Tuesday, 28 October 2008


Kind of cow head piggy face teddy bear flower. colombia
After a great feed along side the truckers the night before i wasnt desiring grub on this cool almost cold 8am morning. the mist was still clinging to the hills, the sun light hazy visible in that way that reasures she will be at full glow later in the day. As i am loading the bike a bloke with a 250 crossers is doing the same. a man with a hard face. i dont stare to much. he comes over with that hard face and bleets on about my bike and his bike, that im sure of. then jumps on his and flys off spinning the rear end 180 degrees , throwing up dirt and stones all over me. oh well, i smile thinking ill shatter his ego later down some long straight, my 650 will eat him up. not that theres anything great about roasting someone on a straight, maybe around some mountain hairpin has more skills showing offness... with all that nonsense forgotten after 5 miles my bike starts smoking from all over. the engine is coughing up , even the right hand hand guard looks like its smoking. my right leg is covered in oil, then i notice everything is covered in oil, arghhhhhhh. i stop and see that i have lost the engine oil cap. the only morning i didnt check its tightness since alaska ! all coz some prat got jealous and distracted me. Lucky for me though i had stopped by one of those small tiendas that sell crisps and water that you find every few miles with not much else around for ages. Im covered in oil and my only idea is to maybe stick an old t-shirt where the cap should be. I ask the pretty girl serving the tienda if she has tissues for me. she has and she has 2 brothers with a motorcyle as it happens. Jairo and yorsman. they look like they are in their early 20s. Yorsman jumps on his bike without a word and disapears in the direction i have just came from. Jairo speaks better english than my spanish. he says that yorsman is off looking for the cap along the road side following my trail of lost oil. Jairo stares at the bike saying there is a town a few miles off rural zone silence with the odd mnnnnnmmaaaaaa from a cow. half hour later yorsman is back with no smile. didnt find the cap. he rides off again to the near town. Jairo tells me hes off to medellin also today and that i can ride with him. an hour later yorsman returns without a smile again . im not smiling much at this point either. just groaning... the boys disapear into their tienda and return 10 mins later with a tube of solid wood, carved. they measure the diameter of the wood to the hole where the cap should be in the engine. im thinking nah, chips will get mangled in the engine and thats the trip spent. it works. the wood is screwed into the engine and its solid ! perfection, genius ! the wood doesnt budge. and to top off the kindness and time these 2 boys have given up what they was doing for me they rode around showing me the back rural parts of the region. Antioquia a queen of hearts part of the world. towns and hills i would never have seen. serenity everywhere. After another 4 hours we are riding around the mountain roads, dodging on coming trucks and trying not to slide off the edge. these boys are fast, even twoz up on a 125. they jsut miss an oncoming truck , ooooooooooohhhh that was very close. we all laugh about it in that phew you got away with that one mate this time, kind of motorcyclists way. Medellin sits in the belly of a vast valley. buildings crawl up the westside and east side of the valley. down the middle is the main centro sections. i have never seen a city like it. Its rush hour madness.the boys lead me to a bike shop they know. anothe rcolombian calle filled with just bike shops. colombia loves her motocecletas. Im given a free cap, its probably not worth more than 5 quid , but isnt the point !. its the correct kawasaki klr cap, what a relief. im gonna keep that piece of wood for ever though. the shop is named auteco. cra 50 no.37 -15,,,, email:dismedellin@une.net.co.... if you are in town and need bike help, go see these generous knowledgable people... we say goodbye. i will never forget these 2. jairo and yorsman. thank you so much !! I eventually found my medellin hostel, after one of the mechanics from auteco showed me through the rush hour darkness where it was, more unconditional kindness. the casa kiwi. owned by paul from the states. a rider who rode through colombia 6 years ago and decided to stay. the casa is perfect. full of great new friends. pauls gives a discount to motorcyclists. another gaff thats gonna be hard to leave.... im starting to understand why some people travel through this country and end up staying....... Medellin has an Aon office. A few months before i left the UK i had been put in contact with a chap named peter who is colombian but worked for Aon in London for 2 years. After one emial to him , peter was well up for helping me in anyway once i got here. I call pete, he wants to meet. we meet. he takes me in his car up the winding east side of the city valley to a beautiful spot overlooking the great city. a restuaurant.he orders some classic colombian grub and agua ardeiente, fire water.... a large plater comes out topped with chorizo, morsilla ( black pudding mixed with rice), chicharon ( large crispy pork), arepa ( soft tasty corn bread). empanadas. mincey stuff in crispy corn pastry ( pastyish). i am in love with empanadas. a salad, avacados , tomatos, coconut all chopped and sliced, topped in lime and salt, peter generously pays for all.... he tells me he has talked to the Aon medellin people and they are looking forward to meeting me. they are even trying to get contact with the cities medias. Wow , again all this genuine colombian unconditional help. peter is great company. hes a handglider. he jumps off mountains with only a small triangular frame, a canvas above and alot of skill and braveness. can handgliding be topped with any other activity ? he tells me of life in past colombia. it doesnt seem possible that people could have lived in that way. pablo escobar used to run the town with his narco tactics and fear mungering. pretending to be robin hood. You really couldnt walk around at night. bombs relentless, fathers desapearing in the night. guns everywhere. those days are gone. colombia is safe now. it will grow into a global treasure of a tourist spot. i only hope it doesnt spoil. peter has given the Aon people my hostel number. I get a call from Alvaro. he has great english and we meet . again i am treated generously to the meal. stake in a cherry type delicious sausce, chips, salad and pomegranate drinks. mmmmmmmm ! Alvaro is a very perceptive guy. he has lived in europe for a few years, but decided to settle in his home town. who can ever blame him ! after the meal he takes me to the office, a short stroll through a medellin park filled with unusual trees and plants. Alvaro tells me of medellin history and its people. Again stuff i wouldnt have known on my own. At the office i am greated with smiles and much interest .there are 50 employees here. Aon medellin deal with health and damages. personal and nusiness health which is law. damages in construction paublic liability and transport over land and seas. Alvaro has brilliantly sorted out a meeting with a medellin newspaper in the morning and he has kindly written an article about the Fragile X pedition, to all aon employees in colombia. they have offices is bogota, cali, cartagena and bucarramanga. fantastic ! .. i have to mention this fruitcake i met here in the casa kiwi. Tod from kentucky. he is driving a car from prudhoe bay down to ushuaia. A toyota 4 runner. right now he is in guayaquil, ecuador waiting for its release, after shipping the car from panama city, with more stress and worries than ever imagined i recon. todd is top man and has some great stories. to find him check out : http://www.thegetupproject.org/ Thanks also to gillian from ireland, she has been my PR person since we met, and she taught me how to dance like jim carrey. the casa kiwi another perfect place full of interesting fun people from all over. all with magic stories and adventurous addictions.

