Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Day 37 - Villa de Leyva to Puerto Berrio via Bucaramanga, Colombia

RobT:  Another day in Colombia and it has really become one of our favorite countries so far! Beautiful green countryside, amazing views of deep valleys while riding another 200 km of some of the best twisty roads a motorcyclist can imagine.  We were trying to reach Medellin but we both had our doubts, as it would be about 750 km (475 miles) in one day.  Several people had stated that it would be a 9-hour ride.  Nevertheless, we were on the road at 7 am.  The first part of the road was secondary country road with the usual potholes, sand and broken up asphalt, but the countryside was spectacular!  We stopped in a small town for some typical local breakfast cuisine .... hot raw sugar water with crumbled country cheese in it.  Sounds unappealing, but was actually very tasty.  The owner said its a favorite local dish packed with calories to keep warm in the cold climate.

RobC:  Allow me to elaborate a little on this. I asked the lady at the store for coffee, upon which she adamantly stated that they don't drink coffee in this town. For breakfast they drink "agua de panela" (molasses tea). In fact, she rattled off the entire typical breakfast menu so rapidly (plus the handicap of some missing teeth), that I had to ask her to repeat it several times. Finally I got it: Molasses tea with salted cheese and fresh bread rolls. Fine - we'll take two.

When she brought in the large bowl with the steaming sugary tea and the other items I was going to eat them separately, whereupon the lady marched right up to our table and proceeded to show us how to eat this stuff. She told me to crumble the cheese and let it melt in the tea and then crumble the bread and add that to the tea as well. Amazing, the sweetness of the tea was cut by they saltiness of the cheese and the addition of the bread made it into a complete breakfast. Excellent, I could live on this stuff.

Bikes in front of the breakfast place on the plaza.

Molasses tea with cheese, great local breakfast.

RobT:  We had hoped to reach Bucaramanga by noon but with all the picture taking we didn't make it there until 1:30 pm.

200 km of this took 4 hours.  Had to deal with crawling trucks and other "obstacles" as well. Having said that, 60 kph was average (unless passing a truck) and that was leaning the bike pretty hard in the corners.  No chicken stripes. :)

RobC enjoying the twisties down the mountain.

A family home at the side of the road, overlooking the valley. Those are chickens under the roof.  Yes, the yard drops off to the right.

 Gorge with swollen river at the bottom.

In front of their home by the roadside doing laundry.

Lunch.  RobC ... I forget again,what's this called??  Yes, this is your chance to mock my memory and .... my family will love this .... my vision.

RobC:  Okay, since you asked for it. The large tortilla is called "arepa."  We'll see down the road, but it seems that all of Colombia enjoys "arepas" in many varieties.

As for RobT's vision, he is veeeery perturbed by the fact that my progressive reading glasses helped him greatly as he was trying to read the fine print on a map.  So, guess who will be going to the ophthalmologist upon returning to Canada? He is rather insulted by the whole thing, so please don't bring up the subject.

The "cattle chute," as RobC fondly refers to the motorcycle toll road payment bypass lane on the left. Some of them had steps you had to dodge in that same space. (RobC:  these things are too bloody narrow for my bike. I love the fact that bikes are exempt from paying tolls in this country (please listen, Mexico!), but those cattle chutes make me soil my pants.)

After one of the toll booths we noticed a bunch of people selling the same thing, black things in clear plastic bags of all sizes.  We were curious so we stopped and asked what they were selling ......

Toasted ants .... tasted something like toasted pumpkin seeds.  Very tasty!!

One of the numerous roadside military checkpoints where we would get the thumbs up if the road ahead was safe.  First thing I would do was look at their boots and so far they have always been leather army issue.  No rubber boots yet.

After passing through the large city of Bucaramanga,we turned south and ended up on the other side of the mountain range in the valley on a fairly straight road, but it was getting late by then  We crossed a very large river (the Magdalena river) and called it a day in Puerto Berrio, another frontier type town that was very lively with lots of outdoor patios, people bustling about doing their thing from just hanging around to fixing motorcycles on the sidewalk to doing chores.  Most popular form of transportation ... the scooter.  A ton of 100cc and 125cc bikes and most of them were riding two up.

RobC:  Our hotel in Puerto Berrio was most picturesque. Our room was situated right above a noisy bar that advertised : "70 y 80's Rock and Twis." The hotel management was a little apologetic, but said that the music would stop at 3 am. Actually, I didn't mind, since the music was actually quite pleasant and memorable.

The hotel did have Internet of sorts and secure parking down the street at 3.00 USD a night for two bikes. The mattresses were like wooden boards and the bathroom was of the "drive in and back out" variety. But somehow the place was so pleasant and the people were so nice (and the price was only 12 USD per person a night) that we put up with it. No problem!

Tomorrow Medellin - and then we should finally be heading SOUTH!


  1. HI GUYS: Today in the morning we saw your postcard in SOMOTO, Nicaragua. I am on the road with my bike since 8l.8.,2010 from Alaska to Fireland and up to Brazil with my KTM 950 Adventure. You can see my blog at We stay now in Nicaragua, Granada and will go on 26 th of November on ship to Cartagena, Columbia. Wish you the best for your trip. Josua from Austria

  2. Hallo Josua,

    Nice to hear from you. We are in Medellin right now and will have a look at your blog tonight. Will you be sailing on the Stahlratte to Colombia?

    We´ll be in touch,

  3. OH my!!! i think that was an arepa de choclo, as we call yellow corn arepas. And the aguepanela con queso brings back all the memories.If you have the chance, try the hot panela out of the oven with cuajada or fresh cheese on it. Its called cuajada con melao. Not a fan of, excuse me for using the local name, hormigas culonas. Thats the name of the local dish. What a fantastic trip you guys are having. One question, how was the experience with the sobandera for Rob T's foot? some of them are pretty good at it.

  4. Hi Adriana,

    Glad we are bringing back memories for you. The lady who explained the breakfast menu with aguepanela was speaking a language I can barely understand. Very interesting.

    RobT never made it to the sobandera, and he is doing okay, but I know some of these old ladies in other countries and they know the structural body as well as any doctor, and charge about one dollar to put your bones back in place.


  5. "RobC: As for RobT's vision, he is veeeery perturbed by the fact that my progressive reading glasses helped him greatly as he was trying to read the fine print on a map. So, guess who will be going to the ophthalmologist upon returning to Canada? He is rather insulted by the whole thing, so please don't bring up the subject."

    RobC, thanks for the update as to RT's ocular efficiency. OK - we certainly will not bring this up again.


    Not once.

    Not me.

    Nope - no way.