Day 302-306 – Bogota, Colombia to Miami, Florida

Day 302-306 – Bogota, Colombia to Miami, Florida         06/19-23/11        Mileage: Local miles

I had an early flight out of Bogotá to Panama City where I caught my flight to Miami. It’s been 8 months since I left the US and it was great to be back…though they speak still speak mostly Spanish here…so that wasn’t much of a change. lol I stayed the next 5 days visiting with family in the area and with my parents who flew down from NJ.

From L to R: My Aunt Helen, Cousin Barbara, my mother, father and me…

My cousins Barbara and Murray were great hosts and staying at their place was like a vacation within a vacation!

The great view from my cousins house….

Barbara also helped me get the bike out of customs which was a big help, and gladly went really smooth.

Unwrap it and ride away…it doesn’t get any easier…..thanks Barabara for your help!

I also took some time to work on the bike and get her ready for the final leg of my journey home to NJ…

Day 300-301 – Bogota, Colombia 06/17-18/11 Mileage: 0

Day 300-301 – Bogota, Colombia        06/17-18/11         Mileage: 0

The last two days I spent getting caught up with blog and walking around downtown Bogotá.

I made it a point to stop by the street stand I got the hotdog from the other day to try out her burger….and it did not disappoint. It probably tripled my cholesterol, but whatever…it was freakin good!

Tomorrow it’s back to the good ‘ol USA after 8 months out of the country…

Day 299 – 300 – Bogota, Colombia

Day 299 – 300 – Bogota, Colombia       06/16 – 17/11       Mileage: 0

I met the Lyncargo representative at the airfreight terminal at 8:30am along with a handler from the airline, but not before making a D&D run!

I must be getting closer to home….

…..though the signs were still in Spanish…

The national police were also there and they went through my bag and side cases, presumably looking for drugs or other contraband. They even made me start the bike while one of the officers had his nose in my tailpipe….whatever floats your boat, fella! I tried to take a picture of him but he gave me the wave off which was too bad….it would have been a funny picture. So with that complete and signatures all around, the bike was cleared for export.

That done I made my way back to the hotel where I hunkered down to update the blog which was now over 2 weeks behind way back in Manaus, Brazil! That night I walked around downtown Bogotá and had the best hotdog…maybe ever.

It goes like this….put onions on the grill, smothered in ketchup, mustard and mayo, then put a big fat hotdog in a bun huge bun, cover it with said grilled onions, then a healthy (or unhealthy as the case me be) layer of crushed potato chips, then 3 more unidentified sauces, followed by diced tomatoes and relish, smother it with a big layer of mozzarella, steam it for a minute to melt the cheese, then top the whole thing off with pineapple sauce. I didn’t make it up folks…that ‘s just how I watched it being made! 

The following day was more of the same…walked around the downtown, more writing and updating the blog,…

The police here ride Suzuki V-Strom650’s…pretty cool!

Day 298 – Bucaramanga to Bogota, Colombia

Day 298 – Bucaramanga to Bogotá, Colombia        06/15/11        Mileage: 257

Today was all business on the mountainous road down to Bogotá and despite the great scenery, I didn’t even stop for a picture…sorry folks. I arrived at the outskirts of Bogotá mid-afternoon and made my way straight to the Lyncargo office near the airport.

Fortunately they were still there and got right on finalizing my export paperwork for the bike. Once done I followed one of the Lyncargo staff over to the airfreight terminal at the airport where I prepped the bike for its flight home to the US.

No girl likes to get weighed…..    😉

The ‘ol girl weighed in at 247 kilo’s, or just under 550 pounds….lock, stock, barrel, boots…everything right down to my Aerostitch gear…

I handed the bike over, but will have to come back tomorrow morning for a final police inspection and to finish the paperwork. That done I hopped in a cab to the El Cafeceito hostal where I got a room and some dinner.

Tomorrow it’s back to the airport to finish processing the KLR for export…

Day 297 – San Cristobal, Venezuela to Bucaramanga, Colombia

Day 297 – San Cristobal, Venezuela to Bucaramanga, Colombia       06/14/11       Mileage: 173

It was supposed to be a short run to the border, only 22 or so miles, but it took over an hour as the road was mountainous, full of slow moving trucks and largely in disrepair. Thankfully I had Silviu’s GPS waypoint for the immigration office that was buried in the border town maze of streets instead of being on somewhere on the road like usual. After getting stamped out I made my way to the border but had to wait for the aduana (customs) officials to return from siesta in order to cancel my import permit for the bike.

I paid this cute kid to watch my bike while I was in the aduana office….he got a kick out of sitting on the bike…

Once that was done, I crossed back into Colombia for the second time on this journey. The immigration office for Colombia was right at the border, and I had my entrance stamp in under 15 minutes, but the Colombian aduana office was 10 miles away in a small city called Cucuta and it would have been impossible to find had I not once again had Silviu’s GPS waypoint for it. (Thanks again bro!)

