Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Medellin, pronounced May-day-JYIN! (and points south)

We peeled ourselves away from San Gil, westbound for Medellin, of Pablo Escobar legend. Once again our map was deceiving, and the two inches between San Gil and Medellin represented two days of riding. Luckily it was two beautiful days of riding, and it was punctuated by a night here:

Party time!

Room with hot tub, stocked fridge, king size bed and locked garage for $22 a night
These hotels are intended for...parties? If you don't know I won't say.
So, in apology, these roadside hotels are pretty common, always have secure bike parking, and are usually pretty cheap. We were the only guests in the ten room hotel, and we slept like rocks in the A/C after a long day on the Colombian highway. We woke up the next day, and rode through this to Medellin:

Most of the day was spent weaving through pastures of the greeniest-green that I've ever seen; it was like riding through the Lorax's neighborhood before the Once-ler came onto the scene.  But eventually we came back to reality, and found ourselves in the mid-day traffic of Medellin.

Once-lers by the busload
After inadvertently touring most of the city, we finally found our way to the hostel where our friends Anna and Kim were staying. They thought we were high in the mountains of El Cucoy with Charlie and Andy, so you can imagine the look on their faces when we showed up!

They were "keen" to take a gondola ride to the top of the city, and we were "keen" to go along. Check it out:
Anna and Kim + assorted ponytailed and un-ponytailed foreign men.

You should have been there!

Foggy camera blues...

Crazy reflections in the gondola station. An important difference between a camera and an eye is the ability of the eye to percieve depth and differentiate between fields. Cameras make one flat jumble that your eye can't sort back out...
It was an incredible view, and my camera did it's best, but after 10,000 plus photos, 20 plus drops, a few moist incidents...well, like it or not, it was time for it to retire. We headed to the mall, shopped around a bunch, and dropped a bunch of money we don't have on a new Sony Cybershot. It's almost the same as the old one, but it can do this!
A trippy, panoramic teaser from a future post! In the framework of this narrative this hasn't happened yet!
So, unwanted cash disposed of, friends dispached to Bogota, we had little left to do but continue south ourselves. We could never have know what sort of animal husbandry and Dr.Suess references awaited us at our next destination, Salento, Colombia...

Colombia Dry Roast

 First off, here's a new youtube video of our V-Strom being loaded onto the Stahlratte for our voyage to Colombia. It's fun to watch now, but it was a bit unnerving at the time. Here's the link:
Loading the V-Strom!
Unloading the bikes!
Cartegena Fort
 Once on dry land, we were all primed and ready to go for a ride on a new continent...after a three day wait on customs. Somehow the fact that we had arrived on a Saturday, and would not be able to do the entry paperwork until the following Monday, had not been made known to us until an hour before we arrived in Cartegena. Whoops!

With a few days to kill, we set out to explore the city. Cartegena was as "charming" and "colonial" as Lonely Planet had promised. It was also around 95 degrees and humid. Unfortunately we had visited somewhere around 10,000 humid "charming colonial cities" in Central America, so we were actually just ready to get on the bike and head into the mountains. The customs work started at 8 am Monday, and ended at 5:45, making it the longest border crossing of the trip by several hours. Oh well.
Cartegena street corner
The next morning we headed east and then south, bound for San Gil. Tom and Alex had bike work to take care of, so we left with Charlie and Andy and made plans to meet up in a few days. It took us three days to get to San Gil, which is still technically in "northern" Colombia. It was much cooler though, thanks to the 8,000 foot elevation.

Sunset over the Colombian Andes

Charlie and Andy on the road to San Gil

A tiny bit of the massive canyon on the road to San Gil
 Here's a video clip of that ride, it was beautiful, and only moderately terrifying. Luckily there were no guardrails to obstruct the view!
Chicamocha Canyon, Colombia

San Gil from the hilltop

The streets of San Gil - not a good place to ride a motorcycle in the rain!
We got settled into a nice hotel in San Gil, and then went for a walk around town. There is a Mother Mary statue on top of the hill that overlooks the city, so we made the hike up and got a great view of the entire valley. The next day we went out to visit a nearby waterfall, and went for a very brief swim in the pool at the bottom.
The very bottom of the waterfall
On the hike up Charlie pointed out some crazy plants, the likes of which Jill and I had never seen. Are you familiar with the Mimosa plant? Neat stuff, check out the video:

Mimosa plant

Somehow we spent four days just hanging around San Gil, and finally we decided that it was time to move on. Charlie and Andy wanted to head up to El Cucoy National Park to do a few days of hiking, but after a review of the finances we realized that going 150 miles the wrong way and spending another four days hanging around one place probably wasn't the best idea, so we parted ways and headed for Medellin.