Finally: bikes packed again, a bit heavier than before, but back on the road… The way out of Quito was not too easy, another 25 km through bad traffic, so lunch still in the city! But then it was a great feeling to leave this huge urban area behind us and feel so free again!
Like always it started raining after a sunny morning, that day already at 1 pm! So we just cycled another two hours on the Panam to Machachi and received once again a warm welcome at the firemen station. The firemen gave us matresses to make ourselves comfy in the gym room and we went out for an endless food tasting walk through town that evening: some cow claw soup, passion fruit cream, fried raised pastry in honey and finally again grilled meats, potatoes and salads - one day on the bike again and not being able to satisfy Hardy´s appetite!
So, we were well prepared for the Cotopaxi volcano climb up the next morning. We started in beautiful sunny morning fresh air, it became nearly hot, a feeling quite rare in the last weeks. Starting the climb up on 12 km cobblestone it got even hotter. The front wheel hopping over the stones often was uncontrollable and made us stop again and again. Even Hardy who always stays on his bike no matter how steep it is had to get off and push. Ja, this was quite demanding. And of course, it started raining at noon which made it even harder on the slippery stones. We kept on for two hours as there was nothing for shelter anyway… But the hunger stopped us, we needed some of our peanut butter and empanadas con ceso… As a perfect timing it stopped raining and behind the next curve Cotopaxi with its snow-covered top appeared in its full glory. What a sight!
With renewed energy we kept on and suddenly it was so much fun. Alpacas grazed along the way and wild horses were galopping in some distance in front of the volcano. This was exactly how we wished it to be! Now all we wanted was a camping spot just as fine. Actually, that was not too difficult on this endless open space on 3.800m. It was the earliest we ever put our tent up, luckily, before it started raining again. We cuddled ourselves in the sleeping bags to get warm, in a rain break we went out to cook a soup and then watched a movie in the tent… this is how nice camping can be!
Next morning we had to pack everything wet, went on cycling a bit through the national park before nearly flying down on a brand new road with a bike lane to Lasso. In Lasso it was the first time the firemen refused to host us, so we camped at a Hospedaje. Next morning: heavy rain! Much more than before! Should we really go on the back road Quilotoa loop in these conditions?? We decided for yes! Bought some new rubber work gloves and put some extra plastic sacks on as our jackets would not resist this rain. Even GoreTex does not live up to what it promises - after two hours in this rain, everything gets through! Well, three hours later, we were in the sun again and so happy we decided to come here. Beautiful views turned up and we enjoyed incredible downhills, too mean that we would have to climb it all up again into Sigchos in the evening. The last kilometers we accepted the offer of a friendly driver and jumped on his road works vehicle with another 30 workers, to avoid struggling into the night… Very dirty but happy we arrived in time in the nice little town up in the mountains. People look very different here in the remote areas than in the towns. The women are very colorfully dressed, different styles and colors are hip in different villages. Ecuador is famous for its hats, everybody is wearing one. The women, even very young ones carry their little children on the back, and all of them have very funny but nice red cheeks.
In the park in Sigchos suddenly a young dog, some shephard mixture, ran into us, jumped up and up again and seemed so happy to see us! What was going wrong here? Normally, dogs do not like us cyclists at all, never ever one was so friendly to us! But with him it was directly mutual liking. He waited in front of our hotel and found us again the next morning. We called him Scrumpy, gave him the rest of our breakfast and he just kept on running with us all day long. We were not very fast on the dirt roads in the mountains, so it was not too hard for him. But again from noon onwards: only rain! We just didn´t want any more - no more self-torment! We stopped and stayed the night in a nice hostel room which was just too expensive for Ecuadorian conditions (12$ per person including dinner and breakfast) but warm and cosy.
Next day we wanted to start early to arrive at the Quilotoa lagoon before the afternoon rain comes. A beautiful route through the mountains, enjoying it so much! Just hoped to arrive at Quilotoa without rain for a good view… That´s why we decided to take a short cut for the last 3 or 4 km: a new road, still under construction, quite steep but much shorter than the old road. The workers at the fork said we could cycle up without any problems… Hahaha - very funny! It was all rocky sand, the huge vehicles passed every few minutes and fogged us in dust, most of the time it was just impossible to drive. It took us about one and a half hours with really difficult pushing. Again and again we had severe problems breathing properly in this altitude of 3.800m, air was cut off immeadiately and Lena nearly hyperventilated at one point… At the end of the construction, when the sand just got too deep, finally some other workers helped us pushing - gracias, muy amable!
