Saturday, September 29, 2018

Indian Territory

On my way up to Uribia and further north I noticed a change in the people. They were all the sudden much darker skinned, and their facial features didn't quite match up with most of the Colombians I had seen prior. I thought it was a bit strange but didn't pay it much mind. About and hour before sunset a cop and his amigo pulled over in front of me and stopped me. He was enthusiastic and talking very fast in Spanish. I wasn't getting much of what he was saying. After he stopped to take a breath I hit him with "No comprendo". I explained my language situation. He started throwing in some English and went heavy on the gestures. Now it was clear as day what he was telling me. He said in no uncertain terms: "You are in indigenous country here. Do not ride after dark, it is very dangerous. After dark if they find you, they hurt you and take all your things. They don't follow our rules. It is a strong reccomendation that you stop riding close to dark." It took the two of them a while to get this across to me, but it became clear. I immediately began looking for a spot to set up for the night. It still took me about 45 minutes to find a good secluded spot without being seen. It was tough because the indigenous were everywhere, around every turn and in every straightaway. Just chilling out by the road, watching the cars drive past. I found a good spot under a very thorny tree. Hopefully I wake up in the morning, I thought to myself.

This was from a few days earlier, but it was so nice I had to share.

Don't be fooled by the green color.

Typical Indian house.

Some of these bad boys were tall.

This was an indigenous school.

Okay that was a bit dramatic, morning came and I was still in one piece. I didn't sleep all that well due to the paranoia set about by the cop. I continued my ride northbound for Punta Gallinas. At long last in middle on the nothingness I arrived in Uribia. When I arrived I quickly realised that this wasn't like any of the other towns I had been too. It said "Indigenous Capital of Colombia" as I rolled into town. This was a happening place! There were people in every inch of this town. More bikers than you can imagine, mostly taxi-ing people around on tricycles. From the second I entered, all eyes were on me. Every single person just started at me. They would mirror me. If I waved they waved back, If I smiled they smiled. If I just started at them they didn't look away and just started back. I stopped for two seconds to try to figure out where I could buy water. In these two seconds I was surrounded by three guys all asking me questions about my trip. One guy knew a bit of English and walked me over to the shop. He specifically warned against going to Punta Gallinas, he said there are "muchos criminales" up that way. He said "Don't stop for nothing, and don't trust no one!". He said not to go solo. I loaded up on water and went back to my bike, three more guys were there. All with more questions. This group warned specifically about heading farther north too. They said they would drive me, but "Whatever you do, do not go by bicycle." I slipped away to a slightly less congested area to fill up my water bottles.

Still surprised by the amount of rubbish here.

Wouldn't want to trip and fall.

This is what my feet and my tires have been dealing with.


comes from these.

It didn't matter, within 30 seconds two more spectators had approached me. I just started filling up my bottles while they watched in awe. I asked one of them if he knew where I could buy a machete in town. He showed me to the shop and brought me two different ones to choose from. One was over three feet long and quite stocky, while the other was about two feet long and more sleek. Both could put a serious hurting on anything in their path. He also had a case for the small one. I decided to take it. For anyone wondering, just about every single male in rural Colombia walks around with a machete. He motioned to his friend, and his friend offered to sharpen it for me. We walked next door to the car repair shop and his buddy started grinding away to get it razor sharp. During this whole ordeal the crowd had grown to eight or ten people that were just standing around watching. I really don't know if most of these indigenous people in Uribia had ever seen a Gringo before. They were all super friendly and kind to help me out so much.

This dude has seen better days.

This was part of the gang that sharpened my knife for me.

Patriotic little hut.

The catch of the day! A rabbit!?! She was happily trying to sell this to passing cars.

I rode to the historic town center and that's where groups were all pedaling their hand crafted items. They were as authentic as they come. Here too I was being stalked. It was a paparazzi in the middle of the desert. I'm not gonna lie, it was really cool being the center of attention throughout the whole town. I could see how it would get old real fast, but a few hours a limelight was fun. On a side note, since I arrived I have been gauked at by most people. I'm used to people stopping to stare when I'm on the fully loaded bike, but it's something else here. Double-takes are common place and triple-takes are becoming the norm. Kids especially, they can stare for over a minute without blinking.

This was a souvenir hotspot. Too bad I have to pedal with the stuff now.

Before leaving Uribia, I decided to forgo my plans to riding up to the northern most point of the continent. I've heard this talk numerous times before, where people warn me that the neighboring town is corrupt, or full of bad people. I usually end up going anyway and have never had any issues. But I've never had this much consensus on one area and I've never had a group of cops specifically stop me and warn me about an area. It really seemed a bit racist. I bet most Colombians generally have biased opinions towards the natives.


Making sure I'm hidden from any angry natives.

Practicing my machete skills.

Perfect sunset after a long day in the desert.

