We had planned an easy day so we started late with only a short distance to go. We got an email from Lisa (a fellow bike rider from the Stahlratte) with a suggestion of where to stay so we let her know that we’ll try to meet her there. A couple of kilometers before Popayan we met Hua and Suma on the road. After they heard that we planned to meet Lisa, they decided to follow us. We arrived on the hotel, met Lisa and went out for dinner together. We went to an Italian restaurant that had a dinner special that we couldn’t resist. During the dinner we had lots of fun.
After dinner we went back to a bar where live music was playing and Lisa organised a round of shots for us. This was the first time that I tried Aguadiente, a typical Colombian liquor that tasts like aniseed.
We had another relaxed start today, since the hot springs where only 28km from here. So we said good bye to Hua, Suma and Lisa. They would all continue to Ecuador today.
After they left we had a short look through the town, starting with the church.
When we came out of the church, we heard a loud bang and saw huge palm leaves fall down just in front of us. It would’ve really hurt if it had hit one of us. I should have a look at the oracle: What are the odds of getting killed by a palm leaf? 😉
After running some errands in town we left the hostel and continued to Coconuco, the tiny town close to the hot springs. We found a hotel there, but the price was too high. So we continued to the hot spring which is open 24 hours and has some cabanas to rent. When we arrived, we booked one of the cabanas, which was really cute and in walking distance to the hot springs. Only drawback, no WiFi, that ment no trip planning today, which was not that bad really 😛
I decided to have a look why my horns stopped working – they are as important here as they were in India.
It didn’t take long to fix the problem and then we went for a dip into the hot spring. There are actually 2 different temperatures, bathtub temperature and very hot. Oh, and then there are the showers. Just for contrast, they’re freezing cold (heart attack material).
We went for the hottest pool, and it was great relaxation. The drawback was we couldn’t stay long, so after ten minutes we escaped to the freezing cold shower. Since it was so hard work, we had a snooze, went for dinner and had another go at the hot spring; this time is was already dark.
No sure if we leave tomorrow, we will see how well we sleep here.
In the morning we got woken up by some loud music from the restaurant opposite our accommodation. It was Friday and apparently all the locals are coming today, so it would be rather loud and crowded, so we decided to leave. Since it was around 6AM, we decided to have a swim, another snooze, breakfast and then leave. Check out the picture of the pool in the morning, I like the steam coming out of it.
The ride was nice and the road once more turned into a mountain road. At one place we found a restaurant with the name ‘Berlin’. The restaurant was still closed, so we couldn’t find out if the owner was from Berlin or not.
The landscape was just amazing, particular with the clouds coming over the Andes.
We had no firm plan were to stop, only that we were looking for something comfy to stay for one or two days. After looking at some hotels along the way we ended up in Pasto in a great, modern, clean hotel.
City: La Vega, Columbia
Kilometres ridden: 370
Cumulative kilometre: 31613
We got up earlier so we could avoid the rush hour, so we were on the road by 8AM… Hey, that’s really early for us! 😛
All worked fine and the first 80km were great, it was cloudy but no rain and the road was a two lane highway. It changed to a one lane highway and at this time we decided to get our rain gear on, since it looked cloudy and the road was sort of wet. After a while we left the mountain ranges and came into the flats where we started to sweat. We stopped around lunch time, by coincidence at an African/Jurassic Theme park. There was a dinosaurs skeleton hanging from the ceiling, some warriors were watching our bikes and all the chairs had spears as backrests.
After the break we nearly continued until sunset. When we pulled up at one hotel we saw the bikes of Del and Tonja (another rider couple that we met on the Stahlratte), what a coincidence!
At night we had a couple of beers together and chatted about our trip so far. Later Andrea skyped us and told us that a friend of hers just moved to Cali, so we decided to go to Cali after the salt cathedral and meet up with her.
We had a nice breakfast with Dell and Tonja and then we took a couple of pictures from the hotel staff with our bikes before we said good bye to Dell and Tonja.
