Colombia, Land of the Friendly People
when you arrive at Cartagena, the first this that strikes you is wealth. Like a South American Monaco, huge yachts fill the harbor. Imposing historic sea defences on east are mirrored by equally imposing Miami-esque sky scrapers to the west. Half built high-rise developments litter the cityscape.
The old town in Cartegana is truly stunning, like Havana with out dilapidation.
The second thing you notice are the people. Colombians are some of the most friendly and generous people I have ever come across. This just isn’t my experience, bar those who get kidnapped by Farque after being foolhardy enough to head into the jungle on their own, you will hear the same from anyone fortunate enough to be travelling through.
Locals are almost overly concerned for your well being, perhaps a result of memories lingering from when times weren’t so good n safe.
I lost count of random generous acts, but here are just a few: We met a Colombian biker couple at a road side cafe, after they went on their way, we came to pay; they had already paid our bill. We had chatted to them for 5 minutes.
When we told a mechanic that we fancied fishing some local trout for supper, he promptly popped outback and returned with 7 fine specimens which he insisted on giving to us. It kind of defeated the purpose of the planned fishing trip, but we accepted graciously. That night i cooked for half the hostel.
An old fellow, who roasted his own home grown coffee and ran a hostel in the highlands let us camp in his garden.
He also gave us a pristine new petrol stove when he saw us struggling with ours. He refused payment. The stove in action that night, how romantic:
Two police men stopped Dave and I only to laugh a bit and suggest that Dave was perhaps too big for his bike. He is 6ft4”, and his bike does look ridiculously small. They let us go free from charge, apparently dwarfing ones motorbike isn’t a crime, it’s just quite funny.
Like most of the Police or Military we met in Colombia, they were more interested in where we were from and what we were doing riding around on tiny motorbikes than the validity of our papers (just as well because Dave’s aren’t). After Central America, where every uniform seems to engender corruption, Colombia was a breath of fresh air.
We did meet one unlucky fellow who got stabbed by a crackhead in Bogota but generally I felt safer in Colombia than any country i had been to in Central America. The Colombian tourist board’s advertising campaign hit the nail on the head… “the only danger in Colombia is that you end up staying” of course if you actually do get kidnapped, staying in Colombia suddenly takes on a different meaning. However avoid the jungle and crackheads and this catchy nod to a more dangerous past should ring true.
Apart from the fantastically friendly people and reputation for the opposite, Colombia is a country of stunning scenery, each valley seems to throw you a different landscape and climate. Arid Mediterranean Greece one minute, the Scottish borders the next.
One fine example of of this contrast in is Salento where towering Cera palms, (Colombians national tree) meet a summer Alpine climate with European breed cows roaming the mountainsides. Very surreal.
This cow was a bit scary as were the roads at times:
While we were in Colombia my bike had a bit of a melt down, Rhonda went into surgery as her gaskets were replaced:
A friendly looking motorbike part:
While I was awaiting the diagnosis, I had a wander to calm my nerves and take some photos. Unsurprisingly I discovered that even in Colombia, you are never far from a Manchester United fan:
What a nice Yellow motor…
The weird world of a goats eye:
Shortly after the bikes were fully repaired, it was Christmas Eve and we were riding towards the Ecuadorian border on some of the most spectacular roads I have experienced.
Dave was slightly ahead when my rear tyre punctured. Blaring my horn and flashing my lights Dave was having far to much fun to notice and rode off ahead…. all the way to the border town 3hrs away. When I managed to find a mechanic who was more than happy to fix my puncture…
I realised i had NO money, at all. I kept quiet until the job was done, quietly preparing the inevitable and imminent barter process. It went well. I have discovered that 50 cents, an old motorbike helmet, and a broken head-torch with no batteries will cover the cost for a the replacement of a lacerated inner tube.
The deal was sealed and I went on my way.
After an intimidating night time border crossing (border towns are always shady) we set of for our Christmas day destination in the mountains of Ecuador. We didn´t arrive until after midnight, we had been on the road for 14hrs.