Now that's a knife!

I'll just have to settle for northern-most town, to southern-most town. It wasn't worth the risk. I would have felt pretty dumb if I got minced into pieces, knowing that I had been warned thrice. The indigenous people I dealt with all seemed like great people. Very happy and talkative. They aren't as bubbly or over-the-top friendly as most Colombians, but they seemed trustworthy. I doubt anything bad would have happened, but I made sure I didn't happen on the way to Punta Gallinas. Now I'm officially heading south South South!

This piece of cactus tried to fall on me after I cut him. Can you believe that?

Friday, September 28, 2018

Rumble in the Jungle

After leaving Los Hermanos, I began pedaling for Riohacha, knowing I wouldn't make it that day. I got about halfway and decided to call it a day. I set up the tent in a dried up river bed. It was a nice cozy spot. It looked bone dry so I deemed it safe enough to sleep there. Right as I was setting it up a light rainstorm hit. Since I was under the bridge it didn't effect me too much. After about a half hour it stopped, and I dozed off.

One last look before leaving Los Hermanos.

I'm gonna miss these tropical views.

 Passing over a jungle river.

Mangoes for days!! Too bad they weren't ripe yet.

I was rudely awakened by a crash of thunder about two hours later, this time the rain was coming down hard. It had cooled off and the rain was relaxing so I quickly fell asleep again. The third time I woke up it was not by sight, or sound, but by my entire tent floating downstream!!! I looked out and one side of my tent was floating on 6 inches of water. I was utterly shocked. In all my years of camping nothing like this had ever happened. The bone dry river bed was no longer bone dry! I stared tossing thing outside the tent. I wasn't fast enough though, within a minute the water was over a foot deep. The floodgates had opened and let loose everything. I started loading stuff up onto a little ledge under the bridge. I was frantically looking for a flashlight and a bandana. I could see very little in the dark of night, and my hair kept falling into my face making matters worse. I couldn't find a light and had only seconds to act. I unloaded everything I could see besides the bike and the bags attached to it. The water was now well over knee deep and I couldn't roll the bike out of the tent, it was too deep.

This was the flooded place that was once a peaceful resting place. Well some of my clothes are peacefully resting there.

I grabbed the whole tent and floated it over like a little tugboat to the last bit of rock that hadn't been flooded yet. I was finally able to get the bike out. The water had turned white and it was difficult to walk in. I needed to get my bike across to the ledge and safety. If I pushed it through the water it would have been engulfed almost up the the seat, and my bags are not waterproof. I muscled the bike above the water as I waded through to the other side. When I reached the ledge I summoned up all the strength I had and He-manned it up on the concrete ledge above my head. Now I had to run back and get the rest of the stuff. By this point the tent had already floated downstream. I grabbed it and pulled, it wasn't as easy to move around as I remembered. I felt inside and it had filled up with a considerable amount of water. I guided it to safety while trying not to rip and snap anything. I made one final trip to grab the miscellaneous items. Now that everything was safely above the floodwaters, I started taking inventory and removing valuables from the wet tent and bags. I sorted everything out and set the tent back up to dry. When it was all said and done the only casualties that I discovered were some shorts, pants, and two shirts. This river had its way with them. Not cool, but all things considered I'll take that. At least they are easily replaceable.

This was the safer spot that I should have set up on. This was on the opposite side on the main flooding.

I know you're probably saying to yourself, what was he thinking setting up a tent in a riverbed. Well here was my reasoning. It looked like it had been dry for ages. There were some big plants growing in the middle of it. Also right where I set up the tent there was a manmade sand pyramid that surely would have been washed away by the river had there been any water flow. Also we had rain the past two days so I figured if those storms weren't enough to flood it then this wouldn't be either. Well I was wrong, and the lesson was learned. Never set a tent up in a flood zone if it's pouring down rain.


This cow had to pay a pretty penny to het this Carribean beach house.

One of the local cyclists with his machete by his side.

I made it to Riohacha. My next plan was to go to Punta Gallimas, the northernmost point in South America, then I'd start heading sound. After a bit of shopping I hit the road again it was immediately brutally hot. It wasn't nearly as humid and there was a bit of a breeze, but it was still scorching hot, and I could feel my body frying. Even with sunscreen I was getting roasted. Within an hour or two the scenery had completely changed. It was no longer vibrant green pastures riddled with palmtrees. It was hard, dusty, orange earth covered in prickly trees and cacti. So long palm trees and coconuts!

First bike tourists I met. They started in Brazil and rode through chaotic Venezuela. She said "It was heavy metal there! Rock and roll!!"

