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Posts tagged ‘San Augustin’

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28-Apr-2011: Long time since my last update… it felt good to be home just relaxing, catching up on writing my stories, sorting the pics,…

Most of the time I have been hanging out with Barry, Alisson and friends, but I reunited with a few fellow travelers here again in Quito and it was great to share some stories since the last time we saw.

As for activities, I have been riding a lot even went with Barry on a 1,200Km loop through the Pacific coast Ruta del Sol”. I also joined a gym to prepare for some more Andinismo… more on that in May.

But my main occupation is taking care of Llama as I put it out for sale.  She looks great, rejuvenated but the market is weak, no-one is offering good cash. For now, I am still not in a rush as I have a month to see how things develop. Hope things turn around.

12-Apr-2011: I stayed in Colombia up to the last day (actually hours) allowed on my Visa.  Today I visited the Sanctuary of Las Lajas before crossing the border into Ecuador.  Now I am back home in Quito… my Llama Show is coming to an end. I still have a few things to do around here, you’ll find out soon enough.  But at the same time, I need to start thinking about my next step.

11-Apr-2011: What an amazing experience I had in Sibundoy.  Arriving to the small village, with some help from the locals, I was directed to Taita Angel Gabriel who welcomed me into his home with great pleasure, and offered me to stay with them, follow their daily life, sharing their meals and learning about their culture.  I came here to experience  the ceremony of the Yage and take part in this spiritual and mind opening trip, and Taita Angel Gabriel performed it  to us and guided me through the process.  I will tell you more about in my story.

7-Apr-2011: I stopped in Pereira to see my “Parces”, Alvaro and cesar before continuing south to El-Bordo, where I promised the town folks I would stop again to see them. Karen, Edwin, Joana, Elvio and family were all ecstatic to see me and insisted I stay a couple of day with them.

Today I ride to Sibundoy. Another detour from my road back to Quito and I wanted to stop here to spend some time with the local native and a hopefully see a Taita (i.e. Shaman)

3-Apr-2011: Adriana organized a weekend getaway with her friends to the Meta to see the Llano, the Colombian tropical grassland plains.  It’s truly a sight to be seen, an amazingly rich ecosystem and home to Colombia cattle region, so we were treated to some savoring BBQ.  Tomorrow, I’ll cross back to the cordillera central and the Panamericana on the way back to Ecuador, but stopping to see some friends.

1-Apr-2011: From Mompos I headed bak to Medellin to see some friends and to give my baby a rejuvenating therapy (some paint job so it sells better).  I didn’t party much, rather chilled around and went visiting a few places I skipped last time around: El-Penol, Guatape, Santa Fe de Antioquia,… It was really good time.  Today I will leave Medellin heading for a large detour via Bogota to see Adriana again.

26-Mar-2011: Had an amazing time in Cartagena with Adriana and her family and friends.  Bathed in luxury and spending our time chilling on a private island, island hopping on private speedboat, visiting local artists in their surreal colonial style paradise house, scubadiving, eating delicious sea food prepared by famous chef,… wow, it doesn’t seem that bad after all.

I also spent a few days alone to rest, recoup from a nasty old I got (all these ACs). I also did some more maintenance on my bike (dirty fuel pump!) and had a fun day at a mud volcano.

Today I started my way south and it was a very rough day, even rougher on Llama, it took some serious beating. All part of the show although at this rate, I won’t last long.

