Mysterious Ruins, a White City and The Trampoline of Death – Colombia’s Finale

From Foreign Affairs Canada Official Warning – Avoid All Travel …The presence of armed drug traffickers, guerrilla and paramilitary organizations, including the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the ELN (National Liberation Army), poses a major risk to travellers. These groups continue to perpetrate attacks, extortion, kidnappings, car bombings, and damage to infrastructure in these areas.  You are also advised against all travel to the departments of Cauca, Caquetá, Guaviare, Putumayo, Valle del Cauca…

Well, where do you think we were headed?

After numerous rainy days and chilly nights in the mountains we were ready for a descent to a warmer climate, so we packed up from Salento early in the morning and made our way on fast, clean, if not categorically boring roads.  We rode all day and ended up in the small village of Santa Rosa, known for its popular hot springs.  We pulled our usual routine: park the bikes, and while I look for a place to stay,  Jordan watches the bikes.  Not unlike the other small, Colombian towns, we drew a crowd immediately upon entry including a very drunk but amiable fellow who insisted he was a tourist police that could find us a great place to stay.  When I ended up in a dark hallway with no foreseeable exit with said drunk guy, it was time to turn back and move up the road.  Just in time, too, because the actual police were in the process of asking Jordan to move our illegally parked bikes.

3 blocks later, in the central square, Annelies, an Austrian cyclist approached us upon parking our bikes.  She and her husband, Hannes, have been riding their bicycles in South America for the last 2 ½ years.  She directed us to their hotel, which had excellent parking facilities and was (sort of) in our price range.  We were also approached by a nice man who ran after us for 3 blocks with my now-broken eye glasses in hand.  Apparently, in trying to escape a parking ticket and a nice, drunk guy, I left my glasses on my bike.  Both they, and I, were crushed.

We contemplated an early-morning hot springs, but in the names of budget and time, we declined.  We were off to Buga – a suggested stop from Annelies, in the heart of Valle del Cauca.  We started to notice more and more military presence as we headed south.  In some stretches, we’d see 20+ military personnel spaced out along the road every 100m, or so.  One hand with a machine gun, and the other one is giving a ‘thumbs up’.  We took this to simultaneously mean ‘hello’ and ‘all’s well ahead’.

Power lines in Buga

After being turned back from the mountain parks in the north due to impassable roads, landslides & outright road closures, it was our craving for some more interesting scenery that brought us to Popayan – the launching off point for 2 great dirt roads that would take us, criss-cross through Valle de Cauca towards Ecuador.  We reached the ‘white city’ and, despite our own paltry hostel accommodations, decided to stay for 2 days.

All the buildings in the historical centre of Popayan are white washed, and though most have been re-built or repaired in modern times (much of the town was destroyed in a 1983 earthquake), Colonial architecture is very much evident and it might be the most impressive historical centres we have visited.  We met up with Ian – our travelling buddy from Salento – and toured the town, surrounding parks and hills.

centro historico - Popayan

White washed Popayan

We were anxious to get to San Agustin and although it was only 135kms long, Google Maps insisted the ride would take us 7 hours.  So, we met Ian for an early morning leave.

The ride was spectacular and so was the weather, thankfully.  When wet, this road succumbs to washouts and landslides, not to mention it is very difficult to travel when a sloppy mess.  The road cuts through spectacular scenery and hills as it winds its way south east.  Despite its remoteness, it is a busy route for trucks of which, we were stuck behind many times on the single track route – sucking in their dust.  Thankfully, a few villages dot the road… we took advantage of a small restaurant to let trucks get well ahead of us while we had breakfast.  We stopped a few more times for the same reason.  A few times we were lucky, and trucks let us pass on the 12, or so inches that separated their wheels from the ditch on the side of the road.

Our three F650GS's

Ian & Sandra

That looks slippery ahead...

The dirt track ends at a small village just before San Agustin and as we cruised through the town, looking for the correct turn, who zooms up beside me, last in line?  Our good friends, and super fast riders, Daan & Mirjam!  They knew we were on our way to San Agustin and wanted, if possible to meet us there.  But they were hundreds of kilometres north of where we started in Popayan.  We fully expected to see them the following day.  Daan made a sport of catching up to us… he confessed to asking the roadside workers (the road is being prepared for pavement – you should ride it before that happens) if they’d seen us.  When the last response was ‘yes, 5 minutes ahead’ – they really twisted the throttle and, despite now being the butt of all their speed jokes, we were thrilled to meet up with them this way!

