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, CO (129 km – 3:00 hrs)
2016-11-08 – Day 58 – Jardin, CO to Salento, CO (188 km – 4:00 hrs)
2016-11-09 – Day 59 – Salento, CO
2016-11-10 – Day 60 – Salento, CO to Cali, CO (292 km – 7:40 hrs)
2016-11-11 – Day 61 – Cali, CO
2016-11-12 – Day 62 – Cali, CO to Popayan, CO (143 km – 2:30 hrs)
After a quiet night in Barichara, where we have the full hostal to ourselves, we went to bed early to get some rest for the road leading to Villa of Leyva.
Although so it is also located high in the mountains, it was not the same range so it took us 3 hours to cross on a superb road, almost always surrounded by nice mountains. Unfortunately, big trucks presence was high and I had to work hard to pass many of them, and deal with the smell of the diesel which ends up being very unpleasant. The last portion of the itinerary brings us on a more rural stretch of road that was really pretty.
The arrival in the village is spectacular, with many white houses, streets made of stones and mountains which encircle the whole place.
We go strait to the hotel because in spite of their beauty, streets are a challenge to drive on with a big motorbike. Stones laid out by hand are not very uniform and at low speed, it is more La Gorda that decides where it wants to go than the driver!
The city is simply superb. Nested between a series of green summits, its big central place is impressive and welcoming. Several restaurants and hotels for all budgets are also found there.
Our plan is to go to Medellín the following day to spend last evening with my contact of AVDRIDER.COM before he goes back to the United States, so we leave with regret this nice small village which has a multitude of options for many outdoor activities. We set off very early on November the 5th to attack the longest day of motorbike of our trip, an 8 hours drive to go through only 400 km. There is only one thing that can explain this: mountains!
And mountains, we got some for our money, and going down, and then back up, and then… You get the pattern! We chose to use route 60, that supposedly was more picturesque and had nice perspectives on the mountains of the region. What was not mentioned is that some portions are a very isolated, with dirt portions as well as several difficult steep passages. The road is often in bad shape and major construction sites are found in many places to improve its quality. And I don’t mean to patch a few holes, it’s major construction, including bridges and major work to enlarge some portions which are not much larger than a car.
It was an incredible day of adventure motorbike riding! We crossed passages in altitude of an extraordinary beauty, isolated villages, many types of animals, to finally arrive in a huge city that is Medellín.
Unfortunately, the show was spoiled a bit by a huge storm at the time of entering the city and, besides the sky that was falling on our heads, we had to confront hundreds of audacious drivers (read here: crazy) who, behind the handlebar of their small and much more agile motorbike, followed us and passed us way too close for comfort, in spite of the storm. We then had to confront water excesses, because rainfall was far too much strong for the aqueduct system. A nice water puddle is not so bad to cross, even if it is deep. The problem is when you cross it at the same time as dozens of other cars and lorries which do not slow down one bit. The produced spatters are so strong that they go over the motorbike! Not fun!
Traffic is extremely dense, I must make several line changes to get to my destination. The whole challenge is to try to avoid numerous near collisions with so many vehicles coming to us from every angle possible!
We finally arrive at the destination, at the same time as my friend who is also completely drenched, but, in spite of a long day of driving, wear a broad grin of satisfaction!
After a good hot shower, we go to the district El Poblado for a good meal and a quick visit of the surrounding streets. As it is a Saturday evening, the place is in full swing and very crowded with young people taking advantage of the many bars around!
Sunday is much calmer and we take advantage of a grey day to take it easy, do a bit of shopping and prepare our route for the following day which will bring us to Jardin, a small touristy village stuck in mountains. It is also the birthday of my girlfriend so we find a good spot to celebrate!
My favourite Argentinian singer! I am going to miss him just by a few days!
We leave Medellín on Monday, November 7th towards Jardin. As it is a holiday, getting out of the big city is relatively easy. When we get to the mountain region, traffic is once again dense. It is only after 2 hours of sporty driving that we can relax a bit without having aggressive driver following us or have to pass heavy lorries, always very slow on this type of hilly road.
