December 3rd: San Gil to Bogotá – 310km
I had plans to meet with Andrés around noon time and I left San Gil before 7.30am. The road was empty for the first hour or so. Then, I kept getting stuck behind trucks that were going up and down the hills at 25 km/h. There was also quite a bit of work zones that were slowing me down. It took me a full 5 hours to arrive to Andrés’ house in Bogotá. I was happy to see him again after meeting him at the motorcycle camp we took together in California. We chatted a bit and after telling him about the mechanical problems I encountered the previous week, I told him that I wanted to hit the road again in the afternoon. I explained that joining my Canadians friends was what I wanted to do. Although he understood my motivation, he had a totally different idea of what I should do with my time. He started telling me about all the beautiful things to see in Colombia and insisted that I would miss them all by blasting through the country. He took me downtown for lunch and successfully convinced me to stay with him for a few days. After lunch, he took me to a KTM shop where he bought his 1190. I purchased many spare parts (spark plugs, main relay, TPS sensor, chain, oil) and inquired for new exhaust cans as I hated my new strait pipes. They did not have anything new that could fit on my 990. Then Andrés called one of his good friends who own a KTM repair shop and asked him if he had anything used. He did have something and invited us to come over to check them out. They were literally brand new cans that a customer took off to install Akrapovics. I asked him how much he wanted for them and he said 200$ for the two. I was able to get them both for 150$! They are 1500$ in US and probably 2500$ in Colombia. I was super happy! I spent the rest of the day asking Andrés: “Did I tell you about my new exhausts?” We then returned to his apartment and he helped me put everything on the bike. After a couple hours, we were done and I used his washing machine to wash my stuff. We then went out for dinner. Halfway to the restaurant, his daughter called him as she needed his help with a car situation. He went back close to his apartment and we were heading back out after another couple hours. After driving around for a few minutes he realized that all the good places he liked were closed and decided to take me to a small place where they sell the Colombian equivalent of a “poutine”. The meal is called “Mazorca desgranada”. It’s basically garlic sauce, over cheese, over chip crumbs, over meat, over more cheese and over corn. Quite tasty but not exactly healthy.
December 4th: Bogotá
Andrés had to go to a meeting for most of the day. I woke up around 8am and did some research on my computer for most of the morning. I then walked a bit around the block before taking the bike around the city. Even though I spent more than 5 hours riding, I estimate that I moved for 1 hour at the most. Traffic in Bogotá is terrible. I got caught in pouring rain just for the last 30 minutes before I got back to the apartment. Andrés arrived some 15 minutes later. He had a good day and we took it easy after he cooked some delicious pasta.
December 5th: Bogotá
I woke up to very subtle noises in the apartment. Andrés was already gone by 8am but his maid, Olga, was being very careful not to wake me up. I thanked her for the effort after we met. My plan that day was to write my last post on the first part of Colombia. Writing about my acceptation, birthday and mechanical problems took me most of the day. Andrés invited me over for lunch with two of the girls that work for him and a friend of his. They were all great people and I had a good time. Back to the apartment in the afternoon, I kept writing. Andrés arrived around 4pm. He had to leave in less than an hour, but he offered me to try his new 1190. It took me a little over ½ second to accept. Wow, this bike was great. The acceleration, brakes, suspension, handling, weight balance and sound were just unbelievable. I wanted one… He then left for a couple hours and came back for dinner, but I had already helped myself. One of his friend came over and we all chatted and had a few drinks before she left a few hours later. I finished writing my last post close to midnight and was ready for bed.
December 6th: Villa de Leiva
Earlier that week, Andrés offered to take me to an old Spanish colonial town about 2 hours out of the capital. It did not take me long to show interest and today was the day. He also invited Alexandra who I met over lunch the previous day. We left around 9am and even though the ride was supposed to take 2 hours, we were there about 4 hours later. Traffic was really bad that day as it was the first day of a long weekend. Nevertheless, I got to chat with Alexandra and Andrés about all kinds of subjects. Alexandra spent the past two years traveling the world with her boyfriend on a BMW 1200GS. They went to North America, Europe, Russia, Japan, South-East Asia and South America. I even got to know her boyfriend on the phone.
Villa de Leiva is located up in the mountains and has a very special character to it. Cobblestone streets, red tile roofs and all white buildings make you think you might be in Spain for a moment. After parking the car, we walked around for a few minutes before finding a spot to eat. Food was delicious. I had to sneak in the restaurant to pay the bill as Andrés had been paying for everything so far and was categorically refusing to let me pay. It would be the only time in my 5 days there… After lunch, we walked around town and enjoyed its attractions. Andrés looked at some paintings he liked and ended up buying a large one for his apartment. The town was very alive with lots of young adults getting ready for the festival of lights in the evening. It had all kinds of small shops and vaguely reminded me of the old part of Quebec City. We went around shooting some pictures. Andrés really enjoys doing that and the pictures he takes are incredible. Soon, it was getting dark out and we were heading back to the car. Luckily, the ride back took us a little over 2 hours. We then headed to a great restaurant downtown where Alexandra invited a few of her friends to come over. I was sitting next to one of her friends’ boyfriend called Santiago. He was a really cool guy who was working for his family business. One of the things they did was importing high end interior doors from a town close to Barcelona. He told me he has to visit Barcelona a few times a year and we made plans to meet again there. I was really tired for some reason and was happy to go back to the apartment and go to sleep.
