Monthly Archives: December 2012

Colombia, that’s a wrap folks

I’m queuing at the border to get stamped out of Ecuador and I see one of the pesky moneychangers outside standing on my bike. I walk out and tell him to get off. He starts getting aggressive, making gun signs with his hand and shouting that he has friends in FARC, the Colombia terrorist group, waiting for me on the other side. I ask a policeman to keep an eye on the bike. The moneychanger carries on FARC this and FARC that.

I bit unsettled, I enter Colombia, my 25th and final country of the trip. I blast through to my first overnight stop in Pasto. I sort out off the usual paperwork that is required when entering a new country, road insurance and the rest. Colombia has a few extra “unique” requirements; your registration number needs to be displayed on your helmet, on a hi-viz vest and male riders can’t carry male pillions. These rules were introduced to stop to the ‘Motorcycle Assassins’ that plagued Colombia in the 90’s.  Sorting this out was surprisingly quick and easy; thanks to some super helpful locals. People here are extremely friendly, stopping to ask about my trip and seeing if I needed any help. My encounter at the Ecuador border seems completely unfounded.


Registration Number on your helmet, a legal requirement in Colombia to stop would-be ‘Motor Assassins’

Continuing north to Medellin is slow going. Most of the route is through the mountains with tight bends and lots of slow trucks. Because the road is so twisty, the locals tend to overtake on blind corners, sometimes the only way to get past the trucks. More scary, is that you start to do the same; at least on the bike it is easier to filter back into your lane.

Ecuador and the Amazon Basin

The border crossing from Peru into Ecuador is one of those crossings where everything changes. The scenery changes dramatically, from the dry Peruvian desert into lush rolling hills covered in sugar cane and banana plantations in a few short kms. Ecuador produce the most bananas in the world, almost twice as much as their nearest rivals, Costa Rica – they are everywhere.

I need to find a fuel station fast, my bike’s running on fumes. At $2 a gallon, it’s the cheapest fuel I’ve had since Nigeria and I’ve arrived empty. A few wrong turns later and I locate a fuel station, fill up and then on to find some local road insurance.

Most of my trip prep has focused on the bit up to Peru. I know surprisingly little about Ecuador, apart from the bit about bananas. The FCO’s Travel Advice page does not make for good reading, armed robberies, express kidnappings, drug cartels, volcanoes, earthquakes, landslides…

 

I had planned to blast through Ecuador, avoiding armed robbery, and then meet up with some friends in Colombia. But after reading about the Amazon I decided to spend some time in the Amazon basin before continuing north. Ecuador has the highest biodiversity per sq km in the world and has lots of impressive national parks. Unfortunately lots of the land is under threat from oil exploration and the Amazon has a marked increase in pollution from oil production. My cheap fuel comes with guilt.

The PanAm through Northern Peru

My Peruvian trip has had 2 distinct halves to it. The first half from Bolivia to Cuzco took me through cool, lush highlands; whilst the second half was hot, flat desert coastal roads.

From Nazca, I continue north along the coast of Peru through the Sechura Desert. Dead straight roads and painfully slow speed limits make the 1,700km slow and dull.

Desert wine
Desert wines. Gotta give this farmer 10 points for determination, these grapevines are growing bang in the middle of the desert. The wine is ridiculously sweet but very, very cheap.

Peru fuel
95 octane! At least the fuel improves along the coast. It’s not just that 84 octane rubbish any more.

Pan american highway
Yes, 90kph speed limit, a cruel cruel joke on the long often dead straight PamAm. Some stretches allow a whopping 100kmp

Just north of Lima I deviated from the dull straights of the PanAm and head inland to see the Cordillera Blanca Mountains near Huaraz.