We arrive in the village which is straight from another century! Houses are painted with lively colours and several horses wander near the main place which is very crowded. Because we didn’t have a hotel reservation, we start looking around and, of course, you will have guessed it, the rain starts to fall heavily! After a few swears and a couple of tries, we find a small almost empty hotel next to the central place which costs 15$/person for a big room with 3 beds (which will be very useful to dry our things), but no parking. I decide, having looked a bit around, to leave the motorbike on the street, close to the door and under the window of our room, while activating the alarm and putting on the cover. In this type of village, it does not preoccupy me too much to be frank.
Nice surprise, a few minutes after our arrival, I came across Drew, who is examining my motorbike and who was on the same boat as me for the crossing to Colombia! We discuss a bit our road option to go on southward.
We can backtrack and take the road towards Pereira, or take a small off-road path which crosses mountains towards the village of Riosucio. I had made inquiries to policemen about the state of this road and I was told that it was very wet with all rains of last days. I was therefore a bit hesitating to go through these 50 km alone.
What happiness to have a partner and we made the decision to make it a try the following morning.
Restaurant offer is a bit limited in the village. There is a ton of places that serve superb coffees (we are in the coffee region after all), but we ended up finding a small place serving good pasta and of succulent pizzas. After having walked the city a couple of times, we had a quiet evening with a good (!) bottle wine and a good hot meal.
The following morning, we go back to the main place to have a good coffee and excellent pastries with Drew and his girlfriend who accompanies him for a few days in Colombia. We then attack the mysterious remote road towards Riosucio.
The road is indeed very small, not very broad, and made of crushed stones, what makes it quite easy to drive on even in wet spots. We take about 2 hours to drive the 50 km stretch. The rural and hilly landscapes are incredible! What a good decision! Thanks to Drew for actin as our scout guide!
The objective of the day is to get to Salento, another mountain village, located between Pereira and Arménia were we made reservations at the Salento Pequeño Hotel (https://goo.gl/maps/mSDme943sYn) for 2 nights.
As soon as we pass Riosucio, the road becomes modern and rapid, in spite of many the many climbs and descents.
Salento is a place which is also very touristy and its charm is a little more difficult to find. The main attraction is the Valle Del Cocora, which is a few kilometres away and which has a panoply of outdoor activities.
Our hotel is little outside the village centre, but gives a has a nice view and is equipped with a small kitchenette, therefore we use it to cook our meals during our two nights’ stay. We also saw Drew and his friend again. We had a cold beer and swap travel stories! Very nice!
On the morning of November 9th, we took a taxi, which is in fact a Jeep where as many tourists as possible are stacked up, to drive the 10 kilometres to get to the Valle Del Cocora to do a bit of horse-riding and trekking. We would have been able to use the motorbike, but we wanted to take a pause and live the full experience.
It was a good decision, because we met a Frenchwoman and an Argentinian during the return and then shared a good meal in a small restaurant in the city.
The mountain trek was incredible. We went through the first kilometres on horseback, in a very abrupt, humid and difficult track. The horses are really agile and know the path perfectly!
The portion covered on foot brings us to a place where you have very high palm trees (the highest in the world supposedly). Impressive!
The following day, we leave to go to visit the coffee region south of Arménia. We go to a hotel which was suggested by my contact from Medellín, but, even if we had made a reservation on the phone, the place is closed for the week. We go for a promenade to try to find a place to spend the night and visit a coffee plant, but the region is not very attractive to us that morning (many lorries on the road, hotels are so so). We go to the village of Bellavista for lunch and then, we decide to go and spend the last coupe of days together in Cali.
Side note, my girlfriend leaves from Bogota, but since we would have had to go once again over the mountains, an 8 hours ride (and which I would have had to do again in opposite direction to go on southward), we purchased a ticket for an internal flight from Cali to Bogota early in the morning of the 12th, which will allow her to fly from Cali and then back to Montreal on the same morning. For 70$, it was no really a difficult decision!
The road between Bellavista and Cali was driven under the rain once again. But since we had reserved in probably the best hotel of the city for our last 2 nights together, we had a small bonus waiting for us at the end of the wet road, therefore it was not so bad.
The entrance in Cali was a true caricature taken out straight of a cartoon. In spite of the fact that we were getting used to having multiple motorbikes following us way too closely, being cut off to the point of almost making us fall, here, it is the worst of bad driving!
