly - but not as ugly as the vultures we have in the states, I think.
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  12. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

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    Our host Andrés suggested a route into Manizales that wound through the mountains and through the village of Filadelfia. This avoided the nightmare of hwy 25 (nightmare due to construction) and was a lovely ride.
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    Typical view along our ride - the small white flecks on the hillside are cows. DSC00406.JPG
    Carol patiently waiting for me to take pictures! The road was not always this good - there were sections in pretty poor condition, with lots of potholes and some sections of dirt. But with no to little traffic, it was quite manageable.
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    More views headed into Filadelfia.
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    Our bikes parked at the village square in Filadelfia.
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    In Filadelfia, at town square. These guys were just standing there talking for a long time, solving the worlds problems no doubt. DSC00436.JPG
    Filadelfia town square. DSC00447.JPG
    Again - patiently waiting for me to take pictures :-) At Filadelfia town square. DSC00462.JPG
    This is at the restaurant where we ate lunch along the town square, and this dog was adorable. He was testing the boundaries, inching into the restaurant until the owner would run him out. Then he'd come back, tail between his legs, and inch his way towards some invisible "though shall not pass" border, to see how far in he could get.

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    Leaving Filadelfia headed into Manizales - coffee trees growing on a steep hill, with banana trees mixed in. Very common to see this mixture. The hill is a lot steeper than it looks in this photos - we were constantly amazed at how steep of a hill we would find coffee growing especially considering that it is all tended and harvested by hand.
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  13. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

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    Ok - here is a thing that happened in Filadelfia that seems to happen to us ALL the time in these small pueblos - since Mexico! They are hardly ever on flat ground - so most of the streets are steep, and if you have to stop at an intersection typically the road will be off-camber, meaning it is steep and tilted to one side or the other. And the roads are typically cobblestone in dubious condition, which makes low speed maneuvering difficult as your front wheel is pushed this way and that. And many of the roads are one way - and by the way, Google and Open Street Maps don't always know that fact, so you have to take their routing suggestions with a grain of salt!

    As we tried to leave Filadelfia, as happens so often , the route we were to take was closed, this time for construction. There always (!) seems to be some detour; some road blocked either for market day, or a festival or religious procession, or simply construction. But the result is that the simple route you were intending to take isn't happening. Now you are on your own - and you start asking people, you look at your map on your phone or GPS, and try to figure out how you are going to get to the other side of town. This always involves riding on "lesser" streets, often including VERY steep ones with stops at intersections where the ground is not only steep but tilted to the left or right, so if you put the wrong foot down .....

    It has happened so often we just now assume it will be so. And Carol is getting so good at managing this - but it is difficult to have to make last minute turns (due to "Oh wait - that is a one way road, we have to go this way!") and to stop on off-camber intersections, when you are riding 600lbs of bike+gear and your feet just barely touch the ground (flat foot). She is amazing.

    A bit of a digression - but it is part of our trip!
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  14. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

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    We enjoyed our time with Adnrés in Manizales very much. His apartment is on a hill, and his living room has huge windows that look out over the mountains, including a view of Volcán El Ruiz. We had long conversations with him about the history, politics, geology and anthropology of Manizales, Colombian, and South American in general. Carol and I toured a park called "Recinto Del Pensamiento" (Place of Thought) where we saw hummingbirds, fascinating bonsai done with indigenous trees, and lots of orchids. We also did a round trip on one of the most interesting mass-transit systems I've ever seen - a system of gondolas! Manizales is on very steep terrain, and to get from one side of the city to the other can be very difficult due to traffic and steep hills. So they built a gondola (funicular) system that takes you from the valley on one side of town to the hillside on the other - all the way across the extended city, with several stops in between. It is a legitimate, highly utilized, transit system, not a tourist attraction (despite our using it as such), though it does offer some great views. You have to buy a transit card to use it - and as an example of how helpful people are in general, when we explained to our taxi driver what we intended to do, he went in with us to the transit office and helped us buy the card.

    This same idea of cable-powered transport has been used here in Manizales and in other parts of Colombia (e..g., Medellin) as a way of transporting goods from remote mountain villages to the city - in this case that concept was adopted for urban transportation.

