Doug Ruth's 1996/97 Trip Reports
Date: 4 Jan 1997
To: BMW -GS motorcycles mailing list
Subject: Trip Report - 970104.rpt
Wednesday January 1
I wake up at 10am. Everyone is recovering from last night, including me.
and is taking it easy, slowly cleaning up the mess from last nights
In mid afternoon some us drive back to Manrique. I fall asleep for about
an hour until Carmenza and Jaimie are ready to go back to Faisel's to pick
up Julietta and Francis and do some touristy stuff, since this is
Francis's first time to Medellin also.
With the size of this extended family and all the kids, doing anything
fast is virtually impossible. We always seem to be waiting for one person
or another. Finally Jaimie, Carmenza, Juliette, Francis and I leave,
heading to Rionegro, east of Medellin. We take the same route, north then
east out of the city, that I took coming in on Sunday. But soon we hit
bumper-to-bumper traffic in both directions, stop-and-go, moving no faster
than 10-15mph. The traffic jam went on and on. It was so slow that at
one point a guy in a car going in the opposite direction asked if anyone
in our car had a cigarette and in short order 3 were handed across through
the window. Finally we decided we'd had enough with the traffic and
pulled off at a roadside restaurant/dance club. It had a live band and we
ordered dinner while we waited for the traffic to clear.
By the time dinner was over, traffic had cleared, but fog had moved in and
there were times you could not see more than 10 feet in front of the car.
Jaimie drove while Francis leaned out the passenger window, shouting when
Jaimie drove too near the edge of the cliff on the right side. At one
point the car's headlights failed and we were left completely in the dark
along the roadside. A few minutes of fiddling with the wiring under the
hood got them working again and we were on our way.
At one point, Juliette said something, in Spanish, about going with the
guys to find some women for a little "fuki-fuki". I wasn't sure I had
understood her correctly, and everyone else in the car was laughing, so I
asked for a translation. Francis, Juliette's husband, confirmed I heard
what I thought I had heard. Everyone was still laughing, and I replied
that I thought she was joking, to which Juliette said she was. But
everyone had a good laugh at my expense (and that of my poor Spanish).
Thursday January 2
In the morning, while still in bed, writing my journal on my palmtop,
Lucia brings me breakfast.
Just kind of hung around today, and I knew it was time to move on. They
are beginning to fix up the Manrique apartment in preparation for selling
it, and I accompanied Jaimie, Alex and Carmenza's father to buy paint, a
new door, and other items. It was very different from what one would do
in the States where one would go to one place like Orchard Supply Hardware
and buy everything. Here we drove to one store for the paint, another for
the door, and a third for the lock-set for the door.
After dinner, I go over to Faisel's for the night, since the bike is
parked there and I plan to leave in the morning. I exchange addresses
with everyone, and Francis and Juliette invite me to visit them on Curacao
when I go through Venezuela on my way north. There are auto-ferries to
the island off the Venezuelan coast. Carmenza says, if she visits
California, she will contact me through my parents; she didn't think
Noemi would like me getting a phone call from a strange Colombian woman. I
told her it wouldn't be a problem. I think that's the case. Carmenza
gives me the keyfob in the Colombian national colors she had bought the
other night at Nutibera.
Friday January 3
I knew with the pace things happen around here, to leave at a reasonable
time I'd have to start the process early. So I said I wanted to leave
between 8 and 9 am. After a breakfast which included arepe de chocolo con
queso, a small, sweet, maize-tortilla filled with cheese, (very
delicious), and tito, a small cup of sweetened colombian coffee, we
finally headed down to the garage around 9:30 to load the bike.
Jaimie and Carmenza said they would lead me, in the car, to the autopista
sur, heading out of the city, and then we'd stop at a restaurante for a
coffee. The road soon began to climb up into the surrounding mountains
and after 15 miles or so we pulled over at a roadside cafe.
Over a couple glasses of jugo de maracuya (passion fruit juice) we talked
about the last couple of days. Carmenza asked why I was leaving so soon.
My response, difficult to express in Spanish, was the lure of new places
and the "itch" to get on the road again. When they heard I hadn't tried
salpicon yet, they bought one. It is a cocktain of assorted tropical
fruit mixed with thick cream. Very good.
Carmenza said she hadn't travelled along this road in quite some years and
was enjoying the scenery and they decided to continue on for a few more
miles to the next restaurant. The road continued to climb, and some 8
miles later, at the summit where the road began to descend towards Santa
Barbara, we pulled over at another roadside cafe. We had another snack of
aqua de panela, a common beverage of hot water and unrefined sugar, and
some type of large, flat, hard, sweet cookie, also made of panela, while
the proprietor herded his 5 cows alongside the restaurant to the barn out
back. We walked back there to see the small menagerie of animals,
including cows, goats, pigs, chickens and a calf. We got a tourist from
Quito Ecuador to take a couple of photos of the 3 of us, and then it was
time to go our seperate ways. I gave Carmenza a big hug and the
traditional cheek-to-cheek kiss and then I don my riding gear and get on
Jaimie and Carmenza waited in the car until I was ready and as I ride
past, I stop by the car window and we say our final goodbyes. These two,
and the others in their family had been incredibly generous with me,
making me feel a part of their family and it was tough to say goodbye.
