I arrived in Cartagena Colombia a bustling beautiful town by the sea famous for its fortified walls built to protect the wealthy port from pirates and later to defend it’s position against the British and Americans.
The first few nights were spent catching up with Gavin. Gavin had had enough of seeing me on my adventure on Facebook and on my blogsite, after all, we had discussed it many times back at home in my very early days of planning and dreaming. So enough was enough and once Gavin’s residency in Australia had come through he quit his job, booked his flight and left Australia for Colombia.
In keeping with my trip Gavin went first in search of a Honda Cub but due to the requirement of obtaining a Colombian National I.D. before he could make a purchase of a motorcycle that basically put a stop to that. So he got in touch with Mike from Motolombia a bike touring outfit in Medellin to see if he was aware of any foreign bikes that might be coming through that might suit the journey. Sure enough a Chilean registered Honda CGL 125 became available. There were some difficulties with the bike in it not being as described, but in the end he made the purchase anyway buying it from a snotty little English toff by the name of Poffely who teased him for his desire for purchasing a Honda Cub referring to the mighty Cub as merely a little scooter while implying the ownership of a 125 was something to aspire to. Some people eh!, They just don’t know their motorcycles!
So I inspected Gavin’s gear for the trip. Basically he arrived without any gear whatsoever. He acquired some with the motorcycle but the rest such as camping gear; he didn’t have and I was keen to get some more camping underway. Gavin’s gear mainly consisted of fashion items. Clothes and shoes. I assured him that he would have to get rid of some of that stuff and get practical as that stuff would have to be replaced with camping gear. Over the next few weeks Gavin did acquire camping gear but he didn’t ditch any of his other items meaning Gavin had the most beautifully overloaded 125 bike I’ve seen, rival only to the locals who had absolutely no problem stacking everything they owned on their bikes.
So all the motorcyclists from the Stahlratte stayed at the same hostel for the first few nights, sorting out bike issues and preparing for the next leg. Myself, Gavin, Darren and Eric decided to go on a Chiva bus tour around the city, which basically involved siting on benches in a glorified cattle truck with a 3 piece band blasting out music while copious quantities of rum were consumed. What fun! . We had a great night and that’s also when Erik fell in love with Colombian Love Interest No.1. A young attractive Colombian girl who lived in Bogota and was holidaying in Cartagena. She, however was being accompanied by her Mother and her Aunt. Erik would have to be very crafty to manage to slip her away from her conservative catholic family for a bit of motorcycle romance. So the two of them conspired to try and make it happen. Erik decided he would rent an apartment in the same building in order to facilitate their little romantic encounter. However Erik’s not so honorable intentions were rumbled when he bumped into the young lady’s mother in the elevator of the building. In the end nothing happened and love sick Erik returned to the hostel the next day dejected from his unsuccessful amorous attempts. I met Erik at the door of the hostel to let him and I inquired as to what happened. His response was “Never have I worked so hard and spent so much money for absolutely no sex what-so-ever”. And so that was Eric’s love interest No. 1 on this trip that I was aware of. Quite how much people he had fallen in love with on his previous 5 months I had no idea, but it certainly wasn’t to be the last.
It was around this time in Cartagena when I met Ben. Ben had heard what I was doing from someone in a hostel where he had been staying; about the so called ‘mad Irish man’ who had riden a Honda Cub down from Alaska. Ben sauntered up to me with a beer in his hand and said in a London accent “I’ve just bought a motorbike. Mind if I travel with you guys for a bit”. “Sure” I said “the more the merrier”. “Great” he replied and sauntered off again. My first impressions were he was confident but not backed by any sort of arrogance or cockiness. Ben was a chilled out individual.
So we decided we would all head off travelling together Gavin and I, Darren and Erik and Ben. We decided to head over the coast toward Taganga a small beach town about 200km away on the Caribbean coast. Darren and Erik or Derrik as they were collectively known as rode on ahead as they weren’t comfortable going Honda Cub speed. Ben was quite happy to hang out at our pace and ride with Gav and I. Ben was riding a Suzuki DR 650 so it wasn’t like he was under powered.