December 7th: Bogotá to El Cerrito – 450km
I was up by 6am and getting ready to take off. I planned my route, booked my hotel for the next 2 days and packed up my stuff. At 8am, Andrés and I headed out for breakfast. My bike sounded much better with the new exhaust, but still lacked power. I was suspecting the low fuel quality again. We had some wonderful eggs and soon we were getting ready to head out of the city. Andrés signed the map and offered to guide me out of the city, which I happily accepted. 30 minutes later, we were stopping at a gas station to say good bye. Even though I wanted to get rolling with the 500km I had to ride that day, I felt a little sad to leave Andrés. I had been treated like a prince for the past few days and really enjoyed his company. Aside from the traffic which drove me crazy a few times, I truly enjoyed my time in Bogota and everyone I met there. After a few pictures, I was riding away from the city. Soon, I was riding very twisty roads in the mountains. The rain was on and off and I had to be careful cornering. At some point, the road was very narrow and filled with trucks that were going 25 km/h. It was a good thing that I did not have to respect the traffic lines in the mountains… The views were breath taking. The road was carved in the mountain sides which were covered in coffee plantation. After a 3300m mountain pass, my low fuel light turned on. I turned off the engine, put it in neutral and over the next 20km, I had to turn it back on only for about 30 seconds. I felt like I was on a bicycle going down a massive hill. Good times! At the bottom of the hill, it was pouring down and I filled her up with premium. She got her power back and it put a smile on my face despite all that rain. The final 100km were much easier as I hit a 4 lane highway. By that point the sun was out and the coffee plantations were gorgeous. I found my hotel around 7pm and it was almost completely dark out.
December 8th: El Cerrito to Pasto – 450km
I was up early again and hit the road by 8am. I decided to drive through Cali to see it. It was very empty at this time of the day. At some point, the 6 lane avenue reduced to a one lane dirty market. It must be hell in traffic! The first 200km went by quite fast. It was mostly strait and flat. The next 150km were twisty, hilly and narrow, but beautiful. I stopped for lunch for 30 minutes and was back on the bike by 1pm. The next 150km were stunning. As you can sort of see in the video, the road was by the mountain sides and the views were gorgeous. I had to stop in a small town on top of a mountain. They road was blocked for an hour for some reason that I did not quite understand. Everyone was out of his car and having fun in the street. One man came up to me and started shaking my hand and looking very happy to meet with me. He kept saying that all was good. Other people then gathered around me to know where I was from and where I was going. As usual, they wanted to know the brand of the bike, how many CC’s it was and how fast it could go. At some point, another motorcycle parked next to me and I met Karen and her boyfriend. They were traveling to Peru and back in two weeks on a cool 500. They took a few pictures and soon, we could move again. I had less than 50km to ride to Pasto. I got lost a little when I got there, but eventually found my hotel. I bought some fresh food at the grocery store for dinner and went to sleep early.
December 9th: Pasto, Colombia, to Quito, Ecuador – 350km
I had breakfast at the hotel and left early again. I wanted to visit a cathedral in Ipiales before heading to the border of Ecuador. Joel told me about it and after checking it out on the internet, I wanted to see it in real life. It was at the bottom of a valley and beautiful. There were cast iron plates cemented on the walls everywhere leading to the cathedral. They were from people all over the world. The cathedral itself was beautiful. It was starting to rain when I arrived and took a few pictures before heading back up the stairs. The border was easy in Colombia. It took me 15 minutes to give my temporary import permit and get my passport stamped. On the Ecuador side, it took me 2 hours. Getting my passport stamped took me 10 minutes, but the temporary import permit took longer. I had to wait in line for 45 minutes to be told that I need color copies, not black and white. I had to go through the line again for over 30 minutes. Then it was their break time. I finally got to speak with the lady. She checked the bike, filled out the form and printed the permit. Once in Ecuador, I had no more maps on my GPS. I stopped by the side of the road and uploaded my open source map on the unit. It worked well and I was able to compute the route to my hotel. Once again, the road was beautiful. Very hilly, twisty and by the mountain side. Unfortunately, I felt like it was more of the same thing and just wanted to get to destination. My low oil pressure light was turning on at low RPM even though my oil level was good. I was suspecting the oil quality as it has been already over 5000Km since the last oil change. At the end of the afternoon, I crossed the equator. All Zeros on my GPS! Then I had to climb back up to the highest capital in the world: Quito. As the highways got wider and traffic was increasing, I could not see anything but mountains. I wondered where I was going. 20Km out, there it was! Quito on top of the mountain. At 2800m, it’s nice and cool up there. I had to manage through traffic for the last 10Km and made it to my hotel safely. People seemed much more laid back here than in Colombia. Less honking and less road rage.