Uribia was the last town before Punta Gallinas. About halfway to Uribia I was coaxed in to stopping for food at this ladies stand. There were so many to choose from I'm glad she called on me. She asked if I wanted a type of roll with bananas or meat. I replied con carne. She had it served up in an instant. The meat was tasty, but really chewy, and it had skin and a fair amount of fat. The flavor was good though. Just before I finished it off I asked her if it was chicken or ham. I know it wasn't chicken, but the word for beef escaped me. She burst out laughing and said no, it's goat! I was a bit surprised, but then again why should I have been, this is Colombia after all. We talked for a minute or two, then I rode off.

Linda, my goat chef!

This was it. Still pretty tasty.

It was no match for this street food though. This lumpy chorizo was killer!

Not sure what made it bright yellow, but it was bursting with flavor. It had big chunks of fat, and big chunks of bacon.

The ride to Uribia was long and straight. It didn't so much as turn an inch. I pulled off beside a traintrack to get some water and rig up the solar panels. Just then a small animal trotted into view. It wasn't a goat or cow, but a tiny golden puppy. He looked like he had just waken up from a long nap. This was a lovely surprise. He was rather playful and very friendly. He didn't have a collar like 99% of the dogs I've seen here. He was presumably a wild dog. He was trusting enough to let me pick him up without any issues. I seriously thought about taking him along with me. I decided against it because I've had a tough time keeping enough water for myself, let alone with another mouth to feed. When he was done playing he scampered back to a little shady spot and likely dozed back off.

He was ready to join!

He enjoyed playing.

If he could sit just like this all day I would have had to take him.

It was tough leaving him behind.

Another crazy day in Colombia!

So long beaches, you will be missed!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Hitchhiking in Paradise Pt. 2

I wanted the last piece to have a happy ending so I decided to leave out how the night ended, but I'll dive in now. So after that rejuvenating swim, things got interesting. My original plan was the camp on the beach. Since I couldn't take my bike I didn't have my tent. My new plan was to still sleep on the beach, just without  a tent. Just me and the sand. Oh if only I could see into the future. Hazard 1: I started noticing mosquitos just before the sun went down, in a matter of minutes there were thousands of them. Back home, the mossies come out for about an hour or two then they get filled up and go back to sleep. I figured I could wait them out.

No dice, they wouldn't go away. I tried laying down on the beach and covering all but my head in sand. However that is not a one person job. I wasn't able to get every inch of myself covered and they were having a field day on the exposed flesh. They got some fresh American import for dessert. It gets worse. The second hazard was none other than sand flies.....and billions of them. I have had a hate-hate relationship with them since I first met them in New Jersey. They can completely saturate your leg with bites in seconds. They are like mini, more potent mosquitos. Just laying down in the sand and going to sleep was not an option. I didn't bring a blanket or long sleeves or anything to cover up with. Out of sheer desperation I came up with a plan. There were these nice little shaded boxes that were basically comprised of metal poles and a sheet tied on the them to create some shade for anyone under it. I took one of the sheets down and decided to completely wrap myself up in it. I'm sure I looked like a proper mummy, but it was all I could do to keep most of them away. I could still hear the little demons buzzing around my face outside the sheet. To make things more interesting there was also pack of 6 wild dogs that roamed this beach. They were hazard 3. They got freaked out by my mummification and went on a barking spree. The barked for probably 20 minutes straight. Finally, they stopped yapping. At long last after a few hours of trying, I dozed off.

Disclaimer: What you are about the hear I am not proud of, I acted out of fear and desperation. Let me introduce you to hazard 4. Crabs, and very large ones, with giant claws. They were all over the beach. Well anyway, I was rudely awaked by this crab that was sifting through my hair with his claws like he was a hairdresser. I was overrun with feelings, ultimately I reverted back to heathanism and went medieval on this dude. I grabbed my tripod which was the closest thing I could grab and slugged him with it. It was a quick execution. It was fast and painless, but a bit brutal. On the bright side the starving dogs came right over and ate up all the remains. RIP Krabby. By 4:30 AM, I decided to give up on trying to sleep and that I should just try to enjoy the beauty of the place I was in. I got back in the ocean and waited for the sunrise. I noticed something glowing in the water. It had a bright blue glow to it. With every wave that rolled in thousands of these little blue lights would shine a little brighter. No I wasn't hallucinating. These were some sort of tiny sea creature that glows in the dark. I don't know if they are plankton or a type of bacteria, but they were super cool. It was a rough day, and a rough night. There was thick silver lining though. Skinny dipping in the Carribean whilst watching these little blue guys as the stars faded into the sunrise made for a night I will always remember. Thanks Tayrona!

Typical Colombian parking lot.

These were just a few of the giant crabs that roamed these streets.

This is where all the trash from the park went.