We got to Taganga and myself and Gav checked ourselves in to complete our Advance Diver training course at Poseidon Dive Adventures. Derrik took their Open Water certification, Darren getting 100% in his theory and thus qualifying for a free dive.
Ben basically went to a beach bar and drank and looked at girls.
Ben had ended up on a motorcycle adventure by accident. Unlike the rest of us who had put some thought and planning into our trip. Ben had come over for a wedding and ended up buying a motorcycle on a whim and deciding to stay. Inevitably we would end up in conversations about our motorbikes with strangers and often in technical detail and when the conservation turned to Ben he would just shrug his shoulders and respond “Mine’s a blue motorbike!?” and never once tried to give the impression he knew anything about the thing he was riding. Mainly because he didn’t.
Ben was a very mild mannered individual, he was a vegetarian and spent his time saving drowning flies and insects from glasses. Which is something himself and Gavin found common ground on. When I queried of his reasons for being a vegetarian he openly admitted that his logic was not thought through, he just didn’t like the mistreatment and mass slaughter of animals, but he did eat fish. The Colombian’s found it hard to get around this concept of being vegetarian and automatically assumed that; ‘he may not eat meat but surely he eats chicken?’ or anything else that might have chicken inside it. It seemed to me that they figured if meat was hidden inside something, like pastry for example then it didn’t count, he could still eat it, thereby tricking his morals into thinking he hadn’t actually eaten meat. And so he was repeatedly offered items after he insisted he was avegatarian that didn’t look like meat but they had meat hidden inside them.
It was around this point we also learned of the story of how Ben had strangled a Kangaroo to death on the side of the road in Australia.
Whilst driving in Oz a kangaroo jumped out in front of him and he slammed straight into it injuring it quite badly to the point where it was not going to recover but yet the kangaroo was still alive and in obvious pain. Fighting his desire to try and save the animal’s life and facing the harsh reality and practicalities of doing so, he made the decision that he should put it out its misery. His first idea was to get a giant rock and drop it on its head. He abandoned that idea as he was afraid he would mess it up. So instead he mounted the kangaroo, put his hands around his neck and reluctantly strangled it until it was dead. And so the literally wouldn’t hurt a fly vegetarian Ben was forced to kill a kangaroo with his bare hands, tears running down his face as he did so.
Ben also happened to be a very talented photographer and worked as a camera assistant on the latest Bond movie. Ben arranged some great photos of our “Motorcycle Gang” and it was great to have his skill and humour along for the ride. You can see some of his work below.
In San Gil enter a very enthusiastic and energetic Canadian who introduced himself as Gord or Gordon. Instantly he became Gordo to us which funnily also means fatty in Spanish. Gordon asked who owned the Honda Cub? I said “I did” he was extremely excited to see it. In fact he said he had heard about my trip a year ago and had read some posts on the Horizons Unlimited website. Gordon instantly hit it off with everybody in the group, he was a real joker and had many a hilarious story of his time backpacking through Australia. Many stories funnily enough covering exploits with girls we had met along the way. We also discovered that Gordon had done everything, he had at one point or another held every job known to mankind. Excluding prostitution the oldest and noblest professions, however he hadn’t ruled that out. Amongst other things he was a carpenter, a dive instructor, a fireman, a bar tender, a vegetable picker and on one occasion a stripper. Gordon was also very talented and possessed the rare ability to inhale food, not chew it like an ordinary mortal, but somehow he would just open his mouth and food would just disappear into it. However Gordon was a tall slim guy and never showed any signs of his veracious appetite. On one occasion we went to have a burger in Medellin. Myself and Gavin set about putting ketchup on our burgers, by the time we looked up Gordo’s plate was empty and he was declaring hands on his belly ” That was wooonderful”. So Gordon was affectionately known as Fat Bastard or Gordita (the little fat girl).
