Friday, January 28, 2011

Cali Colombia- Facing death in the face, fee toll booths, moto dancing, crazy mountain driving, amazing scenery, running into familiar faces

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So today I’m on my way to Cali, Colombia.

I must say that Colombia is quite the magical place, the landscapes, terrain changes and various climates make it fantastic. I must say that the beauty of the roads and landscapes is starting to become #1 on my list of most scenic countries.

Today's hero, is this guy, what a beast!

Today's lazy dude, is this guy holding on to a semi truck going up a hill. What a loser, using a motorized vehicle to climb a mountain....wait a minute....sounds familiar...

I continue to love the fact that being a motorcycle in Colombia, I don’t have to pay toll roads, there’s a special little passage for us that bypasses the toll.

You see Mexico; you can learn a thing or two from Colombia, I didn’t like your expensive tolls, $25 bucks for driving less than 25 miles! Muy malo!

But Colombia has been kicking butt with gas, averaging over $4 a gallon of gas. And to think just across the border in Venezuela its 7 cents a gallon….you wouldn’t think there’d be some sort of trade agreement between countries, guess not.

Today was an entire day of driving through the mountains; it was relaxing and peaceful, 12 hours of spiritual enlightenment. The mountains surrounding the road were littered with agriculture patches of many kinds like fruit and the continued military prescience in the middle of nowhere stopping random vehicles the road just to check continued as well. Passing by the military personal they kept giving me the thumbs up, I didn’t know because I was on a motorcycle or if I passed the “we aren’t going to search you” visual test, I’m guessing that was a good sign, so I gave them the thumbs up sign right back at them, I felt as I bonded with the Colombian military. Things to do for the day, bond with the Colombian military, check!

I could see the various places where the potential drug growing takes place. Even thought I spotted a few.

Random bush fire off in the distance

So I’ve been asked what a typical day of driving is for me. Well I decided to film my cruising. Anywhere I go, I adapt the driving habits of the local people, to fit in well and not get killed.

Recently I’ve continued my crazy Mexican driving, but have added a flavor of Colombian mountain driving as well.

So a typical day in the eyes of Alex in Colombia…

So Alex, how many times did you almost get killed today?…. (Me) we let’s see, one, two, three, four…… etc. etc.

Today I got side swiped 2 times by vehicles that didn’t see me; they literally hit me and my bike, made me swerve out of control, luckily retaining my bike on both wheels, hitting the gym the past few days paid off and actually may have save my life. Had 2 semi trucks pass other semi trucks on the way down the mountain while I was going up overtaking various trucks on the opposite side, so I basically had to play chicken with on coming semi trucks. One of those times my pannier (side box) was hit by the truck, needless to say I almost lost it. I was also smacked from behind by a car and almost lost control, I also took out a vehicle’s mirror after they hit me, and I passed them in between two semi trucks, I had no choice on that one, it was either my life or the car’s mirror. Drove on the outside shoulder over looking cliffs with no protective barriers to stop you from flying off to your death, passed blindly on the inside corners hoping cars and trucks didn’t run me off the side, etc. the list goes on, it was a crazy driving adventure.

Alex’s rule of survival on motorcycle on the road- get on the road knowing that today, everyone else on the road has woken up just as you have, gotten on the road, just as you have, with one sole purpose and intention, to find you, run you off the road, look for you, and has one sole mission, to kill you, make your life difficult and everyone is out to get you. Having this in mind and keep this mentality everywhere I go, has saved my life on various occasions.

After many hours of this, I was halted along with hundreds of other vehicles, as they were painting this winding mountain road; we literally stood around for 2 hours waiting for them to finish and the paint to dry.

Waiting in line

Met a cool scooter couple, we chatted, and they even gave me a Mango. I gave them some oatmeal bars in exchange but they wouldn’t accept. Colombian hospitality at its best.

As everyone was outside their vehicles, I was seen and the entire line up proceeded to talk to me about my bike, where I was from, where I was going etc. The 2 hours was spent talking about my adventure to over 40 people.

I almost managed to bribe the police into letting the bikers go for some mangos and oatmeal bars, but his supervisor drove in no sooner, better luck next time huh.