the wooden work of genius. an oil change later and a new cap. alls rosy.

jairo and yorsman. top colombian geezers !

the boys at Auteco bike shop medellin. a right laugh and they no what they are doing.

peter from medellin who worked at aon london in recent years. superb company and very generous in all ways. a fearless flyer of handgliders.

colombian tapas style lunch

Aon Medellin. Alvaro handing out Fragile x Syndrome info

Aon employees

Alvaro and mary the receptionist. aon medellin

the 1st floor gang. aon medellin




medellin won 2-0. my first latin america footy experience. a fiesta. a very passionate crowd

medellin fc

medellin residential

looking west medellin

looking east medellin

Saturday, 25 October 2008

I left Cartagena snapping my finger nails clinging to the times had. almost destroying the hotel holidays reception area, with my fat panniers and mild incoherance. Bounced down the Getsmani curb and wisked away south by the relatively mellow traffic. Half mile out finding the calle el mundo de motocicletas. A road seemingly miles long, every shop a motorcycle shop with bikes rasping in and out like an ants nest. Dust and deisel everywhere. Buses arguing with their horns and passangers hanging out of the door ways arms swinging in gestures. Here i found my high viz jacket with number plate glued on the back. number plate on helmet also. apparently not that necessary for tourists but better no hassle safe than sorry. Another half mile the road stops. traffics mayhem and the road works have no suggestion of an alternative direction. Stuff this i say and lay up at a sweet shop drinking water and chatting football to the man utd supporting shop keeper. he has heard of the mighty eagles. im chuffed to bits and wanna give him my palace top, but decide to not to. how else will i educate latin america on real football !! . thoughts of another night back in colourful cartagena, but i would be a laughing stock. ... im off, 10mins later im lost again. not even out of the suburbs. A bloke on a C90 riding one handed. his left hand carrying his work brief case, the laundry , what might be his grand children and the dog , leads me to the alley way i need to get to the southern hills. medellin, medellin i shout at him. his balance on the step through is incredible in the traffic...its not long and im slicing through farmland with perfume aromas, not the typical farmland stench. small villages made up of tiny square houses with one door and windows either side, palm roofs. colourful paintwork always. Flowers, all colours and sizes perfectly taken care of surround these casas. The landscape is vast. tight steep hills blending into each other with no fences. very green. all shades of green under the sun and moving clouds. coes with baggy necks and huge big ears stand tall on the steepness. The rains bring an unneeded solace. im probably the most content i have ever been. this goes on for 4 hours. twighlight comes in purple. I only get as far as Sincelejo 189kms, where i find a cheap flash hotel with a hamburger and the skinniest cerveza bottle ever. Aircon and loads of "MMMMMMMMM" and "AAAAHHHHHHHS" as i sink into a huge soft pillow.....Up and out early . 8a.m. im excited to ride again after scrambled eggs, flat corn and flat arepa. i meet Adrianna the artist. The toy town vastness rolls into the first peaks i have seen since middle mexico. more than just hills. is this the start of the andes ? Colombia has 3 cordilleras running north south. i have found the westerly spine. the breeze through my helmet is cool at last. The road turns into small straights , hairpins and perfect tarmac. 4th gear doesnt get a chance. it gets steep and thin. trucks stand still in the corners, then after the drivers have debated they crawl around the corners. The locals intelligently stroll through the corner traffic standstills selling melon, juices, water, empanadas and im not sure what . I want melon, but as soon as my lid comes off the traffic moves along. no melon for me. The steep dropoffs the side of the road are filled with those tiny houses again. made at low cost i guess. its ironic, the most uncostly housing built, on premier land overlooking grand, huge, incredible words cant find descriptions, vast vallies. probably some of the best scenery on earth. i cant help feeling happy for these people. they must know stuff i will never know. Apparently these lands are owned by officials in offices, but the locals just grab a plot and make a life there. Fantastic !....... its a climb for hours. it drops some then climbs again into the clouds. mysterious mist, where shapes just appear from the white. The road turns nastyish, gravel, potholes large and ramps cambering off the precipises, sliding you in that direction. Up and over the peaks. im down in a small town built into the sides of cliffs, some very steep. all buildings red brick. i gas up and meet victor from medellin. he has a honda 400 crosser that he blast up and over everywhere on. hes facinated with FXS and curious.Purple twilight again hanging over the far off peaks. i cant make medellin tonight. a hospedaje appears at a truck stop. all dusk, dust and deisel . men in wellies. no camo wear and wellies though, thank the universe !. pollo fritas y arroz started with beans big and sauce along side weary stained faced truckers, then im asleep. medellin tomorrow no doubt. its only 80ish kms away. what can go wrong ? i dont wanna ride at night here. JUST because i dont wanna miss anything in and around this landscape. colombia what a suprise it all is !

