Thursday, January 16, 2014

January 15-16, 2014 Medellin to Pasto, Columbia

We get on the road about 8:30 after fueling the bike, it takes about an hour to reach the outskirts of Medellin where the road turns into 2 lanes going through many villages and the usual traffic congestion that you face when the roads are the same as they were a hundred years ago. About 10:30 we are free of the urban areas and start climbing into the mountains. The scenery is spectacular and it's a great feeling to have to close all the venting on our clothing as it is cold (12 degrees C) and I even turn on the handle bar warmers for a while. My bike riding friends will find it hard to believe that I am tired of switch back roads with massive altitude changes albeit on very nice asphalt for most of the day.
We stop for our morning break at a restaurant overlooking the valley and before Diana can climb off the bike everyone evacuates the restaurant and swarms us. One young man speaks a little English (from College) and has to hear our story and translates for about 25 people who have more questions then we've had since Central America. He asks if they can take some photos and we start the process of letting them climb on, one at a time, to have that once in a lifetime photo taken. Meanwhile Diana's finished her refreshment waiting for me to complete the guided tour, I have a quick drink and we hit the road again.
 The morning commute (a long and winding road) (taken from the coffee shop)
The government of Columbia seems to have lots of highway maintenance projects happening and they look like any project in North America, using modern equipment, fabrics, the employees are properly supplied with safety equipment and for the most part there are warning signs to alert drivers (I don't know what they mean though). The other great advantage for motorcyclists is they don't pay any tolls even though EVERY highway has toll booths. When ever you see a sign that says PEAJE you make your way to the far right where there is a narrow lane (about 30" wide) with 8" tall curbs along with a few speed bumps and you bypass all the traffic lined up to pay tolls.
 Open air church with cemetery beside highway.
 Lots of rivers to cross over the two days.
 Had about 3 tunnels today as the landscape was very rugged.
The farmers are growing cocoa, coffee, watermelons and oranges on these slopes. We watched as they packed huge bags of oranges up the hills to the highway where they would stock pile them on the shoulder of the highway before hauling them away on the chicken bus or truck before dark.
Day one takes us 500 kilometers in 10 hours before we find a clean hotel room for $9. We are exhausted and crash early.
Its rained overnight and once the bike is refueled I take the opportunity to clean the windshield as we had lots of bugs yesterday. The ride today is more of the same, lots of curves and I need to look at the soles of my boots as they are dragging going into the corners, that along with the center stand which seemed to bottom out more today than ever before. We have reached Pasto after 300 kilometers about 3 pm, a city of 500,000 founded in 1537 and sitting at 2500 meters. We go for a walk to get some groceries and everyone is looking at me like my fly is open, I finally clue in that I'm the only person in town wearing shorts and a light t shirt. Most people have a sweater or jacket on and it's not unusual to see people wearing down filled parkas and insulated boots. The air may be cool but the sun here is so powerful and while discussing this Diana reminds me that we are real close to the equator now.
If we feel okay in the morning we will make a push for the Ecuador border, if not another night here would be acceptable. 

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