From the coast to the Andes

It’s ironic that I got sick on my last day in the Galapagos, a place that’s supposed to be disease free, and where everyone’s fumigated coming in and out, but such is life, and sure beats catching malaria or yellow fever in the jungle. Whatever I picked up gave me quite a fever and sweats for a handful of days and it’s taken me over two weeks to recover (still feeling weak today after 3+weeks later).

After a slow start, I left Guayaquil and headed to Montanita; a fun, laid back, cheap, surfer, party town, only 2.5 hours away, …that felt like a long, long ride. Under different circumstances I would have LOVED this place and plan to come back some day. Unfortunately this time around, my fever was at its peak and I ended up spending almost 48 hours in bed with the sweats and fever. I did make a few efforts to walk down the street and sample some excellent street food which included quail eggs, grilled bread dough stuffed with a hard boiled egg, encebollada (a fish stew), ceviches, muchos ceviches, pork from a half pig, and lots and lots of fruit smoothies to feed my illness, but was never physically strong enough to brave the surf,  hang on the beach, or party with the locals. …Next time.

that's mashed yuca behing the encebollada peeps...

big activity around the ceviche stands...

After two days in bed I decided to leave for the mountains, mostly because I couldn’t figure out how much of my sweats were coming from my fever and how much from the heat and humidity. Another reason, as stupid as it is, was that I was feeling a bit apprehensive and embarrassed to be spending all my time in my hotel room, in a beach town where everyone was partying, and I could tell people were noticing the gringo locking himself up in his room everyday. Whether right or wrong, the decision was made and I headed to the mountains.

The first day I didn’t make it very far but on the way spotted flocks and flocks of birds over what was probably a beach. I turned down this sand road in the general direction and found myself in a bustling fishing village. Not much to say except it super cool and check out the pics. …to the workin’ man, yo’.

Hug me honey, I'm smelling sexy today...

rough day for the working man, urrr... working kids


Afterwards I headed inland on some dirt roads that according to my map would bring me to the mountain foothills. I dead ended a few times and came across a bunch of flooded rice fields.

flooded rice fields

boys fishing in the flooded fields. (I found out later that the rainy season is not the best time to eat fish as not only do the rivers overflow but so do the sewage systems. Yikes.

A beautiful ride, but in the end I never made it to the foothills and stayed at sea level the whole time, only further inland so more humid and with more bugs and camped on the end of a muddy road, only to find out the next morning that it’s someone’s property but they were super nice and after the initial threatening  “who are you? What are you doing here?…” we parted laughing and smiling. Honestly, very cool people and great experience.

The next day I attempted some more “off the beaten track” roads but more of the same dead ends eventually forced me back on the highway after a 60 mile detour. As I pulled into En Palmes, I turned down a side street just to what was there and possibly get a coffee or pan, when I see Jean, the guy I parked my bike and stayed with in Guayaquil, waving me down. “what are  you doing here?” he asked “what are you doing here?” I asked. Small world once again. En Palmes was his home town and he was there for a funeral. He invited me to spend the night at his cousin’s house and being hot, tired, and still with a bit of a fever, I accept graciously and this time we attempt another cure. Beer of course! Between the two of us, we drink twelve 20 ouncers, bbq’d, and passed out by 10:00pm. Did nothing to cure me but a really fun time with the locals.

The next day I made it into the hills at last but I wasn’t as prepared as I thought. In a matter of 3 hours the temperature changed about 60 degrees (Fahrenheit). From the scorching, humid sea level, it went to freezing rain at 11,000’ in the clouds. Again a beautiful ride that at first showed tons of agriculture. Banana plantations, cocoa plantations, mango plantations, papaya plantations,… and instantly it changed to nothing but alpacas, goats and sheep. In no less than 30 miles the terrain changed from lush farm lands to harsh cattle landscape. It’s ironic but after 14 months and 55,000 km of travel, it took getting to the equator before I ever pulled out my winter riding gear.

