RobT: This morning was spent doing mandatory service on the bikes. RobC had to refasten his top box as it was ready to become roadside garbage at the next major pothole. Some curious local boys washing the coal trucks next door came by to check out the bikes. We asked them about the road to Villa de Leyva. They talked about the road we had planned to take last night and said it was very, very bad. Rocks, ruts, clay, mud and not suitable for our loaded bikes. Good thing we didn't press on last night in the pouring rain and darkness. After the repairs were done we set out for the main road where we turned back to take the proper GPS route. Took about 10 minutes!!!! Couldn't believe it as last night in the rain it took about 45 minutes, but seemed like forever.
We kept riding past military checkpoints where the soldiers would always give us a thumbs up as we passed. Curious, RobC pulled over and asked what the thumbs up meant. Apparently, it lets drivers know that the road ahead is safe and secure. Nice touch!
We rode into Villa de Leyva after ignoring the GPS for the last part because it kept "recalculating," meaning that the road didn't exist on the GPS map. We followed the road signs and made it. We got to the rough cobble stone streets of this ancient town, which is not very bike-friendly on these beasts due to uneven contours. We really should have let some air out of tires. We stopped and pondered our next move when a couple in a white SUV pulled up and a lady asked in perfect English if we needed help. Wow! I'll say it again ... such nice people in Colombia. They led us to a gorgeous hotel on the side of the mountain, but it was booked as this was yet another long holiday weekend in Colombia. Apparently, this country has about one month's worth of holidays a year. Ricardo and Sonia then phoned ahead to a place we had the name of, found out they had rooms available and led us there. Got the room, settled in and decided to head to the main plaza for lunch. Ricardo and Sonia told us they love bikers. Ricardo has a Harley Davidson and their son is an avid motocross rider. Thank you again Ricardo and Sonia!
While walking into town, Ricardo and Sonia pulled up beside us and handed us an annotated map!! We had been looking for a map since we got into Colombia and they took the time after dropping us off to find one and on top of that, laid out a route to Medellin! Little side note: when we ask locals about maps the response is: "We don't use maps, we just ask people." This wonderful couple then gave us their cell number and said that if there was anything at all we needed while anywhere in Colombia, to give them a call. That's the worldwide motorcycle fraternity!
Villa de Leyva ......
Ventured off to the plaza for some great trout for lunch. Spent the rest of the day and night wandering the side streets of this very picturesque town. Cobblestone streets, as mentioned, whitewashed buildings with red, clay tile roofs, stunning courtyard restaurants and shops. What a place!
RobC: Apparently there was a big mountain biking event in this area today as well. While we were having lunch on the central plaza during the rain, muddy, exhausted mountain bikers started to come in one at a time. They had started at 7 in the morning and it was now 3 in the afternoon. My hat off to these hardy souls, and some of them were in their 50's and 60's. Makes me feel a little embarrassed to be riding a powerful motorcycle.
RobT: We had talked to the hotel owner about a route to Medellin, as we wondered why people didn't suggest a more direct and much shorter route through the mountains on secondary roads. They verified that the road to Bucaramaganga was incredibly scenic, but it would take us at least 5 hours to the north (and obviously our goal is to go south). The road back through Bogota wasn't as nice. Taking the short cut through the mountain range was definitely a "no go." It was in a "red zone." Active FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) territory. A no brainer. We were not about to try that on questionable secondary roads on top of that info. So, it was the long way around, so to speak. :)
RobC: Sonia also told us that the way to distinguish the FARC from the real Colombian army is by looking at their boots: rubber boots vs. leather boots. Now each time we see a soldier, the first thing we look at is his boots. :-)