The flight left on time and within 90 minutes we were in Bogota.
The climate is noticeable cooler than the previous countries and I was regretting travelling in shorts and a t shirt. It was a cool 12 degrees Celsius.
I got a taxi from the airport to Cargo Pack which is where Winston is, or should be. I handed a piece of paper to the taxi concierge outside the airport and I asked how much to get to the address. He said US$10. I asked him how many kilometres to get there. He said “10 minutes”, I then repeated “how many kilometres to the address” with a smile on my face. He then said “5 to 10 minutes” I said “$10 is too expensive” He then called over a taxi driver and the taxi driver said” $5”. It seems if you’re fresh off the plane you're easy pickings.
I jumped in the taxi and we were off to find the Cargo Pack office. They open at 8am so I would arrive early. The taxi driver had problems finding it but we eventually arrived just as the office opened.
I completed the necessary paperwork, paid the rest of the bill and then walked over to the customs building with one of the Cargo Pack guys. He dealt with customs and got me over when required to sign the necessary paperwork.
I should be using my carnet de passage for Columbia. They wouldn’t accept it and said I had to bring it in on a limited import permit. So that’s what I did. There was no cost involved and it was issued for 90 days.
It was then back to the Cargo Pack warehouse where Winston and my gear were sitting ready and waiting.
We headed off to find a petrol station, fill up and then head to the Hotel Alana had booked for me. The hotel cost NZ$20 and it is such an improvement over the same priced hotels in Central America. In fact, I was ever only able to find one at that price and that was the one with the worst bed of my trip.
I phoned home from the Hotel to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. I then left the Hotel and walked around the neighbourhood. It was a mass of people and traffic last minute shopping and heading home on Christmas Eve.
I got a haircut and hair wash for NZ$3.50, I must say they did a great job. It’s so nice to be back in a less expensive country.
The people are very friendly and welcoming. I was walking along the street trying to find a shop that sold fork oil. Winston’s forks are too soft and need a top up. I got the oil replaced in Vancouver, Canada and they either used to light viscosity oil or not the full amount.
I walked into a couple of shops and asked if they had any. The last one had oil but not the correct type. I walked up the street a bit longer and then headed back towards the hotel. On the way back the guys who were in the last shop were outside having a beer. They held one up and invited me over. I ended up staying with these very friendly guys for the rest of the day. We all chipped in some Pesos and one guy would head off and bring another crate of “Poker Beer” back Their English was very limited and my Spanish is non-existent be we managed to communicate and have a great laugh and good time. We were all worst for ware when we headed off. I had a great night’s sleep.
I started the day with the free hotel breakfast. The restaurant is on the top floor and there is a good view of the city from there.
As it was Christmas day, I thought it would be a good opportunity to walk around the local streets as there shouldn’t be any shops open or people around. I was surprised to see some of the shops along with food markets. There were plenty of people walking to family’s homes or catching the bus to be with their loved ones at Christmas.
I walked and just observed the buildings, the people and the street art.
The street art.
Day 479 Saturday 26th December 2015
I had some errands to do today. It took all day and was tiring riding through congested streets. The mission was to get new chain and sprockets. When I got to the Triumph dealer they were closed and wouldn’t be open until well into January. No chain and sprockets today then. I then spent 3 hours trying to find a 21-inch inner tube for my front tyre. I finally found one but it’s not a heavy duty one, it’s still better than not having one though.
I had arranged with Columbia Heidenau to pick up a rear tyre. The guy I was dealing with was very helpful. He was on his annual break and gave me an address I could pick the tyre up from. When I got there the shop was closed and would be until mid-January.
I went back to the hotel to use the Wi-Fi to email the Heidenau guy and ask if I could pick the tyre up from his warehouse. He agreed and we arranged to meet at 5pm. I had such a difficult time finding the place that I arrived late. When I finally arrived, he was outside. I was thankful that he had waited. I don’t need to fit the tyre yet but there is no opportunity to get one until Chile and I don’t think the current one will last that long as I had it fitted in Vancouver.
Day 480 Sunday 27th December 2015
It was a slow exit from Bogota this morning. All the holiday traffic was headed out of town and the streets were really congested. Once near the outskirts of the city the traffic began to flow. I headed south west through the hills. It’s a scenic ride.
