20th October 2015

20 - 24 October: Colombia Part 2... Some action again, mountains, river valleys, deserts… endless variety

On Monday I arrive after an uneventful journey back outside of Bucaramanga. The spot is known for its paragliding, great deals for 10-day courses (highly professional yet affordable) attract tourists. Pat has planed to attend such a course and so I go with him and take the opportunity for a 20-minute tandem flight. Really great to brought up above Bucaramanga by strong thermals. The guide asks me whether to lose altitude on the gentle or the acrobatic way. What a question!!! I know for a moment no longer what is up and what is down, after having screwed in tight turns down - but it was great fun anyway. 

The next day, back to my original goal: Villa de Leyva. A small town in the mountains, finally with comfortable temperatures that remind me what the sheets & blankets were actually intended on the beds! So far I still allow my GPS to take gravel roads as well but as it leads me more than once on dirt roads that barely deserve the name "path" it takes a while until I arrive Villa de Leyva ;-) The really nice Hostel (Finca Renacer) is 20 minutes by foot from Villa de Leyva away, just behind the military base.... so once again I’m in total safety the next two nights ;-)
I explore comfortably the village - thank God it is no tourist season and thus totally unspectacular, mostly residents and a few foreign and Colombian tourists. While I relax with a local beer and do what I love most to do (after riding my bike, of course) on my journey - people watching - I'll witness a "dog-drama":On the huge town square one of the many dogs takes a nap just behind the rear tire of a pickup, probably looking for some shade. The young owners stand next to the pickup, having a chat with friends. When the driver has finished unloading his goods, he wants to leave. Unfortunately, the dog misses that moment and is sort of run over from the tire. Of course, he starts to howl heartbreakingly. The owners knocking desperately on the window of the pickup - which brakes immediately and moves back when he realizes what happened. The owner weighs the howling dog - herself also howling - in her arms. All dogs that are hanging around on the square run to their suffering buddy. And about the same amount of people as well: veterinario, veterinario I hear called.... The dog is loaded into te pickup, together with its owner, which drives off immediately - I suppose directly to the vet. It takes quite a while until the minds of dog and men calme down again and all returne to their prior locations. The only ones that did not pay any attention to the whole incident were the police who would have been present on the place with quite numerous. Well after all, it was “only” a dog and for that they probably will not get paid.

On Thursday then on to Honda as a stopover on the way to "the desert of Tatacoa". This time I force my GPS to take some more waypoints – because it does not know some of the roads I want to take but they are officially available as mainstreets conferring to google.maps. After leaving the major route “north – Bogota” (with two mobile speed cameras), the road screwes perk up the hill, up almost to 3000müM. My Suzy shows no altitude problems and it's great fun, I feel almost as being in the Swiss Alps ;-) Well, the quality of the road, however, is a bit different: like this road are many national roads alternately paved, unpaved, with huge holes in it, deep reductions (called hundimientos.)But with the necessary vigilance and as I get used to that sort of street conditions it is no problem. After the pass it goes down into a beautiful valley that runs for about 50km along a river. During a fuel-taking a rest-stop I’m once again surrounded by the men present and questioned about my motorcycle. By now I know the corresponding motorcycle technical terms in Spanish, so I’m able to give them professional information ;-)

At the end of the valley then up the hill again and then for the next hour along the hillside to the other side of the valley, this time exclusively on gravel. 2,3 cute little villages on the way – of course all of them with the church and the major place in the middle ;-) To round up that day: just before Honda then a totally new paved, winding road down and back to the highway. Taking the risk that the non-motorcyclists are bored ... that was a driving day, as it could not have been more beautiful. Again I found a reasonably priced hotel with swimming pool and although I was the only guest the cooked me a great dinner with fresh fish from the nearby Rio Magdalena

On Friday there are dark clouds in the sky and I wonder how long it will take until I will have to mount the rain suit. And in fact, after less than half an hour the storm hits. Meanwhile I’m quite quick in changing to the rainsuit, so no problem. But as quickly as the rain comes, it is over again. Since the temperature in the valley immediately skyrockes I use the first available gas station to have a drink and to get rid of the rainsuit. There I’m approached by two Colombian motorcyclists. Of course they ask me about my trip, mainly because they have planned to drive with their club to Argentina by November as well. They take a picture with me and my bike and Fredy - one of the two motorcyclists - promises me to send me contacts in Colombia and Ecuador as he is president of the motorcycle club of Pereira and of course knows sooooo many motorcyclists. Well, we will see ;-)

I continue towards Villevieja and "el desierto de la Tatacoa". The first diversion away from the mainroad - according to my GPS - shows clearly onto a gravel road and because I view dark storm clouds in this direction, I just drive on, not knowing exactly what I will do now. But I just do not feel like driving on gravel in heavy rains – not as long I have a choice anyway. A few kilometers further then the official sign to "el desierto de la Tatacoa". A gravel road as well but as the storm clouds have meanwhile moved a little, I dare to attempt. My GPS show no road at all but clearly shows into the direction of the river. Well, just take a look; if that's the official way there must be a way to cross the river. And promptly I see a sign for a ferry; but coming down to the river Rio Magdalena the ferry is clearly not in operation. But there is a small boat, a so-called "lancia". An elderly couple drives at the same moment to the shore with their motorcycle and so I guess that’s the way to cross. I ask the young boatmen if it fits on his boat: “Si, no problema” says the young boatmen and maneuvers my Suzy without any hesitation onto the boat, as well as the second bike. I’m not allowed to help what is probably better anyway as he seems to know what he is doing very well. A short drive over the river and on the other side unloaded equal fast and easy. Cost: CHF 1.20; after crossing a for me still adventurous-looking wooden bridge over a small stream and after another 20km gravel road I arrive in Villavieja.

After having a cold beer I look for a cheap room. The hotel Paraiso offers a great deal: a simply furnished room, clean and even with a private bathroom and a pool to cool down for CHF 8.00. Now I’m looking forward to tomorrow's desert tour with Holman - a local guide - on the common moto taxi ;-) .... read more then in the next blog .... Hasta luego