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.