Colombia: The Far Side Of The Moon

Text: Ramona Eichhorn, Uwe Krauss • Photography: Ramona Eichhorn, Uwe Krauss

Riding a motorcycle around the world is the ultimate learning experience. Take Colombia. Whenever Uwe and I had thought about the northwestern-most country in South America, we immediately imagined drug cartels, chaos, and danger. We could only visualize the dark side of a country whose people have lived through many years of terror. But traveling there, we came to discover another facet rarely brought to light: Colombia was the place we had most misunderstood. Its warmhearted people turned out to be the most hospitable we've ever met, and they welcomed us with open arms wherever we went.

Statistics tell us 3,000 people are kidnapped in Colombia every year. So riding a motorcycle there seems like we're asking for trouble. But Ted Simon, the icon of motorcycle travelers, dared to do it - twice - and moreover, on that second occasion he was over 70 years old. According to him, a most reliable source, Colombia is the most beautiful country on earth.

But when we were in Ecuador, we still had to weigh the pros and cons, and resolve whether we would go there or not. The simplest solution (but a rather boring alternative for the adventurous spirit) would have been to skip Colombia altogether and fly ourselves and our bikes from Quito to Panama, avoiding all the imagined, and possibly real, trouble. But a look at a topographic map promised us too many scenic apogees to pass up. South America's "spine," the Andes, divides Colombia into three different mountain ranges; and, to the north, the Caribbean coastline lures one with sandy white beaches, colonial architecture, and pirate fortresses that no postcard can do justice to.

A good thing about statistics is that the analyst can interpret them any way he chooses. In our case, it came down to this: after determining that we would always heed the locals' advice and never ever ride at night and take every possible precaution, we decided to go for it.

Hummingbirds and Coffee
After crossing the border from Ecuador, we're riding as if we expect to find a roadblock around each corner and, of course, that kind of anxiety spoils everything. If we don't want to feel that way for the next two months, but, rather, fully appreciate the beauty of the lush green mountains in the south, we have to change our attitudes. Paranoia makes no sense at all. Nor do the imaginary dialogues with armed terrorists. Taking a deep breath, we pause, look around, and begin to revel in the gift we've been given. Waterfalls drum against mossy slopes overgrown with ferns. Hummingbirds flit and hover, drawing the sweet juice of orchid blossoms down their long, dry beaks.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the March/April 2007 back issue.