After three nights in Medellin I was ready to move in permanently. It’s a fantastic city full of fun and friendly people. We didn’t get to see too much of it by day because we were based in the city’s night spot. The bright part of the twenty-four hours was spent a mostly hung-over to say the least. There were about fifty restaurants, bars and clubs within walking distance of our guest house. I normally don’t care for such things but in Medellin’s case I made an exception. We had met up a few more bikers Mark knew while we were in Medellin. It turned out it was one of their birthdays so we had no choice but to celebrate with them.
Two days later and almost recovered the five of us undertook the journey to Solento. About ten km out-of-town there was an accident and a massive tail back, in fact it was five km long on the opposite side. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we were able to slip through the traffic and emerge out the other side to empty roads. The surface was great and the bends nice and frequent, motorcyclist paradise, and best of all we had them all to ourselves.
We rode hard and fast all morning trying to knock some time off what was predicted by the GPS. (I’m sick of them things always being right). At a turn in the road I stopped and waited for the others. Mark and Manny (From Canada) soon joined me but there were no sign of the other two. A half hour later a Colombian biker stopped and informed us that the other guys had broken down just outside the town we had lunch in. We turned around and headed back the forty or so km. It turned out Andre had gotten a puncture. Just as we arrived Jorgen (from Canada) also arrived from the opposite direction with Andre’s front wheel strapped to his bike. He had taken the wheel back to the town and had a new tube put in, after the guys had pinched and burst the first tube while putting it in. Andre reassembles the bike quickly and we were back on the road once again. We now however had heaps of truck to overtake.
We were stopped a total of three times by the cops on route, twice only just to check our papers but the third time was because I got caught undertaking a bus. I guess they had to stop me as I did it right in front of them. They then proceeded to blabber on about something or other in some crazy language for a while. I couldn’t understand a word of it. I just kept smiling and pointing to my map bombarding them with stupid questions. I think this guy really wanted to fine me too but he couldn’t get his point across and I just kept playing dumb. When he finally asked for my passport I figured I was screwed. He took one look and called over another guy. They talked for a while but I couldn’t understand too much, I did however hear them say “Ireland”. After that they strolled over shook my hand, told me to have a nice day and said I could leave.
We arrived in rainy Solento after a full days ride just before dark. Solento is famous for? Being near a place called Cocora (maybe) which has giant palm trees in the Surroundings Mountains. Some of these trees are up to 60meters high. The following morning we squeezed into a tiny ww11 jeep and I mean squeezed, in fact some of us had to stand on the back for an hour and headed into the mountains. From there we rode through the trees in the rain on horseback for a while. A while too long if you ask me. I could barely walk after wards.
The next days ride from Solento to Cali was almost too easy, the roads were great, the weather perfect, the hangover was minimal and I was in good company. It was good to be able to completely open the throttle again even if only for a short while. We entered Cali getting lost straight away; we ended up in parts of the city most tourists would never see. Had it have been dark I think we may have ended up walking out of these parts in our underwear and that’s if we were lucky.
The next morning we headed off at 8am for San Agustin, a ride of about 270km, the last 130km of which were on dirt. We stopped for breakfast in the town of Popayan and bid farewell to Jorgen and Manny, they are on a tight schedule and heading towards Ecuador. (Great riding with you guys). After the locals were finished taking pictures of us and our bikes we headed out onto the dirt and into the Andes.
The rain came quick and hard as we reached the first obstacle. The road literally became a half meter deep fast flowing river that we had to ride along for a few hundred meters. This resulted in me being completely soaked through right at the start of this five hour ride into the unknown. Next came a landslide which we must have just missed but luckily were able to squeeze through. The road climbed above 3200 meters into the clouds and the temperature dropped to below 9 degrees. The rain continued to pour and turned the dirt road to complete mud in sections. I was loving it.
We were now in southern Colombia and on a road very few (if any) travelers take. While riding hard and enjoying every minute I had unbeknown to myself taken off way ahead of the others. As I slid round a bend in the thick dense jungle a guy in combats carrying a machine gun was standing by the road side, he looked real surprised and not too happy to see me. About 200meters down the road another guy appeared from the jungle also carrying a machine gun and wearing combats. The only difference was this guy was smiling and wearing a Metallica hat. He gave me a big wave and I gave him the devils horns salute as I passed. I didn’t think these guys belonged to the regular Colombian army and I certainly wasn’t hanging around to find out.
Just after a particularly muddy section about 4km further on I stopped the bike and set up my camera. I was hoping to get a nice shot of one of the other guys sliding through the mud preferably on his ass. I was waiting for about fifteen minutes before Mark appeared. Unfortunately the photo opportunity never arose because Mark is a very good and experienced rider having ridden here from Australia, firstly through Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North and Central America. We waited for the others for a half hour or so but there was no sign of them. I decided I should head back and see what was going on before it got any darker. We still had over an hour’s riding through this wet soaking jungle and it was only about two hours from complete darkness.
I headed back through the deep muddy section luckily once again staying upright. I rounded corner after corner expecting to see the guys at the exit of each turn but they were nowhere in sight. I was beginning to wonder if the armed guys may have kidnapped them as I went further and further. Finally, after about a half hours ride and 10km, I rounded a corner to see them fixing a puncture on Andre’s front wheel. They were on the second attempt with tube number two because they pinched the first tube when putting the tire on rendering it useless. This reminded of what happened three days earlier when the same exact thing happened to Andre’s rear wheel. Live and learn (what?). I joined in with the repairs in the pouring rain and twenty minutes later we were back on the road. Andre later told us he reckoned there were people in the jungle watching them the whole time they were fixing the puncture, I just wished they had come out and helped.
It was now getting dark and I was even more soaked and frozen. Every time I stood up on the bike the water that had been heating up in my crotch would run down my leg and quickly be replaced by freezing cold water. It was real hard to stay still on these dirt roads; there was certainly no chance of warming up whatsoever. This continued until we came to the little town of San Agustin and I was finally able to remove everything and have a hot shower. We settled in for dinner and a few beers in a guest house on the side of a mountain. Another great day in the saddle…
The next day was spent relaxing and exploring the excavated statues of San Agustin. Some of these statues date back to 3000BC. They (whoever they are) have no idea who put them there, they reckon they were some sort of burial sites, good guess I’d say …We spent three nights in the mountains in this little town relaxing, a well deserved break too I might add…