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

stepping back into the spainish main

Cartagena is gorgeous. Its been a week now and i must leave. if i dont today i will never leave. so its a case of type this, breakfast , bank then finding the traffic flow that will wisk me out and south , starting the climb into the Andes. Its incredibly hot and humid here. at night it doesnt change. i need the cool air of the mountains. More heart felt friendships and goodbyes. its becoming a habit now. all dont want leave each others companies, but do and go into the future friendships of the next towns , with the hopes of bumping into each other by chance. Above is a pic of our last night . buddies from the san blas boat. patrick and karen. rolling around the planet unconventionaly, they are an inspiration for doing it ya own way. karina the colombian rascal, who has unwittingly taught me more spanish with our continuous banter than i have learned anywhere. and omer the adventurous israely, with his new shaved head and chin. we havent left each others side for a month, now we must. hes waiting for his girlfriend to arrive then riding south together..... Cartagena, the hubb of the old spanish main. A city that seems like parts of it havent moved along in 400 years. the old fortresses and cannon batteries are everywhere, still guarding the city. buildings, with ornate balconies painted all the colours possible. people of all mixes live together. relentless street hawkers, selling wooden spoons, panamain hats, moody oaklies and ray bans. men with flasks of coffee wander the streets, for 500 peses you get a shot of tasty sugary strong coffee on every pavement. beggers with a limb missing. colombia still has many many land mines all over the fields and hills. police and military all over, cant even count the amount of differences in uniforms. after a week i finaly am legal to ride off now. Insurance is law here. we managed to get some yesterday. all i need is a high vis jacket. in colombia there has been so many motorcycle drive by assasinations that bikers have to have their registrations written on their helmets and on a high viz over jacket. The nights are fun and lively loud. cuban bands blast out the bongos till the early hours. people salsa instead of walk to the next bar. oh well, the next palce, medellin has a top reputation also so maybe its not that hard to leave here. Im glad that i didint realise i went way to quick through central america and blasted through. i have more time down here. this is the continent that will send me into a vast wonder and wandering. bigger everything. more surreal for an englishman than anywhere could be.
the gang - cartagena fortress. overlooking the caribbean seas
getsemani. old, ruined and wonderful. the forgotten zone of cartagena
getsemani cartagena
old town cartagena

developing sides of cartagena
as above, with the old town tucked to the left
cartagena 400 years ago
sitting, ready for plundering enemies

