Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Volcanic Mud Bath, 7 cents for a gallon of gas- Venezuela, Colombian Hospitality, beginning of Andes Mountains

So hello everyone, thought I'd give everyone a visual status on my route so far


View South America Part 3 in a larger map



Colombia


So now that I’ve crossed an ocean with my bike, so far the toughest part of the trip, what now?
Everything else seems easy.

So after much hassle with importing my bike into Colombia, I explored the town of Cartagena. I must say I am very impressed by this town. The old city is my favorite part, apparently the Spanish had a fort here with lots of gold, over the years this town was built inside the walls of this fortress and it was quite the experience walking through it.

Got myself another $1 dollar bracelet with the Colombia flag colors. So far out of every bracelet I’ve bought from every nation, only the one from Nicaragua has passed the test of water, wind and tagging along with my body through extreme physical turmoil and wear and tear. Let’s see if Colombia can keep up.


Rode from Cartagena this morning, the passage through Colombia is getting quite nice



Today I visited El Totem volcano north of Cartagena. This is a thermally active volcano with sulfur mud that people say has rejuvenating properties for the skin.




I personally just wanted to jump and play around in some mud.




It was a fun experience, turn out you float on the mud and don’t ever really sink all the way down, it was a creepy feeling.





Wearing all the mud added around 15 something pounds of extra weight.



It was funny to see an entire family covered in mud walking around.



Washed myself off down by the river.

Cost of entrance $5 dollars, getting volcanic mud in places you didn’t think possible, priceless

So mud bath check, onward!

By this point in time I noticed how close I was to Venezuela. I initially didn’t have the intention on visiting Venezuela, but I hear there was cheap gas and I thought I could find a Ms. Universe around there somewhere, as the majority of those winners are from Venezuela and consistently make it to the final 3.

I didn’t quite feel up for crossing another border, but hey, when’s the next time I’ll be around here, so after much mental debate, Venezuela here I come!

The drive through the rest of Colombia was beautiful to say the least. The best surprise of the trip thus far is the beautiful country of Colombia, the people are friendly, the land beautiful despite the heavy military presence on the roads.

But on my way to Venezuela I passed by some pretty sketchy areas of Colombia. 



There were police every 10 miles stopping people randomly and searching their vehicles. They even patted down all the drivers and passengers.

This was the epitome of the cocaine and marijuana growing area, very mountainous, rainy, spooky and full of agriculture and mischievous looking people. By the looks of things you can tell that the rebel groups and a serious problem here.

You could feel the tension of these critical areas as you pass by.

I stopped by for some food and lots of curious bystanders came by, then police, then no one….so I got out of there, the calm before the storm.

The drive to Venezuela was beautiful, sure is different than the endless desert I’m used to.



Funny thing about driving through this area is the vast amount of people on the side of the road in the most random of places selling gasoline. I counted over 50 something in less than 60 miles of road. I’m guessing they transport it from Venezuela to Colombia by truck, and sell it as the price for gas in Colombia is higher than that of the United States.

Finally arrived at the Venezuela Colombia border.

Got my stamp out of Colombia no sooner than a police came and stopped the process due to people paying bribes to get in the front of the line to the guard, decent me stood in that line for 1 hour, guess it paid off.
I then proceeded to stamp myself into Venezuela. I kept driving but didn’t see anything substantial like an immigration office. So I keep going, I passed 5 military check points and traversed 10 miles. I knew something was wrong; I finally pulled over to ask someone for the office, they said I passed it like 10 miles ago!

So here I was, in Venezuela as an illegal immigrant, already 10 miles into the country. Quite the peculiar feeling.

I quickly turned around, by passed the military checkpoints, hoping they wouldn’t shoot and found the office.
Got stamped in, and headed for customs to import the bike. Lucky me, they were closed, it was barely 4pm!  I didn’t want to risk having my bike impounded without documentation, so I slammed and banged at the door for 20 minutes until somebody from inside came.

After much talk, I convinced the guy to do my paperwork and slipped him $10 dollars for his bribe, I mean help.

Venezuela check!

Crossing through this country I could see a huge difference in culture, people and vehicles.

Most importantly the infrastructure of Venezuela with its roads and houses was horrible.

Just a few hours into the country and I was already tired of seeing Hugo Chavez’s face all over the country. On road signs, on houses, billboards etc. This guy seems to have a high opinion of himself as president. He should put some money into the people and places.

So get ready for this….

I got to my first gas station, it cost me 27 cents to fill up my bike, that was 7 cents a gallon for gas!

I couldn’t believe it; I kept doing the calculations with conversions from the US dollar and couldn’t believe it still. I took 45 minutes in doing the math over and over in my head until I finally accepted the fact I had just paid 27 cents for a fill up!

That would explain all the old 8 cylinder cars and trucks on the road, nobody has motorcycles here, and everybody has a car, because gas is so cheap. Just a few miles from Colombia motorcycle dominate the streets.

Even the taxi’s were gas guzzling machines.

Yes this was a taxi

               
This meant that when I went to wash my face off, the water turned black from all the pollutants in the air. It was worst than Honduras, and Honduras was pretty horrific.

The one motorcycle I did see happened to be the only other KLR I’ve seen this entire trip owned by a national.  I couldn’t believe it.



I tried taking a good picture but the guy said he was from the government and gave me threats for if I took a picture. So I let him be.