I spent the night in Angamarca, a indigenous town with a ton of mystical history. It was a tiny town that a local had circled on my map, telling me the place was magical and had healing powers. After seeing and hearing all the local folklore, I suspect there’s some truth to it. It was tough to get to but I got a super warm welcome the moment I pulled into town. When I inquired about a place to stay I got pointed to a really nice women’s house and spent the night in a spare bedroom for $2.00 and got treated to dinner and some local gossip. This is one of those places I wish my Spanish was better. The locals were so friendly and I would have loved to share stories all night long but the language barrier just kept us to the usual 3 year old conversations. This place is worth googling as the stories and myths are fascinating.

what's with the stink eye?

A short lived break in the weather had me riding out of town in the sunshine above the clouds. Stunning scenery and breathtaking views started my day as I rode some treacherous, muddy and rocky roads (read horse trails) but unfortunately only lasted a few hours before the clouds rose and engulfed me again and I was back in my plastics. I made it to Laguna Quilatoa, a crater lake sitting 12,000’+ in the Andes at 12:30pm. My plans were to stay there but it was raining hard and the visibility was nil. The clouds broke for a few seconds revealing the impressive lake but my timing was all wrong. I could stay but by the time I would have booked myself into a hotel I wouldn’t have enough daylight to hike the 5 hour loop around the rim of the crater but there wasn’t anything else to do in the hostal so I’d be stuck for the rest of the day. …and honestly, still feeling quite sick and weak, cold and wet, and now feeling the altitude, the idea of hiking around the lake was not a high priority so after coffee and cookies I decided to move on.

I ended up in Latacumba after a tiring but beautiful, wet ride through the indigenous highlands. I should have stopped for more pictures but both my energy and the weather were not with me.

My fever finally broke when I woke up to a rare sunny morning in Latacumba and spent the day wondering around town. Latacumba is a combination of modern city and indigenous village and is a base for many extreme activities, mostly climbing. Not feeling physically fit to even climb a local conditioner, the idea of summiting one of Ecuador’s 6,000 meter peaks seemed like a pipe dream. I parked my bike and booked myself on a tourist trip to Cotopaxi, a 5,793 meter volcano, one of the highest active volcanos in the world with a stunning view of a perfectly round crater at the summit, as an alternative to riding there myself. I really wanted to summit her and made three later attempts in my time in Ecuador but alas the weather and avalanches prevented it from happening. Another reason to return to Ecuador. Our tour had us hike up to the snow level at 4,920 meters and to my surprise, even in my weak, weak condition, I made it up far easier than anyone else on the tour (it was still miserable) and the guide said I was fine to climb the summit.  Unfortunately we were in the clouds the whole time and the weather never let us see anything more than a few meters in front of us.

Now that I was clearly on the recovery, I found myself looking for something to speed it up…

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Piratas del Sulidae in the Galapagos

The Galapagos were super fun and were like a mini vacation from my moto travels. Fun, fun, fun.

After a morning in Quito, I narrowed down my tour choices to two classic sailboats. A 6 day tour on the Marie Anne, a beautiful schooner, rated a first class boat, that offered a last minute special for an 80% discount, but involved flying out that day, which I could do but the expedited flight would be an extra $60.

Marie Anne, in a prime spot to be boarded

The other boat that caught my fancy, and that I ultimately settled on, was the Sulidae. A 1901 Danish pirate ship, Yarrr!. Pirate ship, you say? I know, right, duh, like that’s any decision at all!  This one offered a 7 day tour for $100 less but at a minimal discount. I figured I could save another $50 by flying out of Guayaquil on top of the $60 expedite fee so an extra $210 in cash would buy me a couple of dives and some rum and beer for the boat. Again, where’s the decision?…still the thought of a first class boat was tempting as everyone always feels better knowing they got a great deal. I’ve also never done anything first class, and though I’m not big on being pampered, I’m still curious. I was also nervous about being the only cheap backpacker on a boat of rich tourist so the final decision was made. Piratas!!!

As it turns out, the tours were very similar and we ended anchored in the same bays more than once. Also the Aussie backpacker sharing my hostal room in Quito, had gone for the Marie Anne so I got all the scoop from her. Us Piratas had planned on boarding and pillaging the Marie Anne one drunk night and getting a first hand look, but after a few too many drinks, we suddenly noticed she had sailed away. Lucky scallywags, youz gotz aways easy, yarrr.

San Christobal, Galapagos first impressions.