After a few hours my stomach was telling me to stop for food so I did.
I had a pork lunch which was nice, even though the pig was watching me as I ate him.
I called it quits for the day in Neiva. It was hot at 39 degrees Celsius.
I had a bit of time up my sleeve so I went for a walk around the town. Looked at a couple of old buildings and observed the people. Lots of little markets but the main shops were all closed as its Sunday.
After that it was time to get a cold beer. They’re only NZ$0.95, US$0.70. I purchased the beer in what I thought was a pool hall. They had lots of tables but they only appeared to play with three balls, a white, yellow and red. It wasn’t until a bit later on I noticed the tables had no pockets. I couldn’t fathom the game but they were scoring the game somehow.
I headed south west through the hills. The temperature was cooler and the views were good. There was still a bit of holiday traffic on the roads which slowed our progress.
I was heading to San Augustin to camp the night. My GPS would have had me do a 1200km route when in actual fact it was only 250km. I manually navigated to my destination. These GPS issues can be frustrating at times.
Today was a tough day. It all started off well heading south west towards Pasto. The roads headed up into the hills and there was light traffic. The road twisted and turned and it was an enjoyable ride. As I overtook a truck, I felt the steering on Winston go limp. I know what that means, it means another flat tyre. Yes, I let out a few not so choice words and managed to get the bike away from the corner on to a straight section of road. The road was reasonably steep.
So, it was the usual routine, all the gear off the bike. Get Winston on the centre stand and off comes the wheel. I got the tube out and tried to patch it. The patches and glue I have are rubbish, so that didn’t work. I had to put in the light duty tube I purchased for NZ$4.50. It’s just as well I got it but I was a bit dubious that it would last. The one it was replacing was a heavy duty one. The difference in thickness between the two is massive.
As I was about to refit the wheel when a cyclist pulled up. His name is Peter and he’s from Poland riding through Columbia and Ecuador for three months. He has over the years ridden most of South America.
It was great chatting away in English. It seems so long since I’ve been able to have a good conversation.
He was telling me the road to San Francisco which is 60km prior to Pasto was a very steep, gravel road with stunning views. I was feeling a bit apprehensive about this as I had just fitted my light weight inner tube and had no spare, also knowing that the tube patches I had were useless
He helped me push Winston off the centre stand and we said our goodbyes.
The views would have been spectacular but for the cloud and rain. When I did get through the cloud, I could see on some of the single lane sections drops of 100’s of meters. My tyres were at times only 6 inches from the edge. This is the most dangerous road I’ve ridden on my trip.
There was traffic on this road, Trucks, cars and motorbikes. The road is a single lane carved into the side of a mountain. There are lay byes for vehicles to pull over to let others pass.
I have to vent my frustration here, at a couple of the truck drivers. Both times they were pulled over in the lay-by and I was riding toward them on the single lane with no one behind me when they pulled out and drove towards me, blocking both of us. I asked the one guy to reverse the 3 metres to let me by but he wouldn’t. There was no one behind him. Instead, he drove so close to the edge of the road and almost scraped my bike as he went by. These guys have the IQ of a salmon. All they want is to get to the end.
The road looked like it had Stone Age adzes sticking out of the ground; all I could think about was not getting another flat. No spare tube and nowhere to go.
Finally, the tar sealed road came and after bouncing around for 80km the sealed road felt so smooth and pleasurable to ride.
I fell short of Pasto by 60km today and stayed at Sibundoy.
I headed off under a grey sky and headed into the hills. The road was steep, twisting and smooth. I was enjoying the freedom of being one of the only vehicles on the road when, I don’t believe it, the front tyre goes flat again. I managed to get the bike to the side of the road and on to an area where I could get the centre stand down. The area was right next to a house. The guy who lived in the house came out and we got the bike on the stand without taking all the gear off. The guy kindly helped me change the tyre and we got it done pretty quickly. It looks like the cheap tube was just not up to the punishment it got yesterday.
I stopped off and had a look at Santuario De Las Lajas. Santuario De Las Lajas is a Basilica church built in a Gothic style between 1916 and 1949. It is built inside the canyon of the Guáitara River.
I stayed the night in near the border.
I headed towards the Colombia / Ecuador border in the drizzle. It was only a 5km ride. The processing through Immigration and customs was a breeze and there was no cost.