Passing through La Pintada, I find a payphone and call the number I have
for Alonso Flores in Manizales, given to me by Roberto Lee in Panama. I
get through to a woman, I later find out was his mother, who not
surprisingly doesn't speak English, and with some difficulty explain that
I'm a friend of a friend, am travelling by motorcycle from the States, and
will be in Manizales later that day, and would like to meet Alonso. About
that time, I run out of coins to feed the payphone and the call is cut
off. I try to get more change at 2-3 nearby establishments, but am unable
to get any, so give up and decide to try again when I get to Manizales. I
hope the lady is not waiting by the phone for me to call back.
Just north of Supia, I turn off the main road south onto a narrow dirt
road through Filadelfia and Niera to Manizales, a more direct route to
Manizales. Many places it is no more than 1 lane wide and several times I
have to react quickly to avoid oncoming traffic around corners. In
Filadelfia I have to ask directions to find my way out of town. Nearby is
another town nmaed Pensilvania. I meant to ask why the towns with
Pennsylvania-based names, but forgot to.
Entering Manizales, I get stopped at a military checkpoint where they
check my documents, then recommend The Hotel California in town as
reasonably cheap with parking.
On the way along the main drag into town I see a Kawasaki shop, so stop
there to ask for directions to The Hotel California, and hopefully use
their phone to call Alonso. The shop employees are very interested in the
bike and it is more than half an hour before I can ask to use their phone.
I get through to the same lady, and with the help of the salesman,
establish that Alonso is not home, but get another # to try later.
The Hotel California, complete with business cards displaying the flag of
the State of California, was downtown near Plaza Bolivar and had a secure
parking garage downstairs. I passed up on television and got a room for
P15000 plus P1000 for parking. By the time I was ready for dinner, it was
dark and the clerk seemed to think it was very dangerous for me to walk
out to a erestaurant by myself, and insisted that Jorge, an employee,
escort me there. I didn't think it necessary, but the clerk almost
insisted, so I consented. Besides it was someone to talk to, and I bought
him a couple of drinks while I ate. In retrospect, I don't think it was
any more dangerous than any other large city, given that you take the
normal precautions. It's just the perception of the locals that
foreigners are ripe targets, which if you don't use common sense, may be
Later, I call Alonso and he says he will be over in 30 minutes. He stops
by with wife Angelica and he says I am welcome to follow him tonight to
his place, but I decline having already paid and settled into my room at
the hotel. He says he will stop by at 8:30 tomorrow morning, that he
would like me to have breakfast at his place.
Saturday January 4
Alonso meets me at hotel at 8:30 on his Suzuki Intruder, an 800cc
cruiser-type bike. We ride over to his sister Patricia's house where we
have breakfast. Patricia is not there, but his mother Gladys, visiting
from Bogota, is. Alonso used to live here until he got married 4 months
ago. Now he and Angelica live at her parents place 10-15 blocks away.
Alonso is about 35 years old while Angelica is about 20. He offers me use
of his Intruder while I am here so I don't have to unload my gear from my
bike or worry about the stuff on my bike being stolen. I'll be staying
here at Patricia's place.
After breakfast we ride 2-up on the Intruder to his mother-in-law's place
where I meet her and Angelica. We are served another small breakfast.
Tomorrow is the beginning of Manizales' week-long festival with many
activities including bullfights, arts and crafts fairs, billiards and
karate tournaments, coffee queen paegant with participants from every
Latin American country, Spain, and the US, motocross competition, a
soap-box derby, and many bands & dancing, and other activities. Alonso is
having a tatoo stand at the fair and we ride there next and I help set up
the booth. A friend of his from Cali, Fhanor Mondragon, is the tatooist.
Alonso has 3 tatoos, a large tiger on his calf, and two smaller tatoos on
his uppper biceps. Interestingly enough, Fhanor doesn't have any tatoos
During the day we make a number of trips on the Intruder to buy various
equipment for the stand. Only the driver of the motorcycle needs to wear
a helmet, the passenger does not. Although even this law is not strictly
enforced as I see quite a few motorcyclists without helmets.
That evening we ride out to Neira, a small town up in the mountains
surrounding Manizales, which I rode through when I came to Manizales
yesterday. Angelica grew up there and her older sister and her husband
still live there. Angelica lines up a friend of hers, Dianna, to ride on
the back of my G/S, which means removing the Givi topcase, which is easy
to do without using any tools, and then using a cushion on top of the
rack. Dianna was initially a bit dubious about the cushion arrangement,
but afterwards said it was comfortable. We pick up Dianna at her place
and her parents come out to meet the gringo-biker taking their daughter
out. Dianna is a first-year college student studying travel/tourist
administration, and is very attractive.
The ride to Niera is over a windy paved mountain road in fairly good
condition, and initially it offers some good views of Manizales at night.
We stop first at her sisters place where we have coffee, then go out to a
disco a couple of blocks away where we have some shots of aguardiente and
do some dancing. Once again, my dancing sucks. Back at Dianna's sister's
place we are served some more coffee and some pastries, then head back to
Manizales, after giving a small tip to the young boy we had told to watch
our bikes parked by the curb.
We get back to Patricia's house about 1:30AM, and at this point I haven't
even met her or her kids yet. I'm assigned the bottom bunk-bed in the
kid's room. There are two little girls sleeping in the bunk above me and
Gladys is sleeping on a trundle, pull-out bed in the same room.
In the morning I would meet Patricia and her 3 daughters, Viviana Paola
Sanchez Acosta, age 5, Tatiana Patricia Sanchez Acosta, age 6, and Maria
Paula Sanchez Acosta, age 7. [Note: each of the girls typed in their
names above, and each insisted in typing in their complete name.)
I would also meet Alonso's son, by a previous marriage, Jose Luis Florez
Isaza Zapata Acosta, age 8.