I am in Monpos, a small colonial village forgotten by time and sitting in the middle of wetlands on the shores of Rio Magdalena.  Will rest for a few days before going to Medellin

16-Mar-2011: Spent the last 12 days in and around Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Great hotel, amazing hiking, beautiful parks, incredible beaches, and excellent company. I wouldn’t have left so quickly if I wasn’t to meet Adriana and her family in Cartagena.  And here I am 9 year later back her and Cartagena has not lost it;s charm.   I am heading to the old city now but a quick note. Patricia’s penthouse is on the 30th floor of the main beach front street with tremendous views on the old city and the Malecon. Now that’s life! Although I miss being in a dorm chilling with fellow backpacker… well, maybe on Tuesday 🙂

5-Mar-2011: San Gil is the outdoor capital of Colombia and I stopped there for 4 days to get some adrenaline pumping into my blood (as if riding with Llama wasn’t enough).  I went abseiling (rappelling) and paragliding but I also took it easy and visited the beautiful little village of Barrichara and the little hamlet of Guane.  Next, I want to head to the Caribbean coast but it’s a long trip so I need a place, somewhere in the middle were to rest.  Asking around, I was pointed to Ocana, a town 1 hour from the main highway in the direction of Venezuela.  There is a beautiful park to visit so I just rode there.  Well not only the park was beautiful but this city initial founders were Lebanese and a few cars, homes and shopping center were adorned with our flag or our cedar tree.

Tomorrow I will continue my road and once in Santa Marta, need to find a way to get to Barranquilla to go see and live the Carnaval.

28-Feb-2011: Suzuki turned out to be like just another Latin American business. Everyday is “mañana” and after 1 week I decided just to continue with my trip.  I met Alvaro and his brother Cesar, 2 young, funny and great mechanics that helped me do my regular bike maintenance.  Now I can ride another 15,000Km worry free.  I stopped in Bogota to see Adriana and then we headed to Villa de Leyva to spend the weekend.  It was a great 4 days getaway and today I rode under sunny skies (finally!!!) to San Gil, the outdoor capital of Colombia.  Still don’t know what to choose to do as choices abound: Para-gliding, Rafting, Rappelling, Climbing, Hiking, Downhill bicycling,…

20-Feb-2011: I stopped in Pereira to see if Suzuki of Colombia will sponsor me and help me continue my trip.  I managed to meet with Juan Carlo (he’s actually Lebanese descendant) and Ricardo.  They were kind of interested in my proposal but things are dragging and I really don’t know where it will lead.  For the weekend I went to Manizales to relax and enjoy the outdoors.  I also hooked up with the local Suzuki V-Strom riding club and we all went on a huge loop through P.N. Los Nevados.  Unfortunately, we got a little to take by the road and a couple of us, including me, kissed the ground.  I really need to change my tires and my brakes… would have done so long time ago and would have spared me the fall except Suzuki is still on hold to actually take care of my bike.  Tomorrow Monday I will head back to Pereira but by Thursday whatever happens, I am continuing North.

14-Feb-2011: Ouf.  That was a close call.  Crossed the border without stoping at the customs.  Once Llama was safe in Ecuador, I walked back across the bridge to leisurely ask the custom official if I can come back to Colombia.  The Llama show will go on.  Sure enough, next morning I crossed back to continue my act.  But as the sun was shining on me, it wasn’t to be for another rider.  Dan, an American rider  just had an accident tackling the twisties.  He was riding with Nick, Rob, 2 Canadian lads and I stopped to offer help.  Dan escaped the worst but his foot toe was fractured.  I stayed 3 days in the samll town of El-Bordo just to help Dan but tomorrow I will continue north.

9-Feb-2011: Back in Bogota to get ready to head north but things where no that easy.  First, I nearly was disallowed to head back to Colombia because I have no return plane ticket.  It took lots of talking to explain I had a bike in Colombia and that I will be riding back with it.  They let me on the plane only to find out the bikes visa has been annulled the moment I left the country.  3 days in Bogota to try and explain my story to no vain. Actually, the custom (DIAN) and the police wanted to confiscate my bike.  My only choice: sneak the bike out of the country and hope along the way the police would not stop me. At least I will not be alone, Tim will ride his bike to the border with me.

