Colombia - the final stretch of our journey

We are enjoying the last few days in Bogota and tomorrow we are flying to London after this fantastic 7 month adventure in South America. But before we leave I would like to share with you what we experienced in Colombia. A lot of people warned us about Colombia and were even worried about us – let me tell you something: Colombia is the safest country we traveled so far. The people here are super friendly and helpful. Given the recent history of this country one would have half way expected a country in shock but that is certainly not the case. Let me go a little bit into the recent history of Colombia. We all heard about Pablo Escobar and his murderous reign in the late 80’s and early 90’s. He was the most violent drug lord who had so much influence that he even got elected as a member of the government. This lasted just a day for him though and he quickly gotexposed by the former Minister of Justice for his past and present criminal life. It is safe to say that Escobar had a temper mixed with no respect for human life and a very violent nature. He is responsible for the killing of thousands of people in Colombia, most of them had nothing to do with the intermediate drug traffic. He brought down an Avianca plane in an attempt to kill the presidential candidate who opposed him. The candidate wasn’t on that plane though since he got tipped of just minutes before the flight that there might be an assassination attempt on his life. All 107 passengers and crew on that plane died. Escobar declared war against Colombia and his own hometown – Medellin was one of the 5 most dangerous cities in the world. Despite all the violence and deaths he caused he was also popular among the poor. He gave millions of his illegal drug money to the poor and built homes, schools and even churches for the poor. This was the reason why it took such a long time to capture him. Eventually he turned himself in but under the condition that he can serve his sentence in his own “prison”. The “cathedral” was hardly a prison but more a base of operations where Escobar was protected from the other drug cartels by the Colombian police. In the end he managed to “escape” his own prison and kept on with his murderous war against the people of Colombia. Obviously if you murder and rain terror on everybody around you, you finally end up with everybody against you. Pablo Escobar went into hiding but was finally found by the Colombian police on December 2nd 1993 and killed. If you want to know more about Escobar and this dark side of the Colombian history I recommend the Netflix series Narcos. It is very well made and sticks to the facts. Now Escobar was just one of the problems Colombia was facing. The other problem was the numerous communist guerrilla groups and paramilitary facist groups that were raging another war on the Colombia people. To finance themselves, they kidnapped people for ransom and in the wake of those groups fighting beneath each other the ordinary people of Colombia became the victims. But this all is in the past and Colombia performed a miracle in the past 20 years to become a peaceful nation. Just as we arrived in Cartagena – the last stop on our motorbike adventure – the last of the communist guerrilla groups handed in their weapons. You still see a lot of military presence around Colombia but most of the military personal are in their 20’s and don’t come from the time where the drug lords and the guerrillas controlled the country. All I ever experienced from those armed to the teeth guys was friendliness and curiosity about our trip. No macho behaviour or hostility at all. Enough now about the political and historical part of this blog. We entered Colombia close to the small town of Pasto. The custom clearance for the bike was possibly the most time intensive we had all over South America and very thorough. It took about 2 hours but then we were cleared to enter Colombia. The roads in Colombia are superb and drivers are really friendly! Colombia is a massive motorbike country and at times it seems there are more bikes on the road then cars. The roads are a paradise for anybody on a bike. Endless mountain roads on good asphalt with countless turns. We stopped in Popayan and stayed in an old monastery that got converted to a hotel. The journey went on through endless coffee fields (Oh yes – Colombia coffee is sooooooo good!!!!!) and we spent a few days in Medellin – the city of never-ending spring. Long gone is the danger that Escobar inflicted on the city and Medellin presented itself as a safe and thriving metropole with high living standard. Food in Colombia is fantastic and I think it is safe to say that we had some of the best restaurant food in South America in Colombia. From Medellin it was just a small stretch until we reached Cartagena. The last day riding I rode the Penguin for over 600Km and reached the beautiful town of Cartagena. I decided to ride along the Caribbean coast instead of taking the highway that goes straight to Cartagena. So this is the end of our epic motorbike adventure through South America. Now the bike is on it’s way from Cartagena to Bremerhaven in Germany. Getting it out of the country and onto the ship was way more work than driving it into Colombia. We had help from a British based shipping company called IVSS (easy to find on Facebook). Martin – our contact at IVSS – was super helpful with organising the shipping. I can highly recommend this company if you need to ship your vehicle to or from South America. In case you are in Colombia and need to go through the custom’s nightmare I can send you some instructions how to do it – just send me an email. We completed 24,000 km. on our trusty Yamaha 660 Tenere. We made lovely friends on the road who will stay with us for the rest of our lives. My passport has 8 pages filled with stamps from South America and we collected fantastic memories nobody can ever take away from us. Most of all though I am grateful and thankful to my fiancee Siri who went on this epic adventure with me. I know a lot of adventurous people from all corners of the globe and some riders who did some really awesome rides but in my opinion Siri deserves the biggest respect of all. When we set out for this ride Siri never went on a motorbike trip before. Still she agreed to be my pillion rider through South America. She rode with me through rain, freezing cold, gravel roads, rivers, endured crazy car drivers, endless highways, camping, bugs and even a few crashes. She is the most tolerant person I know who makes me laugh every day and I can’t imagine a better partner for anything in life but her. I love this woman to bits!

In my next blog I will try to write about all the highlights of this trip so stay tuned. Beside this my adventure called life will go on of course. Next I am going to Iceland for a couple of months (not with a bike though) before I return to Bangkok in September. The next motorbike adventures will be in South East Asia so stay tuned for more....

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