Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Puerto Colombia

Chuck and I left Cartagena, headed for Santa Marta.  Santa Marta is five or six hours up the coast from Cartagena.  The rain began an hour or so after we left Cartagena and that really slowed us down.  We decided to start exercising our relaxed attitude and stop at a little town before Barranquilla called Puerto Colombia.  We drove around the city's streets and eventually found this place called the Pradomar Hotel.  The place was a little run down but still commanded higher prices.  We decided to stay rather than try to find something else.  After negotiating (yeah, right, with our grasp of the language) the best rate we took the room furtherest from the parking area, up the hill and to the right, quite a trip with all our luggage.  

After we parked our bikes, I found two of the office workers waiting for a bus and asked if I could take their picture in front of the bikes (really, again there was a lot of arm waving here!)     
Here is a picture of the name of the hotel with some art they were hosting.  We met the owner, but it was at dinner and I didn't manage to get a photo of him.
The view from the breakfast table
This was one of the workers at the hotel.  He and I seemed to get along pretty well even though neither of us understood a single word the other was saying. 
The beach left a little to be desired at this location if you were interested in getting into the ocean.  I saw a number of people gingerly walking our in the surf trying to protect their feet.
Our room is the first on right.
The premium view of the ocean.  Do you see it there?

We spent two nights in Puerto Colombia at the Pradomar.  It was time to get things repacked and do a little forward planning.  After that we took off on a back road to Barranquilla.

Barranquilla is a remarkably large town with lots of traffic.  It was the first place where we experienced some of the crazy truck traffic that would remain a constant.  When we reached Barranquilla the rain had caused what I thought was major flooding, but apparently is pretty common there.  Then we ran into road construction that blocked the route we planned, so we took the detour.  

I love OpenSourceMaps ("OSM") for our GPS's, and on my GPS it was clear that there was a very short six or eight block alternative to put us back on the route, not the two to three mile detour.  Now I would never complain about OSM because they are free, but sometimes they must loose a little in translation.  I new this wasn't a good idea the first block into the alternative, but it was so steep and rutted from the river running down the middle that there was no way to turn around.  These "roads" were as difficult as any "trail" you would find in Sam Houston National Forest.  I reached the bottom and would have driven right into someones house if I hadn't stopped.  He was on his porch, shrugged and waved me on down the hill.  Chuck said he really didn't like it!  

Barranquilla was like a series of rivers at every cross street.  Water up to the crankcase, flowing at break neck speed with plastic bottles, wood and every manner of trash.  Cars and motorbike alike wadded through like this happens every day, who knows may be it does.  I was to busy trying not to drown to get any pictures of this natural disaster.  After that a very long ride on pretty much open road with no real speed limit.  

Now is probably a good time to tell you about riding in Colombia.  First off is the speed limit is 40kph you can be pretty sure if there is no traffic that someone is traveling at 90 to 100kph.  You either join them or get run over.  We passed a number of policia and para military at significantly above the speed limit and about the only look we got from them was the look of oddity in seeing two HUGE KTM motorcycles with two HUGE Gringos on board.  

The topes (speed bumps) are a trip.  Most every one of them have the topes vendors hawking water, food and probably anything else you can imagine.  The trucks slow down to about, well, nothing, really!  They barely cross these things, mean time cars and bikes are zooming around them at the topes on the left and the right, while the vendors play frogger to get to the truck driver wanting a bottle of water or something to eat.  A wild scene at almost every tope, but to maintain civility the government has a policia or soldier stationed at many topes with an AK47.

Driving through these little towns there are almost always topes, but if that didn't slow down the trucks the hundreds of pedestrians staggering around in the streets usually did.  To see this happening as an outside observer it looks like mayhem.  But once you start riding or driving, it all seems to make sense.  I think the people here all look out for one another and take everything in stride.  I have not seen one case of road rage in many, many situations that would have folks in Houston pulling guns on one another.  

I am not saying it is all roses though, there are so many trucks.  Trucks are everywhere, trucks passing trucks and lines of trucks for blocks.  If it weren't for all the trucks some of the roads would be outstanding motorcycle routes.

On to Santa Marta and the first Hostel that either Chuck or I have stayed in.

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