I flew into San Christobal a day early to go scuba diving and the first thing I saw were sea lions everywhere. They were passed out on the park benches, hobbling down the side walk, lying on the rocks, swimming in the bay, and jumping into boats (pretty good life if you ask me). 


Lots of crazy red crabs too, running and jumping from rock to rock , and I saw an eagle ray swimming under the dock with numerous other fish. …and cevicherias everywhere. After dropping off my bags at the hostal I went for a bite around the corner at a cheap shack where the menu del dia featured ceviche, rice, popcorn and juice for $2.00. It was a huge serving of ceviche, and delicious, using fresh Albacore tuna (quite a different tuna from the Albacore we get in the NW, more like a large skip jack tuna).

bowl o' ceviche. This was the good stuff...

For a better view of the dark tuna meat (as I mentioned, more like skipjack tuna than albacore)

I later went on a ceviche mission and asked the hostal about the best ceviches in town. They pointed me to the two fancy cevicherias. I tried both, each with small portions, one costing $8 and the other $10. Neither came close to matching the quality of the local shack that served twice the amount for a quarter of the price and included fresh juice, rice, and popcorn (a surprising good side dish to ceviche).  In between I headed to the beach, to find, yes belly dancers on stage. I loved San Christobal immediately. Enjoyed some empanadas and meat on a stick to go with my beers as I watched the belly dancing show.

Belly dancers in the galapagos peoples!

Empanadas de carne

Ecuadorian empanadas (these are delicious and light when fresh but dry up fast)

con cervaza, por favor

The dive was worth it too but not the best I’ve had on this trip.  We saw tons of life including hammerheads, Galapagos sharks, black tip and white tip sharks, turtles, sea lions, rays, octopi,… but the visibility was so so, strong currents, and cold water. I also came to realize that diving, like most activities is a lot more fun when you can share the experience with others, and being the only gringo on the boat, that wasn’t in the cards. My Spanish, though getting a lot better, is nowhere near the level of sharing dive stories over beers and ceviche. With that thought, I suddenly found myself apprehensive about the Sulidae. What if there were no gringos on that boat either and I won’t be able to talk to anyone the whole time. That would make for a long week. Or what if I’m too old for the pirate themed boat and it’s all screaming 20 year olds dressed like pirates. Yikes. …And as I’m waiting on the dock for the Sulidae to pick me up, I feel a moment of panic in my stomach. About ten to fifteen 20 year olds are like texting and gossiping while they’re like waiting for a boat to come and pick them up and I’m like thinking, OMG, this is gonna like totally suck…but luckily they were on like a different boat. Phew!

As it turned out, my boat rocked and I couldn’t have been luckier. A super fun couple from England that drank as much as I did, a Chilean who the crew kept calling “chile picante, or chile jalapeno, or chile pequeno, or chile…) and were cracking themselves up everytime, another great couple from Germany and I made up the piratas on the same 7 day tour, with other cool piratas joining on both the first and second leg (4 day tours), making a total of eleven at one time + the crew who were super fun too. … And the boat, what can I say about the boat except another incredible ship with tons and tons of character and soul. It wasn’t the first class Marie Anne, far from it, the cabin’s leaked during every heavy rain storms (and we had plenty), the sails were tattered, there were no lounge chairs or other luxuries, they didn’t even have a motor to haul up the anchor, something they did by hand an average of three times a day and which I partook in twice (a serious ass kicker peoples. Both times left me breathless and with heavy arm pump). Don’t get me wrong, the Sulidae was a very comfortable boat with more room than any modern sailboat, and the food was excellent. I couldn’t have felt more at home on the Sulidae. The scoop from the Aussie was that the Marie Anne was too a fabulous boat and crew, and with a constant buffet and huge meals, and they were pampered 24/7. She said there were 8 other backpackers on board with the similar specials and 4 couples who had paid full price online and all were fun (and equal amount of crew). She also mentioned the backpackers ravaged the buffet and none had eaten so well in all of their trips.



mo' sulidae

Mad Cap'ain Duncan?