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    View from Andrés window, looking away from the Volcán.
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    View looking towards the Volcán El Ruiz. Credit to Andrés for getting up at sunrise to get this picture!
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    Carol and I with Andrés DSC00533.JPG
    The first night we were there, Andrés took us for a ride along the "spine" of the mountain range that Montezales sits on. He explained that this road was the old "mule road"; in older days, the cities and villages were connected by roads that would be used to cary goods by mule, and these usually went along the crest or spine of the mountains. Along our way, we came across a religious procession that was underway. These kids were riding in the back of the pickup tha twas carrying the statue of Mary, and the little girl in particular was interested in this gringo and made eye contact with me as we passed.
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    In the park, "Recinto Del Pensamiento" they have a wonderful collectio of bonzai, made with indegineous trees. Imagine a Ceiba bonsai! This one is not Ceiba, but it was positioned against the mountains in the background such that it can be imagined to be a full-sized tree, not a 12" bonsai. DSC00686.JPG
    The park has a butterfly aboretum. These translucent ones were called angel butterflies or something similar.
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    Orchids at the Recinto Del Pensamiento DSC00713.JPG
    At the Recinto Del Pensamiento, there is this wonderful building made of bamboo. Andrés explained that it was made for a World's Fair exhibition in Germany, and that German building codes could not accommodate such a structure, so they had to build one first in Colombia to show that it was doable and was structurally sound, then they build a copy in Germany for the fair. When the fair was over, Germany burned the building because they didn't know how to deal with such a structure - that was the story we were told anyway. In any case, it is a marvelous structure.
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    This is the funicular transporation system that spans Manizales - taking you in minutes from one side of the larger municipality to the other, much more quickly than you could by car or other ground-based transportation.

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    The main Cathedral in Manizales has this statute outside, which is of ... Simon Bolivar of course. But here he is in the guise of an Andean Condor. He is everywhere - nearly every town has a "Simon Bolivar Square" with a statue, and always a street named after him. Now we are in Ecuador, and it is the same here. We are trying to read more about his history - a singularly pivotal person in the contemporary history of South America.
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  15. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

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    We left Manizales and headed for Cali, taking two days. Our main reason for stopping in Cali was to get our bikes serviced. Both bikes got new Continental TKC70's, new air filters and oil changes, and I had the final drive fluid changed on my R1200GSA. Jorge and his wife Sori took good care of us, and turned the bikes around in a day. Many overland travelers stop in Cali to get their bikes serviced by them.

    Side note on the Continental TKC70's - just wow. I've never been so impressed with a tire. I had 10,000 miles on my set, Carol slightly less, and they were ready to be replaced, but not dangerously so. That is much better, by at least 1,000 miles, than what I typically get from the various Michelin's I've used for years. I am a convert. And the tread has worked very well in the dirt and ok in the mud - I managed to get through the streets of Turbo without going down, and that was with at least 9,000 miles on the tread.

    Side note on Cali: Not much to see here. There are day rides out of town (which we did not do), but the town itself did not inspire us. Was an ok place to re-fuel. Did find some good Texas-style BBQ though!


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    This is the place!

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    Next day - all done and ready to roll. I failed to mention earlier that they also washed the bikes, which finally removed the bits of Turbo we'd been carrying around with us since we landed there off the Stahlratte! I forgot what a clean bike looks like :-)

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    Carol and I with owner Jorge. 20190722_100040.jpg
    Pretty unrelated but it was in Cali - and allows me to say that I love my (overpriced!) Touratech tank bag. And the shoulder straps, which I thought originally were sort of a gimmick, are so useful. This is me in the hotel elevator going down to the garage.
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  16. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

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    716
    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    We left Cali headed for Popayán. Popayán has an inner city that is very colonial in look and feel, and also has the distinction of being "The White City"; in the inner, old town, all the buildings and side-walks are white-washed. We learned that this was in part due to a battle with a a parasitic flea that embeds itself in the skin (usually feet), causing nasty sores (google it if you have a strong stomach!). The fleas would live in the cracks of the stones lining the side walks - but painting them removed the nooks and crannies the fleas lived in. But the "white" thing became a thing, and pretty soon, the city was "white" just because that was their thing. We took a walking tour of the city that was in English and free, provided by a non profit organization that is working to promote tourism in the regions of Colombia previously impacted by the conflict, before the peace agreement. Much to see here , and we wished we had spent one less day in Cali and one more in Popayán.

