I decided to spend another night in Medellin after getting my bike out of the shop, it was late in the day and I wanted to get some rest before putting in a full day of riding. I really wanted to just ride, lots of kilometers, alone and stop only for fuel. I should have stopped for fuel first.
I woke up extra early and quietly left the hostel I was staying at, I wanted to reach the city of Cali in enough time to find decent place to stay (the hostel was not so great). About a half kilometer down the road I ran out of gas! My fuel light was on but I usually have 50km or more when that happens, some fuel must have been drained out while it was being repaired. I pushed the bike into the parking lot of a bakery, the only thing open at 7am on a Sunday morning, and flagged down a taxi. I was soon back on the road with a full tank and it was only 7:45am, lots of time to reach Cali.
The road out of Medellin was a little rough and I was being extra careful as I had not really had the bike above 50km/hr since it left the shop. The bike felt fine and once I crossed the twisty, pothole covered mountain road I was soon on a great road and able to put it to the test. 120km/hr, 140 km/hr twisty roads, all seems well, but there is a bit of a noise coming from the front when I slow down. There is nothing loose that I can see so I will have to keep my eye on it for now.
The sun was out, the road was smooth and my mind took a vacation. I was daydreaming about the future when I hit the pothole that caused the damage, and on this ride I was taking a mental vacation. The future has been on my mind a little more than normal recently; after all I have no job, sold my home and keep moving further and further away from familiar things. But I do have plans, goals and more than ever determination. Today was a day for a mental vacation.
After a couple of hours of riding I was stopped in one of the numerous military check points, they asked for my motorcycle documents. I found this a bit unusual, normally when I am stopped the police or military just want to ask me how fast my bike can go and how much it cost. Happy with the documents I presented I was then asked to open my side boxes and top case for inspection, this was a first. After the inspection was done the lead soldier apologized, explained that it was their job to keep the country safe and then told his men to help me repack my bike. My rain gear was folded in great military style. We all shook hands and waved goodbye. As I pulled away the realization that being approached my men carrying machine guns has become a normal part of my life made me laugh. Back in Toronto I was used to being approached by panhandlers and don’t think I ever saw a machine gun outside of a display case. One reason I am on this adventure is to escape the boring routine my life had become, mission accomplished. Around every corner waits a new adventure.
I arrived in Cali early enough to find a decent place to stay and have a nice meal. It has been one of the longest rides in several weeks and it felt great! As soon as I took my helmet off my brain said “thanks for the time off, notice how we missed all the potholes today”.
I woke up the following morning to a real heavy rain, but I still wanted to ride. Wanting to reach the city of Pasto, about 420km away and close to the border with Ecuador, I got busy and put my rain gear on. As I pulled out of the city, quite proud of myself for getting my rain gear on before getting wet, the rain stopped. This time I kept the rain gear on, Mother Nature has fooled me before with this trick, but not today. Sure enough the rain started up again, but I was going to remain dry.
I had been advised by a fellow rider, and Colombian not to ride between Papayan and Pasto alone, I should find another vehicle and stay close. I pressed him for details but all I got was “it will just be better that way”. When I say a group of fellow adventure motorcycle riders I thought how nice it would be to ride not only with another vehicle but with like-minded people. How wrong I was. After exchanging a bit of small talk the most unusual thing happened, one of the riders insulted my bike, my rain boot covers and then me. A totally unprovoked insult, the first and only thing I said to the group at this point was that I would not be spending Christmas with my daughter as originally planned. Insulting my motorcycle goes against the bikers code (fellow riders feel free to comment or correct me on this), insulting my rain boot covers is really bizarre. As for insulting me, well I have worked for some real hard asses over the years and now have the skin of a crocodile, but it was quite unexpected and took me by surprise. Fortunately for me he was a loud mouth, and I learned long ago that I have two ears and one mouth for a reason. I was able to get in a much more pointed and judging by the look on his face, a more impactful insult. Standing there and watching the group pull away I felt a little childish and very confused this was by far the most bizarre encounter that I have had with another person in a long time.
After waiting for the rain to slow down, which it never did, I started heading south once again. My mental vacation was over and my brain was working overtime. I have known for a while that my daughter could not join me for Christmas but for the first time I was feeling down about it. She was fortunate enough to be able to study one semester in England and another in Australia as well as visit her Aunts and Uncles in Iran, but the logistics of a flight to South America was just not working out. I just now started to realize that it would be a several more months before I see her again. Then I started to have thoughts of the future; What if my dream does not work out? After all it involves another person and I have done all that I can do up to this point. Ok Plan B is ….. and just in case here is Plan C ….. Bang! I hit another pothole, a small one this time. No damage, no flat tire, just my brain saying it needed another day off.
Once over this mountain range the rain stopped, the sun came out and I started to get really hot with my rain gear on. Finally there was a town and I pulled into the gas station to take my rain gear off and also put even more distance between me and the insulting loud mouth. The gas station attendant looked at me a bit odd when I did not get gas, so I just told him I was hot. Next thing I knew he came over with a bottle of cold water and would not accept money for it, then two ladies pulled up to get gas on their scooter and smiled and waved at me. My spirits were lifted. The kindness of strangers and a pretty smile is all it takes sometimes.
Colombia is truly and beautiful place. With the sun out, the green mountains all around me, my brain on vacation and the potholes getting fewer and fewer the ride was very enjoyable and relaxing. But then it got bizarre. I passed through a small village where people were sitting at the side of the road holding their hands out at every passing vehicle begging for money. This was a busy road being travelled by busses, big trucks, cars, motorcycles and these people were often standing right in their path, begging for money. Then I saw something that scared the crap out of me, a rope across the road and two people at each end. Where they going to pull the rope tight and knock me from the bike, I hit the throttle. A little further up the road was another rope and more beggars. The road was a little worse here but I managed to catch up to a bus and tuck in behind him, out of sight of the rope holding beggars but also and unable to see potholes too far in advance. The bus speeds up and I can see people jumping out of the roadway, I am still close enough to the buss that nobody notices me. We come to a construction zone the beggars seem to disappear, the buss pulls over for fuel and I am alone again. Still trying to come to terms with what I just rode through, this was not the Colombia that I had been experiencing for the past several days.
The road (highway 25) gets real interesting after the construction zone, it offers tunnels through the mountains and always seem to hug the edge of a cliff. The rain has started again and so have the military check points. The military is not stopping anyone but it does slow traffic, at least I am not alone anymore. I can’t help but wonder why the police/military were not back in those villages, maybe the ropes were just for show and there have never been problems, or maybe the police/military are taking a vacation with my brain. Despite the rain and traffic this road was lots of fun to ride, I just wish I could have stopped for photos but the rain was too hard and there was no place to pull over safely.
I reached Pasto and found it to be a much bigger city than I had been told. I started driving around trying to find a hotel. Traffic was heavy and I did not notice any hotels right away so I continued to drive in what felt like circles. I cut off a taxi while trying to turn and got a long loud horn. The taxi raced up beside me and the driver got out of his taxi. I thought he was going to hit me so I got the bike in neutral and put the side stand down. The taxi driver yells out in almost perfect English “Your license plate is from Ontario! Did you ride all the way here from Ontario?” “Yes I did”, I replied, still waiting for the punch to the head for cutting him off. “My cousin used to live in Ontario. Welcome to Colombia! What do you need my friend?” I told him I was looking for an affordable hotel with secure parking for the bike and a hot shower. “Follow me, I know a place” And that is exactly where I am now. He refused money for taxi fare and before I could ask his name he was driving away.
It has been an interesting two days.