Thursday, May 7, 2009

End of South America Phase

Quick lunchbox from last night dinner and cup of coffee. trying to hope that the rain will stop.

We got the mobile phone back. After much of my furious shouting and quick steps on my army boots, that guy dropped the mobile to the floor and ran away. The street was not in his favor phone because he is running towards a place where there will be many patrolling policemen and didn’t expect someone would run after him.

We were lucky.


day 1 : Pasto
day 2 : Popayan
day 3 : Cali
day 4 : Cali (supposed to leave but overslept)
day 5 : Manizales
day 6 : Medellin
day 7 : Medellin
day 8 : Taraza
day 9: Cartagena
day 10: Cartagena

The main roads here are quite safe. I would rate the quality of roads here: Good.

Most of the bridges from Pasto to Cali are being secured with military installations. An average of 6 men (fully armed) will guard on each bridge of different length.

We heard from other travelers that the Columbians were very friendly BUT we were warned about the crimes here, like not to accept anything like drink or even a handshake from anyone suspicious here because they have a kind of drug that will knock you off.

My main question is: shall we be friendly to them? shall we accept their friendliness, shall we open ourselves to them?

Sometimes when they came to talk to me, I would react normally by answering their question and not thinking much about what were their main motives. Are they trying to know that we have cash on our pockets or they were just curious? if we chose to be defensive towards the local, then why travel? Travel just to see the historic buildings, churches and museums? What we want to know more are the people, making friends around, knowing them in real person rather going thro the tourist office. You will know what I mean if you had travel enough.

Maria had a pet chicken in her balcony, Rossini. Rossini had a special perfume that Maria will apply on it.

BUT, if we are friendly to everyone, are we putting ourselves to risk? Usually they will ask the below questions when they know that we are traveling on our bike around the world. The sensitive questions were:

1)much money is enough for your round the world trip?
how much does your bike cost?
how do you manage your money? do you usually use ATM or cash….?
what do you work as when you are in Singapore?
what is the average salary of a Singaporean and what is the exchange rate of your currency to our?
Where are you staying tonight / where you will be going tomorrow?

The local sometimes are just curious or are they trying to have bad motive?

Even I sensed that they are normal people, or well to do people here, I felt insecure when I have answered them these questions. We are not 1 month tourist here but they know that we are traveling around the world.

Is this my sister´s bike?

While walking on the streets, folks sitting by doing nothing, watching people walking pass and will say hello, shouting ‘Japan?! Chino?!’ to us. Are they trying to know us? Shall we reply or walk on? Sometimes I will glance by the side of my eye, if he is a ‘ok’ person, not drunk, I will wave back and tell them I’m from Singapore to start the conversation. They will reply, asking that Singapore belongs to which island of Japan. Then I would try my very best explain what Singapore is all about. In less than 3 minutes, friendly and curious crowd will gather. No harm.

Night view of Manizales. can you feel the rain?

While riding to Manizales, we stopped by the roadside for a scenic view of lunch break with our packed sandwich. There were also locals stopping by for photos. As usual, they saw aliens (Sam and I) stopping too, with a spaceship (Hope Too). They mumbled quietly and observed the aliens for a while, trying to figure out where we come from. Some will come closer to the spaceship and have a look. 2 of the motorbikes (125), with their girlfriend behind, came to talk to us if they could take a picture with us that were to break the ice. The usual questions came up.

Maria, Me, Samantha and Felipe in their house.

There was a strange request by the girl, Maria, if we could show her our Singapore notes. I tried to dig out the infamous one dollar in the tank bag and present it to her. After knowing the value of this coin, she wanted to give me Columbia Pesos in return for the Singapore coin. We rejected but agreed for her invitation to her home for dinner. Maria and Felipe lived in Manizales.

The place where we first met Felipe and Maria.

Young, energetic, curious, shy but yet friendly; Maria, a law student, 20 years old was with Felipe, a veterinarian student, 22, showed us around the night of Manizales on our bikes after the dinner at home. The night was perfect except that Rain attacked us and there was a motorcycle curfew of 2200hrs in the city.

Maria´s mother and brother.

Manizales was one of the richest town in Columbia due to the trade here: COFFEE.

Medellin was another major city in Columbia. Don’t be surprised by the high rise buildings, efficient metro network, big shopping centers, private estates and condominiums were here. It was also the home town of Fernado Botero, the famous artist that created the big bird bronze statue under UOB Plaza in Singapore.

A plate of chinese fried noodle cost S$6.70 in a shopping mall. We have to pay 1st and wait for 30 minutes for it. Guess who is eating that? Sometimes we just missed home food.

The bronze bird in UOB Plaza, Singapore. Fernado Botero´s work.

In the hostel, we were offered to smoke. Not Marlboro, but weed. Not weed in your flower pot but some slices of cocaine to accompany with rolled tobacco. I am a very curious person but would defiantly say NO to it. I had it once in Bolivia, which I didn’t know it was weed. We had conversation with other bag packers in the hostel and they were sharing a rolled tobacco. I was offered a puff and it was a smooth one, not realizing it was weed until my head went turning and I had an awful feeling thro out the night. Now I understand the meaning of: not to accept anything from stranger.