    On a bike related note - Just as we got to Cali, I discovered that I had lost the plugs and rubber cement for flat repair from my tool kit, somewhere along the way (long story but I know how). I thought this should be easy to replace, there are a lot of tire shops and auto parts stores in these towns. So one afternoon in Popayán Carol and I decided to get replacements. Wow - not so easy, and pushed our Spanish to the limit. None of the auto parts stores had them, and even the tire shops did not. We were told numerous times to "go to such and such store" and then that store would tell us to go to the store that had sent us to them! We finally found them in a hardware store - last place I would have looked! So ok - we are now allowed to have tire punctures - I'm ready!
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    We stayed in this hotel in theh inner, "white"city (Hotel Dann Monastario) that was a former monastery.
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    Group young people in the town square - was never sure if it was a school or sports team or ?
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    The main church (at town square).
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    This little boy was having fun chasing pigeons in the town square. DSC00969.JPG
    The white city. All those white walls are a target for graffiti. DSC00970.JPG
    Our tour guide on the free walking tour. He is one of the founders of the non-profit that runs the tours. DSC00977.JPG
    Our guide explained that Popayan has always been a political center - a number of Colombian presidents came from there. During some student protests a few years ago (regarding funding for public education), Popyan, which is somewhat of a college town, was a center of the protests.
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    This bridge (the Humilladero Bridge) is one of the tourist attractions - and when it was built, it was the first time an arch construction had been used in this part (maybe all of?) Colombia. The locals didn't believe it could work, and would sit on these steps to wait for it to fall as it was being constructed. On the day the scaffolding was removed, the key architect and engineer sat under it and ate lunch while the boards were removed, and then had teams of oxen with loads run over the bridge, all the while the people watched waiting for it to fall down. The Romans figured this out a long time ago - and the bridge still stands, having survived earthquakes that leveled other parts of the city.

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    We met this family from the Netherlands on our walking tour, and when we went out for a beer we found them at the same pub. We had an interesting evening trying to answer questions about USA politics, like how a president can be elected without winning the popular vote, etc. Really enjoyed the evening, great family.
    morfic likes this.
  17. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2014
    Oddometer:
    716
    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    From Popayán we headed to the border city of Ipiales. We took three days, with one night in Parador Turistico Patia (resort hotel/campground in the country - very nice stop-over) and another in Pasto (not much to see here). From Pasto to Ipiales was a short ride - and normally border towns do not have much in the way of attraction, other than they are at the border. But just outside of Ipiales is one of the official "Seven Wonders of Colombia", the Las Lejas Sanctuary and Basilica Church. This church looks, to me, like something out of "Lord of the Rings". A Gothic style building built out over a gorge with a river running under it! It is quite impressive. We stayed at a hotel just walking distance from the church, which was only minutes from the border.
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    The grounds at the Parador Turistico Patia were very nice. This was right outside our room - and I loved how this Ceiba tree is growing up through the Mimosa. There were some horses that grazed around under these trees as well - very peacefull. But if we had been closer to the pool it would not have been as peaceful, due to the loud music playing until late at night. Thisis a latin thing - it is cultural. Blaring loud, distorted (those poor speakers!) music in a communal setting is just the norm.

    DSC01091.JPG Inisde of the church at Las Lejas Sanctuary.

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    Front view. DSC01132.JPG
    Side view after a walk down a nice paved walkway. DSC01136.JPG
    The "we were there" photo.

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    At night they shine colored lights on the church. It is cool - but it also sort of is reminiscent of Disney Land (think of the "It's a Small Wolrd" castle at night. Personally, I think simple white light illumination would be more fitting. But it was cool!

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    morfic and roadcapDen like this.
  18. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2014
    Oddometer:
    716
    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    Ecuador! We crossed over on July 27, 2019, on my 61st birthday. Nice birthday present! Fellow travelers Chris and Sharon has crossed over a couple of weeks earlier, and they forewarned us about the impact of Venezuelan refugees. We had read the same in other trip reports. Chris and Sharon reported that it took them several hours to get through Ecuadoran immigration, due to the large number of Venezuelans, and suggested we get there early.

    Early for us was about 9:30, and we crossed the Colombian side quickly, getting our passport stamp and canceling out our temporary import permit for the bikes. We rode into Ecuador and got to the immigration office, and found that there were not many Venezuelans at that time, thankfully. There have been so many that Ecuador has setup a separate line for the Venezuelans, but today that line was no more full than the "everyone else" line. We got our passports stamped, and then went to customs to get the import permits for the bikes - and this took some time. But all in all it was a 2.5hr border crossing, with a lot less chaos and confusion compared to what we experienced in Central America, so not bad.

    Tip for Ecuador customs: Take pictures of the back (with license plate readable) and both sides of your bike, and a close up of the VIN. They don't come out and inspect your bike - they take pictures of your pictures on your phone, using their camera! We had to go back out and take pictures, which cost some time. We got 90 days on our import permits and visas.

