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Corporate Runaways

Overland travelers and certified geeks, based in Vermont.


14-Minute Read

Today has been a hodgepodge of emotions.

We took the elevator down to the hotel lobby, and one of the bell-hops asked us to wait, then ran back up to check if we’d grabbed anything from the “minibar” (fridge of soda, beer, and assorted toiletries). When he came back down he informed the desk that we hadn’t and they then informed us that they’d accidentally only charged us the rate for one person and they’d need another 8000 pesos (a little over $4).

This, I felt, was bullshit. First off, hotel prices are entirely fictional to begin with. Especially the pricey ones. Second, it was absolutely clear there were two people who would be in the room, and they watched us both come in. They took down information from both passports. It was clear from the beginning that there were two of us. Third, when you do screw up and accidentally forget to charge someone a small part of your entirely fictional price you just leave it. It’s not like they were loosing money on the deal.

Then, when we get to the bikes and start loading up, the garage guard/attendant comes by and asks for the plastic plaque we’d been told to put on the bikes. I’d started to gently wedge it between dash and windshield and a corner had snapped off the other day. I figured they’d be somewhat annoyed but didn’t think to point it out to the guard who’d just handed it to me. I should have, because todays guard was all annoyed and wanted money for it.

I played stupid, and ignorant. I’m good at that. Eventually, with lots of intentionally confusing Spanish statements from me he said he’d go talk to the hotel. And, in the end they payed the 5,000 pesos for it. Which I felt good about because they’d pulled the bullshit with the 8,000.

Packed up, with escape instructions from google confirmed by the bellhop we started our ride up into the mountains. Beautiful twisting roads that went up, around, back, and up some more; gradually at first, and then more steeply, and sharply. It was wonderful, or, it would have been, if not for the semis… the endless, overloaded semis creeping up ahead of us.

We started out obeying most of the laws: passing only in designated areas, or long straightaways, but as the road became steeper and more windy those became few and far between, until eventually we were passing six semis at a time on the right, at speed, around blind corners, hoping that the shoulder would continue, and the trucks wouldn’t swerve right until we made it to the front of the line.

We rose to 3318 meters and then started down through the clouds that had become wedged against the far side of the mountain. The trucks were now creeping downward, engine braking in first and visibility dived to maybe fifty feet so we were a bit hesitant to try passing on either side. Eventually though the clouds thinned somewhat, along with our patience, and we went for it.

It was brilliant. It was adrenaline filled, and it was something you should never tell your parents about. ;)

(Dachary’s note: Kay kept saying “You’ve gone native, woman!” yesterday when I was suggesting we pass in non-passing zones, etc. And yet today he was all like “Oh, they’re going wide to the left – let’s pass on the right!” Passing 6 semis on the right in a shoulder that may run out at any second (and occasionally did), btw? Friggin nerve-wracking and feels so wrong and yet… strangely glorious. I love riding a motorcycle. We made it up that mountain and back down again in a fraction of the time that a car would take because we could pass in tiny spaces where vehicles were never meant to pass. Oh yeah.)

We made it to the outskirts of Armenia where we pulled over for another enormous tasty lunch with chorizo, Chicharrón, ground beef, rice, lots of red beans, a quarter of an avocado, a fried egg, some plantains, and a teeny tortillaish thing.

Protien baby!

Sadly, I wasn’t feeling very meaty today, but I thoroughly enjoyed all the non-meat parts. I’ve also decided I’m not a fan of chicharrón, which is essentially sliced pig fat fried and held together by the skin… or, this version of it was.

So, on we went, unsure if we’d venture back into mountains, or not. Instead we found minor ups and downs as we bore down on a lightning storm. It wasn’t clear if the road would skirt around the edge, or head straight into it, but we decided to pull over when we saw a gas station and pull out the covers for our tank bags, and got a beep and a wave from a passing adventure rider. We both thought he’d probably turn around and come back to talk, but alas…

We held off on the rain liners for our jackets because it was just too toasty to put them on “just in case”, but soon thereafter it became quite clear that we were headed for the storm, and we pulled over and put them on. Neither of us bothered with the rain liners for our pants because neither of us really seems to care about our legs getting wet unless it’s also cold out.

Not one kilometer later we saw a line of raindrops in the road: big, hard, fast, splattery raindrops. They fell so quickly that Dachary started in with the “ouch! these hurt!” I didn’t notice so much because the material in the BMW jacket is thicker than the RevIt, but soon even it wasn’t enough as the rain intensified and even I was smarting.

