approximate route: San Gil Colombia, Medellin, Manizales, Los Nevados, Salento, Bogotá...
Another good day. There's been a nice bicycle parked here at Macondo's, with a Rahloff hub, but I just took a look and didn't think much of it. Just this morning though, I walked out of my dorm room and Cass, from Panama City and Portobelo, was here and said, "I thought that bike looked familiar." Awesome. We talked for a bit about plans and I said I was thinking of going to Medellin and he thinks he's headed to El Cocuy for the hike. He pretty much invited me too, so I'm thinking about that a little. I took off at around 10a and just went all over the dirt roads around here. I went back to Berlin and went down. Palmar yesterday, and all over today. I went close to Galan, through Guane, and Barichara, crossed a few remote villages, and fjorded a river. I met Cass' friend, a Belgian, Arno, on the back roads. He rode in from Bucaramanga on dirt roads, just like Cass. Talked with him a bit and he's cool. A good day just exploring on dirt roads in the mountains. One road toward Guane and B... had a bunch of the waterfalls just as I turned a corner, beauty. None of this writing is much organized, but that's ok.
I awoke yesterday morning and had a bunch of lousy granola (I usually like granola, but this was kinda lousy granola) and started packing. I had decided on a route the back way, dirt. I was at first looking forward to going the same way back to B/manja as I had come, since the road was so darn good, nice and twisty, but got talking a little with Cass and got turned to trying the dirt way. I said my goodbyes to the Aussie boys I'd met, Shane and Steve, and then to Cass. He came out and took a few pics of me with the bike, then we said goodbye. I hit the road heading to Barichara on the pavement, filled up going in to town, then went into Guane for something to drink. I turned back around and dropped down onto dirt and crossed the bridge. I had to pee, so I took a few pics of me peeing off the bridge, just to be funny. I kept going and kept going throught the dirt. I got to El Fuerte, which had a pretty square, but wasn't sure where the road continued so asked someone. That bit of road started good but not long after turned to nonstop mud and big rocks, and not just any mud, slick clay mud that makes you slide all over the road. I came up on a stuck cabover a little bit before Z. I stopped for a bit and watched and took my sidecases off as I was going to try to pass him on the side. One of the women came, who was a school teacher, and tried to talk to me. Another guy also talked and they all asked me about the bike and the trip and I asked about the roads. I think they laughed at me a bit too, but in good humor. A cool part of this story is that non-other than an ex-US school bus with dual stacks pulled the cabover out. Wish I'd gotten a pic, as I said through the couple days on the mud road. Ah shit. I was getting close to Zapatoca and was thinking that I'd do Cass' route and take pavement out of Zapatoca to B/manja, the long way, but I didn't want to deal with more of this mud. It was causing very rough going, with always having to be fully aware of the surroundings and especially every irregularity in the road surface, plus getting used to sliding all over the place no matter the road surface and trying to keep the bike upright. I went through Zapatoca, which looked like a nice town and it was getting late and I should probably stay here, I thought, but instead, against all sound judgement, I kept going. I never stopped anyone to ask directions and just kept going straight on the road that I came into town on, and eventually saw a sign for San Vicente and Betulia. From the maps that I'd seen, I expected San Vicente to be around 10 miles away. I was amazed when i saw the road sign say 48km. Holy shit. At the branch for San Vicente and Betulia, I stopped to ask the way and the guy told me and said, "muy feo." Not good. I kept going anyway and was amazed at the beautiful scenery around Z. Not long after that, the rain started and the mud returned. Man, rough going. I just kept trudging along, admiring views when there were any and working to keep the bike upright. The day started getting late and I was getting quite tired, so decided I need to find some place to stay, but I'm still quite far from anything. I stopped at the first tienda that came up and had got off my bike and was looking at the left sidecase, which had gotten banged up after bottoming out on some rocks, when a guy came by on a little Yamaha 2s and asked if the bike was ok. "Si, esta bien." "Que necisitas?", he asked. "Necisito una cama." "Oh, you can sleep at my finca, just five minutes." Awesome, that was a bunch easier than I expected it to be. I followed and we stopped at another store a little ways up, mostly for him to talk with the owner I think, then we got back on the bikes. After another corner, there were two young guys with a cow roped but it was laying on the side of the road, but they couldn't get it to get up. Edgarond walked up to the cow, grabbed its tail and pulled it tight and then bit it. The cow squirmed some and mooed loud, but didnt' get up. I was so amazingly impressed by that that I don't remember what he did next, but it involved pulling something around its front end and it finally got up. It then ran off full speed the other way with one of the young guys holding onto a rope chasing after it. Craziest things I ever saw. We got to his house and he showed me around, my bed, the tv... Then he started cooking and asked about helping but mostly just stood around keeping him company. An awesome meal, beef, potatoes, rice, and canned tuna, which he brought out without me asking. Bed.