One more time it was worth the torment: The Quilotoa lagoon is breathtaking! And no rain for the whole day! After Hardy took thousands of pictures we looked for a nice camping spot for quite a while but would not find any flat or big enough space on the crater rim. The Quilotoa village actually was a crappy touristic place that we not really wanted to support. Already on the way to Quilotoa which is a popular hiking area as well we were quite disappointed how tourism took away the real friendliness of the indigenous. Conversation and especially taking pictures was all about money - sad, sad, sad. Could not remember when we experienced it like that before. When we arrived at the lagoon they got even crazy: “No, it is forbidden to go here with the bike”, “Why? Do we bother anybody? No, we are alone here!” “It is because of the wooden floor… But do you need a room?” Nice welcome, we want to go back to Colombia! After we checked nearly every accomodation in this crappy village, we decided: if we are spending money here, then it has to be for the nicest and friendliest! It got really cold that night, we were happy about the comfy and warm bed and the little fireplace next to it… how romantic!
Two nights in Ibarra, one in Cayambe at the nicest firestation we ever stayed at (with own room, new beds and great firemen!), crossing the equator and then rocking on to Quito… Honestly, not one of our best days, Lena’s spokes kept on breaking on fast downhills, and we only had two spares left… Finally police helped us out and took us up for a few kilometer on the long climb up to the city, buses wouldn’t take us. But it was still another two hour climbing into the center of Quito – the highest capital on earth.
We were already looking forward to Quito for quite a while: meeting up with Aaron again, giving our legs a rest for a few days, buy some new mountain equipment, and whip our bikes into shape after nearly nine months. Who would have thought before that we finally stayed for two weeks?!
Our first day we spent with Aaron and the Genners Family Pippa, Steve and their two boys Henry and Charlie from England. Aaron traveled with them ten days before Quito. How refreshing getting to know them all and see how they are cycling as a family! They defintely took away some of our fear or respect of cycle touring with children – we are often talking about that as an idea for the future. Also Jens, who we met before in Colombia, came as a surprise, so we were a big cycle touring group wandering through Quito as very normal tourists.
Aaron had organized a great deal for us to stay with him in the beautiful house where he has a room now for his time in Quito. Zita and some of her daughters are living there, supernice women and Zita is an incredibly good cook! We felt so much like home from the very first moment, enjoyed the luxury and beautiful view over the city from our balcony every day and definitely put some weight on. Actually, we did not want to leave again… But this had another reason:
One day before we wanted to leave Hardy had a little accident in a parking garage of a Supermaxi. We cycled in from the rainy outside and when he wanted to stop he immediately slided away from the ground which was superslippery as soon as it good wet. Peng – autsch! Hardy was so angry about the person who installed this floor covering that he directly went to the security to vent off his anger. He just asked if he did not see the sign: „Piso resbaladizo cuando llueve“ (Slippery floor when raining). What, where? No, of course not it hangs over the car parking section and not over the bike parking! And actually he drove really carefully and slowly. We had to let his shoulder be checked and luckily the first diagnosis of the lady doing the x-ray was wrong – the collar bone was not broken, but next day the MRT showed that the muscles obviously were inflamed and Hardy had to rest for three more days… So, we would stay to celebrate his birthday in Quito! A really nice and relaxed day: with the teleferico (cable railway) we went up on 4050m and enjoyed the view over the city. Like every day in Quito, it was sunny in the morning and rainy in the afternoon. So we went for a yummy chocolate cake in the historic center later, and of course, in the chocolate nation Ecuador, it is a real chocolate cake! For dinner we even had a second chocolate cake from Zita that we enjoyed with Guanabana ice-cream! Yum, yum!
For the whole time of our stay we had the great luck that we could use the workshop of www.tatoo.ws where Aaron started a job as the head bike mechanic for the next six month and starts building a cycle touring section. He also helped us a lot with spoking a new wheel for Hardy as his dynamo hub did not work any more and had to be changed as well as tensioning all our wheels – thank you so much for your support, Aaron! Since four of Lenas spokes broke in a row, it was high time to check the tension and find new spares. So we cycled three days through the city to check every single bike shop (and they have loads! a really big bike scene here) for new quality spokes. We finally found some DT Swiss ones but had to shorten them and cut new threads so they will fit for the Rohloff hub. Also some new Continental tires were waiting for us at Tatoo store, and after a full day allround treatment for each one of our Travelmasters they looked like brand new!
