First of all, hands down, Colombia has been the best riding, the best roads, the best conditions (minus the everyday rain) that we've had so far. Hopefully some of the pictures will fill in the words that I cannot use to describe how picturesque every single day has been, as we traveled from Medellin through to Ecuador, where we rest tonight. Leaving Medellin has a bit tricky, and it left me wondering where the hell all the Colombia road signs were. It wasn't long before we caught the main drag towards the coffee region of Mantzales and Armenia. We read in Dan's guidebook that El Eje Cafeteria was a nice region (Parque Nacional del Cafe) to visit and learn about coffee plantations. Another scenic ride with marvellous roads (for the most part), we're talking hairpin turns with waterfalls rushing beside you, cliffs where you could potentially launch yourself 200m to the canyon below, and mountains basking in sunlight that breaks between the enveloping clouds. Because we left late from Medellin (by the time we picked the bikes up and ate it was after noon [my bike ended up costing 75.00 no labour charge, only parts]) we were only able to make it to the park just outside Montenegro by 4 pm. We figured we'd hit the park in the morning, and find what is called a "Finca" to stay in for the night. A finca is a fancy little hotel, typically with a slew of activities. Ours for example, had a hot tub, a pool, a pool table, darts, etc. etc. A nice little taxi driver ended up bargaining FOR us and screwed the lady he's supposed to be bringing business. Rather than paying 100,000 for the room, we got it for 60,000, a damn good steal, considering some places wanted 150,000 +. From there we learned the park was a craphole, a family-oriented amusement park we would not visit. So we had the rest of the evening to enjoy the warm hot tub, eat awesomely, watch Scarface (hugeeeee desire to watch this movie for some reason) and dry out our clothes from the massive downpour we had earlier in the day.
|Oops, I skipped out on a whole day in Medellin, where we acting once again as tourists, and visited the Botanical Gardens, which was delightfully free, and had our first good colombian coffee here|
|The laguna in the middle of the park, not much wildlife, but its free, take advantage of it.|
|Maybe even just to see this massively unique, but useless spectacle.|
|The butterfly exhibit allowed me to make use of my macro setting, now if only I had a zoom lens....or Dan's camera...that bugger owns me in picture quality..|
|No more prettiness after this|
|Well maybe a little, you had to be here to enjoy it, but the Metro Cable is a definite attraction for the 1.50 it costs to ride most of the way up|
|The gondola ended up making its way onto the same line as the Tremblant gondola, hence we were back in Canada and the Laurentians for lunchtime....(weird change in scenery for sure)|
|Feels, looks like back home|
|We met a friend..or moreso, he met us, and wouldn't let us go|
|So he posed with us for awhile|
|Until I made a new friend...then all hell broke loose|
|But doggies are my best friend|
|This is the Finca in the coffee region, a must after a wet ride|
|The view of the coffee fields|
By late afternoon we were once more heading up into the mountains. We passed Popoyan and were within 175 km from Pasto. We were going to make it. But Colombian roads are tricky. When you think you get used to them, they bite you in the ass. And in Dan's case, the road bit him...hard. I was following him down a rather dangerous and hard downhill stretch, peeling around corners that would lead you to what you'd think was the apex, when the corner would suddenly tighten and often throw you into the oncoming lane without warning. Well, on one occasion, Dan met a rival. In a split second, in the same line as he was, I saw his pannier smash into the side of a small sedan. Immediately, the bike flung 90 degrees and threw him off in front of it. From there, the bike rolled slid, rolled upside down, and back down onto him, pinning him in the middle of the road, blind from both corners. Weaving around piles of his belongings, hoping for the best but expecting the worst, I skidded to the other side of the road, and ran to lift the bike off him. He was alright, shaken, sore, his bike mangled and scratched. Alive, thank god...The car owner does what you always read about in Latin America, screaming quien paga over and over, who's paying. We ignore him, Nik comes, a couple minutes go by, and his foot starts swelling. Another rider coming from Ecuador popped around the corner and helped us. Sami, his name, a hugely friendly chap from Montreal riding south for over a year and a half. He was able to speak spanish, and long story short, Nik dumbed down the mechanic to 250,000.00 pesos (125.00US), the driver brought Dan to the hospital, and Nik, Sami and I got a hotel as close as we could. Dan was out of the hospital, broken toe, now casted but then heavily bleeding, we spent the night talking to Sami and he explaining to us how incredible his journeys were. His stories were off the charts, so I guess if you have time to do these trips, you get to make the most of it. Props to him, he's got so much advice. If you need in depth planning on all the road conditions, times and whatnot, his website is a great place to check out moreso on planning
Anyway, the little town we were staying in was really cheap, hotel 6.00, food 3.00, we spent the morning fixing his bike and getting him settled in to heal up for awhile there. We aren't sure how long he'll be holed up there, but its his shift toe....and it'll be awhile until he can put the pressure on it to shift once again. Because we're so behind on our travels, we had to take off and build some more miles today, so we gunned it to the Ecuador border.
Along the way, perhaps the most beautiful ride we've taken so far, I'll let the pictures do it justice....
|The day before....can you figure out what doesn't belong here?|
|One of the many vistas along the way from Popoyan to Pasto|
|The last smile we would share together, before a hellish evening|
|The corner is question...I refused to take any pics of anything else at the time for the sake of respect|
|His worse-off pannier|
|A little better angle|
|...anddd his worse-off foot|
|Bye Dan, our adventures together will be remembered for a lifetime, I'm really glad we got to ride with you, and if I'm ever in Nashville, I'm coming to watch you race|
|The view from the hotel we stayed at last night|
|Cheers to you Sami, you were a great help to us and we'll party with you in Montreal when you get back!!|
|Here come the prettiest roads we've seen|
|Wait...hes not so pretty|
|So many sheer rock faces|
|See if you can figure out something hilarious with this pic....hint: look to the middle of the pic, very far away|
|Nik scared shitless of the sheer 200 meter dropoff's|
|This guy was OH-SO lucky the guardrail held...|
|More more more all the way to Buenos Aires!|
|This could have looked more real if plants weren't behind me|
I did end up having a really close call at one point. Like I said, there's no avoiding the dangers here in Colombia. Besides the many dogs that prance around on the road, I came into one turn and hit a garbage bag full of crap. It made quick the mess and noise, so I turned my head to see if I lost anything. As I did so, I didn't follow the road, and hit the side....on these roads, there's no shoulder. Theres a 6 inch drop, then a steep decline another foot or so. From there, its sheer rock wall. So from 4th gear, I scraped the side of the wall trying my hardest to keep the bike up (its basically in a V-shaped rut). As my pannier and bashguard dragged the cement, the bike stopped, I was super lucky not to rip off my pannier or brake pedal...or foot for that matter. Two minutes later, back on the road, more careful than ever.
We pulled into Ecuador border at 7:30pm, there was nobody there, and this was the first border on our travels that took 15 minutes. Walk in, ride out. Could NOT be simpler, and for that we are ever so grateful both to Colombia and Ecuador. I hope to see more borders like this. Friendly people, joking, friendly cops, good exchange rate on leftover pesos. We are happy tonight, staying in Tulcan, in a REAL (by real I mean Western-style) hotel. This is a cool place, I wish we had longer to check it out. But we're off for another huge day tomorrow, I better get to bed, its 1 o clock.
|OHHHHH YEAHHHHH!! Why the hell do you see my face everywhere??!! CAUSE MY BATTERY CHARGER WORKS AGAIN!! You're gonna start seeing a lot more pics again now that I don't have to conserve battery life. This has made my night!!!!!|