As the sun got all the way up I was beyond ready to be back on my bike pedaling along. I was now faced with a new challenge. To get back to my bike, I would either have to trudge back the way I came, or walk about 20 miles on the road. Neither sounded that great, but I started walking back on the road. Right as I approached the park entrance the man operating the gate stopped me to show me his dog that was nursing four puppies. He asked if I was waiting for a bus, or motorcycle. I told him that I was just walking. He looked stunned. I didn't get five steps out the door before a motorcyclist pulled up beside me and asked if I needed a ride. I happily took him up on it. We were cruising along on this little motorcycle bouncing up over every bump and pothole. He took me to a the outskirts of Santa Marta and dropped me off. That saved me about two or three hours. I still had about 13 miles of walking. That sparked an idea though.

Momma of 4.

My motorbike buddy Jorge.

This is a stereotypical Colombian alleyway. Note the two random dogs.

I wasn't too keen on the idea of walking the entire 13 miles to find my bike and then ride again. I decided to try to hitch a ride. I never hitchhiked before, but what better place to learn than in Colombia. I didn't have any luck on the less traveled roads, but as soon as a guy saw me on the main road he stopped to pike me up. It was another motorcyclist. He drove me to the park, but looked baffled when I asked him to drop me off at the creek. He explained that the park was still farther down the road. First hitchhike was a success.

My first successful hitchhike!

I wandered into the woods to grab my bike. I was really hoping that it was still there. Sure enough, it was. Right where I left it. Now to get back to Santa Marta for supplies and to figure out what my next plan was. I decided to stop at McDonald's for Wi-Fi and charging. I placed my order and was standing around waiting to pick it up. Right then a Gringo walked in. Mind you, up until this point I think I had only seen four or five Gringos since I arrived. He spoke to my in English! The very first person since I arrived that could speak more than a word or two of english. We sat down together and started chatting. Turns out this French guy owns his own hostel on the beach along with his two brothers. It's called Los Hermanos. He loved the idea of the bike trip and said I could come stay at his hostel if I wanted. It was in the right direction, I hadn't made up my mind yet. He left and I thought about what to do.

Cows say moo!

After he left I pondered. A mosquito free bed, Wi-Fi, and shower all sounded pretty good. I would need to hurry though if I wanted to make it by dark. I decided to go for it. I picked up a few things at the shop and hit the road. The climb up the mountain to get out of town was tough. It was close to two hours of pedaling without a downhill. Finally through hard work and sacrifice, I reached the top of this part of the jungle. The downhill began immediately. I was flying down the mountain at breakneck pace. Before I knew it, I was thrown into a Jurassic Caribbean village. On both sides of the road were masterfully constructed wood huts with palm thatched rooftops lining the cliff side. There were kids pedaling tropical drinks that they were busy juicing. Women selling pottery and Colombian clothing. And the men were tending little cocktail bars. The entire downhill, a steady river gracefully rumbled down beside me. Giant hundred year old tress lined the side of the road, most bearing fruit unbeknownst to me. The river was so inviting I had to stop to take a quick swim and wash off some of the salt that had crystallized on my body. A boy that was also swimming noticed me and said, "Extremo a extremo!" as he flashed two peace signs my way. It means "End to end" in Spanish. He had obviously passed by on the road and recognized me as the only longhaired Gringo out there. This part of Colombia was far different from the sullen and downtrodden homes I had seen a few says earlier. They still appeared to be very poor, but the look and scenery was much different. They took more time working on aesthetics, and were more active. Everyone was still marked with a wide smile though. This again felt like I was coasting down through a different world.

Good ol' river get together.

I'm rocking a pretty good farmers tan already.

These were some of the larger more modern huts.

A native chilling by the river. Right after this shot was taken he dice in.

It's a very bold statement to make, but this downhill was the best bike ride of my life. The scenery, the people, the architecture and the lack of having to turn the pedal made this a truly breathtaking experience. It honestly got my heart racing and literally took my breath away.

I'm stunned by how green everything here is!

Climbing this massive tree gave me an epic view of the valley.

As I approached the bottom of the mountain even more palm and banana trees began appearing. Right as I got into the thick of it I neared the beach hostel. I was faced by a young Colombian boy that was the security guard for all the hostels in the area. He put his had out and mumbled some Spanish to stop me, if I had to guess I bet he said "What's The magic word?" I simply said "Los hermanos". He nodded and motioned me through. I knew the code! After a long ride of only palm trees and beach I arrived at Los Hermanos.

Los Hermanos!

The little tiki tower with hammocks and a net for chilling.

Just when I thought this day couldn't get any better I entered into a tropical fairytale. Authentic tiki torches dotted the walkway. Impressive circular cabanas were the main sleeping quarters. There was a large net above the tree line overlooking the sea. If you really wanted to chill even more there were tons of hammocks for hammocking. This place is paradise! To top this off, I met a cool group of English speaking backpackers that met in Colombia as well. It was great enjoying this amazing corner of the world with new friends!

Beach life!

The swanky group of backpackers.

Today was awesome!