The warnings were as reoccurring as the rains this time of year,
DO NOT TRAVEL OFF THE MAIN ROUTES IN COLOMBIA!
I’m told there is countless cocaine labs tucked off main roads and into dense jungle across Colombia & gringos on big North American bikes were not likely to be welcomed with open arms. Really though what the hell is the fun in that?
So naturally we had a look on the gps to find a back route up into the misty mountains of Minca. Four different mapping programs couldn’t agree that it was a useable road, so we asked a few locals once we hit the first bit of dirt road. They felt it would be a dead end, however none could confirm they had tried the whole route. I wasn’t exactly flush with reassurance, however I preferred the heart pounding unknown over a bit of boring pavement, so we pressed on.
The roads slowed, narrowed and then turned to more of a well-worn car track. Being as this was mostly my idea I didn’t want to let my Swiss riding partner Philippe know I might have been wrong, so I let him lead to make it a bit more like his idea. Eventually I felt like we were making progress until we came up over the last hill right into a large steel gate blocking the main route. The trial seemed to continue on the other side mimicking a river that was overlooked by an old wooden shack. Rustic like an Alaskan trappers shack or maybe the cover for the infamous drug lab.
My need for adventure was quickly curbed and I thought we best turn around to get the hell outta here before having to explain how we ended up here. My thoughts quickly turned to reality as two curious Colombians quickly materialized from behind the shack to investigate the loud rumbling bikes outside the gate. It’s here where I quickly assess our ability to either escape or our ability to even be found. Lucky for me however Philippe is chatty with a handle on Spanish much better than mine. We kill the bikes but stay mounted while Philippe inquires about a possible route up the backside of the mountain. They explain it’s impassable however we are invited to bring the bikes inside the gate and view the river.
It’s these moments of life where one decides if the fear one has developed in ones head is now founded our unfounded. Phil and I have a quick chat about our options and settle on leaving the bikes on this side of the fence while we walk over
to meet our greeters and view the river.
Naturally I’m awaiting guns to be drawn, cash to be surrendered and our gear to be confiscated, just then another man appears. He’s an older father figure, equally curious about our arrival. I listen intensely while Phil peppers them with questions about the area, what they're doing back in the bush and explains how we ended up here all the way from the other side of the planet.
Handshakes exchanged, a brief tour of the property and it seems we are in the clear. Unlike the drug lord gangsters we had anticipated these bush boys turn out to be like all locals I’ve met since originally departing Canada, all smiles and mostly want to check out our big gringo bikes with all the gear we’ve strapped to them. A half hour of questions, photos and a couple turns sitting on the bikes and they have us pointed back to where we came from to find the hairpin pavement into the mountains of Minca.
After settling into the misty cloud forest in the cool mountainsides of tranquil Minca we opt for more adventure in the back roads of Colombia. This time we could find nothing detailed about the routing and ended up using a little four-inch paper map from our hotel. We met an Aussie mate who just done an in and out over night rip on the road we wanted and said it was passable until it rained, which usually fell hard and heavy in the late afternoons. He however had not done the full loop, it seemed the more people we asked no one really knew much about the full route or at least failed to fill us in on a few of the details.
The road was a sort of ploughed rocky trail wide enough for one vehicle with a few offshoots for passing and enough water bogs to keep you alert, perfect for Phil to try out his new Shinko 705 and me to be reminded as to why the hell mine was back at the hotel while I navigated mud roads on three millimetres of tread. Once I saw Phil get bucked off his bike on a rutty climb I wasn’t feeling too bad about my back end sliding around like it was melting.
The route was beautiful with outcrops gazing over the vast valley expanses and enough mist to give it that magical Land before time feel. The forest opened for the odd coffee farm and even a hippie hillside retreat with the “worlds largest hammock” hanging like a death sentence off a luring rocky edge.
On a bit of a time budget with the rain we navigated cliff sides and creek beds with a bit of help pushing one another out of a sticky situation, I too got bucked off on a rocky hill climb myself. It seemed we might beat the weather until we met a pair on a little 125cc that looked at us like we were a fat guy in a tiny jacket explaining the next corner was a landslide and there was no chance we’d get the bikes through. Like all good advice we’d been given thus far we promptly ignored it and kept going. Sure enough like the aftermath of a game of Jenga, the entire hillside had smeared itself across the main road and nothing more than an overgrown foot path existed to cross the two hundred feet of terrain. With clouds looming we knew the route back would soon be a river of mire, however the route ahead barely existed. We startled a man just walking out that looked at us, our gear and parted with the words “Buena Suerte” (good luck) and scurried on to beat the weather to his next stop.
We walked it from end to end and thought we could roll the dice with removing all our gear and waddling the bikes through pressing against each side. One bolt at a time we unstrapped knowing if the first guy got stuck we’d likely be there
for the night trying to fish the bike out backward.
Now being the nice guy that I am I again let Phil and his new tyre go first. Fluttering the clutch to avoid spinning the rear and burying in the mire he kept a steady pace he could waddle too, I stuck to documenting what I could on camera. Through the newfound jungle like landslide Phil flawlessly made the passage on his DR-Z followed shortly after by me and the trusty KLR, we were gitty like school girls for a few seconds until abrupt interruption by an ear splitting crack of thunder just above our heads. Warning it wouldn’t be long until the monsoon like rains would unleash fury on us.
We quickly hustled back for the luggage one piece at a time, bolted up like a well trained pit crew and made it about half of the one hour out before sure enough the heavens would let loose quickly turning the trail into liquid and our gear a soaking mess that would later have our hotel room resembling that of rugby jock strap.
All warnings aside we were met and given a cautious back country welcome that melted into the typical warm hospitality I’ve come to enjoy from all the locals I’d met across the Americas.
The roads could be what you wanted to make of them, be it the pristine paved toll roads that criss cross Colombia or the extreme ADV roads that once complete instil a confidence in my abilities to “figure it out” with the perfect simplicity of my KLR.
Salsa, supermodels and the excitement that has drool dripping off ones chin while they
install a set of crash bars in their garage mid winter, Colombia is ADV rider heaven.
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