Our legs were wet within a couple minutes, which was fine, until a small rivulet started running down my left leg towards the boot. It hadn’t occurred to me that the waterproof liner keeps the water out of the boot too. It’s just been so long since I’ve ridden in rain… which is very odd for me as most years I’m regularly getting rained on.

We discovered that in addition to potholes, speedbumps, and missing pavement, latin americans are also afraid of driving in the rain. We were the fastest things on the road, which, thankfully had a speed limit of 90kph (about 55 mph). We both have the Anakee tires on and they’re brilliant in the wet. The only problem was the occasional slippery painted arrow on the road. They gripped, and held, and the peaks on our helmets kept an enormous percentage of the raindrops from our visors so we just plowed on, occasionally slowing when visibility and speed combined to make it a bit dangerous.

But, we came through it, out onto the wide flat plains, with high speeds, and emerging sun. With nearly a hundred kilometers to go averaging about 90kph we we drying as we went. By the time we made Cali the shells of our jackets had nearly dried, although our legs and crotches were still damp.

As per usual, we drove in circles for a while, closing in on our destination, the Hostel Casa Blanca. Along the way we asked directions, and a bicyclist tried to help, but didn’t know where to go until someone else walked over and gave us perfect directions. The bicyclist took off and we followed the directions… the bicyclist was too. We ignored the directions at one intersection, as the street appeared to continue. It didn’t It took a right, and then another right even though we were in a fairly standard grid of streets. I shit you not. Calle 26N in Cali continues around three sides of a block. The bike came back, waved, and we followed, although we were about to go that way anyway. At the end of the block we took an illegal right to pull into the driveway of Hostel Casa Blanca. The bicyclist hung around waiting for one of us to give him a tip for guiding us the two blocks to the hostel, and I gave him 2,000 pesos (about $1US) just to make him go away and not have to debate whether or not a tip was warranted.

Inside I discover a rather nice hostel, with private rooms, as promised. With only one issue. No private bath. Now, we’re not prudes, but our plan was to chill in Cali for three nights, and, quite frankly, we like being naked at night (neither of us brought pajamas), and being able to get up and pee when we feel like it without getting dressed first… especially in the middle of the night.

Dachary was definitely not into the idea of staying in a place with a shared toilet and shower for three days. She didn’t want to stay for one day, but we had no idea where anything else was that would have safe parking, and neither did the girl working the desk. Sadly, with the heat, the rain, and the long day, Dachary was pretty beat, and actively avoiding making any decisions.

I managed to get an confirmation of sorts that she really didn’t want to stay even one night, although she told me to “do what you want” with regards to it. So, we had two options: drive randomly around town looking for a hotel, or grab a cab and have them take us somewhere. Both involved getting on the bikes so I got her ready to mount up when the adventure rider who’d beeped at us earlier pulled up.

He thought, as we did, that there were rooms and probably they’d just been reserved, and he had a reservation. I had confirmed that there were absolutely no rooms with a bathroom available. He said he’d go check if his had one. We’d told him we weren’t interested in staying in a place with no connected bathroom, as our goal was to chill out and relax for a while, and I think he was implying we could have his room if it had a bath as he suspected. Regardless, he returned with the news that none of the rooms in the place, including his reserved one, had a bathroom. Alas…

We chatted about our trips, gave him a card, and totally forgot his name, but he’s from Montreal, and heading down to Santiago. Hopefully he’ll drop us a note.

Pulling out I did one of those slow motion zero speed tip overs, and a passer-by “helped” lift it, and with thanks, we started off heading “that way”. Dachary didn’t seem too pleased with the randomness, and total lack of hotels we were finding and we discussed where best to hail a cab when we pulled up next to one at a stop light.

I asked him if he knew where a “hotel economica” with parking for the bikes was, he thought a minute, and had an idea. I said good, and told him to go, and that we’d follow him. And we did… the first place was like four blocks from a parking lot, which doesn’t work for us. The second looked outrageously priced, but had no parking, the third was outrageously priced, and had parking. We talked with the guys outside and they suggested that we should go in and negotiate the price. I suggested that there was no way they’d come down from 350,000 to my upper target price of 80,000 ($40), and they agreed, discussed, and eventually sent me in to the lobby anyway to see what could be worked out.

