Saturday, 31 July 2010
Thursday, 22 July 2010
We went with Carlos to the DIAN, the short name for the long name for “aduana”, customs. Carlos was of great help, though he does not speak Spanish. He speaks Portuguese, which turns out somewhat closer to Spanish than Norwegian.
We handed over the documents in the morning and waited for a few hours till lunch kicked in, in the governmental job sense. We were asked to return about three o´clock, which we did in order to be told to sit down and wait.
This very day the DIAN was seventeen years, and such a remarkable anniversary could not pass by in silence. Chairs, food and wine were waiting outside and soon people got sucked out of their cubicles and into this festive event I never thought I´d be a painful part of.
A Padre came and held an emotional speech about how good God is, and how the DIAN staffs serve their country by collecting import duties which people should pay with joy and delight. The highlight certainly came when the Padre said they should not just consider they role as just a job to get income, but to bring it to a new level with service and put in extra effort to keep their “customers” happy and expedite fast while we sat on our asses waiting on the eight hour for getting a stamp.
When the wine and cakes were gone and the Padre had packed away the drivel covered microphone people returned to work, at remarkably slower pace than they left. Our document processor came past us, and looked surprised, or even more like shocked when noticing that we´re still around. Within five minutes she came with some documents for signing, and that´s it. We were done, no checking of luggage or VIN.
We spent another couple of days in Cartgena with Carlos and Elenize. Opposed to me, Carlos did research before departing, which I both pitied and envied him for. His tedious work with marking his map with attractions and distances came to great help for me. He shared the information, told me about things and placed I never had heard about, helped me mark up my map, calculated and noted distances, and made me realize we´re even more behind schedule than I ever thought.
Mike which shared room with us disappeared when his mother came to visit. Soon after Mike was history in our castle we got in a dead man. Technically, I was not sure if he was dead at the time he arrived, or if he was dying soon. It was impossible to tell. He roamed around like a zombie, and mumbled feverish gibberish about fever.
I told him it was probably either Dengue or Malaria, I´d seen both numerous times in Malaysia and India and it wasn´t pleasant. What I kept to myself was that it wouldn´t matter to him as he was practically dead anyway. He´s face expression by just the Dengue and malaria statement was more than he could take.
We decided to move on before he/it started to smell as cadavers tend to do after a couple of days in tropical heat. In Medellin there was a Scot whose name was Albert hat had told us to drop by, he´d help us with getting organized things we might needed for the bikes as well accommodation if he had space in his hostel.
Medellin is the former Escobar town, but these days the main industry had changed from coke to cut flowers. Who would guess. Medellin impressed in it´s odd ways, as the Colombian people did.
Medellin is big enough to swallow you with its 2,5 million inhabitants and hardly any high-rise building to stack them, but in return it got quite some huge poor areas where you may not want to be after dark.
On the other hand, it´s got a new extensive public communication with trains and cable cars, connecting both good and bad parts of town. There´s plenty of parks, and there´s guidance for blind people on the sidewalks and parks, fairly advanced. The heart of the rich part is the Parque Lleras, which is a cluster of bars and restaurant on par with good major cities in Europe and Asia, though a bit quieter.
The people impressed and amazed by being generous, extremely friendly and helpful. How this goes hand in hand with the violent history of Colombia was beyond my understanding, but it was a fact I was happy to accept. The first time it occurred to us was in a small town up in the clouds before Medellin, where we came into a folk fest and hardly remembered walking back to the hotel due to local hospitality. The only evidence was the condition of the heads the next morning and a broken charger that had been in the way on the way to the bathroom in the night.
Medellin is supposed to be the last civilized outpost in Pizzaro´s empire, so we decided to stock up with some more spokes, tires, a new head lamp lens as mine died in an ugly bump along the road, and some other bits and pieces.