The aduana process was painfully slow and took over two hours…..and what made it worse was sitting there watching helpless bureaucrats chit-chat, drink coffee, flirt…pretty much anything but actual work…while me and the rest of the people waiting in line were losing our f–ing minds! By the time that was done it was mid afternoon and I still had many miles to ride if I had any hopes of dropping the bike of at the freight terminal tomorrow in Bogotá, so I got on the gas. The road was twisty and great fun to ride, but very slow going which was not helping me make progress.

I had it in my mind that I wanted to at least get as far as Bucaramanga, which I did eventually do…but not without 4 hours of riding in the dark on twisty and foggy mountain roads…a calculated risk for sure. Tomorrow will be my last day on the road in South America which is kind of hard to grasp…a sure sign that this journey is nearing it’s inevitable end.

Day 141 – Pasto, CO to Otavalo, EC

Day 141 – Pasto, CO to Otavalo, EC      01/09/11      Mileage: 164

There was no power in the hotel this morning, so that slowed down the packing process a bit as my room had no natural light. I skipped breakfast and just had a granola bar while I did some routine maintenance on the bike. Once that was done I hit the road for Ecuador, but there was one more stop I wanted to make in Colombia, and that was to visit the famous Las Lajas Sanctuary.

Here are some bullet cam shots from the road…

There is an overlook on the road to the church that affords a great view of it, and from there I could see that it was packed.

It was after all Sunday around noon, so I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise. I decided to pass on going in for the tour, so I just took my pictures and split for the border.

Getting out of Colombia took only 15 minutes for both me and the bike, much less time than any of the gents in the picture above I suspect.

This nice lady had the bike processed out of Colombia in 2 minutes!

No lines at immigration to stamp myself out of Colombia…sweet!

Changing my Colombian Peso’s into good ‘ol U.S. greenbacks…

Ecuador took quite a while but was very straight forward and didn’t cost a dime. It took about 2 hours, partly because of the long line at immigration and the one gentleman working at customs was, shall we say, deliberate in his pace of work. Well, at least he won’t die from stress!

Pulling up to the Ecuador border buildings…

This is the immigration line inside the building…it went out the door and around the building, but I forgot to get a pic.

The KLR patiently waiting for her import permit at the aduana office….

With that done, I was set loose in Ecuador…country number 12 for this trip! The scenery continued to be rivaled only by how much fun the road was. There was some rain here and there along the way, but that certainly didn’t dampen my spirits.

The road from the border to Ibarra was fantastic both in scenery and fun to ride factor. The bullet cam was out of juice which was too bad, I might have had more great road shots. I stopped for the night in Otavalo which is famous for it’s local market, in particular the Saturday market. I found secure parking and a private room w/ bath at Hostal Maria for only $7. It was also nice to not have to convert all the prices to U.S. dollars, as Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar as it’s currency. The only thing missing at the hostal was wifi, so I set off to find dinner, beers and some wifi. Each country so far has had what amounts to a “national beer” (or maybe 2 or 3), and Ecuador’s is called Pilsener. Of all the “national beers” I’ve had along the way, this is by far my favorite and is very drinkable….and that’s the excuse I’m using for drinking my body weight that night. I certainly paid the price the next morning…

Day 140 – Cali, CO to Pasto, CO

Day 140 – Cali, CO to Pasto, CO      01/08/10      Mileage: 248

I was up, packed and on the road at the crack of 10am this morning….not exactly the alpine start I wanted. Either way, I should still make it to Pasto which was my target for today. The road started out flat down the valley in which Cali lies, but soon started climbing back up into the mountains. The views were great and the road was even better. I put more pre-load on the Ricor shock this morning and it was paying dividends, as the KLR felt even better than yesterday.

Today I mounted the bullet camera above my left grip, so you’re seeing what my left hand sees…


Doing the misty mountain hop…

Pulling into Pasto, and out of the rainy mountains….

I pulled into Pasto around 4pm and spent the next hour trying to track down a room. I finally ended up at the Koala Inn, which was decent and only $13 for a room with a private bathroom.

After settling in, I walked around town for a bit and had a lite dinner.

When I returned to the room, I worked on the blog for a bit and the hit the hay. Tomorrow it will be on to Ecuador….country #12!

Day 139 – Medellin, CO to Cali, CO

Day 139 – Medellin, CO to Cali, CO      01/07/11      Mileage: 266

Today was a transit day down to Cali and half of that road I had already ridden, so it was not a super exciting day. So after chatting with Albert over coffee and saying goodbye to his attractive staff, I hit the road.

