Sunday, 31 March 2013

Still in Salento

Yesterday we had a vist and tour around a Coffee farm, very interesting, I never realised how labour intensive coffee making is, the coffee beans have to be hand picked which isn't the easiest, seemingly its better to pick them in the rain, then they are seperated from the outer shell, they are then fermented (to get rid of the sugar) after that they are dried and the inner skin removed then roasted before they are ground to make your coffee. After seeing the process and how little the farmers get per Kilo I hate the big coffee chains more, Starbucks and Costa have seen the last of my money!
It was great to sample to finished product but I could have done with some sugar! A walk around the farm felt like we were in the jungle in parts, plenty creepy crawlies going around, on the path back to the hostel we spotted a huge spider , turned out to be a Tarantula, must admit I was careful putting my shoes on today!
Salento is a really nice town and its a great place to chill out an people watch, yesterday one of the girls on the tour was from Cork but didn't know any of the reprobates we do and then last night we were speaking to a girl who was born in Perth but left before she could develop the accent, small world as always!
The original plan was to leave for Bogota today but seemingly most of the 8 million people on vacation from there will have the same idea so we go tomorrow hopefully, Werner and Claudia left for Medellin this morning so its probably the last time we will see them on this tour as they head for Cuba.
Coffee plant

Pineapple plant (they take about a year to grow)


Pretty flowers

Machine for taking the skins from the coffee beans (around 140 years old and still used)

Our Host Don Eduardo showing us his coffee picking technique

Drying the beans

From left to right, the flowers staring the process, 9 months later the berries are picked, then fermented, dried, de skinned, roasted, ground! easy as that

The boss taking the husks off

Roasting the coffee

Finally grinding the coffee

Jungle?

 Sleepless nights now
It stopped moving when I put my foot next to it to show the size

But these guys are more dangerous

Town square in Salento, Poker is the Colombian beer and quite good


Saying goodbye to Werner & Claudia this morning

Easter Sunday , busy but pretty place

 View from the viewpoint above the town
Easter so its compulsory to have a parade

Friday, 29 March 2013

Salento

It was great to be back in Cali in the heat, we got the tyres changed the Scottoilers topped up and gave the bikes a general check over. Werner & Claudia appeared with a Swiss Italian, Giani in tow, We last saw them on the 1st of January at the end of the world, the Southernmost part in South America so it was great to catch up again. Yesterday was spent doing not very much except some over indulgence in Alcohol.
This morning (Friday) we all left together to come to Salento, the heart of Coffee growing country and a real tourist spot. It took a while to get out of Cali, first because the parking guy had lost the key for the gate, then due to navagation errors (not me for a change) then just after the airport we got pulled in at an Army roadblock, to be fair I think they were just bored and saw 5 gringos on big bikes so pulled us for entertainment. I was a bit pissed off to start with and pretended not to understand anything but they were actually nice guys (and had big guns) so we cooperated, a quick document check and some banter so it was fine, I asked if it would be OK to get a picture with them and the boss guy who had our passports obliged.
About two miles later we got pulled for a police check, now I was fed up, over 35 Degrees C in full bike gear, not good, luckily Giani was in front and after he showed his passport we all got waved through, a few miles after that I had taken the lead and then it was just Fiona and I, we had done 36 miles and it felt like we were getting nowhere, we waited at the side of the road for the others and it transpired Giani (who has had some serious stomach issues) had to stop for an emergency toilet break, I felt a bit sorry for him, that morning he pulled a tendon on his leg so he really was getting a hard time of it.
The scenery was fantastic and most of the ride today was great except for the last couple of miles which took us an hour due to the traffic, this sure is the place where half of Colombia comes for Easter it would seem! Settled into a nice Hostel here and just had a great Burger in town, no whisky though so not quite perfect!
Funny sign in the Supermarket (It means no sitting but relevant in English I think)

Man at work!

Friends re united!

My sheep seat has been replaced with an Airhawk seat so I wondered if this could be another use for it, does it suit me? 

Fiona in disguise

Ready to go

Don't mess with these guys!

Enjoying the mid day sun

A re hydrate stop

It was hot!

After taking a tortuous hour to do the last two miles a well deserved beer

Fiona looking good as usual, me looking like I've just done a milion miles

Damned Scots get everywhere

Not sure what market segment these guys are aiming at, a sign just down from our Hostel
    

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Back to Cali

After our journey home with KLM we were expecting a similar very poor experience on our trip back to Cali, Colombia. We had an overnight stop in Amsterdam airport where we stayed in a Yotel, a Japanese concept where you get a basic (and small) pod to sleep in. It was actually OK, a tad expensive but also comfortable enough for one night especially when it means you stay airside cutting the stress the following day.
Airports are my pet hate, they are now one of the worst travel experiences you can take part in, using the threat of terrorism as an excuse the staff now use their perceived power to de humanise, bully and intimidate members of the public travelling by air. You dare not complain or you will be arrested and banned from flying ever again, its a ridiculous situation but if you want to fly you must comply with their over the top rules.
We paid a bit more (quite a bit more) for more legroom as on the flight home the long haul had less legroom than the Easyjet flights I normally use in the UK. In the end the flight was fine. Mega stress at Panama as we watched the baggage handlers abuse the luggage going on to the plane. one poor sod had a flat screen TV going on, not sure how many bits it would be in when it got to Cali. We had no confidence our luggage would arrive but amazingly it did, first we saw the tyres then the suitcase with the Scottoiler and Forth Gear sticker appeared on the belt. Relieved we then went through Customs expecting some hassle, we were after all taking tyres and spares in, I explained the situation to the customs and declared the goods, the lady listened and then waved us through, no problem, no tax and we have our spares. A taxi back to our Hostel and a beer ended a long, stressfull at times but successful return back!
Scotland the freezing!!! Snow still blocking roads

A sunny but cold Schipol airport

Leaving Europe again

In flight entertainment

Passing Puerto Rico

Artistic I thought! 
 