Thursday, 16 October 2008

paradise and warming up to ride the gaunlet

I seem to be starting posts by saying "it was hard to leave". It was hard to leave Panama city. Not physicaly this time, but emotionaly..... Moving from the snoring Hotel Marbella to the casa de carmen was definatly the best thing i could have done. I hardly left the hostel carmen, for 4 days. Omer was staying there and it was alot cheaper than the hotels around. It became a home away from home.people came and went, generaly after a night, but i managed to meet the most wonderful people here, making a great unit of mates to sit up all night with eating pizza and sucking on the local ale. Taric and Hanna, an adventurous english couple , who have been moving around south america for months on end, in the living life to the full fast lane. cassy, an ozzy on her own . on her way to buenos aires to be part of an adventure show, aired over the world. melanie, a german working and living in panama. tzvie another israelie chap who had just sneeked across the border from colombia in a very unconventional way. . PJ the hilarious belgian, in love with latin america, who had us all cracking up all night long !. gayatu the anthropologist studying the northern panamanian indians. Eric the geezer from the baltimore hood, who educated me in the life they lead over there in the shadows of the rich . We all spent the days together sharing experiences and laughing till sun up. I truely miss these people and hope more than most stuff to meet them all again. With everyone gone, omer and i prized our way from panama city to head north to catch the boat to colombia. The panama isthmus is about 60 miles across. It seems pathetic that these 2 massive continents , north and south america , are held together by this small weak seeming piece of land. ..4 hours later, along the most roadworks i have ever seen along one stretch, we were in portabello. Famous over the years, as the place where all the gold and silver the spanish unpolitely took form the incas in peru , bolivia etc, after donkeys and slaves had dragged it all over from the pacific side, was met by fleets from spain to carry it all back to europe. Inevitably a place where other euro rascals thought they would get their share of the riches, by nicking it off the spanish. There are a few moss soaked fortresses still sitting on the hill tops and by the bays around here. Francis drake still layss out there in his lead coffin some way out to sea at portabello. Wrecks are apparently all over the place. Gold is still down there, buryed in time, tin cans and sand. The road turns along the caribbean east towards puerto lindo, the place of boats to colombia. This is an unspoiled road weaving, dipping rollercoasting along side the sea. Villages come and go, filled with african descendents of the first slaves. The road almost falls into the sea at sea level, with palm trees erraticaly, naturaly lining the way. Puerto lindo arrives. no big hotels, fancy doormen, all ammenaties here. Just raw bamboo and brick huts. The Hostel Wunderbar is our new home. Silvia and Guidos place. The place to sort out the right boat east. Our dorm is designed and built by the Kuna Indians of the San Blas islands. Bamboo walls with a dry palm leaves roof, that manages to keep all drops of rain out. This is raw tropics. Its very humid and it rains heavy alot, bringing black clouds and thunder from the loudest drum the universe has. Silvia tells us our captain for the 5 day sail is Leonardo. He has a 47 foot boat called the Zao, that can handle 2 bikes easy on deck. After a bit of research into ways of crossing this region by but, you get to remember captains names. there isnt a whole army of them, only a few handfuls. Leonardo hasnt a good reputation. why, i dont know. Oh well, we say, lets just get on with it, its only 5 days after all. The boat gets delayed another day, coz 2 more passengers havent arrived yet. I dont mind. Eating octopus in a secret sauce by a calm bay in the bright moonlight, earwigging conversations of smuggling, piracy, womanising and all the other naughtyness here, isnt a bad way to exists i recon. Soooooo, here we are, the boats ready. 