38. GUATAPE TO GUAYAQUIL

38. GUATAPE TO GUAYAQUIL

2017-09-16T05:30:21+00:00January 30th, 2016|2015-16 Ride|

Guatape is a wonderful little village with such a nice feel – it’s easy to spend a few days just to take it all in and if you’re thinking of visiting Colombia it’s definitely worth putting on your list!!

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How cool does the bike look?!

Skirting the city of Medellin is a mission in the heat and the smog is really thick – but Paul manages to find a magnificent scenic drive over a mountain and through a reserve – so eventually we get clear of the Saturday traffic and the fumes! It is a hard day’s riding but we encounter mountain roads with views of the farms and dense jungle, riding along river valley’s and then up again in to “coffee” country.

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The coffee is mostly exported – we are often served Nescafe locally in Colombia!!

Our next stop is Salento – a charming and very popular traditional coffee town nestled in the foothills of the Andes.

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The main plaza is full of local traditional food stalls

We head down to the Valle de Cocora – a lovely early morning ride on a beautiful winding road which runs along a rocky river through a lush, green valley.

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Looking up the beautiful Valle de Cocora from the Salento lookout

The main attraction here are the wax palms – which grow exclusively in this high-altitude  valley and are the tallest species of palm in the world (up to 60m high).  Colombia has made them the “national tree” and tourists and locals flock to the valley to see them.

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Because of the high altitude there’s a lot of clouds

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You can go horse riding with these guys through the valley – it was more fun just flirting with them!

Did I mention flirting with the "horse" guys - this one wanted me "on his knee"!

Did I mention flirting with the “horse” guys – this one kept tapping his knee for me to sit on it – so I did!!

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The wax palms can grow up to 60m and live for 120 years – and the other guy is 1.85m and is nearly 60 years!!

The weekends are huge for Salento and the “tourists” are predominantly locals – packing in to the main street which is flanked by interesting artisan shops, galleries, bars, cafes and restaurants – with the residents looking down on it all from their little balconies.

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Hundreds of domestic tourists flock to Salento on the weekends

This guy just stopped by this little three-piece band and started singing with them!

This guy just stopped by this little three-piece band and started singing with them!

Locals come in all shapes and sizes - Colombians just don't eat vegetables!!

Locals come in all shapes and sizes

They tell us the place is deserted during the week!

They tell us the place is deserted during the week!

The locals know how to knock a few back!

The locals know how to knock a few back for a Sunday “sesh”!

After Salento we come into the Cauca River valley where it starts to flatten out and becomes sugar cane plantations – and the small towns are suddenly populated by “black” people. Cane has been grown in this area since the 16th century using African slaves because they were able to withstand the harsh working conditions – with much of the crop still harvested the old-fasioned manual way.

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Massive sugar cane trucks in the Cauca River valley!

We have a look around the centre of Popayan city – where all the buildings in the historical area are “white” with black trims.

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A governor once asked for all historical buildings to be painted white and now Popayan is known as the “white” city!

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The beautiful baroque-style church of Iglesia de San Francisco

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There’s a strong military presence in Colombia

The road south becomes high mountains again – which look so tactile – like a soft green velvet has been placed over all the creases and folds! We are used to the traffic now and boldly “pass” trucks and slower vehicles – enjoying the special “free” lanes for motos at the toll gates – and waving to the military who are lining a lot of the roads giving a “thumbs-up” to all motorists!

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Free motorcycle lanes at toll plazas – just like Malaysia – bloody brilliant mate!

We swing past the city of Pasto on a magnificent by-pass road and the view suddenly changes to farming lots – all bordered with trees like a patchwork quilt.

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Hard to believe this is Colombia with the trees like hedgerows!

Then Colombia gives us her going-away present – the unique church at Ipiales – which was built on the bridge spanning the river gorge around one hundred years ago to commemorate the appearance of the Virgin!

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El Santuario de las Lajas is a neo-Gothic church on the border between Colombia and Ecuador

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Pilgrims from all over Colombia who are “cured by the Virgin” leave a commemorative plaque

We head for the border and say farewell to Colombia…

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Time to say good-bye to the unique people movers…a cross between a bus and a truck!

And the Willy's Jeeps!

And the Willy’s Jeeps!

We enter Ecuador at altitude and the air is fresh and clean – food is very cheap and the topiary trees at the Tulcan Cemetery attract our attention!

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The cyprus trees form more than 300 figures – it is said “In Tulcan, a cemetery so beautiful that it invites one to die!”

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The creator’s five sons maintain the shrubbery – a full-time job!

The road south is breathtaking – with the appearance of the Cayambe Volcano coming in and out of our view like a “guardian” – as we sweep through the stunning, rural landscape.

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Cayambe Volcano is just under 5000 metres – Ecuador’s third highest mountain

And there it is – the GPS is reading 00 00′ 00″ – BikesnBeers has reached the Southern Hemisphere!!

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One bike in the Northern Hemisphere and one in the Southern Hemisphere!

We are already at an altitude of just under 3,000m when we take Highway 30 from Latacunga and it takes us up again to 4,000m – a highly rateable road with a magic surface and awesome twisties for 150 kilometres! Most of the people here farm the mountain slopes and valleys, herding sheep and llamas and growing their crops on the patchwork of steep, windswept fields.

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Although we are on the Equator the temperature only ranges from 10-15 degrees due to the high altitude

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This indigenous lady is telling me off for taking photos while she cooks “bits” of chicken – not the bits I would eat!!