Almuerzo with Daan, Mirjam and Ian

So it was 5 of us who headed into San Agustin for 2 great days of camping at Hostel Francoise.  Coincidentally, if not unfortunately, San Agustin was in the middle of a 4-day, 24-hour celebration.  We aren’t sure of what, but from our vantage point on the hill, where we could hear everything, we dubbed it the La Fiesta de Musica Mala (the bad music festival).

If there's no room on the bus, just hang off the back...

We spent a day doing nothing and a day exploring San Agustin and the mysterious ruins in the area; statues carved out of volcanic rock by an unknown pre-Incan culture between 100 and 1200AD.  No explanation exists, but the statues look cool!

Carvings at the San Agustin ruins

... and a few more

Since D&M are much faster than us (i.e. me) Jord & I left a day ahead of them to take our next road – back across the valley, but a much higher altitude on a road through the hilly countryside between Mocoa, Putumayo – south of San Augustin & Pasto, Narino – gateway to Ecuador,  it is known in Spanish at the Trampolin de la Muerte (the Trampoline of Death) due to very rocky, very narrow, high altitude roads (read: sheer drops) that cannot fit 2 cars widths, never mind buses and lorries.

Not only did we get stopped by two military check points on our way to the road (for long discussions about our bikes and our trip – how fast does it go, how much does it cost, etc.), we got caught up in a long conversation with a crowd in Mocoa when we stopped to pick up bread & water, AND we missed our turn, adding 80kms round trip to the clock.  Needless to say (though, I am saying it) we started the trampoline road at 1:30 in the afternoon, not the best plan.  Google maps says this road takes 3 hours… people with experience say the full trip takes  7+ hours.  In these parts, the sun sets at 6:30.  You do the math.

Thrilling’ doesn’t really describe the ride for me.  ‘Treacherous’ and ‘What did I get myself into’ come to mind.  But that is because I’m novice to all these steep, gravel, and cliff-hanging roads.  Jordan didn’t seem to mind a bit – and even questioned why I was riding so slow.  (!!??).  After numerous hair pin curves, waiting cliff-side for busses and truck to pass us and a few lumpy water crossings (thanks to Jordan, my bike made it across these, too) we came across a huge military installation complete with a bunker and 10s of military personnel perched on a mountainside outcrop.  We inquired how long it would be until we reached the next town on them map – 3-4 hours we were told. It was already 3:30pm.

GPS depiction of our track, how's that for a twisty road?

the real road in the clouds

An hour later, we found ourselves in front of what can only be called a truck stop.  It was a rustic home/corner store/bathroom spot on the side of the mountain with some space for parking – the only such space we saw all day.  The owner advised us it would be at least 2 more hours (3 at my pace) to the next town.  It was 4:30pm and there is no roadside camping on this track… none.  So, we asked if it would be possible to pitch our tent behind their place and park our bikes along the side of the building.

The very nice people obliged and we proceeded to set up camp in their backyard chicken coop (this is literal, not metaphorical).  We weren’t the only ones.  A young family in a pickup truck going the other way asked for the same favour.  They ended up sleeping inside the restaurant.

Our camping spot

The 'truck stop'

Speaking of restaurants, as luck would have it that they could also feed us dinner and breakfast the next morning.  They were a very generous family of an elderly father with his adult daughter.  This was their life – living on the side of a mountain hours from anywhere, with no electricity, servicing travellers and truckers with great home cooked food and some conveniences along a tough route.  Such an honest living!  I’m not sure we’d would be so inviting to complete strangers back home, it was a great lesson in hospitality.

The shop keeper's daily view

The next morning, we made our way down the steep, narrow road for 3.5 hours to the city of Pasto, staying overnight on the mountainside turned out to be a good idea.  We checked into the hostel agreed upon with D&M and they met us there a few hours later.  Sadly, this would be our last night in Colombia.

We loved every second of our time in Colombia.  We felt warmth from all the people we met in the north, on the coast, in the wetlands, in the mountains, in the ‘big city’, in the small villages and yes – even in FARC territory.  We met no corrupt police or military officials, whatsoever.  From our vantage point, the Colombian government has done a great job of securing the country – even if their methods are controversial (some say it is still a narco democracy… some say they should be talking to FARC not eliminating them…).  And despite hearing distant gunfire on 3 separate occasions, it was distant – as in in the hills, we never felt insecure or unsafe.  Not even for a second.

