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May 1st, 2012 - Colombia II

Despite our lack of direction without our friends Karin and Dave, I felt as if I had regained a certain amount freedom. All the decisions were back in our hands and we could now decide whether or not to ride 500 km’s or 500 ft. A peaceful night in our tent left me feeling extremely relaxed and I found myself simply enjoying the beauty of the days ride.  We stopped constantly, first to (finally!) have our front tires changed, second for a freshly made juice at one of the many fruit stands and then to take photo’s and enjoy the views throughout the day. I hadn’t felt that carefree in a long time and it was at one incredible view point that I spotted a beautifully paved road winding its way along the edge of the mountain in the valley below us. “I don’t know where that road goes but that’s where I want to go.”

We soon spotted the turn off and the road immediately began descending down the mountain with a series of switch backs. The road continued to impress me as we crossed a river at the bottom of one mountain and started up another on the other side. I really didn’t know where the road led to but as long as I was enjoying it, it didn’t matter. We entered the town of Manzanares with the idea of passing right through it but the beauty of the area and its welcoming people convinced us to stay. We ended up making friends and spending an entire weekend having fun and enjoying life in the mountains. With more and more friends, Colombia was shaping up to be a country that will forever be a part of my life.

For the next several days we rode, covering a lot of ground and exploring as much of Colombia as we could. Back in San Gil we had been invited by our friend Omar to come visit him in Villavicencio, a city 2 hours south of Bogota city. We made it a part of our plan to eventually visit Omar and with a few days left to kill before our Brazilian Visa’s were ready it worked out perfect to be in a city so close to Bogota. We spent a great weekend with Omar being introduced to more friends and taking in the sights of Villavicencio. We felt the warm hospitality of Colombia once again as we were treated to food, drinks, live music and even a trip to the zoo. Unfortunately our time with Omar was cut short when we discovered the permits for our motorcycles were going to expire sooner that we had thought, forcing us to race to Bogota and try to extend our permits. When we entered Colombia we were asked how long we needed permits for and I had said 30 days thinking that would be lots of time… lesson learned. When getting permits for your motorcycle always request the maximum amount of time allowed just in case you want or need to stay longer than you thought. With heavy rains and flooding in the streets of Bogota we managed to make it to the permit office 9 minutes before closing which for most of Latin America means “You aren’t getting anything done.” I managed to get the paperwork handed in and was told to return the next day at 2 pm to pick up my extended permits. I returned the next day on time expecting to receive my permits but that would have been too easy. “The man who needs to sign your documents didn’t come into work today so you’ll have to come back tomorrow.” Thankfully the man showed up for work the next day and I was able to pick up the new permits. Then it was over to the Brazilian Embassy where I was amazed to find our passports waiting for us, both containing Brazilian Visa’s.

Free from Bogota once again we headed for Venezuela taking the scenic route on Highway 55 from Tunja to Pamplona which has now become one of my favourite rides. The road has it all, beautifully paved sweeping curves, magnificent views and an adventurous 100 km section of gravel and dirt in the high mountain plains. There were a few challenging sections due to past heavy rains and landslides but thanks to our new tires even Erin plowed through them with confidence. As we neared Venezuela I actually felt kind of sad. Usually I get excited to enter a new country but I had fallen head over heels for Colombia and felt it still had so much to offer me. Luckily our time in Colombia wasn’t over yet; we still had to pay our friends Yuri and Patricia a visit in Cucuta, a city located next to the border of Venezuela.

We arrived in Cucuta later than expected and as it got dark we searched to streets for an internet café so I could retrieve Yuri’s phone number from my email. After a shockingly expensive 3 minutes on the internet and the use of a local man’s cell phone Yuri was on his way. We could hear him coming from blocks away on his 1000cc custom motorcycle, arriving loud and proud with a smile on his face ready to escort us to his home. We were taken in by his whole family, given a room of our own and offered all the food we could handle. Excited to have a whole kitchen to work with Erin and I gladly treated our hosts to a few of our favourite meals many of which turned into quite the party as more and more friends showed up to feast. In fact every day is a party in Cucuta. We spent the evenings visiting with friends, enjoying live music and frequenting our favourite bar in town Sofi Sport Cocktails which serves up awesome frozen cocktails that are perfect for Cucuta’s hot weather. Somewhere between all the fiestas we even managed to get some maintenance done on the motorcycles, changing the oil and rear brake pads.

From one great excuse to another our stay in Cucuta continued to extend itself from our original plan of 3 days to what seemed like a short 9 days. We managed to hang around long enough to enjoy our friend Alex’s birthday and my own birthday the day after. For whatever reason I’m really not much of a birthday person but getting to spend my birthday in Colombia with good friends was pretty cool.

Sadly it was time for Erin and I to leave Colombia so we said good bye to our friends and assured them we would meet again soon. With our bikes ready to rock another country and our friends Alex and Carolina as escorts, we headed off to Venezuela for what turned out to be our longest border crossing yet…

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