Wanting to avoid the traffic gridlock of Bogota I started early around 8:00 A.M. It was Sunday, December 14th so I figured that everyone would be attending church and traffic would be light. As my luck would have it, it started to rain as soon as I got on my GS. I was told to head south on the freeway and then follow the signs to Cali. I rode south on the freeway for a few miles without ever seeing any signs that indicated Cali. I pulled into a gas station to top off the GS with fuel and asked for more directions. The girl that was working the counter had no clue as to how to get to Cali, so I asked a policeman. He directed me back into the downtown area and then I was to make a right turn onto 30th street. That was supposed to be the correct way to Cali. I did as directed and I found that 30th street was a dead-end street with hookers and scary drug folks all around.
I turned back and headed north towards the freeway again. I must have asked 30 people for directions, everyone knew of Cali but it seemed that no one knew how to get there. In addition to getting no help from the locals, it was “Bicycle Day” which meant that many of the streets were closed to regular traffic. After an hour or so zig zagging my way around closed streets I was able to get out of Bogota. So much for the early start. Once I was on the countryside the road was beautiful. Like most of Colombia – the vistas were fantastic.
I was to travel 300 miles to Cali. It was raining and traffic was very slow which meant that I would have another eight to ten hour ride. There was a segment of road in which I felt like I had traveled 60 or 70 miles in an hour. The reality was that I had only traveled 22 miles! Most of my travel was at elevations from 8,000 to 11,300 feet. The rain became a light drizzle while traveling over the highest mountain passes. After crossing the mountains the elevation dropped. Once I reached the town of Armenia it seemed that the skies just opened up and the rain just poured very heavily for the next three hours. The good thing was that since I was traveling in a valley this section of road was flat.
Approximately 70 miles from Cali I rode up on a couple traveling on a large Suzuki motorcycle. I would pass them and they would pass me. This continued all the way to Cali. At a stop they asked me where I was from and where I was going. I told them. I mentioned to them that I was in search of a hostel but I had no idea of its location. They offered to escort me to the hostel and would not take ‘no’ for an answer. I followed them, located the hostel and the couple on the Suzuki disappeared. I did not get to thank them.
The hostel is called Casa Blanca and it is run by Mike and his family. Mike has traveled many of the same roads that I have traveled and roads that I will be traveling soon. He was a wealth of information for us travelers.
Mike from Casa Blanca Hostel
Mike mentioned that I should visit the Asturias Motorcycle Shop located just down the road from the hostel. The motorcycle shop is operated by Jorge and Sory, his wife. They operate an independent repair shop that services many different motorcycle brands, including BMW. There was an R1150GS in the shop with an electrical problem. I give them my two cents worth and hopefully it helped them.
Both Jorge and Sory are very active with Horizons Unlimited and have a wealth of information on many areas of South America. I want to thank them for their time, information, and tips. It was all handy in my journey.
Jorge owner of Asturias in Cali