3-Feb-2011: Good scuba diving in Belize.  It’s the 2nd biggest coral reef  in the world, stretching from Yucatan Peninsula down to Honduras.  Highlight?  Saw dolphin and swam with manta rays.  But the beauty is in the details and the coral carpet bed and the 100’s of small colorful fish are just amazing.  Only downside is it’s rather expensive so I didn’t even go to the Blue Hole.  Instead headed back to Playa dl Carmen in Mexico to dive with Bull shark but the season was over.  Double disapointment.  I just hit the cenotes for some cavern diving and flying to Bogota today.

Gonna sea my baby soon 🙂

28-Jan-2011: Left Tikal this morning after 3 days hiking and visiting the ruins.  Really awesome.  Now in Caye Calker, Belize for some scuba diving.

24-Jan-2011: Was great seeing Jason & Becky and we spent a couple of days just chilling in Cancun and Isla Mujeres.  Now back to my backpacker trail and in Guatemala to do a hike around Tikal.

21-Jan-2011: From sun destination to the other…. from 1 wedding to the other:  Left Dominican Rep after Carole & Ravi’s wedding  and heading to Cancun for Becky & Jay’s wedding.

17-Jan-2011: Leaving Panama behind and heading to Dominican Republic for Carole &Ravi’s wedding.  San Blas island exceeded all my expectation: I found a piece of paradise on earth.  Definitely will be back.  It’s weird for me to visit a country only for a week; with the llama show, I have no limit but on this short getaway I have to pick and choose.  And Panama has so much to offer. I still hold to my “rule”: pick a destination to enjoy it with no rush.  I’ll be back to visit the rest.

11-Jan-2011: I left Llama behind :(… won’t be seeing my baby for the next 3.5 weeks.  I am flying around central America to attend a couple of my good friends wedding and taking the opportunity to visit a few spots a I always wanted to know.

In Panama until next Monday.  Tomorrow, heading to the San Blas archipelago until the weekend.  That looks l;ike a paradise.

8-Jan-2011: In Bogota, arrived yesterday under torrential rain, was riding in the river-streets of Bogota.  2 funny things: I could still remember the downtown form 9 years ago when I was here!  And in my hostel, I met-up with a Lebanese backpacker.  Now that’s casi unheard-off.

Off to stroll the city.  Ciao

4-Jan-2011: Happy New Year! I probably spent the best new year of my life.  I hooked up with Alvaro, Carlos brother (Carlos and I traveled in and around Cusco for 2 weeks) and we went to his home village, Jardin.  The name reflect the place and the people ther party in the plaza until the morning, drinking and dancing.  And being with Alvaro, I was part of the Jardin family. You have to see the pictures!

Tomorrow to Bogota: I’ll be there in 3 days as I will be stopping in Rio Claro for some hiking.

22-Dec-2010: Solento lived up to it’s fame except I wasn’t expecting to meet so many tourists and being a very small village, they just seemed to be everywhere.  I hooked up with a few fellow travelers and we had a very nice group: we went hiking in the Valle de Cocora and a couple of Coffee Fincas.  We all went our separate ways today and I rode to Medellin (under sunny skies for a change.  I will be here for a while so you will get my stories soon.

19-Dec-2010: Cali might not be the most beautiful city in Colombia but the girls here are the highlight and hitting the salsatecas for the weekend rumba will make your day.  Tomorrow Monday, heading north to the coffee region  (Manizales, Salento) for some hikes and relaxing time before reaching Medellin.

15-Dec-2010: Back from my loop… all good.  Road conditions lived up to their horrors, especially today heading back to Popayan.  The archaeological sites I visited where unique, the scenery ever wonderful and can’t get enough of it and as for the guerilla threat, well, it’s wasn’t even on the radar.

Now, I need to go to sleep. It was extremely hard riding today.

11-Dec-2010: I am going on a 5-6 days loop east of Popayan to check some archaeological sites and beautiful scenery.  My road will also take me via some hard off-roading made worst by the torrential rain of La Niña… and some iffy southern Colombia zones.