Finally the paint was dry and we were off!

Continued beautiful road

This road from Bogota to Cali was amazing, very scenic, and is on the top of crazy roads ever taken, just because I almost got killed many times.

After the mountains I was welcomed by an awesome plain road until I reached Cali. It was pretty, but I started to get bored after a while. I wasn’t taking hair pin turns at 60 mph dragging my knee on the asphalt, that’s how steep and winding it was, so without that the straight road seemed dull after a while.

After traveling for over two months, countless miles, thousands of scenic roads, seeing thousands of people, seeing hundreds upon thousands of vehicles, something odd hit me today of the completely insanity of the immense undertaking of distance and travel I have undergone and I’m going to do, I still have an entire continent to traverse! The harshness of the cold, the sweltering heat, the dampening humpty, the dangerous drivers, killer roads etc. All kind of gave me a crazy disillusioned moment about life. Thinking about it all made me little crazy thinking how crazy I am, I was sure to record my crazy moment, I compensated by rocking out to some music.

So arriving in Cali, I continued to think to myself, how stupid and crazy I am for not having a GPS, just paper maps with the major cities, but no specific roads. A GPS would make my life so much easier. I’ve seen so many other bikers with them, but for some reason I’m a masochist and like to give myself more of a challenge and suffer more. Instead I go into some of the largest cities in the western hemisphere blindly and somehow manage to find my way through. If that’s not ridiculously crazy, I don’t know what is. I always surprise myself when I get through the maze of streets.

I drove around the entire town as usual. I was on a mission to scope out the female situation in Cali. As it turns out, I was mislead, just your typical women roaming around the streets, nothing special, Venezuela still takes the cake for best looking women on the streets, that’s why they have Ms. Universe winners right?

I ate at Mario Bross, yes that’s how it’s spelled, and it was a restaurant themed as Super Mario and all his friends, just like the video game. It was pretty trippy, but they make a pretty mean chicken baguette sandwich with green tomatoes, it was super!

I found a place called the Iguana hostel and settled down. I was welcomed by a drunken guy spitting and talking to me.

Had some cool bunk mates from Israel and Canada and made some food.

No sooner did I see some girls walk in, they looked kind of familiar, but they were too far way to clearly see.
As they approached closer, I realized I knew them! I had met these Swiss girls for the first time in Panama City at the hostel I was staying at. I then saw them again in Bogota Colombia at a neighboring hostel next to mine, where I went to visit and say hi to some other friends I had also met in Panama City and I saw them there, and now they were here in Cali, in the same hostel! The world so big, yet so small!

All three of us smiled and laughed when we realized the crazy story we would now have to tell our friends and family of seeing each other all other central and south America and finding each other inadvertently here.
I bunked down for the night, and rested for my travel to Ecuador in the morning.

I was woken up by 8am by the horrible heat that had me sweating all night. Regardless I got dressed, said good bye to the Swiss girls, joked I would see them in the next country, and off I went.

Nothing too interesting happed today on the road, after my clash with death various times the past few days, this day was a little too easy.

I keep driving through these amazing mountains that have me sweating profusely one minute, then traveling up 10,000 ft to freeze for a while, then bring me back down to sweating again. It’s been fun.

Colombia is great, but nature takes its course, there are lots of landslides and road cleaning crews like this one that completely stop traffic for time on end, it’s a nascence.

But regardless it’s still an absolutely amazing drive through Colombia.

I reached Pasto, about 3 hours from Ecuador.

I hadi't eaten a single thing since my orange juice in the morning, it was now 9pm and I was super hungry, I stopped at the first place I saw, and just pointed at the menu for my food. Little did I realize I ordered the craziest hamburger and strawberry milk shake ever.

The burger had an inch of meat, ham, pineapple, bacon, half a chicken breast, tons of cheese and must have weighed 5 pounds along with the fries. I have no idea how I finished it.

Tomorrow I’ll jump the border into Ecuador. Until then, Chiao!

1 comment:

  1. Alex!! if you get a chance bring me one of those burgers, id like a round with a beast like that!!! oh and it looks like you learned how to drive like me :) you made me proud bro.. lol


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