The positive momentum keeps building the further south I go. Alex and I picked up Kristi at the airport and then it was off to the races. It was good to see a familiar face from home, a reminder that it’s really not that far away. We took a cab back to the hostel and immediately went out to dinner. When we got back Kristi divvied up all our goodies and then I let the two of them have some alone time. Somehow there was a communication breakdown and Kristi was never given my cables. It’s not anything catastrophic, but it means I’ll be searching for them in Cali today. I also think I’ll have my valves checked. Charlie, Andy, and I are staying at a hostel that is built around adventure motorcycle travel. The owner has a fleet of bikes and runs a garage next door where all the work is done. The bikes are for rent and he offers guided tours on them for weeks at a time. It’s a great idea and an even better opportunity to have a good mechanic do a simple job on my engine.
I left at 8:15am from Bogota on Tuesday after saying goodbye to Alex and Kristi and the other bikers. I had studied the maps a lot before this solo trip and it paid off; I never made a wrong turn all the way to Cali. My route followed the Panamerican Highway for a lot of the trip. That means four-lane freeway wherever possible (although there are still donkey carts). I made good time in the morning knocking off 120 miles by 11:00am; I stopped once to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that Kristi’s mom sent down. I was feeling good, expecting the whole trip to go like that. And then I crossed the northern Andes. I went 50 miles over the next three hours through winding roads filled with semis all the way to the 3,300 meter pass at the top. It was maddening watching the miles tick by so slowly. I could see they were building a new road; there were bridge pillars in place the whole way up going right over the valley I was weaving. That road won’t open for years though.
By the top I was very aware of the altitude. I was a little short of breath and starting to get cold. I was high in the clouds and couldn’t see off towards the lowlands, but somehow the sun was shining on my back. About halfway up I had to adjust my fuel mixture screw because my engine was flooding with the lack of oxygen to burn the gas. First time I’ve actually been forced to play with that thing, definitely not the last. It rained off and on most the way up and down. I pulled into Armenia at 3:00pm exhausted and stopped for lunch. Cali was still 100+ miles away, but I was ready to prove myself and it was all freeway anyway. Absolutely stuffed with chicken, I hopped back on the road and blasted to Cali in two hours through a lot more rain.
I had studied the streets in Cali too and amazingly I pulled up to my hostel not fifteen minutes after entering the city. I checked in and then got online to see where Charlie and Andy were. They had found the motorcycle hostel, Casa Blanca, so I showered and walked over. We had a fantastic time catching up and sharing stories regarding the last three weeks. Beer flowed and there was a lot of excitement, but we all crashed around midnight after the hard day of riding. Today I moved over to Casa Blanca to make things easy and hang out in biker haven. Cali seems to be just another big city so we may hit the road soon. Time will tell. It’s good to be back.