The Galapagos and it’s wildlife…

Besides the fun crew and the partying/drinking on the boat (we actually drank the boat dry twice and had to restock in port), we had pretty packed days which typically involved two snorkeling trips and two land excursions in different bays and islands. The snorkeling was incredible. Some of the best I’ve ever experienced. There was so much abundance of life, and sea lions that would come and play with you the whole time you were in the water. It really was another world out there. Sorry no underwater cam so no pics.

The land tours were interesting too but not what I expected. The first day was the best as we hiked 6 km around a rocky island and saw tons of birds, iguanas, and of course sea lions. This was the closest I had pictured the Galapagos to be from all the documentaries. Lots of pics that day, see below.

Day two involved a fun trip where we got the history of the different island. Basically it went something like this. “A German dentist moved onto the island with his mistress, leaving his wife in Germany. He was vegetarian but she wasn’t. He pulled out all his teeth and hers too as he feared they might get infected and he wouldn’t have the tools to fix them.” True story, or so we were told. “Another German couple moved to a different area on the island, this couple was a bit more normal but there was something odd about them too that I’m forgetting (overshadowed by the other two). And then there was an Austrian baroness who was the last to land on the island. She had 3 lovers that she would whistle once for the first, twice for the second, and three times for the third. She also declared herself empress of the island and felt it her right to take provisions from the two German couples due to her self assigned title” (I’m so assigning myself emperor of Seattle when I get home). Later people went missing and one found dead and rumor was someone had heard the empress whistle 4 times before they found the dead body. I’m telling you peoples, this was some great gossip.

Later we visited 3 different tortoise breeding centers including the famous Charles Darwin Center where Lonesome George and Super Diego claim their cribs. To my surprise and disappointment I learned that humans breed all of the tortoises in the Galapagos. They collect 100% the eggs, incubate all of them, and raise the tortoises in protective custody until the age of five before releasing them into the wild. Some have also been relocated for either their benefit away from humans, or simply for the benefit of tourism. Where’s the natural selection in that peoples? A lot (though not all) of the land iguanas were also being bred. To be honest, after the trip to the first breeding center, the Galapagos started to feel a bit like a zoo. …and one of the workers was wearing a t-shirt that read “Jesus es el pan del cielo (Jesus is the bread of the sky)”. Too funny. When I pointed out his shirts and asked to take a picture, he seemed completely oblivious to the irony.

Creation? Evolution? La misma, no?

Anyway, here’s some pics of the amazing wildlife…

Pics, pics, pics

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El Mitad del Mundo

50,536 km and I’ve just reached the half way point of my trip. Yikes!

Joel and I visited the Mitad del Mundo before pulling into Quito and stood on the equator with one foot on either side and I can tell already Ecuador has a huge amount to offer. After 2 days in Quito, Joel and I separated and I broke the bank today booking a flight, two dives and a 8 day tour of the Galapagos on a pirate ship. Yarrrr!!!  Details to come…

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A mad dash down the PooAmericana to el mitad del mundo.

Plans change daily and while I thought I’d be spending the next few months close to Colombia and parking my bike in Cali in May to return home and earn some money for the next leg, I now find myself on an accelerated schedule to be in Cochabamba, Bolivia by April 6th. More details to come about the change of plans but for now, I met up with Joel (the kiwi I rode with through Honduras) in Medellin and rode with him down the Pan/pooAmericana highway to Quito Ecuador in two days.

The weather gave us a bit of everything with rain, sun, fog, and drastically changing temperatures depending on the altitude but the road itself was surprisingly fun. Well paved, twisty, and most surprisingly, very little traffic. It was beautiful to boot. Mountains and valleys, in and out of the clouds, sometimes above them. Nothing like any of the previous experiences I’ve had on the PooAmericana.

Once again the bummer was with the lack of time and in this case the high expectations of wanting to get across the border in two days. I’m still kicking myself for not stopping multiple times as we rode through the sugar cane plantations around Cali. One time in particular, which would have only taken 15 or so minutes, I saw workers, very dark skinned workers, in the sugar cane fields wearing sun weathered clothes and covered in tar, mud, and sweat. It was raining but diffused sun still light up the workers and plantation. The colors and the energy the people remain vivid memories that I truly, truly regret not stopping to capture on film. These were the working men and women of the sugar cane fields and I wanted to join them and show their hard work to the rest of the world. At the time I slowed way down and thought about stopping but with Joel out of site, the rain just starting to come down hard, I thought I’d just catch up and stop the next time I saw workers in z plantations. It never happened. Doh!

