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Stage 20


From Cartagena to Ipiales

Great Venture
Great Venture

After an unforgettable 4D3N experience on the ‘biker pirate’ sail boat, sailing from Carti to San Blas Islands on the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, I finally reached Cartagena, Colombia. I was happy when I finally stepped down on the land of Colombia. I took a taxi to the hostel which was located 4kms away, and was charged US $20.While waiting for my bike, I took the opportunity to visit the old city of Cartagena. Cartagena old city was very nice and vibrant. I loved the colonial buildings and the flowers dangling from the balcony. The women in their colourful skirts really caught my eye but it’s not easy to photograph them. The temp reached 35’C and I felt myself melting in the heat of the old city.It was only 2 days later that I managed to get GD as the Colombian customs were well known for its hassles. I went to DIAN office at 8 in the morning to sign the papers, then to the dock where the boat picked me and the others up.

We sailed for 10kms and waited for the Aduana officers to come on board to check our papers, bikes and passports. It took them more than an hour for the checking and they chose 3 bikes at random for a more detailed check. Then the boat unloaded all the bikes. I had to fix my side mirrors under the blazing sun, and later rode 14kms to the old city to find an insurance shop. It cost me US $31 (paid with credit card only as they didn’t accept cash) for a mandatory insurance which will be the first thing the police & military check point officers will ask for if you are stopped.Exiting Cartagena wasn’t difficult but it took almost 30mins due to traffic. I had never seen a city so full of public buses everywhere. I rode via route 90 – 25 on a single lane road which was sometimes pretty bumpy and sometimes good. I passed 9 military checkpoints and only once being stopped. However, upon seeing my GPS, the officer shook my hand and let me thru. After riding for 380kms in 6.15hrs with only a 1 minute break to drink from my bottle, I reached the small town of Caucasia. There’s nothing interesting here so I just relaxed in my hotel room which was sponsored by Incolmotos Yamaha Moto, Colombia.

The next day, I rode 265kms on route 25. It was a very scenic yet stressful ride, at least half of the way. The okay (no potholes) but the sunken road was narrow, winding and with steep inclines & declines and tight hairpin bends. One really needed patience to ride on this road as there were lots of trucks on both lanes. When an oncoming truck is taking a sharp bend, the driver will take both sides, meaning half of my lane was gone. So where do I go? There’s no shoulder lane here, and the edge of the road was pretty high too. The most dangerous thing was vehicles from both sides of the road tried to overtake trucks in front of them. Most of the time, they had no concern for motorbikes. So when this happened, I needed to slow down or stop completely by the road side to avoid an accident. The winding and narrow road really tested my patience. When patience gone, I nearly ended down a ravine….Few times. Nevertheless, the very green view was spectacular. I saw lots of horses and friesian cows grazing under the sky.

Upon reaching Girar Dota, I was met by Jader and Ferney, reps from Yamaha Incolmotos. They took me to the hotel to rest, and at night, Ferney and his girlfriend took me to watch a football final match at a cafe, between Nacional (representing Antioquia) vs Junior (representing Barranquilla). The place I’m at now is in Antioquia state, so everyone here was cheering for Nacional. The result was Nacional team won by a penalty. Everyone was so happy and celebrating. Singing, dancing, music, fire crackers, honking, drumming, horn blowing…you name it. Since a couple of months back, Hong Leong Yamaha Motor (Msia) via Mr Hoo and Mr Lee had been contacting their counterpart in Colombia, Alejandro, to notify them about my ride. I received hospitality from Incolmotos Yamaha Colombia and was taken to their HQ and factory. GD was given a full check-up, oil change and tire change. Not just that, I was also taken for a visit to their huge factory. I watched the workers assemble bikes and visited the Communication Plaza which has a story about the history of Incolmotos, a display of all the bikes they ever had and the most interesting part, Yamaha here also combined their motors and music division together.

Their musical staff, Mateo entertained me with beautiful songs. I really had a good time here. Thank you Alejandro, Luis, Jader and the staff at customer service and technical division for the hospitality. Thanks too to Hong Leong Yamaha Motor for all the support and for sending the tires for GD all the way from Malaysia to Colombia. After everything was done, Luis took me to his house in Medellin city. During my stay, Jader from Incolmotos Yamaha Colombia took me for a ride to Santa Fe, about 60kms from Medellin. The road was good and winding all the way. Santa Fe, a cobble street old city is surrounded by beautiful mountains. We also went to the hanging bridge over Rio Cauca. Later, Jader took me for a metro cable ride over Medellin. It was indeed a lovely day spent.

After 2 nights in Medellin, I continued riding to Cali, which was 445kms away. It took me 8hrs with a short 10min break, along route 25. The road was a single lane steep and winding from Medellin to La Pintada. The first 100kms took me 2.30hrs. Then it was a flat road with some uphill & downhill places occasionally and after Pereira, it was a good double lane road. I passed by beautiful mountains and coffee plantations along Autopista Del Cafe and later, sugarcane fields all the way to Cali. Cali is the 3rd largest city in Colombia, and it’s the centre for salsa dance. I stayed 2 nights in Cali, during Christmas. I met Manuel, who happened to be a biker, and he brought me to his parents’ house for lunch.

On my last days in Colombia, I rode 501kms from Cali via route 25 to Ipiales. The road was 70% good but mostly single lane and winding. I saw lots of military presence along the way. The view was soooooo breathtaking all the way. It was sooo hard to keep my eyes on the road. The wind was strong too. I had to battle with it for 3 hours. I also saw some mountain villagers, mostly kids and the elderly stretching out their hands asking for money when I passed. Finally, after riding 8.20hrs, I reached Ipiales. It was cold and I was really exhausted, but the ride was awesome and I felt great satisfaction. In my opinion, the route from Popayan – Pasto – Ipiales, was the most scenic road in Colombia.

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