As with most high end hotels, the staff are totally helpful even if you’re not staying there. The receptionists debated, and the one who also spoke English started calling around. Outside we’d determined that there probably weren’t any hotels in town, with parking, for under 150,000. They confirmed this inside, and I suggested that i’d maybe be willing to pay 120,000 if they knew of anywhere. While she called I ran out to give Dachary a heads up and see which would be worse for her, paying that much or staying at the hostel. Getting past the “do whatever you want it’s your money” was a little frustrating, but eventually I discerned that yes, the lack of attached bathroom really bothered her.

As I went back in the lobby, she was on the phone with a place for 121,600 with parking. She was disheartened because it was above 120,000. I told her it was close enough, thanked her greatly, and ran out with the address she’d written down and handed it to the cabbie.

I put on the helmet, which connected me to Dachary’s voice via the headset, where she informed me that some guy had gone out of his way to come up to her in the street and say something to her that she didn’t understand, then stare at her smugly awaiting a response. He walked off after her “no entiendo” and the cabbie came over and informed her that the man had called her… he paused, and almost apologetically, mimed being fat. Then followed up with (in english) “All the women in Cali are beautiful.” We suspect the cabbie was just saying that by means of explanation, but wasn’t really using his brain when he did.

We pulled out… There wasn’t much to say besides “What The Fuck?!” and “I’m sorry love.”

The cabbie found the hotel, which is swank, although the room is small and after the bellhop showed us to the room Dachary got a big hug. I went to get the bags, and she went to cool off in a shower. Then I got the sweat off me the same way, and wandered out for food as Dachary was thoroughly depressed and not wanting to leave the room. I didn’t really blame her.

Burgers were found, and cooked, while I read a fashion mag from 2006. There was one on most of the tables, and all were ancient. Apparently that month Michael Jackson was spotted walking around in a black Burka with his son’s entire head wrapped in a black turban above his yellow t-shirt and jeans. I swear as soon as the man died everyone conveniently forgot how freaking tweaked he was.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t paying attention, and my american mindset assumed that when you ordered burgers you got fries, or maybe chips, too, but no. Just burgers. “Screw it.” I thought. I’ve been gone a long time, and Dachary may be worrying. I grabbed cokes went back to the room. Where a disappointed Dachary bit into a displeasing burger. She only ate half of it before declaring that she couldn’t eat anymore, and then started in on some salted almonds we’ve been carrying around since the US to complete her dinner. Me, I kinda liked the burger. As per usual there was ham on it (HAMburgesa) but there was also a burger-sized slice of pineapple which was new, and tasty along with the ham, burger, ketchup, mayo, and whatever else was in there. I suspect that Dachary’s emotions were effecting her tastes, as they so often do with us humans, but who knows. We won’t be here to repeat the experiment.

Tomorrow we’re going to sleep the fuck in, and take off for somewhere south. I don’t think we have anywhere in particular in mind, but we’re hoping we can find a place where we can hole up for a few days and relax. We’re tired, mentally, and physically, and our clothes are seriously disgusting, despite the fact that we keep washing them in the sink.

Our boots are nasty nasty nasty and are currently shoved into the closet, which may cause one of us to pass out when we attempt to retrieve them, and neither of us has clean socks any more. Our gear has not been washed at all, because you can’t stick it in a dryer and it takes more than overnight to dry from a full-on washing. The plan was to go to a laundromat, or one of the many cheap laundry services, while we were here.

The clothes nastiness has not helped the general mood, especially since we were so looking forward to laundry.

As an aside, black people have been really rare in Central America, and here in Colombia, and I think I’ve discovered why. They’re all at this hotel. I can’t explain it, but 90% of the cliental is African American… or is that African South American? Still, us white folk are an even smaller minority, which is a refreshing change I think.

Another side note, there were probably 10 toll booths between Ibagué and Cali, and while it’s awesome to be able to use the free moto lane it feels a bit excessive. There was even one one about a third of the way up the twisty mountain road, which was a bit skinny and had some large concrete (i think) post at the start which I whacked with my pannier and, out of the corner of my eye, saw chips flying off of. These Happy-Trails panniers are really pretty bad ass. The bike keeps falling on them, I whack them into concrete and you can’t even tell.

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A couple with 2 dogs and a thirst for exploring the places in-between.