Thursday, 22 July 2010


It started as normal with the customary paper mayhem in Cartagena. The good thing this time was that we had Carlos and Elenize in the same situation with their Africa Twin, a bike I´ve always regarded more Twin than Africa, not much African engineering there.

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.


Cartagena, Colombia

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.

Medellin, the former Pablito Escobar-town has got a lot of fat statues.

Federico´to the far right, the owner of the KTM shop in Medellin. Federico helped us a lot, actually more than a lot.

Federico´delayed for work and drives straight into office on his KTM RC8, the first radio controlled bike from KTM, as far as I know.

This dude sold a national drink, warm milk filtrated through corn. I´ve always had problems with milk products, but in the name of courtesy I drank it anyway, and every swig came in return. Thus the second time swallowing it, it was a mix between milk, corn and vomit which tasted by far better than the original substance. There is not a few times I´ve done this during the last years, you get kind of used to it though it sometimes still go wrong.

Federico´s fierce guard dog.

Klaus replacing some spokes in the KTM shop

It´s not only cocain causing problems in Colombia. Crack makes quite a lot of disorder as well, like in this case.

The rehab for crack is usually MIG welding, and then you need to find a shop that looks trust worthy. The sticker here was the obvious prrof that this shop was a good place.

Annelise and Ashley

Casey and Robert, two of the inmates at Alberts place.

Farewel at Albert´s hostel, a great gang all of them. Albert sitting on my bike, Robert, Casey and Klaus

In Colombia it´s mandatory to wear a reflecting west with the bike´s licence number. It used to be a problem with drive-by-shooting, and the west was introduced as a measure to reduce this activity which is said to have worked out.

The toll stations was free if you could squeeze through the slot for bikes, which was not always working out. Sometimes we got stuck and had to be lifted out by the staff, but we saved big bucks.

Typical Colombia, from the Zona Cafeteria where they grow all the coffee. It´s so steep that they use the soil on both sides for growing.


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