We also blew by a sugar cane museum and factory that would have been great to visit and a pineapple plantation where the workers were wheeling out the crops in wheelbarrows and selling them on the side of the road. We did stop for some Hojaldres con queso and fried corn kernels (a tastier but heavier version of popcorn) and took a quick break in Popoyan before the sky opened up and it started to downpour which made us remount our bikes to try and get ahead of the storm.

Besides the lack of pictures, I have no regrets as I move to the next chapter of my adventure but I will definitely revisit Colombia. As I said before, I love Colombia and at this point in my ever changing plans, I still aim to ship out of Bogota once I round South America.

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Adios Colombia y gracias por tu comida

I can’t say enough about Colombia. I loved the place. The people were super friendly and beautiful and welcoming and…

The country itself is stunning. And while the street food still isn’t up to snuff with Mexico, there was a lot more variety than most of Central America.

A quick recap of some of the best foods.

Fried ants out of Bucaramanga. I was searching for this delicacy but being off season I couldn’t find any. Luck would have it a fellow backpacker in my hostel came upon some and generously shared them in the hostel, mostly trying to gross people out. These ants were huge. The head was the size of a pea and the body the length of a quarter. Rather intimidating looking ants but like most insects I’ve tried, they were just a crunchy exoskeleton with salty seasoning. Still pretty fun snacking on these in the hostel while being watched in disgust.

Delicious flacky meat pie in San Gil. Meat pies, yum. Enough said.

One of the best Hamburger’s I’ve ever had – Cartagena. Mentioned in the last post but worthy of a second mention.

Stuffed suckling pig in Medellin. Hell-o, stuffed suckling pig. YES!

Whole trout in El Cocuy. Butterflied, de-boned but with the head still on and then grilled with a bit of salt. I love trout and you can’t go wrong with a fresh, cold, glacier fed, mountain river, whole pink trout, but I was particularly impressed with the deboning/butterflying technique. Served with the typical Colombian Salsa Rosada (onion, garlic, spicy pepper, vinegar sauce)

Empanadas (everywhere). Some of my favorite empanadas so far. Again con salsa Rosada

Papas rellenos (everywhere). Mashed potato balls stuffed with various fillings, my favorite being curried ground beef, served with Salsa Rosada or Chimichuri sauce.

Soups, lots and lots of soups. Colombia’s known for its soups but for the most part I didn’t really care for them. Lots of very starchy and not very flavorful soups. Potato soup, rice soup, potato and garlic soup, yucca soup, Catfish soup in a potato broth,… My favorite was the goat, yuca and potato soup in chicken broth we had for breakfast in Guican before starting our 6 day hike around the Sierra Nevadas. Almost every meal comes with soup as a starter but after 5 weeks of having some kind of soup at least once a day, only a few are memorable.

Arrepas de huevos in Curamani. While I’d rate them second to the pupusas of El Salvador and the various gorditos of Mexico, arrepas are similar stuffed masa but the ones I had in Curamani came awfully close to the best puposas and gorditos I’ve had so far.

Fried yucca and fried banana chips in Tunja. Simple but tasty.

Parrillas de carne around the Tunja area. Grilled barbecued meats. Lots and lots and lots of meats. A typical plate would be “cada uno de cinco” (one each of five) which consisted of baby potatoes boiled in fat, blood sausage, chorizo, chicharones, and costillos. “cada uno de siete” the same as the cinco plus churrascos and carne asada. “cada uno de diez”, the siete plus boiled lamb, grilled venison, and longaniza.  Greens peoples!, man can’t live of grilled meat alone. … hurrr, or can he?

Tropical fruits, fruits, and more fruits. Again lacking in southern Central America was the fresh fruits and the freshly squeezed OJ in the morning I had grown used to. Also the lack of fruit stands in general surprised me as I rode through so many fruit plantations and saw truck after truck loaded to the rim with fresh fruits. Not so in Colombia. Everywhere you go there are fruit stands and people selling fruits on the street. I’ve had 7 different types of Papaya, blackberrys, strawberrys, soursop, jackfruit, at least 6 different types of passion fruit all with different Spanish names, tomate de arbol (no translation but damn tasty), lots of different mangos, varieties of pinneaples as well including a small orange pineapple with a citrus flavor, avocados, berry looking fruits that tasted like coconuts, and lots more I still need to research the english names. The use of these tasty fruits is rarely used in savory meals or sauces, which is disappointing, but at least they’re eaten in abundance down here.