Visit Colombia!  You will be so glad you did, and they will be so glad you did.  You will feel special, you will become part of the fix, and you will see spectacular scenery, eat great food and have memories of a lifetime.

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Central Colombia – More than Just Juan Valdez

We are often asked ‘what is it like to be with each other “24/7”.  At the risk of sounding nauseating we have a really great time together and rarely, if ever, even argue let alone fight or get bored with each other.  But, we certainly enjoy meeting new people and hanging out with others as we go.  And, we have met some fabulous people to hang out with in Colombia.

After Mompox, we arrived in the fishing village / beach town of Tula at the recommendation of some friendly Colombianos who had swarmed us and our bikes the day before.  We pulled in before noon and while searching out suitable accommodations we were approached by Adonis and his son, Santiago.  They were drawn to our big bikes and were interested in hearing about where we were from, and about our trip.  It wasn’t long before Adonis recommended we travel another ½ hour to the beach community of Convenas where we would enjoy a much nicer beach.  We took the directions to the hotel they were staying in and agreed to meet up later.  It was a bit of a search to find the hotel – there was no address and we had communicated in Spanish only – but we eventually found it, negotiated a better price than offered, parked our bikes in a garage, and dove into the sea.

The beach view at Covenas

The next morning, we wanted an early coffee – but the restaurant was not open yet.  We pulled out our little camping stove and our camping mugs and made our own on the tiles of the outdoor cafe even though, somehow, it felt like we were breaking the rules.  While studying our Spanish over our fresh-made instant coffee and bread with peanut butter (always in our kit) Adonis, Santiago and Anyela joined us for a more intensive form of study – a 2 hour long conversation in Spanish.  They are lovely people and at an offer we couldn’t refuse, we spent the rest of the day with them in a canoe in the coastal jungle of the north west (actually, we thought they had asked us to accompany them for a short walk… turns out our Spanish needs work). The area is a very popular vacation spot for Colombianos and being the only foreigners as far as the eye could see, we were a big hit.  The locals were so happy to see tourists in their villages and really made us feel welcome & special.

Anyela & Santiago with us on a river tour

Anyela & Adonis pulled a fishing line during our canoe trip, but were unsuccessful… lucky for us, a local fisherman paddled by with his haul.  We bought a number of fish from him and the restaurant at our hotel happily cooked them up for us.  We enjoyed fried plantains with the freshly grilled trucha and Angelica convinced me to eat the eyes (the best part as far as she was concerned) I also found them surprisingly good (a little on the crunchy side, though).

The catch

After a few days at the beach it was time to move on, but we didn’t leave without an invitation to visit Adonis and his family in Peireira, further south on our trail.  We were thrilled at the invitation and looked forward to seeing them again.

We enjoyed our first mountain ride in Colombia from the west coast in to Medellin, once the “most violent city in the world” at 1,500m.  Stops along the way included a fabulous bandeja paisa lunch (band-AY-a pie-AY-sa) which is soup, platanos, yuca, beans, meat, rice, an egg, and canela – a sugar cane drink.  This dish varies a bit by city and village but is the traditional meal in much of central Colombia.  Where served, there is no “menu” you just get the bandeja paisa.

Mountain ride near Medellin - notice strap holding left pannier & broken right mirror

Parapenting is big in Colombia

Bandeja Paisa near Medellin

Medellin is a large, modern city with a great vibe.  We checked in to the Palm Tree Hostel, but the parking arrangement was less than ideal…. we parked our bikes outside the main door, locked them together and put our bike covers on.  We didn’t sleep well because of it, so made our way to the  Casa Kiwi Hostel the next morning.  It s run by another motorcycle traveller and if you do show up on motos, you receive a 10% discount!  Of course, this means there are many other moto-travellers there, including our german friends from the Stahlratte, Josefine and Stefan.  After having our bikes serviced, and strolling around the city for a few days, we planned a trip with them to the lakeside town of Guatapé, about 2 hours from Medellin.

We stayed at the El Encuentro Hostel which is perched on a hill overlooking a gorgeous lake surrounded by verdant hills.  We were thrilled to be able to pitch our tents at the hostel because we all prefer to camp when possible, and at a hostel we get the best of both worlds… a convenient kitchen and hot shower AND the absolute pleasure of sleeping outside.  So we stayed for 4 nights.