We went back through the mountain area, so the progress was slow. Below is a picture looking down to the road that we came from.
After a small detour through some dirt road (Garmin thought it would be faster) we arrived at the cathedral. The cathedral is an art project build in an old salt mine.
We thought it would be only one Cathedral and expected to stay there only for half an hour or so. While standing in the line-up we were almost turning around. But , again in the end we really enjoyed it. It took us more than three hours to get out againJ. First of all it was more than just one cathedral. The artist produced thirteen exhibits, representing the suffering of Jesus. On top of it there are multiple church halls, one large cathedral and a light and sound show, plenty to see. Firstly below are some pictures from the exhibits representing the stations of Christ’s Passion
And then we arrived at the actual Cathedral… it was huge! The name salt cathedral is only for tourists since it has no bishop and therefore no official status as a cathedral in Catholicism. The picture on the left is the view from a balcony to the front of the cathedral. The right picture was taken from the front of the Cathedral, the balcony can be seen on the top middle.
And there were two other smaller church halls as well.
On our way to the sound and light show we found a couple of other interesting exhibits, a water pool that acted as a mirror.
Large stone carvings, Sigird is pointing to an owl and on the right picture there is a spider.
And then there was a coffee shop and pop corn stand 😀
The sound and light show was setup in a huge tunnel with lots of multicolour LEDs on the ceiling, which showed animations synchronised to the music, nice touch.
After the show we went back to our bikes. Since it took us much longer than expected, we got caught in the middle of Bogota when it started to get dark. So we had a look for some hotels, but could only find something from 150US$ onwards. After a while we found a hotel that was in our price range and looked good as well. Tomorrow we will be heading towards Cali to meet with Mel, Andreas friend who just arrived in Colombia.
We started around 8:30, saying good bye to Lisa, who was the last of the Stahlratte bunch in the hotel with us.
With all the old trucks on the road, it made travelling very slow but interesting. The scenery is just fantastic.
We had a short lunch break on the side of the road, just in front of a bus stop. It was interesting to see the local youngsters on motorcycles rush to the bus and try to get passengers from the bus to hop on their motorcycle for a lift home. The guy in the yellow shirt just got a young female passenger, he had a huge grin on his face when he passed us 😀.
There were also two boys hanging around and looking at our bikes and asking for money. We gave them two balloons instead which seem to entertain them for a while.
At the next petrol station we tried to get rid of the salt on the bike from the sea crossing, it work partially, but there is more work to do. Just before dark we found good accommodation on the side of the road, with pool and breakfast. The rain forest started just behind the hotel.
Today we got up early and had breakfast. From our breakfast table we could see the highway, and we saw Lisa passing by. We checked the internet for accommodation in Medellin, which delayed our start. So we started as usual around 9:30AM. The road followed a river and then started to go into the mountains. There were plenty of trucks, some of them were really slow on the way up, while others were reasonable quick. We overtook them mostly at a tope (speed bump in a villages) or at the peaje (a pay station for toll roads) where Motorcycles can pass there without paying . We just had to drive along a small lane at the right hand side is .
The first time we got into the normal lane and when we got to the front the lady in the toll both tried to explain that we should use the right hand lane… Well with our Spanish, that didn’t work too well. In the end, a security guard with a big shotgun kindly showed us the way.
We climbed up the mountains up to 2500m, and by then we were riding through clouds. Just 60km before Medellin we had a break and got a great meal. We were laughing a lot as we tried to figure out what meals were available, but in the end we figured it out.
It was worth all the effort! I had ‘Schweinebauch and scrambled eggs’, it was fantastic.
When we were sitting there, we saw some guys on pushbikes hanging of trucks to get uphill. The trucks were not moving slowly, I’d guess around 60km/h on the straight parts of the road, so it was hard to capture one.
