Colombia: Blue Moon Over Bogotá
Imagine the most amazing motorcycle road in the world. What would it be like? Would it race along the Pacific coast like California’s Highway 1? Would it launch you high into the Andes where condors soar beneath the clouds? Maybe you would be greeted by ghosts of the ancients as they watch over their people from the parapets of an old castle … and would those people warm your heart with their kindness and their smiles? If it was all of this, and laced with asphalt ribbons disappearing into a wooded pathway struggling for significance against a persistent rain forest, it would be Colombia. And, it would smell like coffee.
Hot out of Medellín, we clap the spurs to our BMW R 1200 GS motorcycles and lay into the twisty asphalt. There is hardly a straight road in Colombia with the exception of a few modern highways crossing the lowland flats near the coast. In a lapse of attention I fail to check my mirrors, and a vicious roar sends a jet of adrenaline through my bloodstream. A white Mercedes-AMG bolts past and wraps itself around the next turn like an Indy Car. I twist the throttle and pick up the pace. We scamper through the curves until a policías acostados (speed bump) forces us to slow down. My tour guide, Mauricio Escobar (a.k.a. Micho from Adventures57), eases to the front and takes us down a backroad leading to the Puente De Occidente Bridge. I find a place in the grass by the river where I can rest my head on my backpack for a nap. Closing my eyes, my mind drifts through a fog of half-sleep, recalling the first days of this adventure.
I feel a twinge of concern as I load gear on my GS. I often ride alone, preferring to let the road show me what it has to offer. Choosing to ride with a tour operator was a gamble. Involving a guide means I must comply with someone else’s idea of a good time. I shake it off and cinch down the straps on my Kriega UScombo50 soft luggage, just as my host arrives at Hotel B3 where I had spent my first night in Bogotá. My arrival coincides with August’s second full moon. I wonder if this blue moon foreshadows the rare possibilities presented by Colombia.
Micho leads the way through Colombia’s capital to an open-air breakfast of Arepas Rellenas de Queso (cheese stuffed corn cakes), fried eggs, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and a rich brew of Colombian coffee. This is a nice start. We savor the anticipation of what is to come as we move away from the country’s center. After discussing the merits of our machines, we are off to meet Micho’s friends at a gas station on the edge of town. Alejandro Gómez, a top qualifier for Colombia’s GS Trophy team; Nickolás Upegui, BMW Motorrad Director for Colombia; and two of their riding buddies join us for the first few miles. We pour through traffic like warm molasses, splitting lanes and leaving slower trucks and cars to haggle for their places in line.
Shortly after noon our group separates, leaving Alejandro, Micho, and me to tackle the first rural roads as we travel southeast toward Barichara. Traffic is still an issue, but we pass when it is safe based on skill and available power. This practice puts us in the clear in seconds. Alejandro sets a brisk pace, which although thrilling, prevents me from looking around as much as I would like. I swerve around a sheep and meet a truck attempting to claim the same point on my space-time continuum. A quick roll off and tap of the brakes prevents an awkward double occupancy of the asphalt. Alejandro turns toward home mid-afternoon, allowing us to slow down and immerse ourselves in the beauty and culture of a country often thought of for its coffee and its drug trade.