Guatapé is a buy & sell meeting place for local farmers in the area and is also a growing area of recreation for citizens of Medellin.  It is known as the Pueblo de Zocalos for its most notable feature; the 3D  decorations and depictions that are on the lower ½ of nearly every building and residence in town.  The reliefs depict the goods sold within a building, beliefs of the residents, or cultural images of the farming heritage of the community.  They are extremely pretty & enchanting.. a full day was spent wandering around the village, looking at the various depictions.  A series is attached here:

From the front of a school

From a tuk-tuk driver's house?

The real things

A coffee farmer's house (or a guy who likes beasts of burden)

We got to know Stephane and Josephine very well over a number of shared meals at the hostel and over a 4 hour hike around the Vuelta al Anillo (ring road) which took us from a simple Benedictine monastery to the top of a 200m high granite monolith.  The rock, El Peñón has 649 steps built into a large crack on the otherwise perfect boulder.  Once at the top you are afforded views of the entire area, which is primarily defined by the Guatapé Reservoir built in the 1970s to supply most of the electricity to the country.  When we arrived at “the rock”, it was getting cold and the top of the rock was completely shrouded by the afternoon clouds.  We scooted past the touristy vendors, and paid our fee to get to the top as fast as we could.  Of course, when we arrived at the top, there were no views to be had in the clouds but at least it wasn’t raining.  So, we sat and talked killing time with hopes of clear skies.  Our patience was rewarded with a break in the clouds that allowed us, even if just for a few minutes, to take in the famous views and snap a few photos.

Simple Monastery

Stefan, Fina and the big rock we will climb

View from the top of El Penon

After 7kms and a 200 meter climb, we welcomed the normally ignored solicitations from taxis and collectivos back into town.

Our final day in Guatapé had Jordan working on the bikes – he installed the fork protectors that we brought with us  Calgary in anticipation of riding some nice dirt roads in southern Colombia, and the rest of South America.  It was then that he noticed my brake pads were actually worn right to the metal.  Hmmmmm, I guess our service guys at Ruta40 in Medellin missed this in their inspection.  This meant a trip back to Medellin for a day or 2 along with a less-than-excellent reply to the ‘how did we do’ service email we expect to receive from BMW in a few days.

bike maintenance in the rain

As for the other S&J couple, terrible landslides, muddy roads and a couple of falls prevented them from getting as far south as they wanted the following morning.  They turned around and made their way back to Medellin as well.  Back at Casa Kiwi for a couple of nights together, we met and were entertained by 6 others doing similar trips as us including Mateo who, get this, rode a unicycle from Canada to Mexico, then a bicycle from Mexico to Panama where he traded in the bike for a dug-out canoe built by the Kuna tribe to paddle 10 days to Colombia, and who is now shopping for a motorbike to finish his trip to Argentina before taking on the rest of the world.

We sat for hours eating delicious popcorn (thanks Mateo) and consuming beer with Roger (Triumph; Canada to Argentina), Wade & Phil (BMW 1200s – Circle to Circle), and Troy (KLR 650 Canada to Argentina).  It is never boring to hear about others stories and experiences and tips – especially from this lot – our robbery story doesn’t even rank!

a re-meat w/ Roger the Kiwi

Not long after Medellin (with new brake pads for Sandra), we found ourselves in the small town of Salento, in the heart of coffee country.  We were attracted to the area by hikes and coffee… but, primarily because our original plan to camp at 4800m in Las Nevados National Park was thwarted by a huge landslide which took out the main road on the way to the park.  Even though Salento borders the park – access would be difficult on foot as we have no backpacks and we have to rely on roads to get us as close as possible.

As it was, with recent heavy rains, we were happy to find some of the only clear and drivable roads in the area.  When we approached the Arriba River near Salento, we could  only imagine what the landslide situation looked like higher up in the mountains.

Salento, as it turns out is located in the gorgeous Cocora Valley and has a lot on offer!  We climbed to a viewpoint known as the Alta de la Cruz (top of the cross) by way of 250 steps marked with the 14 stations of the cross.  It provided a great overview of the town, but more impressive was the immense Cocora Valley backdropped against the Andes (when not in the clouds).  Salento is located upstream from a fresh trout farm, so… fresh trout is the speciality and a delicious fresh fish dinner with soup, rice, and plantains can be found for a pittance.

Salento locals hanging out

While parked in the central square, looking for a grocery store, Ian was lured by our bikes and stopped by to say hi.  Ian is traveling by himself (as a retirement present) and has been on the road from Canada for the last 2 years.  He also rides a BMW F605GS and plans were made to meet for dinner that night at the highly recommended Speakeasy restaurant (which we also recommend…. great curry, great burgers!)

