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Day July 29, 2013

two days to Cartagena, w. bonus

Track to Caucasia. The magenta line at the bottom was the ride in to Medellin from Giron
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Day two, track to Cartagena, which includes a rider navigation error as you have spotted. I don’t like having GPS TV in my field of view. For me, it takes away from the ride quality. So once in a while I head off miles in the wrong direction. I remember two big ones in Salvador e.g.
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Anyway, I’ve been staying at the Shamrock in Medellin. This means wheeling Lucinda in at 2 a.m. to the pub floor and out at 8 a.m. Staying here is another of those institutions. Al, the owner, rides a KTM 950. Bad photo in the morning light. The food is good and they have hot water!
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Headed north
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It gets really steep shortly. I remember Nate two days ago, who came in this way, saying ‘ it must have been a 2000 foot drop off the side of the road! ‘. Nowhere to stop, but this curve was near the top, by a tienda
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All the roads around Medellin are wide-ish and new. Things don’t fall apart until you’re 50 miles out of town. I don’t know enough about Colombia routes to be taking dirt alternatives yet

A town across the valley. About 80% of these mid-sized towns, based on CA experience are generally not very user friendly, but we’ll see how SA is. I generally eat on the outskirts of them. Less eyes, and you get a lot of eyes: everyones
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An affluent farmhouse up high. Few and far between so far
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At the very top, a flying club with two concrete viewing platforms and a clubhouse. It came as a bit of a shock as I now think of Medellin as sex, drugs and corruption all done and bragged about with flair. They will be the first to tell you that. But I guess a few of the rich kids do other stuff as well
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Another valley
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Shrine and waterfall
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A quick roadside check of licence, title, insurance
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Another hillside town
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Up into the clouds
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A newly paved stretch in the fog
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Small towns continuously
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Possibly a hostel
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Lunch
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Pescado is fish. They never tell you what type. The brown bit of this was pretty wild tasting but good
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Then, a hint of what was to come, soldiers at a bridge, complete with sandbag pillboxes
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The bridge, over to a riverside town
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Looking upstream. Pic worth a click
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I was surprised by the amount of soldiers around. There were groups in the shade under trees, groups in small towns. When I came out the mountains we’d passed hundreds and it was obvious something was happening. Then this
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Hundreds of trees dropped across the road, then cleared
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Cut fast and efficiently to collapse, like this
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Then I started riding past miles of trucks and cars, all parked, drivers talking and resting in the shade. The good thing about bikes in CA and SA is that you’re not required to wait in lines, you just ride to the front. At the front, after maybe 10 miles, just chat between police and army
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I rode through more miles of dropped trees and the occasional bike. Very strange. At one point there were only two young soldiers, rather than a big group, so I stopped to ask WTF was going on.
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The story is that in three places in Colombia there are violent uprisings against local independent gold miners who with heavy equipment are trashing the environment. I was very careful to ask about whether the anger was against big companies from Canada or the US. Because in Guatemala this is where the anger is directed. But no. This is a Colombian phenomena. But it’s super violent, people are being murdered and towns are being trashed.

The reason the traffic is being stopped is because the protestors are firebombing trucks, with Molotov cocktails. I ask why not bikes – they say because the Government wouldn’t notice. I thought about this subtlety for a minute and asked if I was safe. They said so-so, but actually yes. If you’ve been in CA or SA you know that any question you ask is answered with what you want to hear. So confusing. The biggest problem was that I was due to find a place in the epicenter of the problems, Caucasia.

So, not having any choice I tore off at speed. When I reached Caucasia the town was an anarchy of crowds and bikes, ignoring lights, drinking, big crowds at the sides of the roads. I thought I would ride through, gas up when I could and try for Monteria, but that would mean some night riding, strictly a no no. But Nate, who I met a couple of days ago has done a night ride after saying no to a town.

I stopped to get a solo pic of a riot truck, complete with water cannon
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I pulled out a trick of last resort after passing through the chaos (at speed) and stopped beside a taxi, the only one I saw and asked in my crap spanish sabe hotel seguro? (do you know a safe hotel) He smiled, said yes and tore off further way of town. Not a cheap cab fare specially since I wasn’t even in the car, about 40,000 pesos, US$20 more or less. We just made it at dark. The hotel was stuffed with army. Phew I thought.

A pic stolen of Caucasia yesterday from web news this morning, since I was too much of a chicken shit to stop. Next time I will, promise
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The next morning truckers and four colonels watched the events on TV (I was told by the son of the hotel owner, who’d been to Toronto, poor guy)
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Trucks still parked
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Today was going to be a long day, 258 miles. As I’ve said before, this is a decent distance in CA or SA. No straights, extreme heat (over 100 today again) random road destruction, and plenty of tiny towns for example. And it was across flats so not many photo opps, but from up on a hill here’s the landscape between Caucasia and Cartagena
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Lots of butterflies with yellow guts
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Fancy lunch stop
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A donkey almost exactly Lucinda’s size on one of the welcome dirt sections
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Then 200 miles of this
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Then for the last few miles before the Cartegena peninsula, it changed to this
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To the sea
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