Ceviches. Awwww ceviches.

Guerrapa de cana, – everywhere but mostly Medellin region. I got so addicted to this stuff. It’s squeezed sugar cane juice mixed with squeezed lime juice (including the rind and pulp), water and ice. Sounds simple, kinda like lemonade but trust me, it’s nothing like lemonade. You add mint and rum and you’ve just improved the famous Cuban Mojito by ten folds.

Tintos, pericos, pintados, and cafés con leche – everywhere. Being the coffee capital of the world, Colombia has coffee in every direction. And is proud of it. Vendors blanket the streets with .25 cent coffees and all sorts of contraptions for serving them. Tinto is black, Perico with a touch of milk, Pintado a little more, and café con leche is mostly milk with a little coffee. They also have various syrups, spices, sugars and flavors to add to your cup if desired but quality varied tremendously. Coming from Seattle, I only truly appreciated a handful of them but for .25 cents I couldn’t complain and having 5+ vendors per city block satisfied by coffee fix daily.

The quality of the food in Colombia varied a lot as well but there were enough great dishes to re-kindle my excitement about the cookbooks. So far Ecuador seems to follow suit. YES!!!

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El Cocuy…

With my computer in the shop I had to hang around Bucaramanga and when I heard Loni and Mark from the flight school were going to hike El Cocuy National Park, a 6 day traverse from Guican to El Cocuy looping around the high peaks of the Sierra Nevadas I asked pretty please to join. They agreed, woohoo!

I was going to write a long trip report with day to day details but I’m just gonna let the pictures speak for themselves. Let’s just say it was one of the hardest, most impressive, most unique, most remote, at times treacherous, and highest altitude hikes I’ve ever done (everyday was between 4,000 meters to 4,650 meters, 13,000′ – 15,300′ and invloved at least on pass).

The hike also came complete with Diarrhea and explosive gas the first day, altitude sickness the second, sprained ankle the third, a day of getting lost and hiking about 20km out of the way, and I can’t tell you how much it was worth it. Pictures never do these things justice but you can get an idea.

And here’s some of Mark’s pics as well…

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I jumped off a f’in cliff

Colombia’s famous for paragliding and Bucaramanga is one of the hot spots. Talking to the peeps at KGB (Kasa Guane Backpackers hostal) they said Richi was flying the canyon de Chicamocha tomorrow (saturday) and if I wanted to try paragliding, that was the place. Can’t go anywhere without my computer so what the hell, I’m in.

7:00am Cesar picked me up and then we swung by the Parapente flight school to load up gear and the students.

The van held 4 students (Jack, Tom, Marc, and Loni), 2 of us riding tandems, 3 instructors, and Cesar and Lily driving the van and running ground control. Everyone was quiet except Richie and Leo joking up front. There was definite tension as I wasn’t the only one nervous and apprenhensive. So far the students had only been flying and practicing the local hill, but the canyon was full of thermals and changing wind patterns, not to mention the launch was pretty much a full commitment jump off the cliff and hope for the best. While I watched Leo and Richi chating away, my first impression of Leo was a cocky young kid, still with his braces. I found myself thinking, God, I hope I’m not teamed up with him. Sure enough I was.

Leo was runner up in the Columbian national acrobatics championship and has won multiple titles. The guy is an awesome flyer and once it was time to fly, he was super professional and tons of fun. I couldn’t have been in better hands. Thanks Leo …and Damn was it a good time. We flew the highest (except for Jack), the longest, and before landing Leo asked if I wanted any tricks. Hmmm, I thought, do I? Be gentle I told him and all he said was “hang on”  Yikes! He busted out a wing-over and another trick I forgot what he called it. All I remember is looking down and seeing the wing below us with my hands squeazing the grips so tight I was getting arm pump and cramping.  We were spinning with so much inertia that I was glued upside down to my harness. Woohoo! I felt like slim pickins riding the bomb.  Crazy!