The highlight of the area was certainly our hike through the Cocora valley.  First, we rented some rubber boots from the  Hostel Tralala in town… we were strongly advised to do this the night before from some locals at the Speakeasy.  We rode down to the valley from Salento (not before bumping into our road buddies, Stephane and Josefine in the middle of town) and parked our bikes next to a familiar Toyota Land Cruiser belonging to Cartagena friends, Florian & Beata.

Cocora Valley and the Wax Palms of Colombia

It wasn’t long before we congratulated ourselves on renting the rubber boots.  The first few kilometres take your through a farming community on a track well used by both burro & hiker alike.  In the rainy season, this trail is more like a soupy, muddy river (up to your knees, at points) winding its way through the fields. The farms lie within a cloud forest and walking through takes you past the famous wax palms (national tree of Colombia and the tallest palm trees in the world) before the trail ends up in the rain forest edging Los Nevados Park.  The forest was cool and damp & a cold, quick stream ran through it.  We felt like we could have been in Ontario – except that the numerous, dodgy bridges crossing the river would never receive government sanction in Canada.

That's a lot of mud

milk truck sharing our route

bloody rickety bridges

The following day was rainy, dreary, and the town had no water.  It is strange that with so much rain and water in the area, it is not uncommon for water to be a scarcity in the small villages.  Prepared, many businesses have stored rain water for the bathrooms and quite possibly for our coffee – because that is something we could find… lots of yummy, hot coffee.  So, we hung out and tried to stay dry.

We finished our Salento visit with a mandatory tour of a coffee finca – in our case Don Elias coffee farm with the aforementioned friends, Florian & Beata.  For just $5.00 we met Don Elias (who, with a brimmed hat and full moustache more than resembles Juan Valdez, himself!), toured the grounds, learned how coffee is grown, what is it grown with and why (banana trees for shade), how it is dried, and then made into coffee.  And, yes, Don Diego does make you a cup of fresh brew at the end of the tour – something not offered by some of the other tours in the area.

Coffee: before

...and after (care of Mrs Valdez)

We were ready to leave the Salento area and make our way further south.  We said a quick good-bye to Ian (whom we planned to meet up with down the road) and made an early leave.

Central Colombia has been an excellent leg of the trip for sightseeing, riding conditions, excellent food choices, but it was all made even better with the great people we continued to meet and got to know better along the way.  In fact, I don’t think we were ever alone in the past 2 weeks.  We’ve really enjoyed the company.

Playing in the Mud – first impressions of Colombia

We arrived in Colombia on a Friday afternoon.  Our mandatory insurance wouldn’t be available until Monday morning so we took the weekend to hang out with our new friends and explore a little of Cartagena.  Most notably, we were impressed with the Getsemani neighbourhood, which is most representative of Cartagena and full of great street vendors and excellent pizza (best so far!)  and with beer at just 60 cents CAD a bottle we knew we would love Colombia.

Getsemani charm, Cartagena

Entrance to the Old Town

Old town, Cartagena

With 2 running bikes, insurance, and importations taken care off, we were ready for a test run on Monday morning with the aim of ‘bathing’ in a volcano.  As we left the city, we became very aware of just how many motor bikes are on the road in Colombia.  Weaving between cars and trucks took on a new meaning and in the middle of the packs of bikes we literally felt like we were being swarmed by bees.  The locals were also very interested in our motos, which were giant compared to theirs and often, while driving in thick, slow traffic, we chatted to the them about our bikes.

just grab a spot near the stop light. Cartagena

Within an hour we crested a hill to see a large fresh water lagoon with what looked like a giant ant hill in front of it (El Totumo).  As we approached the hill we could see that 2 wooden, rickety ladders flanked each side 15m to the crater at the top.  Peering into the crater we were presented with cauldron of thick, bubbling grey goo.  With a little apprehension, we eased ourselves into the goo which is said to be anywhere from 1,000m to 2,300m deep.  But, because it is so viscous, there was no way to submerge ourselves regardless how hard we tried.  Every once in a while large sulphurous bubbles would slowly float to the surface and rudely belch at us.  After about 45 minutes we made our way down the ladder and to the lagoon where we washed the mud off each other surrounded by lily pads.

