12/09/2013 05:08 EST | Updated 02/03/2014 05:59 EST

Motorcycle Mecca and More: Medellin, Colombia

First off, thank you to all for the well wishes and kind messages we have received since my crash. I am out of hospital and healing in Pisaq, Peru.

Canadian brother and sister Philip and Jayne Davidson are traveling on motorcycles from the Arctic Circle to Patagonia. This is the latest entry in their travel blog. Read their adventure so far, and see where they are right now, here.

First off, thank you to all for the well wishes and kind messages we have received since my crash. I am out of hospital and healing in Pisaq, Peru. Ribs are sore, but the clavicle is better each day. Jugs is not doing so well with frame issues, but I have found a good mechanic who can un-break that which is broken. Now back to all that happened before the crash...

One of the great parts of motorcycle travel is the instant kinship you have instantly with anyone else also traveling by bike. It is through this kinship that in September we met Rusty (real name, I saw his passport). He saw our bikes pulled in at a truck-stop with a view for the night, and decided he'd stop too. Rusty had been travelling on his 1974 BMW for the past couple years. Nearing the end of his travels, Rusty was a wealth of information for us venturing forth, since he had been there and done that. We would travel together in a mini motorcycle gang to Medellin.

Teaching the youth of Colombia the magic of the truck stop jumping photo


Local kids adding a whole new spectrum to hitchhiking


Rusty's 1974 BMW "Black Betty"

Rusty rides Black Betty in the gang


Fantastic road through the mountains up to Medellin!


Medellin is a fantastic city. The altitude is just right to create weather that is "permanent spring", a very welcome change from the roasting Cartagena and Monteria. Medellin has all the big city services (and motorcycle shops!) without really having a big city feel. There's plenty of ultimate frisbee, history (Pablo Escobar anyone?), cute shops (important to Kelly) and beer dispensaries (important to everyone). We spent our first night in "Casa Kiwi", a hostel located in the more happening "Poblado" area that has a garage and preferential rates to moto travelers. Win win! Getting there wasn't without some snags though, more on that below in the Motorcycle Minute.

Nice as it was, Jayne, Kelly and I left Casa Kiwi after one night. We would return often though to hang out with Rusty and Tom (who rolled in a day later). From Casa Kiwi we moved in to a couch surf hosted by Michael and his Daughter. "Stay as long as you like" he said. Ok. We stayed a week!


We got to share in Luna's 4th birthday festivities!

Across the street and up two floors, a 21 year old girl drinks juice from a baby bottle. Alrighty.

Great neighborhood. Great neighbors. Including the one who helped us break in our first night when we were accidentally locked out... with all eyes watching from nearby balconies.

... and house cages.


Medellin is a hotbed of Ultimate frisbee, giving us the chance to get our fix. Thanks to all the players who let us join in.

A rogue Blackfish jersey made it's way to Colombia. Makes me feel right at home! Amazing scenes!

When not frisbee-ing, we explored the town. One afternoon making a stop in at the Botanical gardens and seeing the fat statues. Apparently there is an amazing butterfly house at the botanical gardens, but they get tucked in to bed at 4pm, so we just missed them.

In our defense, the tire bush was quite captivating. Likely better than any butterflies anyways.

Five Jayne's and a Kelly. We did look at plants in the gardens as well, I swear.


We sat in the train for a break from all the plants. This got the kids hopes up that it might be about to drive away. We entertained them with our quality Spanish to make up for it.


Unfinished sculpture by lazy sculptor Botero


Botero Surfing


Downtown Medellin had many similarities to my last home, downtown Vancouver. Many highrises, art works here and there, many folks out and about, and drug addicts openly engaging in their trade sitting on the sidewalks. All big cities are the same. They really are.

Our next excursion involved public transit. We took the metro train to the metro ski gondola, minus the skiing. There was some mountain biking though.

It's a long way to the top, when you're on the metroooooo


Great view of the whole city, including the slums, from the metrocable gondola ride. the metrocable ride is pretty long ok?

At the top of the Metrocable: "Parque Arví" with FREE mountain bike rental to go explore!


They were a little upset with us for riding off the "approved paved routes"


Back at home, Jayne has been doing much emailing back and forwards working on a project with Martin from Shelter Bay, Panama. Unreliable internet sent her into a tizzy when an important skype meeting that had been set up for days went awry. Minutes before the meeting, the internet cut out, forcing Jayne to run around to buy cell phone internet at the last minute. It's incredible how good wifi has become a "need" these days. Without it, we've fallen well behind on this blog. (Well in part, we've been having lots of fun too).

