It took me about 20 years of planning and four weeks of hard riding to get to South America. Medellin, Colombia – I had finally arrived in South America – new land - “tierra’s nuevas” for me to explore.
Some have asked why I shipped the GS from Panama to Colombia instead of riding it down. The answer is simple: the “Darien Gap”.
The Darien Gap is an area approximately one hundred miles south of Panama City. This area is a swamp with some forest and with giant snakes, jaguars, and other wildlife that are not too friendly to humans. The road from Panama City south ends at this point and the only way to continue is via unmapped trails. Some have tried and only a few have been successful. It took months for those who have been able to navigate their way across the Darien Gap. The percentage of people who die or get lost for long periods of time is very high.
I woke up early and headed to the cargo area of the Medellin airport. I noticed that in Colombia everyone seemed to head out to work between the hours of 7:30 A.M. and 8:00 A.M. versus 9:30 A.M. to 10:00 A. M. as in Panama. I was prepared for a long day of standing in line and dealing with obstacles at the Customs Office and at the Copa Airline Cargo Office. At the Copa Cargo Office I showed my passport and they informed me that the GS had arrived. I was happy to hear that. I had visions of it being shipped somewhere else in the Americas. The nice lady at the counter asked me to have a seat. Ten minutes later she called me over and handed me documents that I would need and told me that I needed to have the Customs Office clear the GS. Thinking that the Customs Office was in the downtown area of Medellin, I asked her if she could call a taxi for me. She told me that the Customs Office was only two doors down from their office. I said to her, “You have got to be kidding! “ I walked over to the Customs Office, handed them my documents, and in a matter of thirty minutes the GS had been cleared by Customs and I was ready to go. Unbelievable! The whole process only took me one hour.
By 9:30 A.M. I was on my way to the big city of Medellin. First I needed to get fuel, so I pulled into the first gas station I spotted. I met a local gentleman named Hector. He asked me questions regarding my trip and how I liked Colombia. I told him that my trip thus far had been great. But, I did not have an option on Colombia yet because I had just arrived. I said to him, “By the way; do you know where this hostel is located?” as I showed him an address. He said he would take me there. Now the airport is located about twenty miles from the City of Medellin. Not knowing that he was going to go way out of his way, I followed Hector as we passed through the pine tree covered mountains. It was a beautiful ride. All of a sudden we came over the crest of a hill and on the other side below, in a valley, was the City of Medellin. It had high rise buildings everyplace. It was an amazing sight. Hector guided me to the section of town I needed to be in and we said our goodbyes.
I noticed a KTM Motorcycle shop so I stopped to purchase supplies I needed. I also inquired about getting insurance, which is required in Colombia. The people there were very friendly. My GS was in need of a clutch adjustment, but I did not have my tools with me. I asked the tech if he might have the tools I needed to do a clutch adjustment and he directed me to his tool box. I found what I needed, adjusted the clutch, and my GS was happy again.
As indicated in Colombia, it is a requirement to carry insurance on a motorcycle. It can be purchased at any gas station. After my visit to the KTM shop I was off to search for the needed insurance. The first place that I stopped at was out. The owner got on the telephone to see if he could locate someone close by that could help me. I was trying to buy insurance for 30 days only and it seemed that everyone wanted to sell insurance for an entire year, and the cost would have been over $100 dollars. The owner spent about forty-five minutes on the phone calling many different places, including the Customs Office. Finally, he located a place that would sell me insurance for a 30 day period; however, it was located in the heart of the Medellin. The owner bought me a Coke and told me that he was going to have one of his employees drive me there. Wow! “You are kidding,”I said to myself. The employee and I found our way to the insurance office, made my purchase, and he drove me back to the hostel where I was staying.
Also in Colombia, all motorcyclists are required to wear a vest with the license plate number.
To this point in my trip I had met some very nice, polite, and generous people on this trip, but I was extremely impressed with the people of Colombia. Everyone, whether cab driver, waiter, gas station attendant, or just people on the street, all went out of their way to assist me with my needs.
I did not get the names of the guys at the gas station but I did get their photo.
Owner of the gas station and this employee
In Colombia all motorcycle riders are required to wear a vest with your license plate number