Cartagena - Colombia

After doing plenty of research about crossing back to Panama, either by boat, plane or an adventure along the Darien Gap with some roads and small boats - which can turn out into a nightmare epic at this time of year!. ( The gap is still not connected and most like will never be, due to drug trafficking and multiple other reasons.)
I knew my options were slim to get myself and my bike across for a fair price.
While surfing the net, I came across the - Meta Comet - A reliable looking boat with a price to fit my budget.
My bike dilemma was solved and it was time to ride my last 120 kms to Cartagena to meet this boat.
Bianca came with me for her last ride and to spend our last couple days together in Cartagena.
We arrived at the dock just in time to meet 4 guys who just happen to come off the boat with their motorcycles. Unfortunately we didn't get enough time to chat since the guys on the barge didn't have all day to wait for me and my bike. Next thing I knew, my bike was being loaded on the barge.
We wish the boyz a good trip around on their journey south and motored out to the Meta Comet.

With good timing and a good help, my bike was quickly loaded on the barge.

So the plan is to sail from Cartagena to Puerto Lindo Panama with this boat...
The Meta Comet, a 75 foot old sailing/ wooden fishing boat. Looks cool.
Not really!
Once my bike was loaded on board and tied down, we met Julia the Russian helper and had a quick chat with Herve, the captain. While he showed us around. The boat was bare, not really
any beds or even a toilet to use, our thoughts for spending a nice evening on board was out of questions. I then asked the question - " So when do we leave? " expecting to be in the next day or so. " Oh! not till next week" - " Sorry, I forgot to tell you on the phone" he says.
The main sail was ripped from heavy seas on the journey from Panama, Herve needed to Chill a few days from a rough sail and he also wanted to go to Santa Marta to try and get more crew from Hostels to fill up his boat and lots needed to be done before getting back out at sea.

I was chocked, my bike was now on the boat and we had no intention to stay on the boat for the night so we walked to the old part of Cartagena to have a bite to eat and make a new plan now that we were without my bike for a week.

Local bus ride in Cartagena.

Sunset over Cartagena city.
This is what they thought about USA.... one messed up country.
Julia of Russia will be at your service while on board, but now she's cleaning the kitchen before
Captain Herve coming out of the front cave after a long night.
Skyline view of Cartagena's sky scrappers.
"If we don't do it? who will do it?" a quote from the boat... do what is what I always wondered.
Stormy night &

Spinning around the city.

Back to Colombia.

The day had finally arrived where a decision had to be made if I was going to
continue to Ride the Dream or not. I already had my return ticket to Colombia,
my bike was parked in Barranquilla on the Caribbean Coast. With winter around
corner, my mind was set for some warm sun and surf, so there I was boarding on
my flight back to Colombia.
The journey back was long. Over 30 hours of sitting in airports and planes. But the
closer I got to Colombia, the more my heart was looking forward to sit back in the
saddle of my bike and ride it back to Canada. The idea of leaving my bike behind
after all these miles or to sell it was heart braking.
My return was booked to arrive in Bogota on the night of my birthday. Every year for
my birthday, I always try to be somewhere to remember it, either if it's climbing, skiing
or sitting on a plane. It' s always been a day not to forget... and this one, I will always
remember it very well...
Bianca and I landed in Bogota completely exhausted and with a bit of culture shock. Sitting in a taxi on our way to a hostel in the center brought back memories of 5 months ago before we left Colombia to fly back to canada. For some reason, it felt like yesterday.
We spent several days under wet, grey and cold Bogota waiting to catch our flight back to the
Barranquilla where Bianca's mother lives and where my bike was stored.
Our initial plan was to get back to Suesca to rock climb several days, but due to heavy rain, the only climbing we did was Indoor, (Gran Pared) a great climbing gym with plenty of steep routes to satisfy our climbing craving and get pump.

On the morning of Dec 3rd, we got back into another adventure taxi ride towards the airport
to catch our flight to Barranquilla. We were getting nervous about missing our flight as the
taxi drive took us on a labyrinth ride around the congested city construction. His car also
felt like it was ready to break down at any minute. Finally made it with less then an hour to get to our flight. We were happy to finally sit on our plane looking out the window and leaving the city behind and land in warmer climate on the Caribbean Coast. I was also looking forward to reunite with my bike...

Back to Bogota.

We spent most of our days walking around La Candelaria area of the city checking out street art.

Hostel Musicology - cheap and friendly staff.
Climbing indoor at Gran Pared in Bogota
Bianca on climbing the steep roofs.
Super steep routes
Waiting to board our final last plane to Barranquilla.
Goodbye Bogota!
You can see the flooded river... Colombia has been hit with heavy rain.