We exchanged.

Ask Sam how was Felipe´s skill? in Columbia, there were rules about riding a bike. Rules like have to wear a refletive on both person with the bike number on the refletive vest and the helmet. There were many cases of motorbike robbery. Robbers uses motorbike for bank robbing....

We started wheeling out of Medellin at noon time after a lazy breakfast, reaching a small village 220km north after 5 hours of riding. 3 hours of the time we were attacked by rain. Taraza, a village along the Pan-Americana Highway, had a Hotel with bike friendly parking, room sufficient for not more than the length of my height, that was when I sleep straight, my head and feet could touch the both ends of the wall.

This plaza in Medellin should look very beautiful in the night. these concrete poles will light up in the night.

Walking into the room thro the door, not more than 2 person could stand together unless moving into the private bathroom. The only window we had could easily climb out to the common corridor. There were no ventilation except for the fan. We had reached a place of high humidity. We could not breath. Imagine after having lunch and getting back into your car that was parked NOT under a tree, that was the moment.

Spicy Thai papaya salad with cold chicken feet. We prepared it for ourselves!

It was very interesting to stay in Taraza for a night. While we were exploring around the village, walking along the row of shop houses, I sensed that 3 teenagers were following us for the past 20 minutes. We made several turns making sure that they were not stalking us. I could hear them shouting at us. I was sure it was on us but didn’t understand what they were shouting about. As usual, we were the aliens and the normal folks would want to know our reaction. Like a sparrow that flew into your house, you would either chase it away or try to make some chipping sound to be friend with the sparrow but the sparrow wouldn’t understand what you are chipping about and looking at your fingers, trying to fake some food for the sparrow. The annoyed sparrow would get out of the house.

we also visited the botanical garden of Medellin.

Must say sorry to the Swiss team that we cooked Thai Pineapple rice that night.

As we waited for dinner in a local family eatery, these 3 teenagers that had stalked us for the past 30 minutes had came in. They talked to the senior lady owner for quite some time and the senior lady came to give Sam a light pat on the shoulder, speaking some Spanish to her. We could not understand a word but from her gesture, we knew that……………..

In Medellin.

…………we knew that the senior lady was an ice breaker. These 2 young ladies and a guy wanted to be friend with us but didn’t know where to start. They were just shy and had never seen an Asian in real life, except for Jackie Chan in the national TV program. 2 of them were 16 years old and the other girl was 15. The color of the skin was light brown with dark hair. They were not very tall but from the look of their body shape, at aged 15 and 16, they were almost fully developed as an adult. Does Columbia coffee contribute an effect on a person’s puberty after long period of usage when it was infused since young?

The crowd in the eatery grew. There were also younger kids like aged 8 or 10. Everyone went crazy when I could write my Chinese name. Sam and I wrote at least 20 Chinese names. They wanted their names to be translated into Chinese characters.


Teresa = 特丽沙

After giving them their name in Chinese, they wanted their friend’s name to be translated too. The 3 senior ladies in the family would also want their name translated. Maybe we can work here , just for $2 per name.

We went to a local cheap bar for some cooling beer as we watched the people walking by. 3 young ladies scrolled by us and kept looking back at us as if they had seen a man with 10 noses. They made a U-turn and went to our next table to chat with the owner. The ice breaker was to ask about the time from us. One of them had a puppy on hand and Sam took this opportunity to cuddle with it. The people here were just shy and friendly. We do not understand the usage of Spanish but could memorize the questions and answers from the people that we met first time.

Now we reached Cartagena, will mark the end of our south america phase. we will talk to the boat captain tonight and see how he would arrange us to sail through the toughest part of the continent, The Darien Gap. will keep you all updated.

Information for fellow travelers:

N1 12.702 W77 16.666
Hotel Casa Lopez (Calle 18 no 21B-11 La Merced)
90000pesos for 2 person in 1 room.
free internet
very clean and 5 star hotel service.
breakfast included.
the only place with safe motorbike parking.

El bordo
N2 06.932 W76 59.349
GPS co-ordinates not precise.
about 130km north of Pasto.
We did not stay in this small town but there are about 7 lodging with private parking. Just as what a biker need. go check it out!

N2 26.346 W76 36.343

Hotel Capital, Carrera 5, No. 7-11
15000pesos for 2 person in 1 room without window.

very basic.
Parking in courtyard.

N3 28.147 W76 31.773

Casa Blanca Hostel, Avenida 6 bis, Calle 26n, #57, Santa Monica Residencial, Cali
There are no such thing as biker’s friendly hostel but a friendly owner hostel, also an ex-RTW rider.
It is more like a home. Owner had his own private bike parking in a very safe compound with armed security guard. He also parked his big bike there.
Very good and safe location.
15000peso per person in dorm room (special discount because of low season).

N5 04.283 W75 31.209
Hotel Califonia.
Calle 19. No16-37
40000pesos for 2 person in 1 room with private bath.
Private parking.