Albert introduced us to Federico that runs the local KTM shop, one out of two in Colombia. No doubt he was a young and ambitious gentleman, which obviously did his homework and managed the business well, with a clean showroom and workshop. His English was spotless, and will to help some worn travelers even greater. Federico became to me the Colombian symbol of the motorcycle community´s will to help each other. He got all our stuff together, and charged us prices we probably appreciated more than his accountant.
Tempus fugit, chop chop and a week was gone. We left well stocked and well eaten after a strict steak diet the last week in Albert´s Argentinean Parilla, and with a few new friends to come back to.
From Medellin the road snakes up and down green valleys and mountains in the Zona Cafeteria, Colombia´s coffee growing district with so steep fields that they can plant in the soil on both sides.
It´s altitude enough to make the temperature drop to Norwegian September´ish climate, with humid afternoons and smell of ripe crops and wet grass. Indeed enjoyable, and enough to make me a bit emotional and wishing I had my fierce -57 Triumph and not the underpowered Danish ox-cart.
As a harsh contrast to the seemed to be never ending green and breath taking mountains the border town appeared. Dirty, ugly and soul less as a proper border town is supposed to be. We were cold and wet, luckily we located a hotel with parking after not too much messing around.
Better yet, it was next to a bakery so we got our breakfast at five pm. A couple of buns did the trick, and the prices was so appealing that we decided this was nutrition more than good enough to carry out evil deeds the next day. A big plastic bag of buns cost one dollar and fifty cent, and fed us for thirty hours. If it´s gets cheaper than that, then it would carry a sticker saying “Approved by Burt Munroe”
We used a couple of weeks in Colombia, which does not at all pay justice to the country. Two months would be more like the time you should spend, but if you´re on a mission you gotta march on. But sure, I´ll do my best to return as soon as I can.
Hjemme tenker de fleste på Pablo Escobar, kokain og FARC gerilja når de hører om Colombia. Tidene har imidlertid endret seg noe siden vår landsmann Glenn Heggstad ble kidnappet, Pablo Escobar skutt og FARC geriljaen fikk tildelt utstyr til å blåse såplebobler og ble så opptatt med det at de glemte å være råtne egg i kurven.
I dag fremstår Colombia som et naturskjønt land, men en svært hyggelig, fredsæl, sosial og feststemt befolkning. Siden dette er en motorsykkelrelatert blogg skal jeg unngå og si noen om kvindene, men jeg ville ikke være overrasket om den delen har blitt behørlig dekket av Aktuell Rapport tidligere, et magasin jeg selvsagt tar sterk avstand til, og om jeg kommer til å kjøpe det leser jeg selvsagt bare de velskrevne og velgranskende ikke-sex-relaterte artiklene.
Det er relativt gode veier I Colombia, med konstante svinger opp og ned grønne daler slik at det er vanskelig å finne et mer motorsykkelvennlig land. Hadde en hatt litt mer enn 22 flodehester og sykler som veier 500 kilo hadde det vært rasende gøy istendfor bare gøy.
Å si at det har blitt et perfekt paradis er imidlertid å ta i litt. Mens vi var her ble det skutt og drept snaut ti FARC soldater langs ruta vår, og det var et mindre skyteoppgjør i en nattklubb der 7 ble drept, men vi var i en annen by så vi fikk ikke en gang tinitus av episoden. Alt I alt så er det akkurat passe; blir det for tamt kan en like godt dra til Mallorca eller Ørsta og lignende steder.
En artig detalj er refleksvestpåbudet for motorsyklister I Colombia. Alle må kjøre med refleksvest med påsydd registreringsnummer, bortsett fra besøkende som oss selvsagt. Dette skyldes ikke press fra lokale forsikringsselskaper eller Goldwing klubber, eller traffikksikkerhetstiltak i konvensjonell betydning . Derimot er det et tiltak fra myndighetene for å motvirke skyteangrep fra motorsykler, som tradisjonelt var et problem. Tiltaket har fungert bra, det siste året har fenomenet nesten forsvunnet så det vurderes å avslutte påbudet.