I found out from Edgarond that he is an electrical engineer and used to live in B/manga. He prefers the live of the farm raising 40 head of cattle. That is good to hear and maybe will teach me something about being satisfied. You can also hear about people wanting to bring countries out of the third world and build their economies, but if more people prefer the live of the farm, that won't happen. I don't say that as a judgement, just as an observation.
I woke up once at 8a and thought that I'd be in good shape, but took care of something then went back to lay down and didn't wake up until 930a again, damn. I must be catching up on sleep or something. I got breakfast at the rest at the top of the hill. A real nice guy, but the portions slightly small and pretty slow. I did some planning with google maps, both with notes on my phone and place marks on my gps and then I finally hit the road, probably just a little before noon. I told Greg, the owner of El Encuentro, and he had some worries about safety. Maybe he knew something that I didn't, but that seemed a little ignorant to me, considering we're still within an hour or two of Medellin and I've been way further out than that. I kept on the Guatape circle road but took a left at what seemed like the first left, which was toward Granada. The road started about the same as the circle road, but soon had loads of mud slides and I would think only for single track vehicles and walking. Pretty cool and a little hairy. Before Granada, I came up on a Policia Nacional Toyota and he asked if it was passable in his truck. I told him I don't think so and he was kinda upset. He asked a little more on the road and I told him that it wasn't good. He turned around. He let me pass then was went. I stopped a bit up the road and the Toyota passed and all the cops waved. Cool. I went through Granada and came out on the paved road and turned right and stopped to eat near Santuario. I had some trouble finding the dirt road and thought of pussing out and continuing on the paved road as the safe road, but broke hard and made the left onto a unmarked dirt road and it was the correct road to Carmen del Viboral. I always do that: "decide" to take the safe route, but at the last minute hit the dirt road, not being able to accept the decision. It was a decent road, not at all unpopulated, and soom came into Carmen, which was a decent size. I just kept going straight and turned left at the paved road (maybe I should have gone right), and went. I came up on a four way stop and I didn't know which way to go. Luckily there were two old men sledging a hunk of asphalt up to fill in the bumps in the road, so I stopped at the cross and asked them. At first, I was pronouncing La Ceja as La seeha and they didn't know what I was talking about. "Cual via a La seeha?" I corrected the pronounciation and they told me to turn right at the cross. I followed that for a little, had another right, and hit a paved road and went left and got to La Ceja shortly. I had to go into town to the ATM, then followed the signs to the hospital as that seemed like the correct way. I ended up in El Retiro and circled all over the place looking for a hotel as it was getting dark but found nothing. I found a dirt road that was probably good, but wussed out b/c I wouldnt' think tha tthere was a hotel down there. I took off on the paved road and next I know I see signs for Medellin and Itagui and the other southern towns. Shit. I had no luck finding hotels in that region, and got a little pissed, so I decided to head into the southern part of town and the road splits into seperate lanes way way down into town and I try to turn south on the main road out of town, figuring I'll make some time while I'll head south looking for a place, but it's a massive traffic jam. Nicely, most of the cars leave room for bikes to run down the center. The distance of the jam is unbelievable. I get on a bend in the road, perfect timing for once, and head back to Medellin and just go back to Casa Kiwi. I mostly just play on my puter and will hit the road again tomorrow. I'll climb the hill just like last time, but I'll head to El Retiro and run east but parallel to the main road to Manizales. Should be good...
...I've realized that I hugely prefer riding these little populated back roads. I just started getting close to Manizales and started to not like the riding as much, the traffic and all the people. I'll have to try to stay out in the country more. I should have said f it and stayed in Salamina for a bit.