At one point on his trip I heard how Gordo was staying in a dorm room with this Scottish girl who was complaining of a headache. Gordon being the total gentleman, decided he would leave some paracetamol for her on her pillow. When she came in Gordon said to her. “Hey I’ve left something for you on your pillow”. What Gordon hadn’t considered was how much the package containing the paracetamol resembled a condom package. The girl not impressed left the room promptly without even acknowledging his little gift and the incident didn’t surface again until later when Gordon asked a very defensive girl whether her headache was gone and whether she had received the paracetamol he left on her pillow. “Oh my god I’m sorry I thought it was a condom!” she replied.
So Gordon joined the group as we headed out of San Gil towards Medellin. We were now 6. We had a the makings of a proper motorcycle gang. Despite our obvious lack of drugs, violence but Ben made up for most of that.
When we arrived at a hostel Gordon joked with the people who had inquired whether we had a name for our gang and who the leader was, to which he responded it was “Sean’s Gang”, and I apparently was the leader. And so with leadership going to my head as it does, I decided we needed to harden up and be a proper motorcycle gang. So it was decided that an initiation was required for entry into the motorcycle gang. After some consideration I decided the entry requirement was murder. You had to murder something. Clearly Ben was in as he had murdered a defensive kangaroo with his bare hands. Gav and myself were in as we could murder a few pints and Gordon was in as he could murder a good burger and apparently he assured me, he had also murdered a possum with a stone when he was younger. I figured this was sufficient.
The rest would have to prove themselves but as the others were Americans then statistically they were more likely to be actually be murderers than any of us. It would just take the right situation, like working in a post office or just attending high school.
It was in Medellin where we met Eric’s Colombian Love Interest No. 2. She was working in the hostel where he was staying. Again she was a very attractive Colombian girl named Victoria but Erik positively fell head over heels in love with her when she informed him that she liked mathematics and specifically Calculus. Having a liking for mathematics is generally not something I look for in a girl but the two nerds were happy in their nerdyness and we all wanted to reach for buckets.
In Medellin Derrik frustrated my our whimsical attitude towards schedules and timetables and our general lack of anything resembling a plan decided to head on towards Bogota by themselves. Unlike us Darren and Erik had plans and schedules, stemming I believe from Darren’s time in the United States Peace Core. In fact, in their truly American way they had actually drawn up a contract, signed and agreed upon by both parties. Part tongue and cheek part wholly serious and written in legalize the funniest section being section 4 pertaining to procedures to be followed in the event one scores a female while sharing a room with the other. This rule was invoked by Erik in Medellin with his new love interest and Darren was good enough to follow through on Section 4 and make himself scarce for a while.
And so we parted company for a while with Darren and Erik but would meet them down the line in Bogota. Heck they were part of the gang now and you don’t get out that easy. You can’t just walk away from the gang man. There are repercussions. However they still actually hadn’t murdered anything that I was aware of, so it was dubious whether they were actually fully signed up members yet. I would be awaiting confirmation.
So the four of us left Medellin Gavin and I, Ben and Gordon. Speed did not seem to be an issue everyone had no problem sitting behind El Burro and myself as we cut our way through the Colombian countryside. We headed for Guatapé a very beautiful town situated on a lake which was flooded some years ago for use as a reservoir with hundreds of small islands and passage ways created and now a huge tourist attraction. We checked ourselves into a cheap hotel then headed out for a walk and ended up on a boat trip around the lake and having a few cold beers.The centre piece in Quatapé is a large stone monolith jutting out of the lake several hundred feet and over looking the lake and islands. With 760 steps to the top Ben stopped into a shop and bought some Aquardiente the local alcoholic firewater to help us with the hike up and the altitude change, at least this is how we rationalised it to ourselves. So on every 100 steps we would stop and have a swig of medicine to help us up. Timed to perfection we reached the top with an empty bottle and feeling very woosy from the sudden altitude change we presumed. Grateful we thanked Ben’s quick thinking by bringing the bottle and lessening the effects.
