Day 63 – Zipaquira to Flandes

We think Colombia is beautiful and awesome and our favorite country of the trip so far, but we woke up this morning ready to get to Bogota, get Kay’s license plate, and get moving. We’ve spent longer than we intended here, waiting for the plate, which cuts the rest of our trip short. Just 7 weeks to get down to Ushuaia and then up to Buenos Aires to fly home!

We’d done some intense Google Mapping with our intermittent internet connection this morning, and I made an executive call to take the big road that goes directly into Bogota from Zipaquira. Kay had wanted a more indirect route that traverses less of the city, but I thought this way would actually be faster, so I requested he concede to me and take the route I wanted. Which he did, and it was great… we got right into Bogota with no hassle, and then found the road we needed to go sorta east across the city. But when it came time to get on the road that heads northwest to the airport, we must have missed the exit. We noticed our mistake and got off a bit further and started circling back – but we simply couldn’t get on the road we wanted in the direction we wanted to go. It took us nearly 45 minutes of turning and turning and circling back until we could finally get on the road to the airport.

Bogata Street Art

And then, of course, we went too far (Kay spotted what ended up being the right turn, but I wanted to go further because I was afraid that if we got of the road to the airport again, we’d spend another 45 minutes trying to get back on it.) More circling around, which this time involved going all the way across town on the road leading from the airport until we could make an illegal U-turn to get back and try the turn Kay thought it was.

Kay’s note: to get to transversal 93 take the sign for “Almo”. Also, that’s where all cheap hotels near the airport appear to be. Most of them appear to have parking that is hidden from the street.

Eventually we made it back and it was, indeed, the correct turn. Found the industrial park where the FedEx office was located with fairly little trouble using the street numbers (although there was no FedEx sign out front – it’s buried in the back of the complex) and had a little trouble getting in because Kay didn’t have a license plate for the guy to record, and neither of us wanted to hand over our passports and didn’t have another form of ID he wanted. But we played dumb gringo and eventually he let us through, and told us the FedEx people would have to stamp these pieces of paper he gave us. But they apparently weren’t taking any chances with the clearly dangerous gringos, as one of the security guys walked back to the FedEx building and waited there until we pulled up and got off the bikes, making sure that was, indeed, where we were going.

Kay got his package with a minimum of fuss (Thank you so much, Diane!) and opened it up in front of the FedEx building. He’d saved some wire from removing the Aerostich multimeter yesterday, and intended to tie it to his frame since the plate holder thing had fallen off along with his taillight. But the FedEx guys quickly cottoned onto the problem, and brought a fist-full of zip ties out to us – industrial-strength zip ties. Kay proceeded to try a few anchor points and eventually found a good spot to secure the plate, and used a doubly-reinforced system of zip ties and wire to bodge the plate onto the bike, much to the amusement of the FedEx people.

Attaching the new plate

By now, it was 1:15PM, we hadn’t had breakfast or lunch, and we just wanted to get out of Bogota. I’d also mapped us a route out taking a different road than we’d taken out of Bogota the first time (through Soacha this time instead of La Mesa, which I think is probably the main route to Cali) and gave in and stopped for food when we saw a Dunkin’ Donuts sign at a gas station leaving Soacha. I wasn’t hungry at this point, but I was dizzy and lightheaded which is a bad combo for being on the bike. But neither of us having eaten, we knew it was high time to grab food, and at least we knew what to expect from Dunkin Donuts.

Alas, we spent double what we normally spend on a meal (triple some of our cheap meals) and had a very mediocre meal at Dunkin. A couple of their “flat” sandwiches, and a donut, each – the flats were ok but somewhat flavorless and I had to force myself to eat the second one because I knew I needed the calories. It was insane how much it cost (around $24 US, and most of our meals between $5 and $10 US) but we didn’t know where else to look for food and we were grateful for the opportunity to eat something other than chicken or carne asada at this point.

Colombian Countryside

Colombian Countryside

Colombian Countryside

When all was said and done, we rolled into Giradot around 5PM and decided to stop there for the night. We had well over another hour of light, which would have gotten us to Ibague, but we were annoyed with the hotel and parking at our last stay in Ibague so neither of us wanted to stay there again. We kept seeing signs advertising hotels, but when we’d turn down the road, there was no hotel to be seen. In the end, we drove for 40 minutes, checked 4 hotels and ended up in the next town over – Flandes – before we found a place to stop. It was more than we usually spend but we just wanted to stop looking at that point, it had air conditioning, seemed clean, and promised internet. The internet, sadly, isn’t working after all, and we might not have paid this much for the room had we known… but it got us off the bikes for the night.

Went down to the “restaurant” and the guy explained that he could call anywhere we wanted to get us food. Did we want pizza, etc.? We’d tried pizza last night in Zipaquira which had gone horribly awry, so we gave the pizza another shot. Asked for a grande Hawaiian and a large Coke to share. Sat on the balcony working on catching up the writing for our blog, even though we can’t post it, and the promised pizza arrived in a timely manner. And was huge. And came with 3 liters of Coke. And, it turns out, neither of us wanted to eat it once we tried it. Kay said at one point that “It tastes like someone put ham, pineapples, and cheese on a donut” – which neither of us particularly wanted to eat. So today we’ve spent more than we’d normally spend on hotels for two nights for two meals, and only ate one of them.

Expensive day here in Colombia.

Kay headed out again and wandered around in the dark until he found a restaurant a few blocks away, and chose the woman who had the most pots of yummy-smelling things to get us dinner. Second dinner turned out much better. Try, try again!

Kays note: it wasn’t so much a restaurant as a collection of tables and chairs behind a long table with lots and lots of silver pots on it, illuminated by a street light. All the other places on the street with tables only served alcohol.

But now we have Kay’s new license plate, Yay! So tomorrow we get to cross over the ginormous mountain range over to Armenia again, and then start heading toward Ecuador. Probably two more days of riding (maybe three if we decide to tackle the border crossing early in the AM instead of at the end of the day) and then we move on from Colombia, finally!

(PS: Minor medical note – my itchy red dots are getting worse. They’ve doubled in number and itchiness, and now they’re all up and down my arms and legs. One on my neck, too. Kay commented again today that they seem like chicken pox, but I’ve had chicken pox before. Not sure what else they could be. If only I had the Internet to do some research… but I guess I’ll just keep taking the anti-histamines and hope it’s just some sort of infection that my body can fight off.)

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