2016-10-29 – Day 48 – Cartagena, CO
2016-10-30 – Day 49 – Cartagena, CO
2016-10-31 – Day 50 – Cartagena, CO
2016-11-01 – Day 51 – Cartagena, CO to Mompos, CO (314 km – 4:45 hrs)
2016-11-02 – Day 52 – Mompos, CO to Marguarita, CO, and return (51 km – 2:30 hrs)
2016-11-03 – Day 53 – Mompos, CO to Barichara, CO (477 km – 8:00 hrs)
Colombia was a nice surprise, although I had visited it a few years ago. I realize more and more the different perspective that travelling by motorcycle provides, and also the additional difficulty that is now, in this country filled with motorcycles, simply to make its place on the road so as to be able to survive a total madness on 2 wheels!
I had the privilege to be accompanied for the greatest part of my time in Colombia by my girlfriend who came to join me for 2 weeks. We crossed almost all the country together, from Cartagena, we went to Mompos, Villa de Leyva, crossed Mountains, drove in heavy rain, deep mud, saw all sorts of animals, got into infernal traffic, got to the big city of Medellín and ended our adventure in Cali.
Before her arrival, I was a little worried about adding weight to the bike, but ultimately, apart from moving slow in traffic jams, her presence behind me was almost unnoticeable. Her bag was about 8 kilos so she did a great job of limiting the amount of luggage she took along! The big GS is perfectly suited to sit a passenger and the power of its engine allowed me to do just about everything I did when I was alone. Obviously, we are talking about driving on the road and not on trails.
As you can see, I have not updated the site for a while. It’s a little harder to find time to write with company! I will do my best to catch up with lost time in the next few days.
Let’s start by Cartagena which has a superb old quarter, surrounded largely by a stone wall. The small streets intersect and offer perceptive and colours more beautiful one after the other.
Although very touristy, I enjoyed staying here for 3 days while waiting for the arrival of my passenger. As I wanted to have her stay in a comfortable, clean, quiet and friendly place, I kinda blew my budget and booked at Casa Bustamante Hotel Boutique, Cabrero Calle Real # 42-67 https://goo.Gl/maps/qqkzKWZdky12. So I took the opportunity to rest, relax at the pool and refuel for the next adventures.
I also walked a lot in the city, jogged in the Bocagrande area and even had dinner on the street! It is incredible the good beef and chicken offered everywhere by itinerant cooks just for 2 or 3 dollars. Accompanied by a (or couple) of good cold beer and the laughter of the children having fun around you is a good recipe for nice simple, pleasant and cheap evenings.
My girlfriend arrived very late on Sunday after a long day of travel so we waited until Monday morning for me to act as a tour guide and take her on a quick (but complete!) tour of the old town.
Look at how people are resourceful. No baseball field provided by the city, no problem, we will make one! Uniforms, referees, markers all the stuff for a real ball game!
On Tuesday, November 1st, we got on the bike and rode towards Mompos (also known as Mompox or San Cruz de Mompox).
This small town is popular with tourists, but getting there remains a challenge. For backpackers, you have to take several buses. For people on a motorcycle like us, we must take some roads not always easy to find, not very well maintained, and possibly a ferry.
Google Map points me to one place, my GPS to another and the maps.me application generates another route.
I took the time to visit the website of a motorcycle rental agency and contacted them because they are go to Mompos on one of their tours.
Motolombia – Motorcycle Tours and Rentals
# 48, Avenida 6 Norte # 48 Norte-48, Cali, Valle del Cauca, Colombia
+57 2 6659548
They were very nice to answer all my questions and suggested a suitable route for a big bike with 2 passengers and their luggage.
Getting out of Cartagena was fairly sporty! Hundreds of motorcycles, trucks, cars, bicycles and pedestrians stand in front you, or very close behind you and on each side of the bike, cutting you off without any discomfort, as if it were normal or safe. Obviously, it’s quite normal for them, but not for us and it is certainly not safe! But it’s crazy and at the same time, exciting and the adrenaline does its job to finally help us get out of town and engage on multiple country roads up to Mompos.
Roads 25 and 80 were quite bad because there is a lot of construction to make it from 2 to 4 lanes. There is also a lot more presence on the road than in Mexico or Central America, mostly big trucks. Once on the road to Santa Ana, we can finally relax and enjoy the scenery.
Despite everything, I have to admit that even though the first few minutes or driving were a little difficult, because I had to get used to driving with my new passenger, it was really nice to find myself behind the handlebars after almost a 10 days break!
Of the 3 routes offered by my various navigation tools, Google was the winner, because its maps took into account a new bridge that allowed us to cross the Brazo river of Mompos, which was a little relief because it would have had to put the motorcycle on a small craft boat, which was not too reassuring.
Mompos is relatively isolated and there is little automotive presence, but were invaded by hundreds of motorcycles right after our entrance into the streets of the city, just like mosquitoes in spring!
The streets lining the river are peaceful and there are beautiful series of old houses and well maintained. But this is not the case when leaving these tourist streets! There are so many motorcycles that it is difficult to cross intersections! You need eyes all round our heads!