If you come to Quito and would like to stay in a very nice and familiar accomodation ask us about Zitas contact. We absolutely recommend staying in this beautiful, kind of Italian house up the hill, quiet but very central.
First day in Ecuador we stayed at the Bomberos (firemen) in Tulcan and were surprised how well done and brand-new everything was. Luxury indoor camping, hot showers, WiFi and a really good cooking lady who even invited us for dinner with her husband. Not only about the firemen station, but in general we would find out very soon that our image of Ecuador we had before was slightly wrong…
Aaron, who was riding about a week in front of us by now, told us about an epic route that we should not miss: through the El Angel Nature Park. We already checked it on the map before as an alternative to the Panam anyway – so we went for it. A very small path that we nearly missed about 10km South of Tulcan directly led us on dirt road, not as hard as the Trampolin de la Muerte, but exhausting enough. 35 km up on 3.700 m and most of it through the Páramo full of these beautiful Frailejónes.
A Páramo is a form of vegetation that appears in the high mountains in the tropics, typical for South America in a height over 3.200 m. Frailejónes are very wooly semi-shrub plants growing only about two centimeters per year. That means most of them are really old, in El Angel they are up to six meters high. Most of their needed water they get out of the air, when it gets really cloudy. Their leaves are so cuddly that you can even use them to warm your ears…
„It is just so many of them, I can’t believe“ I was repeating again and again. In the late afternoon we arrived just in time at the refugio on the highest point of the way. We knew they had beds for visitors, so we were relaxed not having to find a camp spot for this freezing night. It got dark very quickly, the clouds thicker and thicker and it was just us the night security and a coyote up there. They did not have running water, but we could get some from the nearby creek to give ourselves the coldest shower that we ever had with our outdoor shower sack – temperatures nearly dropped under zero… The next morning we got up early and could not even think of coffee and breakfast, the light was so amazingly nice that we directly went out to walk up to the look-out (3846m) behind the house – and yes it was „such a friggin’ great view that makes you wanna to cry for your mama“, like Aaron would say… Just the perfect scenery for a little shooting with our beloved triple2 shirts.
We did not want to stop taking pictures but at one point we had to leave as we wanted to reach the next town Ibarra the same day…
Ok, it won’t stop now for the next months: we are in the Andes and we will have to climb every day! There was always still a little hope left not having to pedal up another major hill every day. But well, we’re getting fitter and fitter, and climbing gets easier day by day.
On our way out of the Sibundoy valley we met the Basque cyclist Sebastian and shared a really nice day cycling together to El Encano, through the so-called Colombian Switzerland at La Laguna Cocha. We rarely met such a positive character like him before, he was so happy, even about the climb ups: „que buena subida!“. He is one more great example of how to follow your dreams even without much money and good equipment, cycling with water gallons as panniers like many others and just shorts and a rain jacket… Everything is possible if you really want to! He is so right: „Cada día, estamos muy feliz en bici!“
Next day Sebastian wanted to camp at the lagune and we kept on going to Pasto, stayed there for a day and then cycled towards the border. That night we camped in „el Jardin del Éden“, a garden paradise of a very nice Senora. She was surprised when we asked if it would be possible to camp, „I sometimes see cyclists passing here but nobody ever asked me to camp in my garden!“ Finally, we think she was happy that we were there.
While cooking an Indio from the neighbourhood came over and told us lot about their situation in Southern Colombia. He suffered a lot under the Police, he said. They often try to bring Indios in jail, put drugs in their stuff, to blame and arrest them afterwards. But now he got a special passport for indigenous people, and police cannot bother him any more. They are only allowed to hand him over to the indigenous judge in his community. He seemed to be a very clever guy, but emphazised again and again he only wished to have more education. In the morning the Senora and her helping lady explained us all about the different fruits and herbs in the garden and packed us a huge bag of many yummy fruits we never saw before like chirimoya, uchavas, lulos and maoncillos. They even breed guinea pigs, an expensive delicatessen already here in Southern Colombia, we only expected this to come up in Ecuador…
On the way to the border spokes started breaking at a 60km/h descent in Lenas back wheel. After over eight months without anything, now the first problems appeared.