The next day we headed off on one of Gordon’s shorts cuts. Frankly I wasn’t sure whether we had time for one if his infamous short cuts that usually involved us going around in circles for hours and getting lost but was always fun.
So when we went down this road and were positively beaten by the terrain that was more of a goat track than anything else we had to turn around and ended back up in Guatepé again. Here we met Pam, Rachel and Gorge having a beer in a local street side cafe waiting for their bus back to Medellin. Myself, Gordon and Gavin went to checkout another place to sleep while Ben stayed and had a beer with the lads.
We found an apartment that had a kitchen, a dining area and could sleep 9 comfortably for princely sum of $50 for the night. It was perfect, between 4 it was cheap but between 7 it was just robbery. We went back down to rest and told them that they weren’t going to be leaving tonight that they would be staying in our apartment and we would be having a party. They didn’t seem to protest much so off myself and Gordo went to buy some food and booze.
This was great, we had a motorcycle gang and now we had chicks, and we also had a critical mass of people (that included girls, did I mention that?) that we could actually have a party and call it a party without fooling ourselves. A party without girls is not really party it’s simply just a drunken frustrated male sausage party with no one knowing quite what to do, but throw in some girls and immediately balance is restored, and instinctively males know what to do- Ignore your other male friends, who in the process instantly become your rivals, and chase the girls. Though always with male respect and camaraderie.
Some of the guys had girlfriends so it was just harmless flirting but still male pride was at stake. There is a fine line between flirting with no intention and I believe the expression is cock blocking. But there was no cock blocking going on as we were a motorcycle gang and you don’t cock block gang members. I made a mental note Rule number No. 1 No Cock Blocking of fellow gang members. This rule was later rewritten to “No cock blocking of fellow gang members. However cock blocking of other males is acceptable and in some circumstances encouraged, in particular as your duties as a Wingman when assisting your fellow gang member in his pursuit”.
So we had a great night at our party. We had some great food, played cards and then dancing started. Enter Happy Feet, this is how Ben got his nickname with his very curious feet shuffling and low down finger clicking dance moves. Happy Feet entertained us all and we couldn’t come close. Whether it was good or not I couldn’t tell but it was certainly interesting. The next day we said goodbye to the girls and Gorge but arranged to meet up in Bogota.
Our next stop was Rio Claro a national park deep in the jungle. We rented a small cabin there that was stacked up against the hill overlooking the river with a complete open face with no walls or windows looking out into the jungle. It was amazing and it was at this point that I got my nickname – Shakey Leg. Shakey Leg came about through my reluctance to launch myself from the 8 meter high rock into the river. The tipping point came when a 8 year old Colombian kid called me, (and in English I might add) “Chicken”. Why that little so and so. And so I eventually done it and several times afterwards to boot. And that was how Shakey Leg was born.
However, what both impressed and shocked me the most was Ben’s first suicide jump. He was the first to take the jump. Ben couldn’t even swim, let alone jump 8 meters into unknown water depth but yet faced with being the one who didn’t do the jump he decided before anybody was even ready; he just walked to the edge paused and stepped off like a suicide victim with no determination whatsoever and fell like a rag doll into the water. Winded he composed himself in the water and managed to stay floating. We looked at each other with a mixture of horror and amusement, but mostly horror.
Later that day we went on a jungle tour which also involved walking and swimming our way through a kilometer of water polished white marble underwater caves and saw some cave dwelling birds, bats and spiders.
And so it was on to Bogota where we met up again with Pam and Rachel and hit Andres Carne de Rez a famed restaurant on the outskirts of Bogota famed for it curious, over the top and outlandish decor topped off with staff and performance artists in goolish costumes parading and table hopping. What a fantastic night, we had our own waiter and he also had an assistant to look after us for the entire meal. The service and food in this place is top notch, we even had time for dancing between our starters and main, with our waiter keeping a watchful eye on us and as soon as we were ready to return to our table the food was brought right out and we tucked in. After the meal the dance floor was full of diners, mainly Colombians salsa dancing with bottles of Aquardiente whilst simultaneously pouring it down each others throats. What a place. Simply the best restaurant I have been too and no doubt one of the top restaurant in the world.