Eventually we arrived in Medellin, the last 20km were on a 3 lane highway which made for easy riding, but it got really warm again. We couldn’t find the hostel that we had earmarked for the night and in the process of finding it we stumbled across a hotel that had a good price, was close to public transport and easy secure parking – so we stayed. At night we went up to the roof to have a look at the surroundings. Here are some pictures of the train station and the mountains surrounding Medellin.
When we planned the visit to Medellin, we realised that the best way to travel is the train system. Part of the train system is the metro cable which came highly recommended in all travel advice.
We just had to suss out how to get there using the train. We found it easily using the internet (not sure how people travelled before the internet) and the price was also great. For 1US$/person you can use the train until you reach the destination, regardless how often you have to change trains. The train stations and the trains were exceptional clean, the tiles are polished, no rubbish, no graffiti. For me it was the cleanest area that I ‘ve seen in central or south America so far.
Having said that, there were at least six police men at each station… Might be related?
After a short time we arrived at the base of the metro cable. The metro cable was built to give people in poor community’s access to the public transport.
During the ride we saw houses built into a steep mountain
And among all these houses there were three strange building with a bridge leading to them. It turned out to be a bibliotheca (Bibloteca Espana).
When we arrived at the end station, we realised that there was another cable metro going even further (the building on the right), so we thought we give it a try. This time we had to pay to get to get in. But, as we found out, it was worth it.
We expected to get to the top of the mountain and to find a coffee shop or something like that. Houses got few and fewer until we reached the edge of the mountain.
From now on the cable stretched over the top of the rain forest and went on for miles.
In the end we arrived at a nature reserve, the Arvi Park. We could have easily spent a day or two here. They offered free pushbikes hire, guided tours around the reserve, a bus to an adventure reserve with white water rafting, rock climbing, absailing….. and another bus to another nature reserve. Well, we only planned one day here, so we took a couple of pictures before we made our way back.
Here some more pictures of our way down
And we could see the library from the top now, in the middle the three black buildings.
And there was that humongous Satelite dish, not sure if NASA put it here 🙂
On our way down we meet two nice Columbians, Bernado and Alejandra. Bernando was from Medellin and Alejandra from Bogota, both were very proud to be Colombian and told us a lot about both cities, well as far as our Spanish got. I took a picture of both and Sigrid took a picture of me at that very moment 😀
When we arrived back at the base, they helped us to find the way to our next stop, the ‘Plaza Botero’. When we came out of the train station we were intrigued by a strange looking building so we had a look at it. As we found out, it was the ‘Culture Palace Rafael Uribe’ and had some exhibition on and the entry was free. To be honest, I didn’t find too many exciting exhibits there, except one that caught my eye.
The building had three floors, so we had a look through all of them. The building was somehow intriguing, with all its small passages, patios and roof turrets.
When we strolled along, we found a window where we could have a look at the Plaza Botero. It was intersting to observe the people around the plaza from here.
After a while we went down and arround the corner where the plaza was. Here are some more sculptures. Not sure if these two sculpures belong to each other.
Then we had a look at a church and
stumbled across the ‘Centro Comercial Palacion National’, which was a shopping centre with a very luxurious interior.
Now we made our way back to the Metro. The station was the last station on the line that we were using, so they used the unused rails to build a temporarily platform.
When we returned we had a surprise waiting for us. The hotel page who was cleaning his bosses car in the morning had cleaned our bikes, too! No more salt residue on the bikes, bonus! We gave him a nice tip for that. Tomorrow we are heading towards the ‘Catedral del sal de Zipaquira’, a Cathedral build in an old salt mine, which is 60km north from Bogota.
In the morning I thought I’d take some pictures of the hotel and our motorcycles in the hallway.
After breakfast, we had a stroll through the old town centre. Here are some pictures.
At night we talked to the insurance broker. She told us that the computer system is down and she can only process our insurance on Monday, so we’d have to stay until Monday. This was not a big problem for us, but some of our fellow travellers would have liked to leave earlier. Now they had to wait.
