All posts by Thomas

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S.O.S. how to leave Colombia?

Often, when just getting to a new country in Latin America, I’m a bit worried. So many of the countries here have bad reputations. “Hostel-stories” are being passed around about people getting robbed and kidnapped. They’re usually third hand stories, or just something that someone read on the news. Still, it does go through my mind after just crossing that border, or the first evening in a strange city. That wasn’t the least for Colombia. According to the Dutch government the most dangerous country of our trip.

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Map of Colombia from the Dutch government. Orange = probably should not go. Red = DO NOT GO.

And always, after half a day of being in one of these countries that initially worry me, all these worries and fears disappear. Completely. And of course, that was the same for Colombia. What friendly people, what hospitality have we experienced.

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Take these guys for example. We asked if we could camp on the land of their farm, and yes, we could. Not only that, they invited us for dinner with the entire family.

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And here we could stay for free on an otherwise paid campsite. Because we were traveling on motorcycles I guess?

Everyone we met was super awesome and nice.

Colombia is the shit! The only downside is that it’s a little too good.

Again, we spent a month in a single country. The supposed end date of our trip, mid july, is coming awfully close and it’s still a long way to Argentina. We do not take responsibility for this, all these places here are just so damn good that it’s too hard to leave them.

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Take Cartagena for example.

Three nights in a row we made a failed attempt to leave Cartagena:

  1. We had checked out of our hostel and were walking with all of our stuff to our motorcycles, to go and meet up with our friends from the ferry to work on “Mission New World”. On the way to the bikes, a bearded man storms out of a restaurant rambling about some party that night. It’s Rob, our biker buddy, who we also met on the ferry. “Yeah sure we can stay one more night!”
  2. The next day we *really* had the plan of leaving. But Julien only woke up at 5 o’clock. I got up earlier, sure, but I got lost in Cartagena for a couple of hours. “Hmm, maybe tomorrow then.”
  3. Okay, let’s try again. Mission New World is waiting. We were going to meet up with our van-traveling hippie-friends at Casa Blanca. We took a shower, packed up all of our stuff, and we were heading downstairs to the hotel lobby to check out. Only to find our friends in our hotel lobby. What the fuck are you guys doing here? “There’s apparently some cool party tonight.” “Okay, I guess we can stay another night.”

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Said crew in hotel lobby.

The day after, we finally left. All together. A van, a jeep and two motorcycles. 11 People in total, looking for a place to camp for free and just hang out, smoke weed, make jewelry and cook our own food all day.

And after two days of searching, we found our paradise! A truly beautiful campsite, where the rainforest meets the sea, close to a little town called Palomino. This is really where you’d need to see some photos, but our campsite had a small downside: no electricity, which meant: no opportunity to charge our camera. Damn it.

I’d like to take a moment to talk about travel friends.

It’s a very special phenomenon. Within 10 minutes of meeting each other you can be each others best friends. After traveling for a long time you learn to form strong bonds very quickly. You have to, otherwise traveling would be a very lonely exercise. You know you’ll only be there for each other for a few days, so better become good friends quickly. And it’s true, that we’re each others best friends. Sure, we have amazing friends in our home countries as well, but they’re over there! Not here. You need someone to be in your presence as well. In that sense, we’re all we’ve got.

All good things come to an end, and we felt the need for some serious partying in Medellin. And so we went, on our three day ride there.

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What the fuck? Jetpack helicopter? Helipack? Encountered this on the way.

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Applying for Circue de Soleil.

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We also came across the fattest dog in the world. The owners noticed us pointing and laughing at it, so they opened the fence so we could take pictures of the sad thing.

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Camping inside a police station.

The ride there was absolutely amazing. Mountain riding is what it’s all about. Medellin being in the mountains = $$.

Partying was a success too. The vast majority of our Colombian stories are party stories. Unfortunately, our blog is heavily censored, so I can’t mention too much of these stories. Click on the button below to become a gold member now to access censored content!





Teaser:

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Serious stuff needed to be done too. Our bikes needed love. Mine was making some very strange, worrying noises since Nicaragua. Turned out it was the chain and sprockets that desperately needed replacing. I picked up all the parts for about $100, and had them installed for about $6 (2,5 hours of work). That sounds cheap, and it is. But this mechanic did everything wrong that he possibly could:

  • Brakepads installed incorrectly, so I had no rear breaks
  • Spacer thing in the wheel wrong way around, seriously a case of retardedness
  • Front sprocket wrong way around
  • Rear sprocket wrong way around

Luckily, I noticed timely how badly this sorry excuse for a creature fucked up. I borrowed some tools and fixed it myself.

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These guys were better. They fixed something simple on my pannier-frame, but with great enthusiasm. One good thing about mechanics here: you never have to wait. They always instantly solve (or worsen) all your problems.