I headed out of Manizales Friday morning. S had texted me and I called him back about meeting him in Salento with Paola, his "girl". I didn't think that I'd do it since I was planning on doing some other stuff and didn't want to be a third wheel, so I told him that. I hopped on the bike and headed into town to the Suzuki dealer, then turned back around and got on the road to Bogota to head to Los Nevados. There was a little rain and the sky was heavily overcast the entire time and there was a decent bit of commercial traffic, as expected heading to the capital. At a tight turn, I went straight, for the road into the park. There was beautiful scenery along it, but it would have been better if the clouds weren't so heavy. I got to the entrance, very cold at 4000m, and the girl there told me that motorcycles weren't permitted inside. I asked her why in Spanish, and I think that it was because there were many wrecks and they were being taken off of the road. Understandable, but I have a strong suspicion that it's also because if you show up two up on a motorcycle, there's no way that you can take a guide with you. There were at least six guides at the entrance, just hanging out. I guess that's the way a lot of these countries do national parks, to try to create jobs, unsustainably. Two or three other motorcycles showed up while I was there, and were told the same thing. I still hung out there for a little bit, and climbed the hill behind the entrance and had some coffee. Welp, at least they saved me 56000 pesos. I figured I'd ride back to Manizales for the night then head to Salento, I guess it was closer in my plans than I thought. I texted Stefan. I decided to stop at Termales del Ruiz on the way back to Manizales. It was a pretty and old building. When I pulled up the lot was empty and a dog ran out barking, followed by Jido. My Spanish wasn't good, but we communicated ok anyway. We talked and looked at each other funny for a while, while I was getting my stuff, then he showed me around to the pool. The hot springs where off to the right, and had overflowed their pool and ran downhill along the tiled walkway. That showed that the place may not have the best upkeep, but looked kinda cool still. Jido offered me to camp under the roof next to the pool, on a tiled floor, but heated by the water running right next to the foundation. I at first still wanted to go back to Manizales, so said no, but changed and said ok. I felt like I'd be missing out on something in Manizales, on a Friday night, but I doubt that I was, and staying there with Jido was probably a better experience anyway. He cooked some dinner and we went to bed a little after 7p, just after the sun went down.
A bad start to the day, but ended good. I got up and had a decent though expensive breakfast at the hostel. Then, I got my laptop, which made me real pissed off since it wouldn't fing connect to the internet. I want to smash it against the corner of a table. Maybe I will after I'm done with it. Or better yet, probably but not as much fun, I could put Ubuntu on it, like Christian. I called but got no answer so texted Marco and he said that he would be busy with his girl during the night and I said that I'd call him the next morning. I got pissed off with the puter so just took off for a walk downhill on Jimenez with a few detours. Nothing that exciting and I didn't feel like searching for any musuems. I got back to the hostel and my puter connected so did that. I also bought Everett Reuss' On Desert Trails and read that some and found one letter in particularly that matches my situation almost exactly and made me feel good.
The Lone Trail is Best for Me... 1932 "...and I have found it easier and more adventurous to face situations alone. There is a splendid freedom in solitude, and after all, it is for solitude that I go to the mountains and deserts, not for companionship. In solitude I can bare my soul to the mountains unabashed. I can work or think, act or recline at my whim, and nothing stands between me and the wild.
"Then, on occasion, I am grateful for what unusual and fine personalities I may encounter by chance, but I have learned not to look too avidly for them. I delve into myself, into abstractions and ideas, trying to arrange the other things harmoniously, but after that, taking them as they come."
This is pretty much exactly what I was thinking about and wrote pretty heavily on the previous day. I think that this is the path for me to follow. It is the path that I hinted at previously but still had doubts. I think that it's good, for now at least. I always met the coolest people when not trying. Funny how these passages come to you. I also had doubt for a little too, thinking what does this Ruess guy know, but by all accounts I've seen, he was a happy person.
I walked to Javariana this morning, from M's apartment, down Septima then up the stairs to take a look at the map. Edificio Arboleda was the one that I wanted and it was all the way in the back. After walking a bunch of stairs on the northern boundary of the campus sandwiched between a wall and the medical and or oncology building and crossing the road to the parking garage, I was there. Piso seis, then asked the woman behind the counter and she showed me to the counter. I waited on the couch for awhile for the other woman to not be busy and to wonder if they spoke English. I walked over to the far one and showed my interest and she gave me the details. I'll need to get some stuff together to get a different visa, but I think I'll need to get up there anyway because my current one will expire in less than a month. I left the building feeling good as finally doing something productive, then stopped at the OMA and got a coffee and sandwich and then went back for another sandwich.
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