9-Dec-2010: Left late today: I met up with Raul in the morning which meant I only left Quito at 10:45.   Then on the road I bumped in with a Canadian couple riding South and we stopped to chat.  I arrived at the border by 15:00, but my delays only got worst:  At the border, they couldn’t find my name in the Ecuadorian immigration system and only 3 hours later would the immigration officer allow me to cross.

Riding southern Colombia at night is a no-no and since I left the Colombian border by 18:20, I just headed toward  the first city, Ipiales and I’ll crash here for the night.

Tomorrow, Popayan.  I’ll visit Pasto on the way back to Ecuador.

Ride up!



As The Rush Comes

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As The Rush Comes


The Llama Show hit the road again!

Sure, my stay in Ecuador had no shortage of rides and adventures but it’s just not the same: The enthusiasm the morning prior to hitting the road, the rush when riding new routes heading toward the “unknown”, the discoveries and surprises along the way (for the good and the not so good) before reaching a new destination awaiting to be explored, savoring new food and fruits, meeting new people and sharing a few moments of our lives, … before laying your head down remembering the day and dreaming about tomorrow.

Travelling by motorcycle can loosely be planified, the roads always hold a few surprises:  Flexibility, patience and a smile are de rigueur; just enjoy the ride and go with the flow.  I left Quito on Thursday 9 of Dec in the morning (Kilometer 34,018; Quito, 9-Dec-10 @ 9:15) and I was supposed to meet Raul for breakfast but, leaving out the details, it turned out I could only see him for a few minutes in downtown Quito and thus exiting the city by 11:30.  On the way to the border, I caught up with a couple of Ecuadorian Highway police on motorcycles and we stopped for a chat.  Upon reaching Ibarra, I crossed 2 riders on BMW GS650 and we stopped at a gas station for a ½ hour chat (Kilometer 34,163; Ibara, 9-Dec-10 @ 13:00): they are a Canadian couple, Carol and Ralph, on their way south to Tierra del Fuego.  A further hour riding and the rain was to the rendez-vous, accompanying me up to the border.    There, I tackled a 45 minutes traffic jam since this is the unique “official” border connecting Ecuador to Colombia.  Upon reaching the Ecuadorian customs and immigration offices my delays just kept on accumulating: my name did not show on their electronic database.  See, when I crossed into Ecuador from Peru back in October, I used the remote border crossing of La Balsa.  The custom agents there are not connected to the immigration’s computer network; I don’t know if I told you before but at La Balsa I was the unique vehicle which crossed during October!  During all of 2010, there were a total of less than 25 vehicles crossing this way.  AnywayZ, the immigration/custom’s info is written in a log book which is sent to Quito for it to be entered into the database.  Surprise, surprise, 6 weeks later and it was still not done.  It took 3 hours before Quito gave the permission for me to exit the country.  There’s nothing I could do and I’ve grown used to these wait so I just chilled and shared a few laughs with the border agents.  At one point they even invited me to head back to Tulcan, the Ecuadorian border village, to spend the night there and go out for a drink with the boys.  I just told them the Colombian girls were awaiting me on the other side and I don’t want to disappoint ;).
By 18:30 I was finally on Colombian soil and since travelling at night in southern Colombia is a no-no (to the west up to the Pacific and to the East into Colombia jungle, it’s mostly guerillas & narco traffickers controlled lands) I just decided to stop in Ipiales, the Colombian border town; Kilometer 34,305; Ipiales, 9-Dec-10 @ 18:35.

The next morning I decided to leave the surrounding sites to visit on my way back and took the thrilling road to Popayan, a continuation of the cloud forest that covers most of Ecuador’s Andes: roads zigzagging up and down the cordillera Occidental, lounging the mountain sides, dropping into valleys before climbing up to its summit and revealing an incredible panorama of lush and vibrant green forests. The icing on the cake was the thousands of white butterflies which are present in this region and on the roads.  It was sort of a fairytale ride; it felt like I was flying with them.  Check the vid!

