Friday, May 29, 2015

Cartagena City Streets

As some of you know, there has been such a long gap between posts because I decided to return to the US a little earlier than planned to be with a family member who needed an R&R enforcer. As such, I was a little consumed with the details surrounding storing my bike, traveling back to the US, being present here, reverse culture-shock (blog to come soon) and adjusting to being 'home' again. 

Anyway, I'm going to celebrate having FAST and free internet by uploading and posting some pics of Cartagena from the multiple instances where we wandered around completely lost and loved every moment of it... More stories coming soon. I promise.

I love the "NO WIFI" sign

Saturday, May 9, 2015

NEW SHOES!!! (Made by Metzler, of course)

Our first day in Cartagena began with sorting out Roel’s insurance. We rejoined all of the other overlanders at the port and decided to find a cheaper company through which to get insurance.

Roel took my (insured) bike across town to the another insurance company and left me with his Twin. This arrangement worked out VERY well for me. During this time, it began to pour buckets of rain. I huddled under a makeshift shelter I constructed by stringing our tarp between the Twin and our Joey Chairs with a bunch of bungees. Roel, on the other hand, was slipping and sliding all over the place with my Perelli tire that had plenty of life left on it, but that I have been begging to get rid of because I didn’t trust it one bit. Roel had attributed my excessive sliding and fish-tailing to overly-aggressive braking and had been trying to tell me since Guatemala that I was suddenly doing something wrong.

We were already planning to change my front tire because of the bizarre wear pattern that had developed which was causing a ridiculous amount of vibration, but after riding with that Perelli, the first thing Roel said when he returned was:

“We are getting you a new set of tires today. The Perelli is fuc&ing dangerous. And when it started to rain it got scary.”

le-sigh. Thank you, God.

However, when we arrived back at our hotel a blond guy was standing outside and when he saw our bikes he began laughing and snapping photos. Turns out a Norwegian rider Roel had first ridden with in India and then met up with again in Australia, had changed his travel plans and flown to Cartagena to catch up with Roel while he was waiting for own his bike to arrive in Chile. So rather than find tires, we spent the afternoon and evening with Elvis wandering around Old Town Cartagena and chatting all things moto, travel and life.

We did make finding tires a priority the next day and after some comparison shopping and haggling, we took home a set of Metzler Sahara 3s.

In the past, whenever we’ve had a tire change to do, we’ve had some sort of a time restriction so I’ve always helped however much it has been timely for me to do so, but eventually, I’ve gotten to some stage where I give up (most often do to the need for additional brute force) and let Roel take over. Now that we had no time constraint (we’d decided to let ourselves relax and get caught up on some rest in Cartagena), I was determined to do the front wheel 100% by myself.

It was a breeze. Seriously. Well, 98% of it was a breeze. The guys enjoyed beers (and took copious amounts of photos, as you can see) while I sweated and grunted and fought with the rubber.

The resident parakeet tried to steal my tube nut!!!

That was easy!

Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. Next time, I'll do this beforehand.

Elvis eventually gave a hand with sanding some corrosion off of the interior of the rim because I think he was feeling a little guilty and useless ;) Everything was looking pretty dandy until it came to getting the wheel re-mounted. I hit a physical wall. I just couldn’t get it right. And then dirt that I had neglected to clean off of the forks came flying all over the place, covering greasy-need-to-be-clean-bits in grime and we were nearly at the point of melt down. Roel practically pushed me out of the way to finish the job himself. After all, it was 8pm - I’d been going at it for 3 hours. I was using a head-torch to see what I was doing. He’d had enough. But I held firm and sent him and Elvis out for a walk.

After a few deep breaths and some creative placement of the old tire to give me more support, I re-mounted the tire and a feeling of utter relief, glee and pride came over me. Sure, it was just a front tire change but it was my first and it was 100% on my own.

When we had the front tire off, we noticed a VERY strange wear pattern on the old tire:

On most of the tire, the tread was pretty intact and looked like there was plenty of treat left.

On about 35% of my tire looks like this... all in one area.

