A long short journey thru the Andes

Trip Start Mar 20, 2011
Trip End Jun 05, 2011

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Sunday, May 1, 2011


Armenia to Bogota

Today was only to be a short journey of about 180 miles from Armenia to Bogota. Sure enough it was short but we had to cross the Andes mountains again which we were all looking forward to but we certainly were not expecting to follow thousands of walking pace trucks up the pass for mile after mile.

As we left Armenia the pass ahead looked magical but within a mile or so we were plodding along behind loads of trucks. There was double lines in the road making overtaking illegal. No ways were we going to plod along at less than 10 mph for mile after mile all the way up this pass. Like most South American country's the double lines in the middle of the road mean nothing and we were soon breaking every rule in the book by overtaking these trucks on both sides.

The road was extremely windy and was designed at the hairpin bends for heavy trucks and so had loads of space. If it was a left-hand bend us on our bikes would race past the truck right in the bend. We took loads of chances on this pass racing past them and just making it into the space in front of the truck before the oncoming truck closed the gap. It was great fun indeed.

Even on the downhill the trucks were only plodding along at 5 - 10 mph and so we still had to take risks to get passed them. Finally after almost two hours riding and only about 50 miles we decided to stop at a local cafe for a drink. It was boiling hot and sweat was simply running off us like a waterfall.

As usual it was coke and cakes all round but at this cafe we had the added attraction of a mad cat. This little cat was beautiful and extremely friendly but was so easy to wind-up. Me making my cat noises had it running all over this shop looking for another cat. Everyone in the cafe was in hysterics watching this daft as a brush cat race up and down the shop.

After our drink it was out fighting with the trucks yet again. Lucky for us the road split into two and most of the trucks went one way and we went the other. Our road soon became a empty freeway and was great to just cruise along at 70mph.

As always this freeway did not last forever and the closer we got to Bogota the busier it became. Again we started catching up wit loads of trucks again and so we started illegally overtaking once again. I was leading the way for 6 other bikes and was on a totally straight piece of road with a curve at the end. There was solid lines in the centre but no ways was I sitting behind this slow plodding 10 axle machine and I crossed the solid line and flew past this truck with all the others following.

As we head back onto our side of the road and swing round the curve at the end of the straight there stands a cop waving us to pull over. Oh no, we had been caught after all these weeks of crossing the solid lines!!!

The cops shock our hands and tried to explain why they had pulled us over. We of course did not understand a thing or even what we had done wrong;-) Me having been the leader was asked for my documents and taken away to be spoken to. The officer then produced a booklet and started writing down my details with a fine of 800 000pasos(300). I was pleading with him to let me off. Just then his boss or high up officer appeared and had a chat with him and the paper was destroyed. We had got off with it and a slap on the wrist.

After that warning we all decided to behave ourselves and drive with much more discretion. We had been taking far too many chances these last few weeks so perhaps this warning was a good thing.

We plodded along at about 60mph from then on and stopped a few more times for drinks along the way. The temp today must have reached at least 33 Celsius and riding a bike in that heat is just killing. As before I simply took off my gloves and went just bare hands. I know its dangerous but its just way too hot to wear gloves. My hands are now bright red with sunburn.

We finally reach the city of Bogota and need to find our "American Dream" hotel. Andy was struggling to map it on his GPS but we followed it as far as we could. The main roads in Bogota have high walls each side with only a few ways on and off which made it difficult to find the street we wanted. Finally after finding the GPS was taking us round in circles we stopped a local taxi and followed him to our hotel.

Now that we are in Bogota means we have completed our last and final journey in South America. So far we have travelled about 8300 miles since leaving Ushuaia. It has been a magical experience and is certainly something I will never forget. Of course on any big journey like this there are going to be ups and downs. The downs on this trip was certainly those terrible roads in Bolivia but the magical mountain passes and winding roads sure outweigh the bads on this trip.

Just about everyone on the trip had fallen or at least dropped their bike but so far the only vehicle that has had to be abandoned from the trip is the support vehicle which destroyed the cylinder head in Peru.

Right now we are at the airport handing over the bikes for their flight to Panama as there is no road through from Colombia to Panama. All going well we should be on our way within 3 days and then the journey starts through Central America.

Out of all the country's we have passed through so far Argentina and Colombia certainly rate as the best. The people in these two countries are just so wonderful and helpful. Tourists are treated like kings, especially in Colombia. As for Bolivia and Peru most of us did not enjoy these countries and most of us feel we will never visit these two country's ever again.

As for my wee Honda Transalp, I am most impressed with this little machines performance and am quite sure it will continue on without any problems all the way to Alaska. Many of the bikes and especially BMWs have needed their engine oil topped up every 1500miles but this Honda has not needed a single top-up the entire journey. As for repairs or maintenance on this machine the only time I have had to use tools on it was when one of the mirrors came loose on a very rough road in Argentina and also the plastic chain guard mounting snapped but has been repaired using a cable tie. Other than that this Honda machine has been ultra-reliable all the way.

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Trevor Heath (Seattle, Washington USA) on

In Central America the "tickets" for weaving etc. are not as high but nothing is written down and payment is in cash.....

If you don't have a copy or three of your drivers license. I'd recommend it

Just in case the cops takes it....then you can just ride away if a deal cannot be reached on the fine.

adventurescot on

Thanks for that Trev. I think the 5 of us will be riding much more to the rules after that cop stop in Colombia. it was a wake-up call so now we must behave.

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