N6 12.349 W75 33.953
Casa Kiwi
Carrera 36 # 7-10 (El Poblado)

Bike parking in a good safe and lock garage, sharing with the garbage. The time where they open the gate of the garage is when the garbage truck comes and they collect the garbage. NOT able to do up your bike there unless you are a Smurf.

they had cleard the rubbish, at the spot where i was standing. If not, i wasn´t able to stand there.

Free: internet only you have your laptop. connection is random.
Free: kitchen to use. beware of dropping cabinets filled with knife that will drop on your feet. please wear steel toes.
Free: wake up calls by the constructions on their ‘extended’ annex at 9am, weekdays only.
Free: weed to smoke, offered by one of the hostel staff but I rejected. (there is a notice written something like: The hostel does not allow usage of drugs. All guest have to leave at 2am and to be quite after this time) so… don’t expect it to be quite before 2am and who are they referring as ‘guest’???
Free: get to know the locals. drunk young punks which were non hostel staff nor travellers that were invited in the hostel, smoking weed, making noise and talk about non-sense…….is it safe to keep our belongings around?
SPECIAL DISCOUNT FOR BIKERS!!! The staff quoted my wife 40000pesos for a private double room without bathroom. It was a special discount for bikers because they usually charge 50000pesos. we agreed because the dorm room was a mess and it was starting to rain. Next day, I heard the other staff/owner quoting to a bag packer 40000pesos for the same room we had. Maybe that bag packer had a motorbike in the bag.
Nice guy that helped us a few small but important issues in the hostel. He is an American. I’m sorry I did not get his name.
BUT I believe the hostel will get better in time as they are reconstructing the whole building. it’s a bit messy but at least I did not lose anything in this hostel. point to add, it is quite a good location.

Taraza (220km north of Medellin towards Cartagena)
Hotel Noche Y Dia
N7 35.072 W75 23.960
15000peso for 2 person in 1 small, humid but clean room with private bath.
very secure and easy parking.
Along Ruta 25. we enjoyed the folks in this small town. very friendly but shy people.

Just a normal village, nothing special except for friendly people.

El Jardin
About half hour ride north from Taraza if you don’t want to sleep in a humid room.
N7 45.058 W75 15.505
behind the gas station. military checkpoint is just outside the gas station.
we didn’t stay here but we did have a look at the rooms. possible place for a night with nice cafeteria. Very nice retired couple running the place.
18000pesos per room. check it out.

We were there only for coffee breakfast and the owner treated us well, like a gentleman. He wrote something like greetings to us on a piece of paper and present it to us. We felt very welcomed with him thou we only had a cup of coffee there.

N10 25.358 W75 32.701
Hotel Holiday.
Calle de la Media Luna.
30000peso for 2 person in 1 room with TV, fan and exotic bathroom.
Have special planks for wheels onto the steps, parking along courtyard BUT have to strip my cases and front bags. just enough for my xrv750.
I think it had the best deal. with the same price, could only sleep in a dorm in other places.

What is columbia? If you think this place is a jungle and full of black people, then you must view this video!!


Las montañas said...

You have booked your ferry tickets to cross into Panama?

There are only 2 words you need to know:

si, and no.
japonés? no
Singaporeño? si!

Weeds.. haha.. tried the coca tea? Good for high altitude illness prevention

singaporedream said...

LM: We knew the date and the captain but have not paid. its on 11may. gonna wrap hope too with plastics to keep it out of the salt water...

coca tea... yeh... had it almost everyday in bolivia n peru. chewing coca leave really is an art, also it can sustain hunger... u wanna import some to singapore for distrubution? sell it as a health MLM.

Las montañas said...

I think there is already a product here called "Mate de coca" from Argentina.

singaporedream said...

The mate de coca is not the coca leave that we chewed... emm... the most importing to chew with the coca is the additive things.

heartache said...

love the video! especially the commentator!

andrea and thomas said...

hey guys, we hope you have a great trip over the darien gap and you arrive in panama safe and healthy and your bike too.... take care and we keep thinking of you! andrea and thomas

Marisol said...

Isn't it amazing I always read your blog after Andrea & Thomas?? hahaha
Reading your comment about "the aliens" I felt ashamed of having made some of those typical questions... I hope you still think it's funny, cause I think there's curious people everywhere!!
Big kisses for you too, have a great trip to Panama, and we'll keep in touch.

singaporedream said...

heartache: i like it too. tats y i wanna share it wif u guys... the little kid says: we have......(the famous people).
next time i can produce a film like that, saying we have people like annebel chong, micheal fay....fann wong?

singaporedream said...

andrea and thomas: safe and sound. some paper problems..cant get to the bike meeting in usa in time.sorry.

marisol: i also ask questions like that. we are normal. but only alien dont invite us to their home...

singaporedream said...

andrea and thomas: safe and sound. some paper problems..cant get to the bike meeting in usa in time.sorry.

marisol: i also ask questions like that. we are normal. but only alien dont invite us to their home...