Last November we wrote a blog post entitled ‘The people you meet 1’; we anticipated that we may return to the subject and so we have.
There’s a culture within motorcycling of helping other bikers. You get it in Europe when you’ll see a biker stop to help another biker who’s broken down and in fact it’s almost an unwritten rule of motorcycling – help other bikers. With adventure motorcycling the bond between bikers is even stronger. You’re all out there and you all help each other. If we see another adventure biker (easily identified by the bike type and the amount of luggage strapped on) and we can stop to say hi we always do and so it happened that we met Juan a rider from Spain travelling to Lima as we were. He pulled up alongside us at the lights, we chatted briefly then at the first opportunity we all pulled over for a coffee and a chat. Adventure travellers (not just bikers but backpackers, cyclists, walkers) exchange information and tips with each other all the time. We ended up spending 3 days in Lima at the same hostel as Juan. He helped us find the BMW dealer for a part we needed then helped us to fit it; two hours of hot sweaty work and we could not have completed the job without him. Juan as it turns out has worked on and off as a BMW mechanic in Australia and other far flung places to earn money when travelling. We spun yarns and picked each others brains for useful info. Juan has many more years experience than we do and inevitably his contributions were greater than ours but at least we could take him out for a meal and spend an evening eating together to say thanks. There’s a brotherhood/sisterhood amongst bikers that is firmly embedded in motorcycling culture. I’ll help you if I can because I know you’d do the same for me.
At the Ecuador/Columbia border crossing whilst I was getting some photocopying done a group of 20 something year olds with team shirts crowded around Jenny and the bike eager to ask what we were doing, where we were from etc. We get these encounters quite often (usually Jenny has chatted up some old boy by the time I get back to the bike) and in fact I can’t easily recall any border crossing at all where we haven’t had people show genuine & friendly interest in us and the bike. These young people all belonged to a major football team from Cali and had been in Ecuador playing. Photos were taken, web address and a sticker handed over, and we must have chatted with them for half an hour – by the time you add in the border crossing formalities and changing up some money it was a long border crossing but it matters not, it’s a big part (the biggest part?) of the journey.
So what else will we find in Columbia we wondered. First a group of friendly young people at the border (& by the way very helpful and not at all scary border officials) and then in Ipiales our first Columbian town, a friendly businessman at our hotel called Luis.
He chatted with us, gave us info on the area, introduced us on the phone to his daughter, a doctor in Cali, and then on our final day in Ipiales jumped in his car and led us all the way to a landmark we wanted to visit and surely would not have found without his help – we’re sure he had other things to do that morning but he just offered and off we went. By the way Luis, if you are reading this, our apologies! We lost the card you gave us with your daughters phone number on and have been unable to contact here in Cali to meet for a coffee – sorry.
So, this is the same ‘Columbia’ about which you read so many scary kidnap stories, ATM hold ups apparently take place and the wrong taxi could lead you into a very dangerous situation; all this before drugs even get a mention. We’re not naïve and we are sensible and we take heed of our gut instincts about people but on the other hand Columbia has cleaned up its act a lot over the last 10 years or so and everyone we’ve met has been helpful and friendly.
Turning up in the city of Cali a few days ago I (Jim) set off to find a bike shop to get some oil etc
to service the bike and to see if I could track down a specific type of tyre I wanted. Luck led me to Motoservicios Asturias (contact info for bikers at end of article) owned and run by Jorge and his lovely wife Sory. As soon as you walk in you know you’ve arrived in bike heaven. The walls of Sory’s office are plastered in photos going back to 1959 of bikers, meetings and all things motorcycle. Jorge let me use his workshop for free so I could service Bertie, lent me some tools and helped me with a stubborn oil filter that BMW Salta had fitted and my tool didn’t fit. They ordered the Heidenau K60 Scout tyres I wanted from Bogota and they arrived next day. For a few bucks he had his staff jet wash and clean my bike leaving it looking almost new again. Not cleaned since Alejandro did it in Punta Arenas I hadn’t realised how bad 3 months or so of dirt had made it look!
All the time I was in there Jorge’s customers (all of whom seem to be close friends of his) wandered in and out of the workshop; there was none of that ‘can’t come in, health and safety’ rubbish. Most of them wanted to chat to me so it was a bit like the last border crossing, it all took a lot longer than expected. Did that matter, no – what’s the rush.
So we trundle ever northwards with our next major waypoint Cartagena and the ferry that will finally take us out of the continent of South America which we have come to love (most of the time anyway). We continue our travels and we continue to meet warm, friendly, kind people with no agenda other than to show an interest in us, help us if they can and wish us Buen Viaje.
The people you meet are the journey.
Bikers, if you are up this way and planning to sort your bike out, don’t bother waiting till Medellin or Bogota, just come and see Jorge and Sory Con. Motoservicio Asturias, Avenida 6AN #24AN – 50, Cali, Columbia. Tel: 660 6038 or 667 1279. E: firstname.lastname@example.org web: www.asturias.com.co ) MAP: https://goo.gl/maps/tk1pd
Great hostel 200m away, Hostel Casa Blanca Avenida 7N 24N-57 Santa Monica Cali. Parking on drive outside or secure car park around the corner for US$3 a day.
(Since we wrote this yesterday we have become aware of another place you can stay only 200m away. This will cost a little more than a hostel but is studio apartments above a restaurant. arturapartasuite.com Calle 23 Norte # 6AN 31, Cali. Tel cellphone 315-5639358).
PLEASE DON’T FORGET WE’RE ALSO TRYING TO RAISE MONEY FOR SHELTERBOX ON THIS TRIP – AN AMAZING CHARITY. JUST CLICK AND MAKE A REAL DIFFERENCE TO PEOPLES LIVES. A DOLLAR OR FIVE, EVERY LITTLE HELPS SO SKIP THE EXPENSIVE COFFEE JUST ONCE AND DONATE – THANK YOU. https://www.justgiving.com/James-Mitchell15/