For vår del ble turen gjennom Colombia gjort unna på et par uker, men det hadde ikke skadet å bruke et par måneder, minst. Av store begivenheter var det lite å snakke om, høydepunktet var I grunn ei sprekt ramme og noen flate hjul, og alle var enige om at det var et fint land.
A parking lot in Cartagena, said to be the most beautyful town in South America, guess that goes for the parking lots too.
Klaus replacing my flat tyre, the second time or so that day. Klaus has specialized in repairing flat tires, while I have specialized in making them flat.
Thursday, 1 July 2010
Central America to Colombia
The laptop died under tragic circumstances in El Salvador. We were driving in a terrible tropical rain with hardly no vision, and the entire street was flooded. The sidecar fell down in a drain which was hidden under the water and swallowed the entire sidecar, leacing the bike in a 45 degree angel at the edge.
The laptop was packed in the sidecar in a more or less waterproof laptop backpack, which turned about to be more less than more water proof, and the internals were not to happy about the water.
With a tight schedule the coming weeks and no laptop it's not likely with any proper updates before Buenos Aires, but I'll try to post a few lines here and on Facebook.
We'll leave Cartagena tomorrow and take the Pan American highway down the west coast, so if anybody is along the route drop me a line at email@example.com. Also, if anybody works in a generous computer company that wanna donate a laptop I could probably get talked into it and pay back in fame by being a sponsor.
Due to a terrible rain here I got time for a small update:
Since the last quasi-dramatic update from Antigua we’ve now moved on through Guatamala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. These countries are so small that you spend more time on red-tape at the borders than actually driving.
Central America is far from as bandit-infested as people like to believe, all in all people are gruesome friendly and not too concerned about looting or killing you. Even in Nicaragua they’ve buried the revolution and become fantastic poor and peaceful.
The corruption is not too bad either. We had one severe corruption case in Honduras, which would have been more suitable for Monthy Python’s Flying Circus than the open road. They stopped us, and as we had all papers in check they had to find something else. The solution was to try to explain that we did not have reflectors that were according to the internationally recognized Honduran standard for reflecting equipment on pre-war motorcycles in the 750 cc class. We didn’t understand this, or rather wouldn’t understand as they didn’t speak English or Norwegian.
The tactic changed to make serious facial expressions and showing papers used for writing tickets, but we just smiled and laughed it off. The despair caught up on them and they asked straight out for dollars, which we refused as money for nothing is taboo for Norwegians. Then they lowered the request to some cigarettes, so we gave them one to share, but no light.
Else wise El Salvador could offer dramatic in the Ewan McGregor-class. The afternoon we should cross the border to Honduras some cows had dug away the road with their fierce shiny horns. We had to go back about 150 kilometers, and suddenly got harassed by a tropical storm in a small town. With the hard rain the entire street were totally flooded and hid a flood drain, big enough to swallow the entire sidecar, which it of course did. The bike was left at the edge in a 45 degree angle, while the sidecar was under water and got its content washed thoroughly, including my laptop that was packed down to avoid the rain. Needless to say, the laptop never became itself again, it so to speak died.
In a week or so we got our self to Panama where we checked out the canal and tried to get transport around the Darian Gap, the infamous part of the Pan American Highway that’s just a swamp capable of swallowing even John Rambo. The end of the story was a German named Guido who had a sailboat.
Guido was very adventurous and included a trip to the infamous island group called San Blas where the even more infamous Coonass Indians live after they got thrown out of Lousiana. It was fairly dramatic with Indians in small boats attacked us, but we paid them off with glass pearls and mirrors so they attacked other boats instead and saved our scalps.
Currently we’re in Cartagena, Colombia. We’ll be heading down the Pan American Highway on the west coast to Bolivia. We’ve made a friend here that asked us to bring some thick bottomed Adidas-bags to a bag-collector there, and friendly as we are we said yes. The bags are heavy for being empty, but what don’t you do for friends, right?
