Now This City You Have to See

Trip Start Dec 25, 2009
Trip End Feb 13, 2010

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Where I stayed
Artern hotel

Flag of Colombia  , Sucre,
Monday, January 25, 2010

Cartagena is one of the nicest cities I have visited.  We all agree that this is one fine city, It has history up the Wazoo, nice restaurants, shops, beautiful women, and friendly men.  We enjoyed the day just walking around. Jene and I walked a lot of miles trying to find sneakers big enough for him and a camera battery for my camera.  Jene was successful.  It was great fun to watch the faces on the sales women when Jene walked into the shop.  They would look at him then immediately at his feet and start to smile and shake their heads.  He didn't have to ask any questions in several of the shops! 

We took a taxi out to Castillo de San Felepe de Barajas. This is the strongest fort the Spanish ever built.  Started in 1657 it took a hundred years to complete.  It was never overtaken although several tries were made.  It has an extensive array of tunnels connecting strategic points, the tunnels were constructed to reverberate sounds so the slightest sound of enemy feet, or communications could be heard.  Walking these tunnels was great fodder for a couple of old kids. 
While we were shopping we were walking through the Mercado and saw with no exaggeration about 500 shops that carried cell phone and cell phone stuff.  There was booth after booth after booth.  Then we ended up in a four story new mall full of stores from every vendor including, you guessed it, phone stores.  We saw raw meat (actually I could smell it well ahead of time).  It an impressive city that needs further exploration in my book.

This morning we took a taxi to lead us out of town.  This was money well spent in the very heavy traffic of buses and motor scooters.  Any space you can fit in is a lane, and is used.  They are fluid depending on the type and number of vehicles in the same spot.   A two lane  road will accommodate at least three buses, or four smaller buses, or 6 small taxis, or 20 scooters, or quickly change as the combination of vehicles fluctuates.  The 20,000 pesos we spent was money well spent.  (That is about $10 US).  The Taxi led us around circles, four lane roads, around construction and through back alleys and dirt roads to get to our road out of town.  We stopped and got gas as we said good by to our taxi friend.  

We were on our own again after being in the city for about 45 minutes of white knuckle riding.  The traffic was still heavy on the two lane road but we were at least used to this traffic.  We hit a Police roadblock.  The policia were not too friendly at first wanting to know about why we don't have on the protective vests that are required of all motor scooter drivers who are citizens.  They are required to be reflective, have the plate number on them and you are to have the plate number on your helmet as well,  All to stop the drive by shootings that were rampant in the past.  Certainly a cartel of drug runners couldn't figure out several ways around this minor problem.    They wanted to see our insurance papers too.  Well we didn't know about the insurance so we were allowed to turn back to obtain it in Cartagena.  The closes place was a few minutes down the road but would only sell us a year policy for $150 US.  I knew we could get shorter policies we we were told only in the Centro district of Cartagena could we get that.  Well we parked the bikes at the gas station behind locked gates and took a taxi right back into where we started!  We got 30 day policy for 54,000 peso.  Can you do the math now?  Drop three zeros and divide by two.  Now you can travel to Columbia.  We often have a half a million Peso's on us!  Back to the bikes and now our early start has begun at the crack of noon!  When we return to the checkpoint the Cops look at our papers and examine our bikes.  These are motor cops and have their 250 Suzuki there.  We trade jokes and then the Capitan motions me over to get on his police bike.  We take pictures and then I let them get no my bike for pictures.  We shake hands, bump fists and are off down the road. 

A couple of checkpoints later we run into a much more serious policia.  They argue that we need vests and threaten to write us tickets.  We promise to get them in the next town.  A wet behind the ears police boy struts over to Jene and I and ask in Spanish if we are interested in Marijuana, we have trouble understanding his Spanish but then realize what he is trying to say in English, "I think you two are interested in marijuana".  We laugh and say no and he goes to report this to his boss.    Fern has one of the cops show him a 10,000 Peso note from his own pocket and indicated that he is to give the cop a similar bill.  Fern ignores him.  The leader wants to see some Canadian money, he is interested he says.  Rene using perfect Spanish tells them they have no Canadian money.  Usually these contacts are very friendly and take longer just because they are interested in the bikes and us as world travelers.  You just never know what will come up next.

The riding here is BTTW, meaning full out full throttle.  We don't even slow down when we see the cops on the road anymore unless they are manning the checkpoint and waving us over.  We speed, we pass no matter what color or shape the center line is and we pass on corners when it is clear.  As an example of this, today I was last in the group and trying to catch up.  This is very similar to crack the whip.  The last bike is always running at least 10 mph faster that the leader,it is just that way.  I was behind a slow truck on a slight right turn, I pulled out to pass and noticed a scooter in the oncoming lane. Knowing he would pull over to give a fellow biker a safe pass I continued my pass.  With the throttle full open I was half way around the truck when it began to pass a slower scooter.  He pulled over into the oncoming lane squeezing me over, squeezing over the oncoming scooter...Plenty of room!
If you were planted on one of our bikes for a hour with out knowing the norm for the drivers over here, you would have a panic attack within the first few minutes! 
The Columbian country sideis georgeous. It is farm and ranch land and isn't crowed by jungle.  I wonder if this is natural or due to clearing and planting all thes years, perhaps it is from agent orange clearing out the Cocain fields. 
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Karen Zwart on

What an amazing trip. You guys should write a book. I so enjoy reading these blogs!!!! STAY SAFE.

kizzy on

hope to read safe!!

Wester on

Are you going to replace the SPOT? Can send one ahead to Bogata or wherever and the SPOT people will put the new one on your existing subscription. Let me know.

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