From Ipiales we cycled down a few kilometers to see the Las Lajas Sanctuary, built in 1949 in Gothic Revival style. We did not make all the way down into the velley, climbing out again would just have taken too long to cross the border into Ecuador the same day.
And before we really leave our number one country now, here are some very typical things in this country:
Typical Colombian lunch and dinner (and sometimes even breakfast) is the so-called bandeja: a soup, sometimes served with bananas, and a main dish with meat, rice, beans, platanos or lentils, salad, sometimes fries, salsas and a fresh juice. And all this for about 3.500 to 8.000 Colombian Pesos, which is in between 1,70 – 3,50 Euro. You definitely cannot cook for that money as supermarket prices are nearly comparable to ours in Germany and in some cases even exorbitant expensive, for example milk products, thuna fish or our beloved energy snack peanut butter…
So many fruits we have never seen and tasted before: Colombia is especially famous for guanabanas, supposed to be very healthy and good against cancer (if you believe the Colombians even better than chemo) and digestive problems. You can get it as a milk drink, joghurt or as the whole fruit which is actually a bit expensive.
Pastelerias y Panaderias
Why? We just cannot understand why everything has to be so artificial, colorful and still same tasting. The colors are revolting, but the Colombians love these cakes and tortes. And unfortunately, we hungry cyclists are often disappointed stopping at a bakery with a seemingly huge selection of pastries only to find out that everything tastes the same…
Everybody is drinking tinto – black coffee with a lot of sugar in small plastic cups. It’s a really nice culture that everybody offers you to have one together especially when it’s rainy and cold in the mountains and it’s a social thing as well… But when it comes to taste we actually like our stronger and less sweet coffee better. We are so happy that we still carry the extra weight of our little espresso cooker!
Colombia is famous for its beautiful women, and often this is true. But considering the mannequins in the shop windows, mmhh, subject to interpretation: are we in Silicone Valley? They all have huuuge tits, so huge that they sometimes even do not fit in the displayed tops… We heared that Cali is the city with the highest density of artificial boobs in Colombia – Hardy is very sad that we haven’t been there :-).
We knew it would be one the toughest routes we ever rode – and it truely was! Two and a half days 80 km from 600 m up to 2770 m on bad and really bad dirt roads in constantly changing weather from sun to angry rain, fog and cold… But it was absolutely worth it! We do not regret any suffered minute of this awesome ride. We got directly paid for our endeavours with these incredible views over the clouds…
After a rich breakfast at 7 o’clock at Mocoa market we started climbing up the trampoline of death which is supposed to be one of the most dangerous roads. Many people died here in accidents because of lacking side shells, it just drops down into nothing for a few hundred feet. All along the road sad crosses, candles and car lights remember the victims…
On the bike it did not feel dangerous at all, we were small enough to always stay away from the edge. But for trucks and cars it can be tricky to pass each other on some parts that are only three meters wide.
The first day we made 34 km up to the look out where a friendly black lady Monica let us camp in her little restaurant shack – one of the few tiny places that are plane up there. Definitely the better option than camping in the wet and dirty ruin that another lady offered us. She prepared us a warm dinner and we slept like babies that night. The second night we ended up camping in a school. It was freezing cold but we even took that ice-water shower in the children bathroom and it was great to be under a roof against the steady rain. Our bodies were constantly claiming more food, so we had a whole bandeja with soup, meat, rice and potato for breakfast the next morning before climbing up the last few hundred meter to the top. After that the rest was only downhill, finally even paved into the first village of the valley San Francisco – it felt like flying down there after two exhausting days on wet stony, muddy, pebbly grounds…
In San Francisco we accidently ran into hundreds of school kids marching for peace – „la marcha por la paz en Colombia“. It was an interesting spectacle but as soon as they did their „job“ they all came running towards us and started bombarding us with questions. We were besieged by younger and older excited kids wanting to know everything about us strangers and asking for autographs.
Very nice to see how naturally curious kids are… Finally, we had to get ourselves out of it because we were nearly dying of hunger again :-) We made it to Sibundoy where we gave our legs a break for one more day…
We were so fed up with the rain that we decided to leave the Central Cordillera via Ibagué and continue further South in the valley of the Rio Magdalena. And yes, it got dry and hot again, especially in the „Desierto de Tatacoa“ where we cycled and camped two days. Actually, it’s a semi-desert, a 330 square kilometers area of ocher and gray brushstrokes of green cactus growing up to five meters high.