Sentral-Amerika til Colombia
Etter den siste dramatiske oppdateringen fra Antigua har vi nå kommet oss gjennom Guatamala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica og Panama. Landene nedover her er så små og grensepaseringene så sirupsaktige at man bruker like mye tid på å krysse grenser som på å kjøre, noe som er en tålmodighetsprøve for en som er mer glad i å sprenge grenser enn å bare krysse dem.
Sentralamerika er langt ifra så røverinfisert som folk skal ha det til, i det hele tatt er folk ganske hyggelige og ikke så opptatt av å lure eller drepe deg. Selv i Nicaragua har de gravlagt revolusjonen og blitt fantastisk fredsæle og fattige.
Korrupsjonen er ikke så ille heller. Vi hadde et tilfelle i Honduras, og det var egentlig et humoristisk innslag. Vi ble stoppet av politiet som ikke snakket et ord engelsk, og da vi hadde alle papirene i orden måtte de finne på noe annet. Løsningen var å prøve å forklare at vi ikke hadde reflekser som tilfredstillte den internasjonalt annerkjente Honduriske standarden, noe vi ikke skjønte, eller mer spesifikt ikke var interessert i å skjønne.
Så kom de med blokka med bøter og laget strengt fjes, men vi bare smilte og snakket til dem på engelsk. Så spurte de om dollars og da sa vi bare nei. De marsjerte oppgitt i ring og diskuterte en stund før de spurte om sigaretter. De fikk en sigarett på deling, men fyr fikk de ikke siden vi anser oss selv som reisende korrupsjonsjegere.
Ellers bydde El Salvador på dramatikk i McGregorklassen. Om ettermiddagen da vi skulle krysse grensen på tur ut var veien forsvunnet. Vi måtte tilbake 15 mil for å finne en alternativ rute og ble plutselig trakassert av en tropisk storm i en liten by. Grunnet regnet var veien fullstendig dekket av vann og skjulte en dreneringsgrøft som var dyp nok til å glupskt svelge hele sidevogna mi, noe den følgelig gjorde. Syklen sto igjen på kanten i 45 graders vinkel, mens sidevogna fikk vasket alt innehold inkludert laptopen som var pakket ned for å unngå regnet. Unødvendig å legge til, PC’n ble aldri seg selv igjen så om noen har lyst til å donere en laptop for å sikre oppdateringer så er det plass på sponsorlista.
Iløpet av en drøy uke kom vi oss til Panama hvor vi beså kanalen og prøvde å få frakt rundt Darian, den berømte strekningen hvor Pan American Highway rett og slett er bare en sump som er i stand til å fortære selv Lars Monsen. Enden på visa ble en tysker med seilbåt og stor appetitt på dollars, faktisk ufyselig stor noe som gjorde kraftig inntrykk på reisebudsjettet.
For at tyskeren skulle kunne forsvare ågerprisen måtte vi innom noen øde øyer med ville indianere. Indianerne rodde ut i kanoer og angrep oss så fort vi nærmet oss, men heldigvis hadde vi med nok glassperler og speil til at vi fikk stagget gemyttene.
Nå er vi i Cartagena, Colombia og på tur sydover langs vestkysten. Vi møtte en veldig hyggelig kar i dag som lurte på om vi kunne ta med noen spesielle tykkbunnede adidasbager til Cocabamba i Bolivia til en Adias-bag samler der. Hjelpsomme som vi er sa vi ja selv om de var veldig tunge selv tomme, men hva gjør en ikke for venner.
Aaron travelled with his Virago from the eighties, and it did not run. Our contribution was to tow him a few miles. Pretty stupid to go on a long trip with such an old bike.
Hondurian cops. Either they wanted dollars, or to sit on the bikes and gettin photographed.
At all the Central American borders there is shitloads of men working hard on doing nothing. If you need expertize on nothing this is the place to find it.