Cupping pattern

If my tire were a clock, between 10 and 2, the tire is completely worn

Does anyone have any idea why this wear pattern would occur?

Changing the front tire was so easy that I decided I would do the rear tire, as well.

So first thing the next morning, while it was still cool, I began my dance with the rear tire. Roel’s coaching and suggestions of different methods to try were key (especially because I'm pretty sure I tried every method my body wright and strength allowed for - but for the kickstand method), but after 5 hours and many liters of sweat, I completed my first solo rear tire change.

Hey, I said nothing about breaking any speed records.

This may not seem like a big deal to many of you, but I think self-sufficiency is key to many things… confidence-building being one of them.

I do have to mention how un-popular Roel and Elvis became throughout this 8 hour period. Apparently it is not looked well upon to let a woman struggle with rubber and tools for hours on end in this part of the world. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Ferrying Around the Darien Gap to Cartagena, Colombia

Sorry for being MIA for a bit... we're in Colombia (obviously) and keep finding ourselves riding awesome roads that lead to incredibly beautiful places with ZERO wifi. It's been good to unplug a bit, but I'm excited to share all of these wonderful stories and places with you!

I’m going to just make a long story short: there was nothing Xpress about the Ferry Xpress. (Never mind the alternative affordable option being bushwhacking through 80ish kilometers of jungle.) And in all fairness, it's not really the Ferry Xpress's fault - it's Panama's fault. 

It is unlikely that the Ferry Xpress will return to service the Colon, Panama > Cartagena, Colombia route again (they weren’t making enough money) and therefore, my giving you a blow-by-blow account of the process, like I have with other border crossings, will only serve to bore you and re-frustrate me since folks from this point forward will have to cross the Darien Gap using the Stahlratt or by shipping.

Waiting and waiting and waiting to get on-board the Ferry Xpress.

Over the course of 8 hours, we were subjected to some of the most inept bureaucratic BS we have encountered with any border crossing so far. (Big thanks to Yankee Goes South for warning us not to get to the port any earlier than 11am - the Ferry Xpress office tells you that you need to be there at 8am.. so then it would have been 11 hours of BS and I likely would have yelled back at the “officials” who thought the best way to handle 50+ foreigners whose first language in not Spanish was to scream at them. Yes, because that helps us all to understand that after 7 hours of waiting around it’s all of the sudden time to rush towards the ferry that has been sitting 100 feet away all day. Riiiiggghttt.

Anyway, ineptitude.

As soon as we stepped foot on the ferry, I popped a Dramamine. We found a seat and within moments the meds kicked in and I was passed out in the comfy reclining chair. At some stage, Roel blew up our NEMO pads and Fillos, unrolled my sleeping bag and somehow maneuvered my body onto the pad between the rows of seats. (I think most people had opted to upgrade for a cabin, which left us with nearly a full row of seats to ourselves.)

Port of Colon

Our pads were practically camouflaged between the ferry rows

14 hours later, I awoke to freshly brewed coffee (yes, I really am very spoiled) and enjoyed the rest of the ferry ride. Roel, unaffectedly by sea-sickness, roamed the ship for much of the night and day and was quite impressed by the boat.

When we arrived in Cartagena, we rode the bikes off of the boat and onto a holding pier. We went through Migracion, and then handed over our bike paperwork, etc. to a DIAN official who took care of arranging our bike importation (they even paid for copies to be made for us - lovely!).


Everything was going smoothly until only half of the group got insurance paperwork and we were told that the insurance office had only been able to process half of them before closing. CLOSING until 11am the next day!!!

Walking back to the ferry and our rides while the sun sets behind the port. About to find out that only half of us have gotten lucky.

So thus began the process of figuring out where to leave Roel’s bike (I had insurance). Against our norm, we had booked/paid for a hotel room and 1. wanted a shower and 2. didn’t want to lose out on the $25. The other stranded overlanders offered to keep an eye on the Twin and after we locked him up with every lock we had available, we headed into the city for our first night in Colombia.