Kilometer 34,649; Popayan, 10-Dec-10 @ 17:10: I stayed in a fun hostel in Popayan, hooked up with other fellow travelers for dinner and my first night out in Colombia.  Got to tell you, Colombian are the nicest people you can ever meet. They are quick to come and chat with you or invite you for a dance, offering you a few shots (of Aguardiante… wacala) and most of all, telling you that Colombia is not about drugs and violence, rather fun and beauty, like they are :).

From Popayan, I wanted to visit the archaeological ruins that lie in the surrounding village of San Augustin and Tierradentro but I was debating how.  The extensive rain that La Niña dumped and is still dumping on Colombia caused significant landslides and washed away roads on the already extremely bad off-roads around here.  And in the surrounding areas, the guerilla has been known to pop its head out once in a while to remind people of their “cause and struggles”.  So riding solo these roads might not be the best of options.  To top it off, everyone has a different opinion and advice about what I should do: The hotels owners mentioned it’s pretty safe and many tourists and a few riders went there without encountering any issues (other than the horrendous roads). Asking the locals in the city, opinion defer from “don’t even think about to” to “just go but be careful”.  Military and police tells you they are in charge but if any person in military camouflage wants to stop you, just do so, do not run.  Worst case, if I fall in the wrong hands I will be treated to a 2 hour lecture and probably “lose” my cash but nothing more.

So I just went for it… 🙂 don’t ask, I’ll probably won’t be able to make my case.  Suffice to say: the thrill of the ride, the adventure, the difficulty of the terrain, the adrenaline rush during the trip and bathing in the sweet scent of accomplishment by the end of the day drives me.  These sensations empower me, surmount any hesitations and push me forward.

The first 30Km where bad asphalt but as soon as it finished I was immediately faced with rough, muddy and potholes infested gravel road… not even some sort of preliminary “bad gravel road” to adapt to the condition!  Nop, just bam, welcome to the jungle. To top it off it was still raining heavily and visibility was limited.  At least no guerilla would be sticking around in these conditions ;).   On the other hand, the military where everywhere: In the bushes, on top of hills, in barracks, road check, in every village, in helicopter,…. I don’t know if I should feel more secure by their presence or to the contrary, they are here because the situation is “that bad”.  Actually, everyone here wears military fatigue: army, police, tourist police, guerilla, paramilitary,… so technically I had no idea who they really were (although, yes, there are differences in each vestments but I had no idea how to distinguish it).  AnywayZ, I always gave a peace sign when I crossed any of them and the few times I stopped to chat, they were all extremely nice, mentioning the situation is perfectly safe… and were so curious about the bike.  What really made me feel at ease where actually the many trucks and buses that ploughs these roads.  Work is also underway to asphalt all the roads in the region to facilitate movement of both the people and army, thus driving out the last pockets of guerilla, sort of what Fujimori did back in the 90’s to squash the “Sendero Luminoso” (“Shining Path”) movement.  Although here we’re still talking about a very well financed militia(s), > 1billion U$D/year industry.  That can pack a lot of punching power… and “influence” a few government officials.

Back to my road, the breathtaking moments, other than sliding in the mud, was the surrounding scenery and nothing better can put a smile on the trip… other than the sun wish came late afternoon to accompany me during my last few kms toward San Ignacio.  Raul, I think you’ll be the only other person who would be as eager as me to ride these roads.