2 more people have arrived to sail with us. that makes 6 of us and 2 bikes. Deborah and john. karen and patrick. Me and Omer. captain leonardo and his friend and helper Karina, from cartagena. We load the bikes one at a time onto small wooden rowing boats at the bay side to get the bikes to the sail boat , fifty metres off shore. Im nervous. visions of a sea soaked seaweed dripping bike have been haunting me for ages. No need to worry though. the villagers have it all in hand. its been done a hundreed times. We lift the bike into the rowing boat and get over to the sail boat. Leonardo charismaticly instructs the helpers. The bike is roped up around front and back wheels, then winched up onto the sail boat with ease. im relieved large ! Omers bike is next, no problems again. We set sail out of puerto lindo around 10ish a.m....... past a tiny island with posh housing spiralling around it. it turns out julio iglesias used to own this island. he then sold it to a drug lord who ended up getting nicked. its an idealic scene. we sail a mile i think from the coast line heading for 3 days in the san blas island, reputed to be the most paradise like on earth. Leonardo briefs us on behaviour and stuff onboard. its all common sense really. He doesnt seem to be the monster i have read about so far. A man with a natural dry humourous way. Obviously intelligent. We all chat and get on like we have known each other for ages. Im well happy. its an extention of the casa de carmen. more wonderful interesting comical people. Will it last though. we have 5 days on this boat. im sure the quirks in all of us will brake free before cartagena. The sea is calm. the wind is slight. Leonardo turns the motor on. we arrive in the islands. WOW ! this cant be real. small islands of various small sizes are scattered all over the sea. A black storm sits on one of the horizons, no change in darkness from the sky to the sea. The girls bravely dive in. I dive in. we all dive in. The water is like a warm bath. Clear blueness right to the bottom, where coral sits. A small fish tickles my leg, inspiring thoughts of hungrey hammer heads, that no one has mentioned or considered. I keep quite about that. We eat meat in a sauce. drink a few beers and watch the moon beam across the vastness. I keep the ship awake with my rhino snoring. oops ! Omer didnt get a wink coz of it. i had better kip on deck next night. the next 3 days were lazily spent, sailing to another island anchor, with an island which is just a resturant. the sign nailed to a palm tree. Storms came and went generaly around noon. its humid but the ocean soothes that. We are all laughing happy together stil .by this time i know leonardo is a top bloke and the bad comments must have been from uncompromising bad people. He gave up the life of a physicist at CERN in geneva, to raise his daughter on the seas and sand of this part of the world. Karina the colombian helper is a scream, we have verbal battles in broken spanish and english, she calls me a ratta i call her a ratta ! she can drink like no other ! must be the colombian way i think. Patrick buys the rum. how can ya come to these islands and not drink rum, he says ! i agree............ we eat fish......... the last 2 days are spent in open sea until cartegena. its ok. i dont get sick, suprisingly. it all passes very quickly and interestingly lazy. a storms catches us but we pass from one side , through the silent eye, to the other side and out without much grief or panic. Doplins breach in the distance then arrive by our side, showing off and amazing us. Cartagena arrives on the nightime horizon, lighting it all up. Im here at last. Colombia. what does that name bring to your mind ??? 3 days and we have almost sorted out getting the bike stamped in legally. My camera is ruined by the dingy nearly sinking on a row to an islands shore. Stories of the road from cali to popayan being blockaded by angrey indigenious are floating around cartagena. bombs going off. Im told that soldiers in leather boots are fine , but soldiers in wellys are not, get the hell out quick if i manage to find them. Colombia drew with brazil last night in a world cup qualifier in brazil. a great result and great game. patricks birfthday last night. a top night wandering around the old colonial city, to to beautiful. i will say all in the post before riding the gaunlet south.

