Most tourists visiting Cartagena stay in close proximity of old town and all its UNESCO-world heritage charm. We, on the other hand, are dirty bikers and don’t follow convention. We follow the pied piper aka Captain Ludwig “LuLu” from the Stahlratte to his house for a home-stay in the barrio Narino.
While walking back from dinner in old town one evening we were stopped on the street by a concerned young man asking if we were lost. He was convinced that we needed help getting back to where the tourists congregate. When we told him that we were actually staying in his barrio quite happily he beamed with pride and good cheer. He loved his neighborhood and we did too. What looked rough and sketchy to the untrained eye was actually a vibrant, safe, and active community rarely seen by outsiders.
Captain Ludwig’s house proved the perfect base to explore Cartagena and it also had room to mount new tires on Shannon’s bike as well as fix the broken luggage rack on Mike’s bike. Clinton Logan, who sailed with us on the Stahlratte, and Jason and Lisa from Two Wheeled Nomad were also jammed into Villa LuLu. This close proximity incubated quick friendship as maps and stories were discussed endlessly. Sarcastic, off-color humor was served in heaping bowls from a bottomless caldron as well.
Within days of coming ashore we knew Colombia was special. The people are proud, happy, and have a zest for life that makes you feel included and part of something great. We’ve already moved Colombia up to number one status tied with Mexico as our favorite countries so far. This is a country you must visit.
After nine days in Cartagena we left town as a trio. Clinton choosing to travel with us for a while as we all got used to the ins and outs of Colombia. Jason and Lisa, however, are headed in the opposite direction as they have already traveled for 14-months in South America and caught the last ferry to Panama and destinations north.
While installing Shannon’s new rear tire at LuLu’s house I did the ultimate sophomore mistake and put a pinch flat in Shannon’s new tube with the tire irons (I am almost too ashamed to tell you I did this). Instead of being patient, buying a new tube, and finishing the job the next day I rushed the job by patching the tube that I had damaged. Shannon made it forty miles out of Cartagena before being stranded with a flat rear tire. I have never trusted my tube patching skills and now I have two spare for each wheel. Live and learn.
In the coastal mountains of Colombia called the Sierra Nevada Santa Marta we camped near the town of Minca. It was quiet, cooler than Cartagena, and delightfully green. The Caribbean lowland temperatures were unbearably hot so the plan for the next couple of weeks was to stay high (elevation, silly) and camp our way south towards Bogota, without actually going to Bogota, along the Cordillera Oriental Mountain Range.
One interesting activity for us in Minca was searching out a hallowed piece of motorcycling ground made famous by Jason Spafford. Jason had taken a glorious picture of himself riding through a magical bamboo forest on the road to La Victoria coffee finca. This photo epitomized the visual dream of motorcycle overland travel that we lemmings had to have for ourselves. The mission, get the same shot with us in it! We did not have coordinates but Jason told us the road and we had fun slowly, plodding along trying to locate the scene of the photo. Success at last.