The only interesting event at the Columbian border is the crew of female customs officers commenting on my eye colour. Columbia welcomes you with unashamed friendliness. Two hours north at a ubiquitous highway police-check-point the guys are more interested in chatting bikes than looking at paperwork. Hola fellas. I’m riding through a town looking around for a lunch spot and a 4×4 pulls alongside me with the window down and a dude leans out to ask me what I’m searching for then leads me to a nice restaurant, parks next to me and has a chat. The people here. Are. Friendly.
Two days north I ride into the Zona Cafeteria where Columbia grows all those beans we rely so heavily on for our espresso addiction (ok I’ll speak for myself). I stay on a working coffee plantation in the old converted Plantation House and tour through the farm and its produce. Fresh cup? This place is essentially pick your own. The township of Salento is a misty-sleepy-backwater that is dangerously difficult to leave. My mate Fernando turns up a day later and we’re reunited briefly as he heads south home to Lima to conclude his trip, me unsuccessful in convincing him The Guyanas are essentially on his way home too.
Along the way I have an electrical problem; my cooling fan isn't working properly leaving Aroha red-hot up hills and in traffic and just about any other time I’m not flying along in the cruise being air-cooled. So when searching for the road to Salento the other day I stopped at a random car park and asked a random guy for directions, who turned out to speak English and was a biker who recommended me a mechanic nearby and organised for me to meet up with his best-friend the following day. This guy, the friend-of-some guy I met on the side of the road, takes me out for the most amazing lunch of the entire trip, wouldn’t let me pay for a thing, and then his mechanic Magician diagnoses the electrical problem, calls his other mate, who then turns up at the workshop 5 minutes later with the exact right replacement part. All the while these generous guys are checking over the bike's electrical system as the mechanic and his crew and his Mum are all hanging out in the basement workshop oooohing and ahhhing over me and the bike. Good fortune? Providence?
It’s time to take on the Capital. It’s Bogota Time. A metropolis the size of NYC or Mexico City isn’t particularly welcoming to a motorcyclist at the best of times not to mention during peak-hour traffic in one-way-streets and roadwork-detours jealously hiding away the historical district and the hostel. This could be a first-person-xbox-game; nope that way didn’t work back track and try another way nope that way didn’t work backtrack and try another way… et cetera. But Bogota is mad cool about it all and lays down a Good Time and Good Vibe and a very cosmopolitan city which surprises by its hipness. Don’t be fooled, Columbians know how to get down. Which again is testament to the resilience of a people that by-rights could be suspicious and bruised after a decade of drug war violence, but instead they're unashamedly abandoned in their vibrancy and open-spiritedness and hospitality. We’ve all been lied to by the media, again. Columbia is safe and rad as hell.