Cycling in a desert was a very new experience for us, but great! The landscapes changed again and again, and we absolutely enjoyed the lonely ride through this rough vegetation. Just camping was a hard thing, the ground was nearly too hot to lie on – we were sweating even more than on the bike with not a single breeze coming up at night! Not to talk of these damn black flies that bit tiny little pieces out of our skin and left itchy read spots all over our non-covered skin parts, at day and ight time – ahhh!
From Tatacoa we went further South to Neiva (which did not impress us much!), Pitalito and finally Mocoa. In between we stopped one night in the pretty village of La Jagua where lovely aunty Tila picked us up in the parc, invited us to her home and even offered us to sleep in her sister’s room! While sun was setting she took us down to the Rio Magdalena for an ice cold bath after this hot cycling day – why can’t we have that every day??? All the people we met in La Jagua were incredibly welcoming, making us presents like fruits, bred and eggs and even called us on the cellphone weeks after we left, just to know if we are fine…
One day later we stopped at a huge ancient finca in the mountains where Orlando and his wife invited to camp and served us fresh milk. It was so interesting for us to see their way of living and working in this beautiful and quiet place – well, and for them to ask about our life in Germany which is just inconceivable for them.
Taking off from Medellin was climbing on the Panam – nice landscapes but no fun in the traffic. So as soon as possible we turned left to ride back roads again. But it did not go as we expected! We did neither imagine it to be so hard but nor to be so beautifulamazingbreathtaking at the same time! Honestly, we had days in that we were only climbing without one meter down and only made 25km in total… That can be frustrating but these views directly compensate the suffering.
And the people in the little mountain villages were awesome as well: In a heavy rain we were stopping on a street café for a hot drink and some chocolate. When we wanted to pay the lady said „Oh, the guy leaving in the white car over there just payed for it all…“ Wow, we could not even thank him! The same situation on a toll station: We suddenly had two fresh orange juices in our hands, paid by a lady who was just taking off in the same second. This went on and on with beer appearing on our table whithout ordering or truck drivers who even invited us for a huge trout dinner in a mountain restaurant where we camped. The Colombians are incredible! So warm welcoming, chatty, always interested and curious but never intrusive – we really enjoyed their mentality and learned a lot. Not only languagewise but as well about an adorable culture and interpersonally.
One of these nice Colombians was Humberto with whom we stayed in Pereira via warmshowers.org. He was so happy to host us and we directly got along very well together. We slept in his „guest tent“ in his basic flat in a very typical Colombian barrio and enjoyed being in the midst of very normal life there. Muchisimas grcias, Humberto!
Next day we took off to visit the quite touristy but cute town of Salento in the famous coffee region in Colombia (check out this great ancient coffee machine – about 100 years old!). Again cycling in the rain – we were so pissed off with that! Everything wet, wanna-be-waterproof clothes sticking to the skin, not being able to distinguish if it gets wet because rain comes through or if it is the sweat from the inside…
Looking around for a place to stay in Salento, I was waiting for Hardy who came back around the corner with his typical smile on the face (everybody who knows him probably can exactly imagine how his face looked like) „Guess who I met, Lena!?“ It was three guys on motorcycles with backpacks tied in fruit baskets on the back of the motos! Philipp, Sepp and Yu Ya! Three weeks that we seperated after my birthday – they bought their motos in Medellin and now absolutely fit into this motorcycle enthusiastic country – with or without driving license, who cares?! Yu Ya continued further South the next day and we four spent two more days together, sharing stories, rum and coke, a great funny Saturday night in the village and especially the walk through the „Valle de Cocora“. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Nature Park with incredible flora and fauna and the highest palms in the world: up to 70 m high wax palms, the national symbol of Colombia. We rent some rubber boots and wandered the whole day through this breathtaking piece of nature, accompanied by beautiful birds, from parrots and toucans to tiny sweet hummingbirds. Let the pictures speak for themselves…
29 Buffalo Bikes for Africa - the current state of our fundraising project!
Check out the World Bicycle Relief story about Velosophics and help us to spread the word of the “Power of Bicycles”!