When we landed everyone was glowing with adrenaline. One of the students compared flying the canyon as going from the bunny slope to a double black diamond.

We all headed to a water park for lunch where we partook in a serious booze fest. Countless beers and four bottles of Rum were polished off in five hours as we played volleyball, cooled off in the pool or just hung around drinking. On the drive back we picked up two more bottles of rum and lots more beer and continued the festivities at the flight school. Richi generously offered for me to crash at the school instead of heading back to KGB and so I did.

Party, party, party.

…I just have to keep reminding myself I can’t afford and don’t need another expensive, extreme hobby. Though it’s soooo tempting.

I went back to the school a few days later and while talking pictures, Richi offered me another tandem flight. This was a 40 minutes, sunset ride. Much more gentle than the canyon but just as impressive. I can’t tell you how tempting it is to learn how to fly. If I ever do commit, you can bet I’ll be going back to Richi’s school in B’ramanga.

Heres’ some pics.

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Rosita up and healthy

After leaving Cartagena with a new rear shock I wanted to get the last of Rositas problems taken care of, in particular the stearing bearings. I also wanted to get to cooler climate. Medellin has a reputation for good bike shops but that was the opposite direction I wanted to go, straight down the Pan American highway. YUCK!

Someone suggested Bucaramanga should have good options as well and looked like a much more desirable route so I headed off in that direction. According to the map it also looked like I’d reach cooler mountain climate much sooner, a huge bonus.

On the first day I found myself miserably hot and pushed on until about 3:00pm when I finally couldn’t feel safe about going any further. I stopped in the small town of Curumani and found the main street lined with motorcycle shops. After chating with a friendly mechanic who convinced me he could fix it, even if it needed a new part, I opted to stay an extra day to get it done. It took close to 10 hours and a 4 hour trip to a nearby town to get a new stearing bearing but in the end the problem was solved.

I arrived the next day in Bucaramanga parched and with a splittling headache from the heat and dehydration. The road has skirted the foothills of the mountain range the whole way and it was only 30 km from Bucaramanga that the road started to climb to cooler climate. I found the hostal, checked-in and napped the rest of the afternoon.

The following day I walked around the city, picked up new tires for an amazing price and dropped off my f’in macbook pro at the Apple store.

With Rosita healthy and the apple store needing a couple of days to fix the problem it was time to play.

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My brand new mac died less than 3 weeks after turning it on for the first time. I’ve lost most of those 3 weeks worth of images so pics are limited for Cartagena and Panama city.

Cartagena’s a beautiful city. A colorful, colonial city on the water with forts and history and pirates, Yarrr… I loved it right away, except for the heat. The street food options were abundant as well with delicious fresh fruit stands and juicers at every corner, potato balls stuffed with egg or curried ground beef or chicken and rice, arrepas which varied tremendously with different stuffings, flavors and textures as well as size, excellent empanadas, and one of the best hamburgers I’ve ever had.

I’m not much of a fan of hamburgers and usually avoid them. In fact I haven’t had a single hamburger on the whole trip before Cartagena despite the abundance of hamburger, hot dog and fried chicken vendors that plague the streets of Central America.

It took 3 people saying I had to try this hamburger vendor and seeing him busy every day I finally broke down and had one, actually two of his excellent hamburgers. I tried it on my last night and would have gone back for sure if I hadn’t jumped town. While he wouldn’t tell me what he seasoned the beef with, one of the toppings was deep fried slithers of onions and potatoes that gave it a unique flavor and texture. I’m drooling just writting about it.

…I also spent 4 days volunteeting on the Stahlratte as they rebuilt 2 cylinders on their 1954 diesel monter. We had to torque the bolts down to 5,500 newton/meters. Insane. It took 2-3 of us with an 8′ wrench while one person whacked it with a sledge hammer. Check out the pics.

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Computer down again,

I finally got Rosita fully healthy and even threw on new tires but am stuck in Bucaramanga as my brand new, 3 week old replacement macbook pro died on me. F’in Apple!

It’s been in the apple store 3 days and they still haven’t figured out the problem so stories and pics will have to wait but no information was lots so all’s good. Lot’s to catch up on.

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