– El Totumo, the mud volcano

floating in the mud

The next day we left for the town of Mompox, a UNESCO town located in the swampy lowlands about 250 kms from Cartagena.  To get there, you must catch a river ferry or private lancha.  The ride was spectacular – through river and swamplands with breath-taking scenery to keep us occupied for the 45 minute trip.  Once on the other side, the ride consisted of good road and gravel track to the actual town of Mompox.  It was getting late and dusk was approaching.

cart & horse are a common sight... big, overland bikes are not

bikes ready to board the river ferry

Ready to disembark

Not long after we got on to the gravel stretch, with the intent of keeping pace with the diminishing sunlight, I crossed paths with a large truck at the exact part of the road which temporarily ended for the oncoming truck due to a large hole.  Because the truck is bigger and it took my ‘lane’ to pass the hole, I was forced to move right – and ended up riding through an unexpected soft, sandy rut which took me down at about 40kmph.  Although my left pannier was ripped off the bike and the pannier frame was now bent, the slow slide caused no injuries.  But, this meant we had to fix the pannier to the bike with straps at dusk, and ride the remainder of the gravel & pot-holed road in the countryside of Colombia at night (everything everyone says NOT to do) but, since there were four of us we felt safe, many locals stopped to ask if we needed help, and it all worked out in the end.

The next day we learned just how resourceful Colombianos are.  A local mechanic made a house call to our hotel to look at the damage.  He then took my pannier while Jordan took my bike to his ‘garage’ – a small non-descript hut next to his small home 5 minutes away.  Within just 2 hours, he returned the pannier frame to normal and, proving that necessity is the mother of invention, he used some bicycle parts to re-create the locking system that secures her pannier to the frame.  Total cost?  $13 CAD, and that included picking Jordan up at our hotel to get the bike once he was finished!

Cementario de Mompox

Mompox countryside

Our stop in Mompox was part of a larger off road trip to El Banco that we had planned with Daan and Mirjam, as we knew the rest of the trip would be pretty intense, Daan and Jordan decided to do a little reconnaissance and scout out the 1st leg of the off road trail.  As it turned out, the conditions we excellent, we had feared that the recent rains would transform the track into an un-passable mud pit, but instead they were delighted to find perfect hard packed red dirt roads and trails, ideal for riding.  They spent the day zooming across the trails leaving huge plums of dust, riding across fairly large water crossing and standing on the pegs all afternoon.  The road was excellent and they jumped the big overland bikes repeatedly, not sure that if that is the best activity for the heavy Dakar and Africa Twin, but they had a lot of fun and they both said it was one of the best days of riding ever.  Jordan actually got a little over enthusiastic and dropped his bike for the 1st time of the entire trip, but neither he no the bike were hurt.

After hearing their report on the road conditions, we were pretty excited for the next day’s adventure, however that night it poured all night long and we awoke to find less than ideal riding conditions, mud and more mud.    We decided to give it a go anyways, it was pretty rough, and my tires were not ideal for the muddy conditions, I managed to keep on dry track, but we finally called it a day when Jordan crashed his bike (again).  He was actually talking to me on the intercom and watching me in his review mirror when he crashed.  Ironically, his final words were “remember to take it easy and look far ahead”.  Guess who wasn’t looking ahead when he crashed….

We decide the conditions were only going to get worse, so we decided to head back the way we came, the far more experienced Daan and Mirjam decided to go on, you can watch their amazing adventure here:

We were feeling a bit sad about turning back, however after seeing their photos a few days later we realized that turning back was the right decision.  We ended up having a great day of riding ourselves, it out out to be a nice sunny day.  While we waited for the river boat ferry to take us back to the main roads, we even had the bike washed, the 1st time since leaving our friends TJ and Mary Jane’s place in Pensilvania back in July.  They looked so good we almost didn’t recognize them.

The Dakar getting a much-need wash

We stopped for the night in the town of Sincelejo, it’s nothing special but they sure made us feel special.  We stopped in the main square, I left Jordan to watch the bikes while I went to find a cheap hotel, when I got back he was surrounded by 30 – 40 people who wanted to where we were from, what we we doing, how fast the bikes would go, and how much they cost.  People gave us special blessings, patted us on the back and thanked us for visiting Colombia.  It was actually a bit overwhelming, as it turned out to be difficult to leave, we had to stop several times and ask people to move away so we could leave without running anyone over.

The bikes attracting a small crowd

We typically don’t plan our routes too far in advance, when we wake up n the morning we often don’t know where we’ll sleep that night.  After walking around the main plaza in cool evening air search of some yummy street food, we decided that we had not had nearly enough beach time in Mexico, so when we got back to the hotel we plotted a course for the Caribbean coast to soak up some more sunshine.