    From the border we made our way to Tulcan to visit the famous Tulcan Cemetery and it's marvelously manicured shrubberies. After spending an hour or so there, we got back on the road and made it into Ibarra for our first night, my birthday night!, in Ecuador.

    The ride from the border (Tulcan) to Ibarra was just stunning. The road was the nicest we have seen in ages - good pavement, well designed sweeping curves and actual shoulders. But what was stunning was the scenery. I told Carol over the intercom; "My 'wow' meter is pegged out at 10, saturated, I've run out of superlatives". Just wow.

    I am really excited to be in this phase of our trip - it was dreams of the Andes and Patagonia that planted the seed for this journey two decades ago.

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    Colombian immigration and customs were a breeze - only glitch was the woman in customs thought we were entering, not leaving, and so she left us to take care of some truckers because she thought it was going to take a long time to deal with us. I thought I made it clear!? When she finally got back to us, and realized we were leaving, she said "simplicio!" and checked the exit stamp from immigration in our passports, made some notations of her own,and took our import permits, and we were done. Oh - and we had great parking, right next to a policía who was monitoring traffic, in a "no parking" zone! I asked him "Donde estaciono?" ("where do I park?") and he looked at us, looked around the area, and pointed to the no parking zone. I said "esta bien?" and he nodded yes.

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    On the Ecuador side, we left our bikes parked here for the entire process. A local used two fingres to point at his eyes and then the bikes (the universal "I'm watching" sign) and I thought to myself, "how do I feel about this? I don't know him!" But he was truly helpful and the bikes were fine.
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    Goodbye Colombia, it's been good to know ya!
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    Due to the swarm of Venezuelan refugees crossing the border, Ecuador has created separate lines to process them. From what I've read, we were lucky - there were not many refugees there at the time we crossed, so wait times were measured in 10's of minutes, not hours.
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    Venezuelan refugees - they setup this tent for them to camp out under as they wait to be processed. Again - was a slow day from what we've read.
    You see them on the roadsides in Colombia and Ecuador, walking along with backpacks and bags. It is a tragedy.

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    Hello Ecuador! Looking forward to getting to know you!
    GOPR7421.JPG Very shortly after riding away from the border, the scenery turned to this - and it continued. Just jaw dropping beautiful, and wonderful roads with good tarmac, sweeping constant radius turns - why I ride.
    roadcapDen, morfic and twowings like this.
  19. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2014
    Oddometer:
    716
    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    The hour or so stop over at the Tulcan cemetery, only 10 or 15 minutes past the border, was a worthwhile stop. Very interesting cemetery! It is renowned for the sculptured shrubbery. It was interesting that the vast majority of the "graves" are not in ground - they have these structures with coffin-shaped recesses, and that is where they "bury" people. The sad thing was to see the short recesses for coffins of children - and how many there were.
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    There was a burial happening while we were there - was interesting to watch. We were at a respectful distance - I used the zoom lens for this photo. There as a guitarist playing, sitting on the upper level of the burial structure, and a woman singing from somewhere - we could not see. They brought the casket up to the opening and slid it in. They then plaster over the opening, and most of the "graves" had elaborate displays in front, with a glass door to protect the display from the elements.

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    Example of the display, this one in front of a child's casket. DSC01221.JPG
    Another display - this one a double burial, husband and wife. There were some coffin spaces deep enough for two.

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  20. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2014
    Oddometer:
    716
    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    We spent our first night in Ecuador just outside of Ibarra, at a hotel Carol found, called "El Balcon de las Reyes" that sits high up on a hill overlooking the Laguna de Yahuarcocha. She wanted a nice, quite and scenic hotel for my birthday - but was disappointed that there was loud music coming from the town at the lakes edge from some sort of festival or such! But it quieted down eventually, and the view overlooking the the lake was lovely. Given it was my birthday, I rode into town and found a mercado and bought a bottle of wine, brought it back to the hotel where the owner cooked us dinner (which Carol was fairly certain was a favor, not something she - owner - does not normally does.). After dinner we finished the bottle of wine sitting on the patio overlooking the lake. A great first day and night in our new country. Liking what I see so far!
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    This was on the road, on the way to Ibarra - no idea what or why, but one of my sons is into a band called "Mastadon", so I had to stop and take the picture!

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    The views were dangerous - hard to keep your eyes on the road!


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    Coming into Ibarra - the Volcán Imbabura overshadows the city.
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    Ibarra under the volcán

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    View from our hotel, from the patio where we finished the bottle of wine. Great views. There was some serious partying going on in the village below, and the music carried right up to where we were sitting.
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    Another view from the hotel.