We stayed in a very strange hostel in Bogota, the owner of which was going through some personal issues so he left in charge his coke head buddy to look after the place, when I mean look after the place I mean the place looked after it self really, while he partied. So on our way back from Andres Carne de Rez Darren showed his dark horse side by boosting Gavin up to break into our hostel as we were locked out. I’m not sure whether you can call entering your own hostel through a window as breaking in, but certainly breaking the lock of the bar door, and then taking the entire contents of the beer fridge could certainly be regarded as breaking in. But Darren being Darren, left ample money for the beers.. and a new lock. A new concept- the motorcycle gang with a conscience.
Around this time Gavin got his nickname. Gavin had worked in the construction industry for year as a crane operator. Gav is tough stocky chap, a little stubborn and he, like Darren, is also good at drinking. In fact Gavin doesn’t do “a few quite pints”. It’s all or nothing for Gav. Go hard or go home, so if it wasn’t a proper session Gavin would rather be at home reading a book than pretending to be enjoying a few quite pints. So around this point Gavin got his nickname, Gavin one night remarked about his lovely soft hands to much amusement of everyone. So Gavin became Softhands.
Whilst we walked in Bogota slightly lost one night I stopped to ask this Colombian girl for directions outside her house. As I was discussing our possible routes which always came with warnings in Central or South America i.e. don’t go there or you will get robbed or don’t go there or you might be raped etc. Gordon and Gavin were discussing the finer details of the lady I was talking to. Gordon never the one to be discreet responded to Gavin by saying “Yeah killer” referring to the correct location and proportion of her lady curves. Of course he certainly didn’t mean “Kill her” but that bit of language knowledge had escaped my lady friend and Gavin also as he looked at Gordon with suspicion. So as I looked up the lady was hurrying back into her house with a succession of quick locking noises. We decided that this explanation was not one we fancied delivering to the cops so we made ourselves scarce.
In Bogota I decided to give El Burro some TLC and brought her to a small Honda service agent. Here we tried to tweak the carburetor for altitude with little success. We also changed the back brakes, the rear cush drive rubbers, straightened the rear wheel and fitted a new air filter. I had also previously fitted an in-line fuel filter and new horn in anticipation of all the cute girls I would be tooting at in Cali.
And so It was on to Cali but before then we stopped at Salento where we celebrated Gavin’s Birthday with the guys and some people we met at the hostel. Ben put this little video together.
Cali is the salsa hot spot rival only to Havana Cuba we hung out in Cali for a few days but for me it was just another city and I couldn’t wait to leave. But I had some motorcycle business to take care. I decided I should change my tyres. The always trusty Michelin Gazelle tyres were readily available and goodness knows what was going to be available in Ecuador or Peru so I paid a visit to Honda in Cali.
Funnily enough I had contacted Honda in Colombia several times as there is a Honda assembly plant located there and I wanted to make a visit to the plant on little El Burro and show them what my Overlanding 90 looks like and maybe do a few promo shots for them but they showed very little interest and no offer was forthcoming. However the folk in the Honda showroom were only delighted to have El Burrito make a visit and the happily took her in and fitted some new tyres at a generous discount and checked over a few other items.
And so after Cali, Happy Feet, Shakey Leg, Softhands and Gordita (the little fat girl) headed off down the road destined for more adventure and strange encounters..
If I had been nervous at first about travelling with others for an extended period, which I was, it evaporated. Travelling alone defined my journey and offered up many opportunities to meet new people and new situations and also afforded me plenty time to write and make videos but travelling in a group has been a great experience and it would be very difficult to find a better bunch of guys to travel and experience the journey with. Thanks Guys!!
Next – The Curse of the Motorcycle Gang