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The indigenous people wear “fedora” hats

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It’s hard to believe we’re at 4,000m (13,000ft) when there’s no snow!

Best Food

When you’re in Colombia you have to try arepa – they serve them with everything (like Central America does with tortillas)! I’m not a huge fan – they are made with maize, are somewhat bland and tend to go very hard about three minutes after they come off the heat! But if you seek out a street vendor cooking ones that have the magic soft, white cheese in them – you are in for a wonderful treat! They serve it on a little disposable plate with a plastic fork and the cheese oozes everywhere – all for around fifty cents!

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On Two Wheels

We meet Patrice on our first day on the road in Ecuador – a Frenchman, living in Colombia – heading for Peru to meet a mate and ride to Ushuaia at the bottom of the continent! His set-up is very “fine-tuned” after many overland trips.

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Patrice and his Yamaha Tenere 1200

Tip of the Day

If you’re coming to Salento in Colombia, it’s a good idea to wear clothes that just “blend in” with the surroundings…

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Story of the Week

We cross in to Ecuador on the 27th January – it’s a bit more money than our normal budget but we’ve decided to treat ourselves for our 37th wedding anniversary – a cruise around the Galapagos Islands…

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You can read more about our boat here.

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18 Comments

  1. carolyn February 8, 2016 at 2:41 am

    Happy Anniversary to you both . Finally catching up on your blogs. Great reading and love the pictures. Welcome to the southern hemisphere. When are you due back in OZ??? All good here in Godzone. Safe travels Love to you both.

    • Lee February 8, 2016 at 12:23 pm

      Hey Cuzzie Bros! Due back in Oz in early April…what about you? Be good to catch up xxxx

  2. marco February 5, 2016 at 6:47 am

    HELLO LEE AND PAUL WE’RE GLAD ( MARIA AND MARCO) THAT EVRYTHING IS GOING FINE, YOU ARE DOING GREAT CONGRATULETIONS YOU’RE CLOSE FELICIDADES WE’RE STILL MISSING AWESOME

    • Lee February 5, 2016 at 2:45 pm

      Thanks Marco and Maria! Great to hear from you! Loving Ecuador…you need a holiday here!!

  3. Runt February 1, 2016 at 1:24 pm

    The Willy’s Jeep still has the Enid Gilchrist patterns on board……

    • Lee February 4, 2016 at 11:44 pm

      Yep!! I saw them!! Classic shot hey…we realised later we should have paid money and he was meant to take it!! Oops!

  4. Dave February 1, 2016 at 10:09 am

    Hi Guys wow what a time you are having loving the pic’s & stories!! Where the hell did those 37 years go shout yourselves some more of that Malbec red from Mendoza & try to call in while going past as it will be worth it!! Enjoy your little side trip!! Cheers to you both 😜🐢🐍🍷🍷

  5. Hilda Pye January 31, 2016 at 9:19 pm

    What beautiful photos! Happy Anniversary and I think you guys deserve a treat. Galapagos Islands sounds great. xox

  6. Beverley Tidwell January 31, 2016 at 8:04 am

    Nice! Wow the scenery beautiful. Enjoy your trip. Why are the palms “wax” palms?

    • Lee February 4, 2016 at 11:42 pm

      Hey Bev! The trunks are covered in wax and they used to make candles and soap out of it! Just got back from a cruise around the Galapagos – amazing – still have three nights on the main island…

  7. Dave Pidcock January 31, 2016 at 8:01 am

    Love those moto lanes – such fun.
    How far south are you going – all the way?
    Great work – keep it coming
    Dave

    • Lee February 4, 2016 at 11:36 pm

      Thanks Dave! Will do some of Patagonia but not going to the bottom – no need for us – still lots to see as we tick it all off!! How can we get moto lanes in Oz?!

  8. Phil and Evol Prince January 31, 2016 at 2:05 am

    Hi Guys
    Some fantastic architecture, colour and scenery. Congratulations on 37 years of marriage. We celebrate 40 years in March. Rode to Kilcoy Bakery today with PVG and enjoyed a steak and kidney pie with sauce.
    Welcome back to the Southern Hemisphere.

    • Lee February 4, 2016 at 11:34 pm

      Hey guys! Congratulations to you too!! Man, I’ve salivating at the thought of a pie!! Bikes and pies are just made for each other aren’t they?! Yep, home run now – last ticks as we head south…loved the Galapagos!

  9. Annie January 31, 2016 at 1:48 am

    Wow! Amazing pics Lee and great to see your face in a few of them!
    I can just imagine your excitement in colour heaven and what a contrast the White city is.
    I’m excited you’re in the Southern Hemisphere ….. Getting close to home.
    Love you both
    Happy anniversary
    Annie
    Xxxxxxx

  10. Gail Dickason January 31, 2016 at 1:09 am

    Awesome as usual

    • Lee February 4, 2016 at 10:56 pm

      Thanks Gail! Feels weird – we’re getting near the end!! xxxx

  11. Sue Hird January 31, 2016 at 1:04 am

    Back in the Southern Hemisphere after so long!!
    The colours of Salento are so you Lee – gorgeous. The boat looks great; will be quite the treat after basically living on the bikes and you can enjoy being looked after for a change.
    Looking forward already to reading about the Galapagos and of course looking at the photos.
    Love from us.
    XO 🙂

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