I will be crossing into Ecuador today. I am writing from Pasto, Colombia. I can probably say that yesterday was the most exhilarating motorcycle ride of have had to date. Ruta de la Sierra in Mexico was close but Colombian Andes have been pretty intense. There is nothing in Ontario to compare it to and even something like the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton only offers just a subtle taste.
Having parted ways with Jorge and Fabian, I headed from Bogota to Cali. Much of this ride was mountainous and I spent hours passing trucks up to an altitude of 3300 metres. Jorge had spent much time prepping me for this road. It was a super fun road to ride, but in the end, some of the dangers such as lots of oil patches and single lanes did not seem to present as much hazard as was made out. That’s OK. He was just trying to make sure I was safe. It was a fantastic ride day.
Having arrived in Cali, I stayed at the Iguana Hostel. While secure, I hoped to have a little R&R and spend some time on the internet getting up to date and doing some planning. The wifi proved to be flakey, and as such, I was a little disappointed.
I spent some time riding around in Cali and then left for my intended destination of Ipiales — which is where I must cross into Ecuador, according to me permisso forms. Much of the ride was smooth and flat, or gentle mountains (and very beautiful). During a spirit ride up one of these gentle slopes my clutch cable let go. I was rather pissed as I had another Motion Pro clutch cable break at the same point in Toronto before I left. I believe it to be a manufacturing flaw and not due to where and tear. Luckily I pre-routed clutch and throttle cables. The new cable was installed within about 20-30 minutes. While probably overblown, Fabian had said that this was a “no stop zone” for me due to FARC. The military presence would indicated otherwise and whether hype or not, I got the cable installed very efficiently. Oh yes, it is a slightly different model of cable to the one that broke so this one should be better. But I still have to go looking of a new spare in Quito ASAP as if this one breaks, I will be stranded.
I continued on and found the ride between Popayan and Pasto to be quite incredible. It made me a little nervous as I believed I had not left enough time to traverse the area. The next urban centers were Pasto and then the intended Ipiales. I really didn’t want to ride in these mountains after dark. As things progressed I figured I would make it to Popayan without issue but I still had to travel efficiently. It is a fine line between taking photos, me absorbing my surroundings, and me be absorbed into a truck or off the edge of the Andes 😉 This is the real stuff, folks. The Andes, or at least the taste of the Andes on the Colombia side. The photos you see in National Geographic or stock photography. Its absolutely gorgeous and I hope my point and shoot photography will be doing it some justice. As I will be slightly less hurried today (I hope), hopefully I will get some good shots with the “good” camera.
I can’t say enough about yesterday’s ride. The Andean scenery changed immensely from tropical plants and tiny water falls, to ranches amongst golden plains, to green mountain ranges interspersed amongst brown flowing rivers and valleys. My understanding is that this is “just the start” of the “real” Andes but I am impressed so far. I am also doing a number on my tires. While some of the rides are chunky and broken requiring a standing position while riding, they are mostly good and wide. This allows for reasonable speed. I find myself chucking the bike around underneath me from left to right and back again and hanging off of it like a sport bike ride on a track in order to maintain as much tire contact with the road as possible. Money spent on three levels of rider’s training has definitely paid off in my opinion. My tires are taking a beating though and I may well be looking for a new front in Quito. And my break pads are starting to wear thin as well — don’t worry, I have multiple spares.
Other than that, the two tunnels I passed through were really cool. They are pitch black and only illuminated by headlights and reflectives on the road and walls. They do something weird to the brain in that I am suddenly transported somewhere else — like the dark caverns of a roller coaster at a theme park or the like — I have to remind myself where.
As the temperature dropped for 35 degrees Celsius to something like 18, I arrived in Pasto around dusk. No matter. Pasto seems to be a fairly bustling small city of 400,000 with night life and a busy core. That said, while there is lots of public parking, the hostel and hotels I had my eyes on did not accept bikes so I went out of town a bit and splurged on the hotel I found. Good wifi, good food, hot shower and massive bed. This was the R&R and needed. A nice dinner of trucha el gusto — river trout in a dill sauce served with (good) fries, rice, bean/tomato salad and garlic bread — and a bucket of beer 😉 I had to pay for this. The free breakfast was coffee, fresh orange juice, toast with jam, eggs with onion and tomato and “country cheese” and an arepa — a sort of biscuit/tortilla hybrid that is as much a stable in these parts as is tortillas up north. Refreshed, I am ready to for the ride to Ipiales and the border. Ciao for now.