Kilometer 34,794; San Augustin, 11-Dec-10 @ 15:30: San Ignacio is famous for its pre-Colombian statues scattered in the hillside the ancient civilization left behind.  Not much is known about them but their burial sites and their many sculptures withstood the test of time.  I took a horse ride to check the nearby statues before heading to the main archeological complex which contain several burial chambers, mainly for their leaders and a multitude of statues.  These tribes used to perform many sacrifices, including children, during the burial ceremony and it’s evident with the many statues around the tombs.  The other highlight of my tour is meeting so many Colombian along the way, so friendly and eager to chat and I even hooked up with them again at night for some drinks and dance.  Next morning I was back on asphalt road heading north toward the Desert of Tatacoa, riding in the valley between the Cordillera Occidental and Central.  Kilometer 35,089; Villavieja, 13-Dec-10 @ 13:30: I checked in into a local bungalow (and look at the pic below to see where Llama stayed) before heading to the desert.  Just to clarify, Desierto de Tatacoa is really not a desert:  It’s green… and it rains here.  It’s actually more a dry tropical forest than anything else. It is different than anything I saw before and since I headed there for the sunset, the visual effect was even more grandiose, really stunning play of colors. I kept venturing out with Llama on the dirt road until reaching its end, a platform called “Ventanillas” (i.e. windows) with stunning views. I rode back after sunset toward the local observatory at the edge of the desert.  There, I met Javier the local astronomer who explained to us about the stars, constellations and the universe while we gazed at the stars via a couple of telescopes.  Then by 22:00 we set outside to watch the Geminids meteor shower (http://www.meteorblog.com/2010/12/geminids-meteor-shower-peaks-in-december/).  It was fun and we were joined by a few Colombian visitors from Bogotá and we started counting the shooting stars:  a total of 113 of them in 1 hour.

My next destination was Tierradentro (Kilometer 35,298; Tierradentro, 14-Oct-10 @ 13:05), another unique archeological site in Colombia (and South America) where ancient cultures practiced complex burying tradition:  The deceased were first buried in small holes (in an “L” shape, the entrance being the top of the “L” and the bodies lay down in the bottom right part of the “L”) scattered around the hillsides.  A couple of years later the bodies where exhumed from this primary tomb then buried in hypogea (i.e.  collective tombs).  For this secondary burial the skeletons were placed in ceramic jars and sort of cremated (remains of ashes and calcined bones can still be seen in the jars). A typical hypogeum was dug in the volcanic rocks, has a spiral staircase heading down to the main funerary chamber, usually 5 to 8 meters below the surface.  The walls of the tombs were painted with geometric pattern and anthropomorphic figures usually with red and black paints on white background.  The big chambers have columns holding their roof and depending on their size, they could contain 40 or more jars each.  Unfortunately as in most South America tombs, the huaceros (or tomb raiders) were always first to find these tombs which they dugout (and thus destroyed them in the process) in search of artifacts, gold and ceramics to sell in the black market.  Even painting or sculptures on walls were ripped out.

The final leg of my tour, the road from Tierradentro back to Popayan was the most difficult, both from the road conditions point of view and the dodgy situation.  The roads here lounge steep mountain sides composed of red earth which in this rainy season are ideal conditions for landslides.  And I had many of these. Worst, I left early afternoon and the sunny skies were soon shrouded by dark clouds and it started to rain heavily and didn’t stop for my whole trip.  I was drenched in seconds, not even having time to stop and put on my rain pants. The roads immediately were flooded, huge ruts dissected them and they turned into mud pits.  A couple of small landslide I had to cross didn’t make it easier either.  In 10 minutes, I was literally sitting in a pool of water which formed in my pants and my shoes were flooded.  It reminded me of the Carretera Austral…. at least, it’s not that cold here.  Funny, during my whole trip last year I only had 5 or 6 rainy days, where is now, I am not even getting 1 dry day.  To make it worse, few vehicles were on the road; I only passed the odd truck along the way.  Army was also non-present… or non-visible.  Probably everyone, the good, the bad and the ugly, were hiding from the rain… at least that was my wishful thinking.

Kilometer 35,415; Popayan, 15-Dec-10 @ 17:50: I only arrived to Popayan by sunset, averaging less than 20Km/h during this trip.  I was soaked and I knew I will be spending the next few days to wash and dry all my gear.  But in absolute all honesty, I was so happy to have done this tour with Llama and visited these villages & sites and I will venture out again if another occasion present itself.  It’s all part of The Llama Show :).

Ride up!


Photo Album

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