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Normally I’m very much against posting food-pics, but for Colombia I’d like to make an exception. That breakfast you see there is 2000 COP ($0,80). That lunch is 4500 COP ($1,80). Prices like that have to be mentioned. Food is very good and very cheap in Colombia.

After spending an excessive 2 weeks in Medellin (as I mentioned before, it’s hard to leave these places), it was time to head towards Ecuador.

But would you look at that, we’re crossing Cali on a saturday. It would be a crime to pass up on a saturday night of partying in a city.

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Camping somewhere after Cali, on our way to Ecuador, we noticed that there was a scorpion in our tent when we woke up. Notice those weird things on it? It was a scorpion mother, carrying around her scorpion babies. How cute.

And that’s how it came to be, that we enjoyed ourselves so much that we spent a month in this beautiful, fun country, filled with amazing people.

Right now we’re in Ecuador, a stunningly beautiful country. Plans are being forged for another great party tonight. Coming soon to a theater near you.

Bonus content!
The GoPro pics from our friend Al that we rode with in Guatemala came in!

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Traveling by Motorcycle vs. Public Transport

Now we’ve been traveling on motorcycles for quite a while – 6 months, almost 20,000 km – I thought it would be interesting to draw the comparison with traveling by public transport, something I have done loads in the past.

Public transport has always been my main mode of traveling in Australia, Asia and Western and Eastern Europe. It’s the most obvious thing to do, because you usually start your journey in a foreign country where you don’t own a vehicle. And I guess I never really had much choice, never having owned a drivers license before I started this trip.

More randomness = more fun
The main difference from a traveling perspective is the places you end up in. Buses don’t take you to small random towns, where the locals have never seen a gringo. With public transport it’s quite easy to get stuck on the gringo trail. Of course, it’s possible to take a random bus to some small town, but no one ever does that, because maybe there is absolutely nothing to do there and you might be stuck there for a day.

On a cycle, you come through those towns, because you have to. Sometimes there is nothing there. Often the time it takes to smoke one cigaret is already enough time spent. And sometimes you might end up spending the night, because the store owner offers that you can stay in his house for free. Sometimes you find yourself having breakfast in some family’s house, because they were curious what those gringos were doing in that tent in the middle of their town.

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Store owners house where we stayed for free

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Family that offered us breakfast

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Julien doing the English homework for some kids of a family in whose backyard we camped

A motorcycle allows you to break free from the tourist hotspots. Not even only that, it forces you to. You’ll meet a lot more locals. You’ll get some very interesting, very random experiences which are in hindsight, at least to me personally, the most valuable.

Continue reading

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Language Barriers

At the entrance the Mayan Ruins called Tikal we stopped to hang out with some guards. We asked them why all those soldiers with huge guns were necessary. What were they protecting? ‘Protection de animales.’ Protection of animals, alright, makes sense.

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Later, once in the ruins, Julien and I talked about it again and apparently we both understood something entirely different: Julien thought the soldiers were there for the protection of the people from dangerous animals like jaguars, I thought it was for the protection of the animals from poachers. What the guards meant, no idea.

Here, we coincidentally discovered the ambiguity of our conversation. We ended up talking about it once again and found out we failed to understand what the guards meant. How often do we not find out? How often do we completely fail to understand each other, without even knowing so? Continue reading

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Hard at Work at the Botadero, Paraiso

It was supposed to be our last day in Mexico when we met Miguelito. We stopped in a town called Bacalar to get some gas and we ran into this hippie-ish, 60 year old looking dude who was also getting gas. He told us about his campamento, not far from the gas station. That random encounter happened about one month ago and we’re still here, in The Botadero, Paraiso.

_DSC00271DSC00272941530_173542756142851_982238099_n1513337_293374860826306_506475328_nDSC00420   Why we call it Paraiso.

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Getting there wasn’t that easy actually. It had rained hard before we got there, which had made the 1 kilometer long jungle road very, very muddy and slippery. In addition to that, it was dark. After I fell down for the second time, we decided to park our bikes in the jungle and walk the rest of the road.

We couldn’t see anything when we got there. There’s no electricity, so no lamps, just candles. But we heard a familiar voice offering us some pasta that he just cooked. Miguelito. Continue reading

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The Long Road to Cancun

As I’m writing this, we’re both lying on our back, looking at a dark sky. An hour ago, we had a view of lots of stars, but that has now been replaced by just darkness caused by thick clouds above us. Occasionally the sky is lit up by a flash of lightning. We’ve put all of our stuff underneath plastic and in other dry places, which is why we can’t wait for the rain to start. We wouldn’t want to go through all that effort for nothing.

We can hear some Mexicans having dinner in the farm where were staying. Camping is supposed to be slightly dangerous in Mexico, so we decided to stop at farms and ask if we could camp on their property. The first farm welcomed us, because Mexicans are just friendly like that. Continue reading