We crossed the equator yesterday and are now officially in the Southern Hemisphere! Get this though, out of curiosity I checked our relative position to our destination and it turns out that Buenos Aires is still further South than San Diego is North. We've traveled so far. This is ridiculous.
When last we talked I believe I was raving about the splendor of Colombia, and now that we have cleared customs and departed the country, I can comfortably say that Colombia is one damn fine place to visit!
After Bogota we decided to take our new friends up on their invitation and spent three blissful days lounging about at their high country hideaway. Their cabin is set up on a hillside above the town of Guatavita about an hour North of the city. It was raining pretty consistently while we were there which we didn't particularly mind because it provided a great excuse for us to just sit still and relax. I even finished my 2nd book of the trip (I think Grace is on her 8th). The family that takes care of the property was in and out of the house, cleaning and looking after the garden. The mother, Leidi, also cooked us breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day and insisted we just take it easy. They were all super nice and we really feel lucky for having met them. Thanks again Javier and Gloria for a wonderful vacation... from our vacation.
From Guatavita we had an incredible ride up and down the mountains to Armenia where we spent the night before visiting the Parque del Cafe which is a bit of a Colombian disneyland that is centered around the coffee bean industry. We chose not to partake in the water slides and roller coasters but we did have fun wandering about and learning a bit more about the process.
From there we jetted down to Cali for a night where we stayed at the Casablanca hostel by recommendation from some other riders we had met in Cartegena. Mike at Casablanca was great and there was a Kawasaki dealership just around the corner which was able to get us a new chain in about an hour. Although we weren't overly impressed with the city, it was a nice stop and we were able to swap stories with some other bikers. We met a girl who had split from two other guys and was riding by herself on a 650GS from Lima to Oregon. That's a tough gal.
A night in Popayan staying at Hostel Trail we wandered the streets of the old colonial town where we had dinner and drinks with a 21 year old blonde British girl who was traveling all over South America alone and having a blast. We also kicked back in the TV room and watched Tropic Thunder which put us into serious hysterics on more than one occasion.
From Popayan we had another long day of riding to Pasto. At this point I have to say that the riding in Colombia is just fantastic. Starting 200km North of Medellin as you start up into the mountains you can count on spectacularly windy roads and incredible vistas all the way until you reach the Ecuadorian border. We'd spent so much time in the small countries of Central America that I had almost forgotten what it was like to ride for days and days in wide open country. (To whom it may concern - Thus far, I haven't found a road yet that has topped the riding we did on the GDR)
We departed from Pasto, Colombia around 8am and headed towards the border with the plan to reach Quito before dark. A spectacular ride south to Ipiales where we stopped for a quick bite and some coffee before getting into the paperwork. Now, for those of you who are jealously living through a cold US winter dreaming of a sunny equatorial getaway, you will be pleased to know that we were literally freezing our little nippers off at the border. No kidding, I don't think we've had weather that cold since northern Mexico where it was actually snowing! We broke out the coldest weather gear we had and bundled up while clutching our steaming coffee cups for warmth. Who would have thought?
The immigration and permitting was a piece of cake and we were on the road into Ecuador after only about an hour of paperwork. Due to the fact that my Passport was "lost" in Colombia I no longer had the Entry stamp to show the official, but luckily I was carrying a photo copy of the old passport and he was able to look up the info with little hassle. Note to other travelers, always carry backup copies of your important documents!
At the border we ran into a couple from the States that is doing a similar trip through the Americas, but instead of on a bike their traveling by car. They were driving a loaded down Honda Element and it sounded like they hadn't had much trouble. A bit more paperwork in Cartegena attempting to secure their car from the shipping container at customs, but other than that everything sounded pretty smooth. They were both super nice and I'm sure would be happy to follow up with any questions that anyone may have if you are thinking about taking a similar trip on 4 wheels. Their blog is at www.thedarienplan.com.
The road into Ecuador was fast and fun winding over the hills and through scattered small towns surrounded by the bright green patchwork farms that dotted the hillsides. The guide book says it takes about 5 hours to reach Quito but we did it in about 3 1/2, including a stop for lunch. We crossed the equator and took a couple photos, but aside from the numbers on the GPS there was nothing else to indicate that we were somewhere special... The weather was fantastic when we pulled into Quito and we easily found our hostel which turned out to be perfect. It's located in old town and is named "The Secret Garden Hostel". Good food, good atmosphere and an incredible view over the city from the 5th floor Terrace. The only downside being the massive concentration of Ecuatorial Hoodlums roaming about. No joke, the stories are flying about in our hostel about the different muggings and pickpocketings that have taken place just in the last few days. This is the first town we've been to where, unquestionably, it's safer to leave your passport and credit cards in your dorm room rather than taking them with you out and about.
OK, I think that's enough. We head out tomorrow to start making our way to Salinas, Ecuador where we plan on showing up on Lyria's doorstep in a few days with a bag full of alcohol and whatever stray animals we can fit on the bike.
click the image to see our latest photos.