Colombia treats us well from the very beginning! So well, that we actually needed some time to get used to it. Although Turbo defintely not belongs to the nicer towns in Colombia, people directly welcomed us so warmly and friendly that it seemed not right, just too much… „Si Senor… si Senora, con mucho gusto!“ At first we did not want to fall for these typical offers like bringing us to the bus station or showing us the next ATM and tried not to go with these guys, but finally we accepted and it was just their friendliness and nothing more… The Colombians would surprise us later again and again with their open and helpful attitude – they just love their tourists and foreigners!
From Turbo we took a bus together to Santa Fe de Antioquia, and needed eight hours for 200 km on this bad road blotched with potholes. We arrived late but were lucky to find a nice little Hosteria to celebrate into Lenas 30th birthday. Oh yes, we had a great time there, enjoyed the sun, the pool and the Colombian mentality so much! Just right for the birthday we accidently met Philipp, Sepp and Yu Ya again and had one more rum and coke night – qué chévere!
But then it was high time to get our bums into the saddles again, it has been more than two weeks without cycling! We got packed on our freshly cleaned Travelmasters and started cycling up the 1000 m on 60 km to Medellin – mum and Paul took a bus and expected us o arrive a day later. But this time we surprised them: after 35 km we were facing a 5 km long tunnel and police would not let us cycle through. We had to take a bus and decided to renounce the tempting downhill after the tunnel into Medellin and just stayed in the bus. So, we had one more family day to explore Medellin together, the second largest city in Colombia. For a very long time public life in Medellin suffered under the drug mafia (Medellin Cartel) of Pablo Escobar who was one the most powerful and brutal drug bosses in the world. But since 2005 the city went through a major change, today it is much safer, it is a modern city, quite hip and full of nightlife especially in the Zona Rosa – and people are proud of that, rightly.
We went to see the Botéro exhibition, the most important modern Colombian artist who worked with the presence of full forms. His sculptures are placed in the „Parque de las Esculturas“ in the heart of Medellin and we had fun watching and how people were getting „in touch“ with them.
We explored the crowded city centre and observed police drug dogs at work in the parks. The police men are simply going for a walk with their dogs and as soon as they straightly run to a person, he or she directly hands out the stuff without a word, and that’s it – unless it is more than the decriminalized amount.
Saying good buy the next morning was not easy, too nice was our time together… But mum and Paul flew back to Panama to relax one more week after these exhausting days with us :-)
And we? We moved all our stuff over to our new friend’s house: Raul. We met him on the street asking for the way the other day and five minutes later he invited us to stay with him. How nice – awesome hospitality! Finally, we spent nearly five days together and became real friends! Raul is a Cross Fit trainer, a sports junkie and just an extremely loveable person. As he cares a lot about his body and health we cooked great healthy meals (always without carbohydrates!) together and had great fun visiting his Cross Fit competition and his gym. He showed us how to treat our muscles for better relaxation and gave us some (nearly too hard, but grateful!) massages – auuhh, I still feel it when I think of it! Thank you, Raul, for showing us your world!
Day I Panama City to Isla Franklin
There we were: standing in Carti harbor, just a small riverbank, trying to find a lancha to bring us four and the bikes to one of the little beautiful Islas San Blas. We ended up on Isla Franklin, a very small island that you can run around in two minutes, with nothing on it but some palm trees and cabanas.
The islands are all owned by the Kuna Yala, indigenous people who rule their own autonomous area all along the East stretch of Panama, including the 365 San Blas Islas (check out their flag! They were using the swastika before Hilter gave it the evil meaning of his ideology, but have a new one now since 2010). There are bigger and smaller islands, inhabited and crowded ones. The Kuna are very tradition-concious people and know how to make their business. The women all wear the beautiful and colorful „molas“ and string of pearls around their wrists and ankles. You are not allowed to open a coconut on the islands because they are articles of trade for them, taking a picture of a person costs a Dollar. But when we arrived with the bikes on Isla Franklin, the Kuna boys started taking pictures of us as we were the first cyclists on the island.