The next day we went to visit the ‘Castillo San Felipe de Barajas’, a big fortress that was designed to protect Cartagena from pirates. Cartagena was a central location where all the gold that the Spaniards collected was stored until it could be shipped to Spain. So Cartagena was clearly a target for pirates. The fortress was impressive with lots of tunnels which were used to securely store the gunpowder.
In the afternoon we got our insurance, so we will start travelling again tomorrow. At night we met Franz and Marika again – same as last night – for dinner in an authentic Columbian restaurant! Franz and Marika are an Austrian couple who have travelled through South America on a motorcycle. It turned out that they just finished the trip and are shipping the bike out of Bogota and back to Austria. We talked about their adventures and good places to stay. We really enjoyed our time together.
City: Panama City, Panama
Kilometres ridden: 127
Cumulative kilometre: 30732
We set the alarm clock so we would be at the meeting point early enough. All went well; we used the toll way and didn’t get into a traffic jam and arrived at the meeting point on time. And just as we started to worry about it being the right place, five other bikes arrived. I was a real relief since the GPS position pointed to a different location, but the description pointed to the gate where we waited.
So we waited until 8:30 and eventually took off in the direction of Carti airport. Tonja – one of the fellow riders- took some pictures of us while we were riding 😀
We continued along the highway until the described turnoff, and from here it got more interesting. The road was windy and hilly at the same time. After a while we had a short break and the girls went into the bush…. Apparently there was some prickly weed which made your bum itchy (look at the three girls in the picture 😉 )
When we arrived at the meeting point, the crew told us that it was too windy for the ship to come to the jetty, so we had to put the bikes into a canoe and bring them to the ship that way. The first bike tried to get onto the boat with a plank. After he got stuck in the middle on his bashplate, we realised that this wouldn’t work very well.
So we made use of the scrap pallets that were lying on the beach. That looked much better but I wasn’t confident that the bike and I wouldn’t end up in the sea.
Sigrid was determined to ride the bike onto the canoe herself, which was great. In the end we made it into the canoe and not into the sea! Another great relief!
Then the guys pushed the canoe into the sea. At this point it started to wobble quite a bit and we were only holding the bike feet on the side walls of the canoe – which seemed to flex a bit as well!
Anyway, we arrived at the Stahlratte and they winched the bikes onto the deck.
I was happy when both of our bikes were on deck. Eventually we got all 13 bikes onto the boat, without any incident :).
Then we settled into our sleeping quarters with all our boxes. The quarters were a bed with a curtain in front which was nice and cosy.
We had lunch before we got to an island where we stayed overnight. The island was packed with houses which didn’t have much space between them.
Here is a picture from the ground floor of the house that we were staying in, and another from the outside.
Below is the picture from the top floor, behind the curtains – at the left – are the rooms, we had the luxury to get a room for ourselves.
When we looked around we found some signs of German influence. Have a look at the sign on the right picture, Scheisshaus means Shit house 😉
I was even more impressed when I entered the Scheisshaus, it was something special. I particularly liked the view down the toilet – the picture on the right. Note the fish swimming there! I guess that this was just for the tourists, the people on the island just squatted close to the water.
Anyway, we realised that it is not easy to live on an island – try to get freshwater, electricity and take care of the garbage and sewage. For the evening we went to the local restaurant to get some fish or meat and have a couple of drinks.
What an exciting day, we had a couple of challenges but everything worked out well. I’m keen to see what the next days bring.
The next morning we got back to the boat and had a great breakfast.
The crew covered the bikes with some foil to protect them from the sea water.
Around lunch time we lifted the anchor and started sailing. We passed a couple of beautiful islands, they looked like pictures from a postcard; we had to pinch ourselves to believe we were really there.
After a days sailing, we moored at Icodub Island, were we had a swim and a leisurely afternoon before the crew prepared the BBQ for the evening.
Here are Gesa, Matze and Maja (part of our crew) posing for the camera:
Below just a couple of pictures from the evening on the island, no more to say 🙂
Ahh, I nearly forgot, there were a couple of Cigars and we got offered one :D.