Our tyres and Spares back in Cali !!
 
Now all that remains is to check our bikes and gear are still OK, change tyres, mudguard on Fi's bike, fill up the Scottoilers (thanks guys) have a day to chill then head back on the road!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Thank you all

I'd like to thank all of you who sent kind messages to me at a difficult time, it was really appreciated and lets us know we are not alone on our journey. I feel its like having a couple of hundred people on pillion and that is reassuring. We hopefully get back to Cali late Tuesday to re start the adventure with a renewed vigour. We still have things to see in Colombia and then we have to plan and organise the flights over the Darrien gap for us and the bikes.

The video below is a short one of our time in Ecuador, I hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Scotland !!

Leaving Colombia in the circumstances we did ensured we got a good going over in customs, returning to Scotland via Amsterdam, come with me Sir & Madam!!! Everything searched and understandably so, down to breaking open our paracetamol capsules and sniffing the contents, the guy who did the suitcase search had a stronger stomach than me though as our riding gear which hasn't been washed for 4 months got the sniff test also, rather you than me mate!
Delays, Panamanian chaos at the airport and a crowded flight across to Amsterdam meant we arrived at Edinburgh after 24 Hours of no sleep and it was freezing. I only had a T shirt, the plan was to get the jackets out of the suitcase if it was cold but KLM managed to lose our luggage (its since been returned damaged, looks like its been dragged behind the plane!!! Thank guys!) So a very cold , wet and miserable return to my country, 35 degrees C to 0 in 24 hours, not recommended.
The reason for our return was that my Mother was very ill, sadly I didn't make it back before she passed away, my biggest critic, my biggest fan, always there to listen to my stories, call me an idiot and to boast about us to her many friends, sadly taken from us, we are all devastated.
Nest Monday we fly back to Colombia to re start the adventure, now figuring out how to carry the tyres and spares back without KLM damaging them!
Just remember life is a journey, its up to you to take the roads and detours that make it more interesting rather than the motorway or highway straight and boring to the final toll booth!!!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Cali Colombia

The run from Popayan to Cali was only around 90 miles but interesting all the same, the crazy driving got worse, we saw at least 10 suicide overtakes and 5 of them were by the same bus, I kid you not, we were bracing ourselves for the aftermath. The Army guard every bridge here it would seem, most give you the thumbs up as you pass which I think means the road is clear and safe, some don't though and we wondered if they were just being grumpy or there was a problem.
Into Cali and the traffic was terrible, we fought our way through the City to the Casa Blanca Hostel, run by Mike from Denmark, a traveller who settled here, Mike also runs Motolombia a tour company, so if you fancy a wee break in Colombia on a hire bike with a guide, Mike's your man.
We spent today servicing the bikes ready for the next leg, a legacy of the last "service" in Osorno is that the monkey who worked on the bike as well as breaking it must have no concept of torque settings , I needed a 2 foot bar to slacken the sump nut on both bikes! Lots of bad language later and it was all done
We need to fly home tomorrow for a family emergency so will probably not be saying much for the next week or so, we plan to return in just over a week to re start the adventure again, some more of this wonderful friendly country and then Central America, remember all roads do indeed lead to the moon!
This is what constantly riding your bike does to your gloves, hopefully get a new pair when I'm home

The bikes, all clean and freshly serviced ready for the next part of the adventure
 
Normal service will be reduced as soon as possible

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Into Colombia

John (our friend from Ibarra) appeared in the morning to make sure we got out of town OK, excellent and thanks John. We made our way on great roads and fantastic scenery to the border, out of Equador quickly, immagration and temporary import cancelled in short order, at the Colombian side a copy of our international driving licence and passport including the immigration stamp was required so you NEED to get the copy done at the border. Fi sorted the copies out while I watched the stuff, 1 1/2 hours all told so a quick crossing! Into Ipales to get our Insurance at the supermarket in the square, the guy said I needed a copy of the import document so while I went and got that he went for lunch!!! Thanks mate! So we had lunch overlooking the square (and the bikes ) and also met a couple of fellow travellers on Chinese bikes they bought in Bolivia, Tracy from Australia and Christine from Germany, they joined us for lunch and after 10 minutes we realised why we would never buy a chinese bike, they have had a lot of pain!
We finally got our insurance (SOAT) and headed off as a group to Pasto. Keeping the speed down on this demanding but fantastic road  meant we averaged  just over 96 MPG for this stretch, an incredible record for the trip.
Tracy & I went off seperately to look for accomodation in Pasto, we parked the bikes in the centre, when we came back the girls were mobbed with  crowd asking the usual questions, where are you from, how much dd the bike cost, where are you going? The Colombian people are Incredibly frendly.
This morning Fi & I headed for Popayan, a great road but much of it was rough, potholes, slow traffic and the army were in evidence everywhere, some pretty big guns as well! But it makes you feel safe. Popayan is a really nice Town and well worth a visit. We even managed a drink in a sleazy bar here but they only had one minuture of whisky and that was their total stock so it was one drink only. Tomorrow we head for Cali god willing so the adventure continues.
Fi fending questions while we wait for insurance

Stunning scenery & roads

Fi playing the crowd 

Lunch stop

The white tanker is towing the red tanker causing chaos for miles

wearing unbelievable high heels whist riding the bike, her man was carring her handbag & Pink helmet 

Another Queue


Nice square in Popayan

Health & Safety???

Not expecting me so only 1 whisky in stock