The moment we landed in Barranquilla, we immediately felt the intense heat and humidity of the coast but it felt good. At least the sun was shining and we were glad to be out of the cold city of Bogota.
It was nice to see my bike again. But when I tried to start it, it didn't fire up right away. Thinking maybe due to a dead battery I gave it a push start and it went. The next day I took it to a shop to get an oil change so it would be ready for the road ahead.
Bianca and I rode it to a Geto - dirty and dodgy part of the city where most bike shops are located.
I found a place to change the oil, but I needed to find an oil filter, the mechanic told me to go see another shop near where I could find one. They didn't have any, then we walked to several different shops and none had one for my bike. We came back to the bike meanwhile the mechanic had already taking out the oil without waiting to see if I could find the filter I needed.
He then told me he would find one, so nearly one hours went by and still no oil filter. I was starting to loose patience with this mechanic who just seemed to walk around chatting with everyone more then searching for my filter.
After he came back twice with the wrong filters, I put back the old one in my bike, filled it with new oil and just wanted to get out of there. But not so quick... My bike now didn't start! Thinking again maybe the battery was too weak, the mechanic told me he knew a place to check it out... so we went, pushing my bike to another shop.
This mechanic now claiming to be a good one who has worked on all the police Suzuki bikes, told me the issue was caused from a bad pick up coil. The exact same problem that had been occurring since Merida in Venezuela after that mechanic had stripped my bike apart changing all the wires and pick up coil was replaced by a generic one, then again.. the problem was back in Medellin, another mechanic changed it and said it was like new... but turned out to be a nightmare ride back to Bogota thinking we wouldn't make it back. ( see archives - a day I'll never forget)
I changed it again in Suesca, the bike worked fine for a 1000 kms to the coast... and here it was again, electrical issues started all over.
In Colombia, it's nearly impossible to find the original parts, so every mechanic seem to have a way of fixing things with generic parts that only causes more problems down the road. And now, the problem was back.
We sat in the bike shop for 6 hours, Bianca read half of her book while I tried not to loose patience with this mechanic telling me it will be like new again, that he would be changing several things with original parts.
Original parts made in India??? I don't think so! My bike was still not running properly.
The mechanic told me he had another solution, that he could fix it but not until the next morning since all shops here now closed. We were now starving and tired and disparately wanting to get out of this shop, so we got a taxi home.

The next morning, we called "Ramon" the mechanic, he told me for 350 000 pesos (200$) he would have the bike running like new with his new solution. Leaving me with no choice but to agreed to get it done and over with.
When we arrived in the afternoon to get my bike, it was still apart, he wanted to show me what he had done. He somehow bypass some electrical so my bike wouldn't run from it's original CDI unit - a very important electrical box where all the electrical is generated to. Now making my bike even worse.
He promised it would run perfect and that he had done this to other Suzuki bikes in the past. The bike started fine, seem to work fine, but totally screwed up all my electrical.
I was ready to rip his head off, I asked to show me the bill so I could get my bike out and away from his shop.
Numbers starting adding up, when he told me this and that cost so much. I knew he was just trying to make a little extra cash from a Gringo. His bill was nearly 650 000 pesos! ( over 400$!!!) Bianca and her mom were both with me to help with the spanish and negotiate. He was still trying to make me believe that he had replaced some parts with the original, but knowing all this was bullshit, I was sick of these mechanic rip offs. I slapped 200 000 pesos in his hands (100$) Grabbed my helmet and
drove away. He didn't even have a chance to realized what had happened. Thinking he was going to win with a Gringo and pay him big bucks for a shit job.
Now I have less then 150 km to ride until Cartagena, hoping my bike will get me there, were I will be sailing to Panama.
Meanwhile keep my fingers crossed that my bike will run and take me there...

Mechanics trying to diagnose the problem once again.

A short action clip

This is a short slideshow from mix images over the years...
just to bring back some good days playing in the fresh air.
Music by DJ Martin Lusignan

One month at home.

We have now been in Ottawa Ontario a month visiting my family. The city isn't really my place so we need to keep active and find ways to burn extra energy. Running as been one good way to get our legs and lungs in shape and indoor climbing is the most we can do out here. This isn't Squamish! No 600 meter walls are found around the
area, so indoor climbing gym will have to do. We found a good gym ( nearby.
A great gym with plenty of quality boulder problems and routes.

It's been great to get back in our climbing shoes and get pump.

Finding a path of fresh air near Ottawa.
Trail running in Ottawa

Oh Canada!

A couple enjoying a ride on a tandem bike near Ottawa.
When the Canadian goose birds are flying south, it's also time for us to head south!

It's not a John Deer!

One weekend we drove north to Sainte Agathe near Mont Tremblant to visit my
good friend Martin and his family. Martin and I made the move to the west coast back in
the early 90's. I never came back, ended up staying in the Sea to Sky area to call it home. Martin on the other hand, came back to Quebec to find a cheaper way to live then the expensive West Coast. It' had been many years since we saw each other so catching up was a must.
His lady Brigitte cooked some amazing meals. Thanks Brigitte!
Unfortunately the first weekend we went up, then weather wasn't the best, so we came back the weekend after to enjoy a last stretch of warm weather and get on some rock.
I was very excited to climb in Val David again, This is the place I first got introduced to climbing - 20 some years ago!
I needed to climb all those classics that scared me while learning this new sport.
They sure seemed easy this time around.

Martin on the last pitch of L'arabesque, another classic Quebec at Mont Cesaire
Passing the crux
Martin slam's in a cam on Bloody Hands

Martin's son Justin, climbing in Val David
Here I am leading a classic route, Bloody Hands in Val David
Warm and tasty Chily... So many Thanks to Brigitte for her wonderful home

Someone else who doesn't like the cold.

It was good to spend time with our friend Stephane and his little boy Sol. We met Steph while climbing in Suesca Colombia. He has spend many years back and forth in the country. It was good to catch up with him in Montreal and chat about Colombia.

mmmm. wonder what this one means? Plumber go to the back!
Montreal architecture

Pond Jacque Cartier and the Molson beer company... real Montreal landscape.
Oh yes, the Quebec flag

Chilling in Parc Lafontaine in Montreal.

Colors of fall, one thing I do miss on the west coast is the smell of dry leaves.