Koaliman - san blas
as above pic
patrick and belly flops dolphin friends
Kaoliman - san blas

another looming storm in the open seas

desires to be stranded
voodoo live in the san blas
panama city san blas starfish
food time on board the Zao
san blas

Portabello fortress. Francis drakes final resting place.
loading the bikes Puerto lindo - panama
its all to lazy !

Leonardo and mirra the pup

a stowaway

http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=-1492847911073114711&hl=en&fs=true (click to see short footage of the bikes being loaded on and off the sail boat)

Friday, 10 October 2008

Settled at home while Simon sails the Caribbean

Two different images then you have been looking at. I arrived back in Leadville 2 weeks ago to see fall has taken hold and winter is knocking at the door. It has been 3 weeks since Si went right and i went left in Tepic, as I have been reading Si's post I have been jonesen for a Latin American fix, but happy to be back.
I basically followed the same route back with my first stop in San Blas and a visit to La Contaduia Fort and a great view from the walls of the fort. I then continued north to Mazatlan, entering the city from the south along the beach road. Thanks to Ignacio, a kind gentalman i meet at the gas station finding my way was easy as i followed him to Auga Verde, were he was going to buy shrimp. When we arrived in Auga Verde Ignacio introduced me to a couple of his friends and i explained what Fragile X Pedition was about and we parted ways. great people in Mexico.  I continued on to Mazatlan were I spent a couple of nights to kick back and enjoy the beach and great weather, no rain. The first night I was there as I was walking home I saw turtles on the beach which were laying eggs. Way cool.
From Mazaatlan I made my way north to Los Mochis and the tiny port town of Topolobampo were I spent the night of Mexican Independence day. I first went out to Topolobampo, only to be told there would be no rooms until 5. I went back to Los Mochis and looked around for a room. However, due to the Fiesta about to happen all were booked, so after 2 hours of looking and being told no vacancy, I returned to as fate would have it and found a great room at the Hotel Marina. Then that night i was treated to a great performance by the town's people celebrating there Independence from the Spaniards. It was a great 4 hour performance in the square of children adults and seniors. What a great experience.
From there to Hermosillo and back to the states at Nogalas. I spent a few more days at Debbie''s house in Phoenix, thanks Deb. I then was elated to get a call from John my good friend and fellow KLR rider that he would ride down and ride back with me. So I got going again and meet John in Toas, New Mexico and we camped a few nights and rode back to Colorado. I made it a little more then 5000 miles with nothing more then a rear flat just 300 miles from home. Not a problem, tire off old tube out new tube in except, I decide to leave the pump behind since Simon had one. Thanks to John i was able to put a a couple of his CO2 cartridges in and we were back on the rode in about a hour. Not bad for a couple of amateurs.
It was a great adventure and with any luck now a few more people are aware of Fragile X and with any luck they will open the ever shrinking wallets when they decide to give a little this year. Well enough for now, I will add some more pictures and along with the rest of you wait to hear from Simon. Thanks for reading and Si thanks for letting me tag along.