Medellin, Colombia to Salento, Colombia
July 14, July 29 2014
Our good friend “Marcos el Narco” in tow, we glided down the mountains and into Medellin unsure of what to expect. Our experiences with Colombia that far had been wonderful, but we were now entering the lion’s mouth, the home of the famous eponym cartel, Pablo Escobar’s headquarters. You know how the saying goes? Don’t believe the hype! Within 10 minutes of entering the city limits, several motorcycles had joined Marcos in following us, all eager to catch us a the next stop, wish us a warm welcome and ask about our journey. It was the friendliest welcome we’ve received anywhere so far! We crossed the Parque Lleras to reach the Tamarindo Hostal to find another welcome committee, our old friends Tom and Peter working on their bikes! We all comfortably spent our next week there, oblivious to the location’s ominous past and had a wonderful time.David, Sonia and Ethan were also waiting for us. The little family had recently fled the madness of the French capital to start anew in Medellin. The Wolf, desperate to wear high the colors of Endurospirit, his old MC in Provence, had found David on Facebook via a common friend. The legendary solidarity between bikers led David to put his mailbox at the disposition of a perfect stranger and a few weeks later we all met for the first time around a delicious barbecue. We found a new Replay camera, fancy personalised jerseys, and more importantly new friends! Thanks a ton guys!
Sadly our third package fell prey to the shipping demons who patrol most Central and South American locations. (It was much later located in a warehouse in Bogota, but seems irretrievable at this point. A donation to Colombia I suppose.)
It was in Medellin that we discovered the joy of free walking tours – they have them in most major cities worldwide and the tour guides work only for tips. Our guide, from Medellin herself, told us about the proud Paisa history, the growth of the coffee industry and they key role played by the railroad in connecting the city to the outside world. We also discussed the carnage of the Colombian civil war and how Colombians were today cheerful and friendly to keep away the demons of the past.
On the motorcycle front, the Wolf was delighted to discover Mundi Moto and the shops on the Calle 38 #52. We were able to buy all the parts we had been missing for so long, fork seals, clutch perch, thick inner tubes and more. The other thing Medellin has loads of, is fancy malls, and it was in this city I realised what a mallrat the Wolf truly is. Perhaps it’s merely a product of rough adventure travel, but we indulged in many hours of mall time, which included watching Guardians of the Galaxy in the premium theatre – lazyboy recliners included. (Great movie, by the way.)
Iced CoffeeAfter almost a week of cultural exploration (and retail relaxation, although we didn’t really buy anything) we said goodbye to Medellin, and aimed South towards Salento, a small but touristy town in the Zona Cafetera.
We set camp at Yambolombia a slightly hippy hostal with an awesome vibe, were Gabriel, the owner, made us feel welcome. We begun chatting about our journey and mentioned meeting in Guatape a fellow rider from neighbouring Armenia. Gabriel proceeded to describe the guy, pick up his phone and 30 minutes Joaquin showed up at our door on his shiny 660 Tenere! We were like, huh??! Impossible. The next day Marcos, Peter, Tom and the Yeti all showed up in Salento and Joaquin proceeded to take us on what was supposed to be a quick ride around the Salento valley. That turned into 4 days and close to a 1000kms of the most fantastic roads. We rode the highest road in Colombia in the Los Nevados park (DR Hypoxia), visited coffee plantations, enjoyed cocktails in fancy hotels and wrapped it all up with a trip to the luxurious Santa Rosa de Cabal hot springs. We don’t know how to thank you for the amazing experience, Joaquin.
As a parting gift Joaquin helped us plot our route to Ecuador. We discovered the Tatacoa desert, the Tierradentro ruins and San Agustin, but that’s for our next post.