We did leave Villa de Leyva after all, even though we really enjoyed the quiet and picturesque area and the hostel. We wanted to circumvent Bogota and eventually get to Salento right in the Zona cafeteria. It didn’t look like we were able to make it in one day, so we had to find a place to stay for one night.
It was a nice ride with lots of curves and up and down the mountains. We also tend to attract quite a bit of attention with people giving us the thumbs up, or other bike riders checking us at the traffic lights and yelling something that we barely understand. Some guy at a Gas Station near Bogota jumped from his scooter and was so excited after he heard what we were doing, he needed to take a picture from us and I had to pose with him for a cellphone pic.
The last stretch from Ibague to Armenia was really steep with narrow roads and lots of hair-pin like curves. There was a lot of truck traffic and these “big guys” can only “crawl” up the mountains, since they have no power. For a long time there was so much traffic, it all came to a standstill. The local people seemed to know the spectacle, they immediately came, went from car to car selling water, sweets, fruits…We joined the other bikes and “snaked” our way through cars and trucks, although at times it got pretty tight and I earned Heinz’ annoyance, since I feared I was gonna be squished between 2 trucks while he got through at the last second!!! I just wasn’t gutsy enough!!
It was getting later and we wanted to at least find a place to stay before it got dark. Not easy, but when we finally got down from the Cordilleras it was 6:30 pm and really getting dark quickly. We stopped in a town called Calarca right before Armenia and checked into a modest Hotel.
Next morning we realized we were only about 1 hour away from Salento. So we arrived there around lunch already and found our Hostel “Tralala.” Yes, that’s the name! It’s run by “Hemmo” a dutch expat and is an old traditional coffee region house converted into a hostel.
We explored the little town in the afternoon. It is picturesque but very touristy! Next day we took a jeep with some other tourists to the Valle de Cocora. It’s a broad green valley framed by rugged peaks. A short walk past the little town of Cocora, you suddenly encounter hills covered with the palma de cera, or wax palm. It is the tallest palm tree in the world reaching up to 60 m. The trees tower above the cloud forest in which they thrive. Looks pretty amazing! We hiked through the lush cloud forest, stopping at a house where they served us coffee or hot chocolate with local cheese (weird combo!) watched a lot of different Hummingbirds humming and drinking from their feeders, and saw a South American Coati. After 5 hours we were back at our hostel, exhausted!! But it was well worth it!
Friday we packed up and headed towards Cali. Still in Salento we met a fellow adventure rider on his KLR from Minnesota who is doing the same trip, exchanged e-mail addresses and moved on!
In Cali we drove to the BMW dealership to finally pick up the ordered parts that were missing on my bike since our crash in Mexico. We were met by Juan Manuel, who was in contact with Heinz per e-mail. He was really friendly and helpful. We parked our bikes in their shop and with the help of some of their tools Heinz installed the parts in no time. We had lunch with Juan Manuel at “Subway” across the street, where he told us that his dream job was at BMW in Berlin and we told him to find and marry a German girl then it would all work out!! Ha,ha!
After the usual photo shoot we left to find Amira’s place. She is Diego’s mother in law. Diego is one of Heinz’ squash buddies in London, who had arranged for us to stay with her. She lives in a high rise housing complex with gates and security guards. We had to inform the guards who we were visiting and one of them showed us the way. Amira is a delightful 66-year old, who instantly welcomed us with open arms. Her daughter Andrea was there too, I think just to give her mother some support since she had surgery not too long ago. Trouble was they both didn’t speak any English. But with my little Spanish and our “Google translators” we managed fairly well. We were also supposed to meet with Diego’s sister Paula, but she was still busy at work, so that was to happen the next day. We had a fun afternoon and evening with Amira and Andrea, had some Domino’s Pizza together, and had lots of laughs!
Next day Heinz and I spend the morning at the housing complex’s pool and at lunch Andrea’s German friend Meike showed up with her daughter and a hearty lunch consisting of lots of pollo (chicken) rice, potatoes, Arepas (corn meal cakes) and soup. Colombians love their soup as a starter for lunch! She wanted to go to the movies in the afternoon with her family to watch a nature movie about Colombia and asked if we wanted to join. So, quick decision was made and we joined them. Was a great movie gorgeous views of the country, the nature and wildlife .We really enjoyed that. Meike and her Colombian husband have adopted two cute kids. Julian(!) is 6 years and also speaks German very well. Little Ana Maria is 3 years a cutie and not shy at all.
Paula, her mother Clara and a friend of Paula came later and picked Heinz and me up for supper. We went to the old part of Cali and had a traditional Colombian meal. It was delicious, but a lot of meat and we all just couldn’t finish it!
Today we left Cali after a nice breakfast at Amira’s place. We really enjoyed our stay with her and Andrea and vowed to stay in touch and hopefully will see again. They treated us like family!!
So now it’s off to Popayan!!