The ferry I mentioned earlier! Phew, happy that the new bridge is built.
We decided to stay in this village 2 nights, because a colleague adventurer had contacted me a few weeks ago via the site advrider.com to give me advises for the Colombian portion of my trip, and he also is in the country at the time of my passage so he took the opportunity to come to join us from Medellín with his spouse.
So I took tome to relax and go for a race on the small dirt road along the river. Even though I feel my physical shape slowly deteriorate since the beginning of the journey, it was once again a very pleasant outing that led me to quickly leave the village and jog in farmlands, surrounded on one side by the river, and the other by chickens, horses, cows of every possible colour, pigs of all sizes and beautiful verdure and tranquility well appreciated.
I feel a little I’m being watched!
Back at the hotel, I proposed to my girlfriend to get the panniers off the motorcycle and to return on this small road in order to appreciate the more rural region just outside the city.
She hesitated a little, but as soon as I showed her a small video of a herd of cows that I went by during my jog, she accepted! (She’s an animal lover!)
So we left off with a much lighter motorcycle in a warm and sunny morning.
The first kilometres were spectacular and relatively easy to cross, but after a few rudimentary and isolated villages, the road began to deteriorate. It was made up solely of dirt, which results, during the present rainy season, in many spots of deep mud.
In most cases, it is possible to pass by slowing down a bit and accelerating in order to lighten the front wheel, all without much effort. But the further we went, the deeper the mud and the accumulations of water became, so that my passenger had to get off the motorcycle a few times to facilitate the passage.
At one point, we passed a motorcycle stopped evaluating his options to get into one of the water holes. The very sympathetic driver warns us about a portion of the road a little further away where the sun cannot dry the road. His passenger, holding 2 live chickens by the legs, clearly on its way to a good fresh Pollo a la Plancha lunch, tells us that we should go back, but it is not so much an option, because had just passed a dozen difficult spots of mud and my GPS tells me that the branch to the main road is much closer than turning back.
So we take the risk and we embark on the adventure!
As a matter of fact, a few hundred metres away, a passage is covered by large leafy trees and the road is muddy, accompanied by some small lakes (!) that seem to me very deep. We take the time to observe a small 125 cc pitching on one side and the other in the deep mud to eventually venture across the 200 metres on the path that seemed to be the most stable. Obviously, my passenger crosses on foot.
I got a few curses in the intercom, because even on foot, it is difficult and a bit… dirty!
I set my ESA suspension at its lowest level in order to be able to place my feet on the ground if necessary, and makes sure that the traction control system is disengaged.
I then proceed slowly into the challenge that stands before me. Did I mention that the day was sunny and … hot!
I have to work very hard so the bike does not fall because it’s slippery, like driving on the ice. The rear wheel turns without much traction and I finally slip into a hole of water. I manage to get out and this repeats itself a few times until the bike decides to get across the road, the rear wheel into a deep hole and turning but not going forward.
I ask my partner to come and help me, because I am unable to move forward or backward. Need I tell you that it is for here, going back to where she came from, again in the mud she had just crossed in order to come to push a motorcycle splashing a nice sticky mud with the rear wheel. She was not too happy, to says the least.
Fortunately, a man also on a small motorcycle stopped and came to help us. After a few front-to-back movements, I managed to get out of the mud lake and get to the other side of this difficult passage, completely soaked by sweat, but terribly happy not to have fallen into this sticky mixture. My boots now weigh 2 kilos each, thanks to the mud that is now present on the soles, up to the edge of my pants. The motorcycle is also completely covered by a thick layer that gives it a trench soldier look.
Even without luggage, a big GS in the mud is not ideal, and the clutch has made this clear to me, producing a not very pleasant overheating. The following kilometres were a little less difficult and much more pleasant.
We finally took 3 hours to travel the 50 km of this little improvised promenade. But it will remain engraved as a wonderful memory!
Small improvised washing session.
In the early evening, my ADVRider contact arrived with his spouse and we took advantage of the beautiful evening to walk along the river and share a good meal filled with travel and motorcycle stories!
We leave early the next day for a quick visit of Barichara, a superb village perched in the mountains!
Some sections of the road are still very wet and difficult to cross.
One thing well appreciated in Colombia, motorcycles do not have to stop (or pay!) at toll booths!
One thing also seems very obvious after the first few days of travelling the country: the mountains are largely present and it will take some a little longer than usual to get from one place to another.
2016-11-04 - Day 54 - Barichara, CO to Villa de Leyva, CO (198 km - 3:40 hrs) 2016-11-05 - Day 55 - Villa de Leyva, CO to Medellín, CO (419 km - 8:40 hrs) 2016-11-06 - Day 56 - Medellín, CO 2016-11-07 - Day 57 - Medellín, CO to Jardin, ... Read more
2016-10-24 - Day 43 - Puerto Carti, PA to El Porvenir, PA (4:15 hrs - 124 km) 2016-10-25 - Day 44 - El Porvenir, PA to San Blas Islas, PA (4:30 hrs - 44 km) 2016-10-26 - Day 45 - San Blas Islas, PA in Cartagena, Colombia 2016-10-27 - Day ... Read more