Saturday, December 25, 2010

Riding the Colombian Highlands

Daryll writes:

A short clip of our police escort out of Manizales.

Riding the Colombian Highlands from Daryll Naidu on Vimeo.

We stayed at the Casa Blanca Hostel in Cali, a well visited hostel by bike travelers; so much so they have their very own Wall of Fame of photos of many of the bike travelers that have passed through here.  Three doors down from the hostel, was a bike shop where I had the rear tire on Angela’s bike replaced and a new set of brake pads put on my bike.  Bikes are almost ready to go for South America, an oil change is due in another 2K km.  We also met Sammy, another biker from Montreal that is finishing off a year motoring around South America before heading back home.  Sammy joined us to the grocery store where we had something quick to eat.  Our favorite food in Colombia has been Empenada de Pollo, so that’s what we had and Sammy ordered a 1/4 chicken and instead of cutlery got a pair of plastic gloves to eat the chicken with.

As we were leaving Cali, a local biker pulled up alongside us and went through the usual questions (where are you from, where are you going, what bikes are those etc.)  He then offered to lead us out of the city.  We talked whilst in traffic and he mentioned that he owned a bike shop and if we needed anything done to the bikes.  I thanked him for the offer but declined, however he took us by his shop and offered us breakfast.  We had just eaten, so had some freshly squeezed orange juice instead.  That’s Colombian hospitality for you.  It was on to Popayan and we went through some breathtaking scenery once again.  Colombia’s roads are well maintained as many of the roads are tolled and fortunate for us, motorcycles don’t have to pay and ride straight through on the side.  As usual, it rained for the morning, but dried out in the afternoon. 

Chasing Colombian Police from Daryll Naidu on Vimeo.

On the way into Popayan, we stopped at a gas station to get some directions to our Hostel and Darren an Australian guy with his partner Alexandria pull up and start chatting.  Darren did a trip around South America 2 years ago so we chatted about bikes for a bit.  Popayan is an interesting little town – all of the buildings around the Centro are all painted white, with the odd beige building thrown in.  Christmas shopping was in full swing and the square was buzzing with life.  After dinner, we wondered around to get a bit of the festive feel.

Church in Popayan
In Cali we had learnt that the road between Popayan and Pasto (our next destination) was closed for several days due to a landslide but light vehicles were able to get through.  We would only know for sure, once we got there and saw for ourselves if we could pass.  As we road out of Pasto that morning, there was a long line up of trucks on the highway.  The police were stopping heavy vehicles from entering the windy mountain pass where the landslide occurred.  As we got closer, we understood why, there were about 100 heavy trucks, bus’s and mini-vans all at a stand-still going up the mountain and people everywhere.  The odd vehicle came down the mountain, however the left side was taken up my motorcycles running people up to the landslide area, where they would walk across a mud pit where other motorcycles would take them down again on the other side.  We had to maneuver the bikes between all the people milling around, their holiday luggage lying all over the place and the trucks parked at odd angles.  Angela at one point starting yelling at a guy in English to get out of the way so that she could pass – guess he just heard yelling and moved (Angela's edit: My exact words were "Excuse me please! Can you move?  I have a really big box!! lol).  Once at the top, we were stopped as the crew was busy fixing the road adding more sand to the mix and a grader was trying to compact it down.  We waited for about 30mins before only letting small vehicles through.  This was going to make for an interesting crossing.  There were a few large rocks in a small section, but it wasn’t too bad after all.  I just felt bad for all the mothers that had to carry their babies through the mud pit to cross this section.

Playing in mud
Before leaving Colombia, there was one more item on our sightseeing list – the Sanctuary de Las Lajas.  The cathedral is of Gothic architecture and was built from 1916 to 1949 and built into the side of a canyon.  This was definitely a feat of engineering in the day and one of the most gorgeous churches I’ve seen.  As we got into the parking lot, getting our stuff ready to walk down to the church, we met two Colombian riders from Bogota on their 1200GS’s who were headed to Peru for the holidays to meet their family who where flying in.

Las Lajas

New photos added to the Colombia photo album.
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  1. Merry Xmas!! enjoy your day. Ride safe .. Greg and Jill

  2. Hi Guys,
    Pics just added. You are way too quick for me.
    Hope you are having a good xmas.

  3. Wishing the both of you a very Merry Christmas!


    Terry and Emily

  4. Thanks for all the great photos! Hope you two had a nice Christmas. Keep riding safe and keep posting - we love following your journey here :)
    *Tania & Jeff

  5. Hi Emily & Terry,
    We miss you guys. Hope Terry is not getting too bored over the winter.

  6. Hi Tania & Jeff,
    Thanks for following. You probably have a full house by now and hope the weather has improved for the family.
    Everything of the best for the New Year.