I enjoyed it so much that Sigrid got curious and asked if she could try it, and here she is!
Hope it doesn’t become a habit 🙂.
As you can see, it was a magnificent evening.
Today we sailed to another island, close to the reef. We once more passed a lot of smaller islands, it just looked beautiful.
On the way to the island, Nihai – one of the motorcycle riders – caught a big fish. While we were not sure what type of fish, we were none-the-less sure that we could eat it. The crew also bought some Lobster form the locals for dinner, so tonight we’d have a seafood dinner.
Just before sunset, we jumped onto the dingy to get to the island. On the left you can see the Stahlratte, on the right a ship that didn’t make it …and broke on the reef.
On the beach there were big beautiful shells, Sigrid had to listen to one and it did sound like waves in the sea.
And again, some more pictures of the sunset.
And then the experts started to cook the dinner.
And the big feast, the Lobster was quite nice, and the fish was very tender and hardly tasted like fish! Good catch Nihai 😀
Today is the day we’d hit the open sea to get to Cartagena, Columbia. As soon we left the reef, we immediately noticed that this wouldn’t be a fun ride. Some people got sea sick straight away, while others took it a bit longer. We took our sea sickness tablets before, which was good, so we survived without getting seasick. I was sitting on the top deck and looked at the horizon the whole time, which helped as well. After a while the frequency of the waves got lower, but the amplitude stayed and the ship rolled quite a bit. In the end we found out that laying in the bed made it easier for us to survive the travel time. By the evening it was not too bad, we started to get used to the sea. However our sleep was interrupted from time to time by our luggage running away from us to the other side of the boat, when the boat rolled heavily. Then, around 3AM, there was a loud bang. As it turned out, a bracket of a boom broke and the boom fell down. Luckily nobody was hurt …and no bike damaged either.
In the morning the sea got a lot smoother and hardly anybody looked pale. We arrived in Cartagena around 2PM.
We waited until 6PM before we got told that our passports won’t be stamped today. The crew suggested booking in a hostel where we could park our bikes tomorrow. So we got off the boat, got some money from an ATM, jumped into a Taxi…. Easy as pie. But the driver was not able to find the hostel. He asked other people and even a police man, but nobody knew the hostel. As we found out later, that was good, as it was not a nice hostel.
Lisa (a woman traveling alone around the world) nearly got robbed when somebody tried to climb into her room and grab her luggage from below the window.
But back in the Taxi, I took out my computer, looked into the lonely planet and found a Hotel Marlin, which had reasonable recommendation and the price seemed to be ok. We checked in, and during the time we were sitting in the lounge (the only place that had internet) some of our fellow travellers saw us when they passed by and came in to say hello. It turned out that the hostel was just around the corner. So we went out for dinner, got into a Pizzeria and met some more fellow riders, two brothers, had some pizza together and went home. It was a noisy night, people partied until 4AM and we had to get up at 5:30, so not much sleep that night. I realised the next day that the hotel charged us three times the price mentioned in Lonely Planet, but I didn’t realise it when we booked in… Bummer! I’ll have to pay more attention next time 🙂
Today is the day, we get our bikes from the boat and clear them through customs. So we arrived at the jetty at 6AM, got a lift to the Stahlratte and watched the sunrise
before we started to unload our bikes.
Below is a video of us moving my bike from the ship into the dingy and from the dingy onto the jetty.
And here the same for Sigrids bike.
From the jetty we rode the bikes directly to customs to get them cleared. At this time we didn’t have a passport nor paper work that we legally imported our bikes, we just trusted the guys from the Stahlratte who said “it doesn’t matter, nobody will stop us and ask for papers”
So we spend the next six hours getting the customs paperwork done, so we can start to travel again. Here is nearly the whole bunch, waiting for the clearance.
Well, we got the customs paperwork done today, but the insurance was another kettle of fish, more on that in the next blog.