ColombiaPosted by Jan Lamers 17 Mar, 2013 08:44:11
Together with Clarena I visited Cartagena for the second time. The old walled city is one of South America's highlights but also the modern part, with its architecture and its many waterfronts, is worth a visit. From Cartagena we went to Bucaramanga and the close by Cañon de Chicamocha. On our way to Barichara we got a call from a friend that there were going to be road blocks by cafeteros, coffee farmers, the next day. We decided to go back as quickly as possible because otherwise I would risk to miss my flight out of Cali. The next day we encountered the coffee farmer's "paro" in two places. Heavily armed police had cleared the road again so fortunately we could continue. At the end of the day in the mountains when we were descending towards Armenia we felt that the car was getting instable while breaking. We made it home and when we looked outside the next day we saw we had a flat tire. In the right front tire were 4 huge nails, thrown on the road by our friends the coffee farmers.
ColombiaPosted by Jan Lamers 17 Mar, 2013 08:05:57
From Buenos Aires I flew to Cali, Colombia to meet up with Clarena again. Together we traveled in her car for two weeks through Colombia. Starting in her hotel in Salento to nearby Valle de Cocora, Medellin, Guatapé and then to the Carribean coast at San Bernardo del viento, Coveñas and Tolu. This coastal strip is popular with local tourists but you hardly see any foreigners there. Driving around in a car with a local is a totally different experience than riding a motorcycle, if it was only for Clarena's "Colombian driving style". She easily overtakes trucks expecting the approaching opposite traffic to give way and she does corners at high speed using both right and left lane. Fortunately I live to tell.
ColombiaPosted by Jan Lamers 13 Sep, 2012 21:38:40
On our way out of Colombia we visited the colourful little town of Salento and the colonial white town of Popayan. Our last stop was Ipiales close to the Ecuadorian border. Nearby Ipiales the basilica of Las Lajas is spectacularly situated in a river gorge. The basilica has been built in commemoration of a would be virgen Mary apparition in 1754. The basilica was built between 1916 and 1949 in Gothic Revival style and you would expect it to be in Italy rather than in Colombia. After having received our blessings at the basilica we had a very smooth border crossing into Ecuador.
ColombiaPosted by Jan Lamers 04 Sep, 2012 05:04:21
Last Saturday I attended the Medellin soccer derby between Nacional and Medellin. The quality of the match was pretty poor, especially from the Medellin side but the atmosphere totally made up for that. The fans were chanting non-stop for ninety minutes trying to drown out the other side. I have never seen anything like it. Even the Medellin fans didn't stop for a minute when their team was 3-0 down. We were supposedly in the neutral zone, which means that we were not in the zone with the hard core fans. But because it was the only zone in the stadium where supporters of the two teams were mingled we saw quite some fights around us on the stands. To escape "the heat" we left a couple of minutes before full time.
ColombiaPosted by Jan Lamers 29 Aug, 2012 19:12:54
We visited Guatavita, a white painted town nicely situated at the shore of a big lake. A very sleepy town with an annoying clock tower that tolls for 5 minutes every quarter of an hour. We stayed at a hospedaje that had the hardest bed I have encountered on this trip. So the next day I started with a sore back on our ride to Medellin. Medellin was infamous in the 80's and 90's for the extremely violent crimes commited by drug lord Pablo Escobar and his Medellin cartel. Fortunately that is history now and Medellin is a relatively safe city. And a nice city too. It has some good museums, parks and architecture. Medellin is also known for its year round moderate climate and therefore it is often called the city of eternal spring.
ColombiaPosted by Jan Lamers 29 Aug, 2012 18:40:53
From Barichara we rode to Villa de Leyva, another nice colonial town. Because we arrived on a sunday the place was overcrowded with day trippers from Bogotá. We decided not to stay there and moved on to Tunja, where nothing much seems to happen. That is probably why the hotel personel allowed me to park my bike in the restaurant. The next day we left for El Cocuy. This was a spectacular ride through the Andes. From El Cocuy we wanted to do a six day trek in the Parque nacional El Cocuy, dotted with lakes surrounded by snow capped mountains. We knew August is not the best time of the year to do the trek but we were hoping to be lucky with the weather. Well we were not. We started off from hacienda La Esparanza for the Laguna Grande but due to very bad weather we never cauhgt a glimpse of the lake. Soakingly wet we returned to La Esperanza. The next day the weather hadn't improved a bit so we decided to go down and skip the trek. We spent two leisurely days at El Cocuy and then rode back to Tunja.
ColombiaPosted by Jan Lamers 17 Aug, 2012 23:43:06
Barichara is a real gem in the Andean foothills. It is a very beautiful, well preserved colonial town. There is quite a tourist set up but it mainly caters to local tourism during the weekends, which makes Barichara a very peaceful place during the week. Due to FARC activity in the recent past foreign tourism is only starting to bloom. This place is definitely one of the highlights of our trip so far. Our main activity here is doing nothing, sitting in the park, walking around taking pictures and drinking good coffee in the local panaderia.
ColombiaPosted by Jan Lamers 17 Aug, 2012 23:31:15
After a few days of taking it easy in Cartagena we decide to move on to Bucaramanga, an uninspiring city on our way to Barichara. We arrive at dusk and because it is not a tourist destination we have some difficulty finding a hotel. After riding around in the dark for a while I stop at a police post to ask for directions, There our hotel problem is really taken seriously by officer Pedro Cardona. He is franticly discussing with a couple of colleagues how to solve the issue. In the meanwhile I look around in the police office. On the wall is a poster with pictures of Bucaramanga's most wanted criminals. The ones that already have been caught or killed are marked with a cross over their faces. Eventually Pedro calls two officers who will escort us to a hotel. Ten minutes later two officers on a scooter show up, armed with guns and ready to find us a hotel. When we arrive at the Almirante hotel our police friends offer to negotiate a discount for us. We happily agree. When we take our gear into our room the hotel personel nodds politely, looking a bit pale after the negotiations with the police.