Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Border Blues

Quito turned out to be quite expensive for me. The Dr was in need of chain and sprockets and after 5 months I was in need of diabetic supplies. For the bike I had a choice of cheap Chinese or over priced genuine Suzuki, nothing in between. The Suzuki parts really are expensive here but I think I would regret a Chinese chain when it starts to disintegrate somewhere out in the middle of no where, I know the Suzuki is a good chain.

Without the government subsidy I get back in NZ keeping myself up and running well is not too cheap either. Insulin is not bad but the test strips that I use for monitoring my sugar levels cost over a dollar a shot and with around 1200 finger pricking tests a year, well it soon adds up! Could be worse I guess, at least there is availability of what I need, wouldn't be possible to make this trip if there wasn't.

Court and Sylviar from in Quito where unbelievably helpful, guiding me through the city to the Suzuki shop and then helping out with the fitting of the new parts. They also gave me a few ideas on a good route to try out up the road towards Colombia, top blokes, thanks again for all your help.

Court from freedom Bike Rental in Qutio

First stop up the road was the equator where I parked up the bike and didn't need the side stand- it just stood up on it's own, no just joking! But I did watch some water spin down a sink hole clockwise and then anti clockwise directions only meters either side of the gps'ed equator line.

Up near the Colombian Border I took the loop recommended by Court at Freedom Bikes which had me traversing some really interesting country and had more than the usual rubber necking from the locals, every single person in every small village having a real good look at me as I rode through, very few gringos through here I concluded. It was an enjoyable ride which sadly due to some issues at the border later that day was not to be the most memorable part of the day.

"panela" production on the roadside, made from sugar cane, I think it's like caramel

Interesting flax like trees called Frailejon up at 4000m

After lunch at Tulcan I headed just up the road for the border at 1.30, thought that should be plenty of time to get processed and probably just stay at the border town of Ipiales in Colombia. Wrong, didn't even get past the first stage! Not much of a queue but problem getting stamped out. I had to wait in a room, the guy said no problem, well why am I sitting here for over an hour then? Eventually a guy helped translate, apparently I was not processed in right, that f...... useless immigration officer back at Zumba! I guess that is a risk of using very small border crossings. Anyway he said a officer would be bringing a different stamp that I needed, would be here in an hour, yeah right I thought but waited it out and got very pissed off. In the meantime got the bike signed out to save time later and sure enough it's now about 5pm and don't wont to be riding around or looking for hostel in the dark, bugger this I head back to Tulcan which is just 4 km back up the road. Fortunately found an ok hostel with private room for 8 us, bit of a walk for parking though but just clad to have a place sorted. back to the border tomorrow, hopefully better luck.

Frustrating times at the border

Back in customs around 8am, same shit, just wait a while they said. Couple of hours later and I'm getting really pissed off. A guy just hanging around speaks a little English said he is friends with one of the immigration officers, next thing an officer comes out to the bike and we go around the back of the building to a empty room, officer looks at passport and goes back into the main building with it, shit this is dodgy I think, am I going to get my passport back?

Mean while the helper dude tells me to wait outside and then said he wants 100 us dollars. I tell him no way, go and get my passport back I said. I go into the immigration room against the helper dudes whishes, the officer is on the computer. He comes out, and luckily he hands my passport back to me, he shows me the stamp and said it's all good. I hope so and leave. Looking back on the whole ordeal I'm sure the custom officers where just trying to delay me and get me annoyed so that eventually I would offer them a bribe.

In contrast Colombian customs very fast and helpful, no queue and I'm on my way. Meanwhile the helper dude came over the bridge and wanted to know if all ok and then showed me the customs place to get the bike sorted. He still wants some money of course, he now wants 5 bucks, he was helpful so I give him about 2.50, it's all I have in small change. I thank him and leave. What a drama!

Yeah, no more corruption would be good!

The first few days in Colombia and I just ride up the Pan American highway, firstly to Pasto and Popayan and then on to Cali. The scenery is nice with the road winding it's way through the hilly country side, lots of traffic though so it's slow going, bit of a change from the back roads of Peru where I generally had the them to myself. And theres lots of heavily armed military around, they seem very friendly lots of thumbs up and big smiles as I ride past.

Pan American Highway, Popayan to Cali

I'm heading North and David is heading South, he is 10 months into his 3 year RTW trip.
We exchange maps and route information over a drink and then hit the road. 

Cali is one of the larger cities in Colombia, I head straight for Casa Blanca Hostel which is run by Mike and Diana who also have a motorbike rental Business. The Hostel is the place to stay if you are travelling by bike. I order more bike parts here (prices are better than in Quito), get my bike trousers patched up, make a replacement number plate ( I lost a number of the end of the original) got everything sorted and didn't have to travel further than a couple of blocks from the hostel, great.


  1. So, how do you lose a number off your plate... did it involve falling off?
    You have some great photos, the scenery and culture looks fantastic, but like you say, the stories of problems (like customs officials) are always mroe interesting!

  2. And that picture of the Pan American Highway - you're just like your brother, did you have to hang over the edge of the cliff to take that photo?

    1. That photo did involve a bit of leaning but nothing to extreme. I do remember a bit of vertigo though remounting the bike on that edge before riding off!!

  3. Well, I've droped the bike more than a few times now but no crashes yet, the plate just got bent around a bit just man handling the bike so eventually it just cracked and fell off!