Puh, finally, the first day of relaxing and just doing nothing! The only thing we had to organize was finding out about the next lancha going to Puerto Obaldia. Some phone calls, no signal because of bad weather, mmh, no information yet. „Mas tarde!“
Day II Isla Franklin to Isla Carti
An easy morning, swimming, snorkeling, reading – still no news from the next lancha going to Colombia. „Mas tarde“ – o.k. back to relaxing. And then, suddenly Franklin came and told us we had to leave to another island to get a lancha the next morning from there to Puerto Obaldia. We had about 15 minutes to pack and get our stuff and the bikes on the lancha to Isla Carti.
Carti is the complete opposite of Isla Franklin. About 1200 people living there, it is packed with little wooden houses, only small sandy paths lead the way through to little tiendas, to the docks and one restaurant. You would better not go swimming there as the toilets are just some planks cobbled together with a whole in, so you do your thing and watch the fishes enjoying what you’re leaving at the same time!
We met a guy called German and stayed in his house that night which is prepared for a Homestay with three very basic rooms on the second floor. My mum had her first bucket shower in the more or less clean backyard – her first real „third world travel experience“. Very interesting for all of us four staying that day in the Kuna family. The men were all very open and interested, but the women did not talk a word with us or even greet… a cultural thing that is hard to understand for us. Luckily, we had some rum and coke left so we could sleep that night…
Day III Isla Carti to Puerto Obaldia
We got up at six, were ready to leave half an hour later – and then waited for another three hours until the lancha finally arrived. At least we had some time to get into contact with the Kuna lady after giving her a Dollar for a photo. The captains showed up with a boat nearly full of people. Bueno, the day before they told us we would be eight people in the boat, now we were 16 including the captains. So, where should we place our 16 bags, two bikes and us four? While we were wondering something was going on with the captains – seemed like they just managed a second boat. Then we had the choice: we would either let our bikes go on a different lancha or sit with them in this really crappy thing without real seats and seperate with mum and Paul. We decided to go together… into hell for the following hours! Rain, wind, a grey and rough sea, water smashing into our faces from the sides, everything was wet and cold – no fun at all! At the first stop on another island we ran through the whole village to get some more plastic bags in that we could cower and cover ouselves. Honestly, we felt like African boat people trying to reach Europe… The motor striked several times, and we just didn’t know what would happen.
More than happy we arrived in Puerto Obaldia in the late afternoon where our bags and the bikes were already lying on the banks – all good! After this nearly eight hours trip it was clear we could not make the boder crossing over to Capurgana. They close the border office at 3 pm in the afternoon, a good idea to keep travelers in this shithole of town and make them pay for at least a night. Well, we were not really up for a second lancha ride anyway. To enter Obaldia all the luggage had to be checked – the first time on the whole trip. In this moment Hardy cried out „damn, no, no, no!“ He obviously forgot our bag with nearly all of the cash we had planned for the trip (there are no ATMs on all of the islands and coastal towns) under the mattress on Isla Franklin! This night we stayed in a crappy Hospedaje, showered with a rat and just wanted to leave the other day early in the morning.
Day IV Puerto Obaldia to Capurgana (Colombia)
The office would open at 8 am they said, but of course nothing happened until 10 am. Time for us to try to ring German and Franklin, but no signal and the only landline phone working in Obaldia did not come through, no chance. Going back on the eight hour lancha ride to Franklin was no option either. It was only money, we had our credit cards and everything else… So, Hardy created a little treasure island in the Caribbean!
Again waiting for hours, and then everything „rapido, rapido!“. This time it was even more people, just too many and no space for the bikes. Then after paying struggles our friends Philipp, Sepp and Yu Ya had to go off the boat and wait for another one – we could just screem goodby as we already took off. In the open sea before arriving in Capurgana we stopped in the big waves – no more gasolina! We had to wait until another lancha came by and gave us some, just in time before Hardy got too seasick…
„All I want is a nice Hotel, a real shower and dry clothes“ my mum was daring it so much. Getting to Capurgana was already like a release, the Columbians welcomed us very friendly, we found the nice Capurgana Hostal, the perfect place to rehabilitate from these exhausting lancha days as well as to clean the bikes from the salt water. We relaxed for two days before we went on to Turbo. The last lancha was a bigger one – space for 34 people and every seat occupied. Lena’s bike was positioned in the back close to the two engines. Those guys just put a paddle in the frame to prevent it from slipping into the sea – didn’t look secure at all. While Lena and her family had some seats in the middle of the boat, Hardy got into the first row – the worst place considering the two meter high waves… But we all survived and a very warm welcome in beautiful Colombia!