Without internet access and with things she still needed to do, Jayne was motivated to leave Medellin. It had been a week, she had itchy feet. For me however, I wanted to do a day ride and check out the nearby Guatape rock. I wasn't packed either, and had just hung up wet laundry. Jayne just wanted to leave. I did not. We had been here before.

This time Jayne took the option to head out on her own, in part I feel as a statement of point after not leaving on her own from Monteria. This was annoying for me, as I now found myself having to pack up anyways in order to give Jayne a bag to carry, but not with things I would need. With Kelly on board I didn't quite have enough space on the bike for all of my belongings and hers too.

Frustration in the air, tears were shed, Kelly and I set off one way to a rock and Jayne set off the other towards Manizales. Our first split of the trip.

Guatape is cottage country, with a big rock. A really big rock. "Peñón de Guatapé" or "La piedra". A "monolith", the 3rd largest in the world.

You might expect a fight over a covet-able rock such as this...

...and you would have your expectations met. The rock being near the border of two towns created dispute over who owned it: Guatape or El Peñol. Guatape-ians decided to "settle" the matter once and for all using kindergarten logic: they would write their name on the rock. In 20 metre high letters. In white.

You might expect this would irritate the neighboring folks from El Peñol. You would have your expectations met once more. They watched in horror as a giant letter "G" was painted, then ran as a mob to put a stop to the madness. The towns people were successful in stopping the graffiti, but not before the "G" and down stroke of "U" were completed. That was 30 years ago. And that is how the rock still stands today.

Gee, I wonder who thought that was a good idea?


It's not the only changes the people of Guatape made to the rock, but it is the only really negative one. They also built a staircase up a large crack in the side to allow tourists to walk up to the top.

740 stairs to be exact


That many stairs can be tiring...

...and/or require you to adjust your granny-knee-braces


But once you are at the top, you are treated to the claimed "greatest view in the world".

I guess it´s pretty good.

We´re happy with the view

The ride out to Guatape is quite nice, as was the ride home. Kelly and I stayed one more night at Mike and Luna´s before heading off the next morning to catch Jayne in Manizales, the beginning of coffee country. Rusty got sick and stayed behind, sure that we would meet again somewhere down the road.


Motorcycle Minute (or two, or three...)

Busy times for Jugs and Cricket here in Medellin.

I've noticed that I had been getting worse gas mileage over the last while. On arriving to Medellin, I found out why... when I "ran out of gas" just blocks before arriving at the hostel.

Colombian gas is too expensive to have leak all over the place!

Leaking gas from your petcock will tend to hurt you fuel efficiency.

In fact I hadn't run out of gas, I think gas running up the vacuum tube caused an inability to start up. Regardless I was able to get jugs running again and ride the 4 blocks further to the hostel. As luck would have it there was a Kawasaki dealer right down the street, and they could get me a new petcock "mañana". I've been in latin America long enough to know that I was in for a solid few days of waiting. You can imagine my surprise of course when I showed up at Kawasaki the next day to find my brand new petcock waiting for me, and for just 65$; less than it would have cost me in Canada!

Holy petcock diaphragm batman!


Out with the old.


Also used the disassembly to take the time to check my valves, thanks Rusty for the feeler gauge!


Next we would explore motorcycle paradise: 5-6 blocks of exclusively motorcycle shops and mechanics. If it's broken, someone here can fix it, find a new part, or build you one. Jayne changed her bald Avon Gripster to a new Metzler, while I scoped out new seat foam.

Cricket gets a new shoe

Seat magic at K-Lond

My seat was killing me. In the end I had my seat completely redone. New foam with a gel insert and new vinyl cover, and Jayne just went with the Gel insert. 160 000 pesos total for both, about 80$!

I would also get the divots in my worn rear brake pins welded full and lathed smooth on the spot for just 15$. Beats a couple hundred for a new brake assembly, never mind the shipping costs or the wait!


My previous "fix" with JB weld had failed, go figure.



Back in "el poblado" area, we stopped in at KTM for a gander. Some gander we got.

I´ll leave you with Jayne and Kelly at our favorite neighborhood coffee shop. Sure it´s not moto related, but it was nice.