It was getting dark and I needed to find a place to sleep. The cheapest place I found was $77 US, that’s $70 more than I’d like to pay, but it was 9pm and it was getting sketchy outside and had no choice. No a fun day, hotel, importations, insurance etc, one very expensive day.

But a nice sunset





The next day I continued driving around Venezuela, the land was beautiful, the people good.
Drove through some national parks and enjoyed the time on the road, 4 straight days of 10 hours driving through beautiful scenery, it was bliss, just how I like it.

Not much else happened on the road back to Colombia, just beautiful scenery, people gathering around me to talk everywhere I stopped etc. Apparently they don't get many tourists where I was at.

Ok, now back in Colombia, getting back was easy, I never officially exported my bike out of Colombia, so I just used the same import papers from Cartagena, and I didn’t drive 10 miles into the country without my visa, this office was easy to find, not like the last one.

This began the amazing journey through the beginning of the Andes Mountains.




I went from 3000ft to 10,000 ft in less than an hour. The mountainous roads were very dangerous with semi trucks and a small lane, passing them was fun. I’m glad I’ve played video games my whole life, that help with the death defying feat of playing chicken with oncoming traffic and turning at the last second. And for those worry birds, let me put it this way, I would still be driving that mountain road if I hadn’t of done that, there where loads of slow heavy trucks holding up traffic.

The road to Bucaramanga from Venezuela was fantastic

I reached 10,000ft of altitude and it was night fall, I found one lonely hostel at the top of the mountain. Well I had no choice, I was freezing by this point, it was 32 degrees Fahrenheit, aka 0 Celsius and only getting colder. I went from hot 90 degree weather to bone chilling in an hour.

This hostel was actually a restaurant with a bedroom to the side.

I was greeted by a person….I couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman, “it” was very convincing for either sex.
I’ll call “it” Pat for now, so Pat tells me $15 dollars the night, I would have said yes but decided to try something, and said $5 bucks just for the heck of it, and Pat said , for you anything. I was like, cool cheap room.

She handed me a cup of hot tea, and some cheese, I thought wow that's really cool and friendly.

At this point Pat, gave me a wink and started eyeing me up and down, I thought ok...a little to friendly.

I was freezing so I drank it, it was delicious, but Pat continued eye balling me with seductive eyes, I thought, oh boy, I hope this tea doesn’t have anything bad, and I don’t get rapped tonight.

So Pat had short hair, but short enough for a woman, and Pat’s voice was completely neutral, and Pat’s hand were a little masculine. I couldn’t figure out what sex Pat was.

Pat even made me dinner for free, Pat told me she loved light skinned and blue eyes German people and said I was beautiful and resembled that perfectly. That would explain the free hot drink, cheese and huge dinner, she flat out told me I got the room for $5 as soon as I took off my helmet and saw me.

I thought, oh boy, I hope the food doesn’t have anything to knock me out either as Pat once again continued to give me twinkly eyes.

The whole time I was eating, Pat was starting at me 2 feet away mesmerized by me, it was flattering but I still couldn’t figure out what sex Pat was, I was getting pretty weirded out.
Morning view outside the Hole in the wall....I mean hostel

Regardless, I was invited to watch TV, which Pat sat 1 ft away from me staring…again…

Pat was extremely nice and offered to help me taking off my luggage and getting settled in. This continue when I asked where the bathroom was, and Pat said she could lend a helping hand if I needed in the bathroom. I shrugged and almost couldn’t keep myself from laughing as I kindly declined Pat’s offer.

At this point in time I convinced myself Pat was a woman for the sake of being able to sleep.

As Pat started staring at me I kindly mentioned I was going to sleep, Pat was obviously very sad. So I went to bed, it was now below freezing outside and so was I. I proceed to take my pants off to change into something warmer as with perfect timing Pat manages to magically open the door I just locked, to catch me in underwear.

As I declined more covers Pat had brought, I proceeded to jam the door closed and move the bed in front of the door.

I laughed myself to sleep.

I was woken up in the morning to a fresh free breakfast made by Pat. How could I say no, Pat was very kind, it would be very rude not to accept.

As I ate, Pat wanted to take a picture with me, what she meant to say, was that she wanted various pictures of me for her.

Well I was kind for the first 5 pictures she took of me, I thought that, ok, I paid off the food and drink as a courteous jester for some pictures.

After the 6th and 7th photo I was getting a little unhappy and uncomfortable. She kept asking me to get into the light, strike a pose, open my eyes more, get close ups of me etc.

I called it quits after the 10th photograph, I excused myself as she kept asking over and over for more, I kindly ignored Pat. I said my thanks for all the kindness and put my hand out to shake Pat’s hand as a thank you gesture, it was grabbed and directed towards Pat’s mouth followed along with kisses.

I quickly wiped my hand off, started my engine and got the hell out of there!

It’s nice to know somewhere out there in the Andes Mountains is a photo album of me belonging to a person that’s either a man or a woman, I never quite figured that one out.

Despite Pat’s extreme likeness towards me, and gross hand kiss at the end, Pat was quite nice and very hospitable, I could have done without all the creepiness though, but nice person, nice very creepy person.

So, after nightmare on Elm Street, I started my way down the mountain.



There was lots of construction going on, apparently 2 months ago the road were wiped out my massive land slides and cut off connections from the various cities for more than 2 weeks.



Seeing land slides has become quite typical and as common as road kill around these parts.

But the view was absolutely gorgeous! 10,00ft and driving over clouds, its on my list of top roads ever taken.





I drove through some amazing towns, had some incredible food and made my way to Bogota.