It was an infestation on 2 wheels! The 40 minutes taken to get to the hotel was done in intense traffic. It was the craziest driving of my life! I even burst out laughing at some point, as it was so incredibly dangerous!
During our visit in Cali, I took advantage of the BMW Motorrad dealer to leave my bike for maintenance.
Normally, I do this job myself, but I suppose I was a bit lazy and I used their services to make my easier life. I regretted it a bit when I got the bill, but oh well, I got it, the next servicing will be done with my own hands! Speaking of hands, I could not resist getting myself an early Christmas gift!
Cali is a rather big but agreeable city. It has several districts and the one we chose, Granada, has several restaurants and boutiques. Our hotel, the Marriott, also has a superb restaurant which proves to be be one of the best of the city. Therefore, makes a rare exeption of having dinner in the hotel we stay in! I have a good steak (I’ve been waiting fo rthis for so long!) and we have a great relaxing night. If you visit this city, this hotel probably has the best breakfast, well it was the best I saw in all my travels! I highly recommend the place!
My girlfriend leaves very early in the morning of November 12th, with a bit of a broken heart. It is very much more probable that we will not be hable to seeing each other again in 2016, and even before the end of the trip. Her professional obligations do not, unfortunately, allow her to make this type of trip in repetitions.
It was not easy to return to an empty room and especially continuing southward without my passenger!
We had a great time and I hope that she appreciated the experience to live a portion of my motorcycle adventure.
I really think she was very courageous to have gone through all these kilometres of roads sitting behind me, not always in easy conditions, sometimes in rain, mud, traffic… Bravo!
I get up late that morning and leave the city towards my last destination in Colombia, Popayan, which has a very white (and rainy) centre! Fortunately, the hotel manager does not want LaGorda to get wet!
Here are a few pictures of Popayan’s centre streets.
It is also here that ends my adventures in Colombia.
There remains many places to be seen, to visit, but the rain is unfortunately too present and I made the decision to head south.
On November 13th, I leave Popayan and will try to get into Ecuador where a new page of my trip will unfold!
I appreciated Colombia for its impressive green nature, its picturesque landscapes, its mountains, the kindness of the people.
Several people consider it to be a paradise for motorbikes. It is, unfortunately, not my opinion.
Take these nice people and give them a steering wheel, and they become completely mad and frankly, dangerous!
Unfortunately, their behaviour makes it difficult to enjoy driving in most of the roads and towns I visited. Because this trip is a road trip, it is difficult not to take this into account it.
There were some small isolated roads with incredible beauty and were a pleasure drive, but mostly, I was put on edge by the countless motorbikes, cars and lorries with which I had to not only to share the road, but also fighting not get into accidents (especially with motorbikes!). The density of the traffic is really more important than during my passage in Mexico and in Central America.
My next visit in this country will be made by plane and by bus. I will be able better to appreciate the landscape and be a lot more relaxed!
There was also the rain that spoiled a bit of the visit but this is part of a motorcycle trip and I know I must get used to it even if it is not very easy!!!
Coup de coeur: Villa of Leyva
Disappointment: The region of Arménia
Most welcoming city: Villa of Leyva
Best atmosphere: Cartagena
Where I would spend a full month in winter: Old city of Cartagena
Where I will not return: Armenia
The surprise: Traffic density on all roads and the numbers of big lorries, even on Sundays
The nicest road: The 60 between Villa of Leyva and Medellín
The ugliest roads: The 80, between Cartagena and Mompos
If I had to do it again: A few more days in Villa of Leyva, a different route to get us to visit Bogota
Next time: A would visit in the summer period and not the wet season
What I missed me most: Mexico, for its quiet and lonely roads!
Number of days: 16
Distance: 2300 km
2016-11-13 - Jour 63 - Popoyan, CO à Otavalo, EC (493 km - 10:00 hrs) 2016-11-14 - Jour 64 - Otavalo, EC à Quito, EC (101 km - 2:00 hrs) 2016-11-15 - Jour 65 - Quito, EC 2016-11-16 - Jour 66 - Quito, EC My last hours in Colombia were ... Read more
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 ... Read more