The one exiting thing today was getting to try out the new Ricor suspension parts with the bike loaded up. As expected, the suspension is way better than stock! First off, the ass end of the bike now sits up where it’s supposed to instead of sagging like it was. The next thing I noticed is that the bike felt 100 lbs lighter, partly I’m sure due to the steering head angle now being back where it should be because the back end is up where it’s supposed to be. A problem I noticed with the stock KLR shock is that the rear end bounced around and lost contact with the ground under power over bumps. Now, when I gas it over rough sections of road, the rear tire remains planted and hooked up with the road… and does not bounce around…amazing! This is all just on pavement…I can’t wait to get it off-road! OK granted, the KLR’s stock suspension is not very sophisticated, but holy crap what a difference! So I knew that the Ricor shock would be a substantial improvement over the squishy stock unit, but I was shocked (pardon the pun) at how well the Intiminator inertia valves improved the front forks. For adventure travel, I didn’t really have a problem with the front forks and I think they are adequate for the job at hand. However, the stock forks have three weaknesses in my opinion, they dive a lot under braking, do not absorb square edge bumps well and loose contact with the road over chattery sections of road because they can’t react fast enough. All of those problems were mostly eliminated with the Ricor Intiminators. They use 5 weight oil, much lighter than the stock oil, so the forks feel much more lively and are faster to react. When braking, the Intiminator valve remains closed limiting the front end dive. When the wheel hits a bump, the valve opens allowing the fork to compress much faster to absorb the bump. I know a tiny bit about inertia valves as the rear suspension of my Stumpjumper mountain bike also has an inertia valve they call “the Brain”, and I know how well that works! I’m looking forward to really testing the Ricor parts back in the dirt where it counts! Also, just for the record, this is my honest no BS assessment of the Ricor parts, sponsorship aside.

Now, for the not so shameless plug:

So, I rolled into Cali shortly after dark and found the Casa Blanca hostel, popular with overland biker as they have secure parking 2 doors down. After dropping my gear, I went out for quick dinner before calling it a night.

Day 138 – Medellin, CO

Day 138 – Medellin, CO      01/06/11      Mileage: 0

At 7am there was a knock on the door to my room. I opened it to find the Shamrock’s cleaning lady with a notice she found taped to the door of the pub about my package. Score! So after some jawing with Albert over a coffee, I hopped a taxi to the central post office to retrieve the Ricor goodies! The form said I owed $45 for import duties…a real bargain compared to some of the horror stores I’ve heard, like $300 for an umbrella! After about 45 minutes of the usual photo copies, paper shuffle and bureaucratic bumbling, I had the Ricor box in my cabbage claspers! I was giddy like a 5 year old on Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza morning and promptly opened the box to inspect the goods. The shock is a beefy hunk of well machined aluminum and the spring looks to be double the diameter of the whimpy stock shock.  I hurried back at the Shamrock, loaded the new bits on the bike and went to the Kawasaki dealer a few blocks away. I was told that service was closed until Tuesday…it was only Thursday. Crap! Indeed, all of the shops seemed to be closed…apparently they all close at the same time for the holidays. Luckily for me, there was one shop still open…MSM.

 Inside I was greeted by Daniel and I told him my story. It turns out that my luck would continue as Daniel totally hooked me up! He brought the KLR right in and had the mechanic, Edwim, start right in on it.

Daniel is on the right, Edwim on the left.

First he dropped the forks and disassembled them to install the Intiminator’s.

It’s actually pretty simple, as they just drop in between the push rod and the spring, top it up with 5 weight oil and re-install the forks. Edwim made it look even easier as he knows all the little tricks of the trade.

What took him 40 minutes would have taken me 2 hours I’m sure! Next up was of course the Ricor shock. That just bolts directly in place of the old unit.

Comparing them side by side was almost laughable…the stock shock looks every bit as whimpy as it is next to the beefy Ricor unit, and the Ricor is noticeably lighter to boot! Edwim had the new shock in place in a few minutes and that was it….done!

The clean looking blue thing in the midst of the all the dried mud is my beautiful new Ricor shock!

I was also looking for a set of tires, which MSM didn’t have in stock, but Daniel made some calls and tracked down a set for me at another shop a few miles away. Awesome! So, if you guys find yourselves in Medellin and need anything for your moto, MSM is your shop and Daniel is your man! Oh, and he also speaks very good english also!

So, I thanked Daniel and Edwim for their excellent and prompt service and headed off to Africa Motos to pick up the tires Daniel had tracked down for me.

I was greeted by Andres who also took great care of me. I noticed some shops guys cleaning up some bikes in the back, so I asked Andres if he could squeeze the old war horse in for a cleaning, seeing as the last time it was washed was in Los Angeles! He said no problem at all and cued up the KLR next for a bath. While that was being done, I walked out for some lunch and found an ATM for more fun tickets.

When I returned the KLR was just coming out of the wash area and they did an outstanding job cleaning her up, considering the mud bath I had given her 3 days earlier.

So, with a fresh set of tires strapped to the back, Ricor suspension upgrades installed and a fresh cleaning, I was ready to get back on the road south! Tomorrow, I set off for Cali and hopefully I will be in Ecuador in 3 days time.

Day 137 – Cerca Valparaiso, CO to Medellin, CO

Day 137 – Cerca Valparaiso, CO to Medellin, CO      01/05/11      Mileage: 58

After breakfast I packed up the bike to head back to Medellin. The bike had another plan and stalled every time I put it in gear. Bollix! Well, there were two likely candidates…the clucth safety switch and the side-stand safety switch. On my 2005 KLR, I had bypassed both of these because all they do is cause you trouble for the small amount of safety they provide, in my opinion anyway. So, after some trouble shooting it ended up being the side-stand safety switch, but not the switch itself but the wire that runs to it. It seems over the last two days of rough roads, when I had bottomed out the bike a few times, the center-stand mount had bent just enough to pinch the wires going to the side-stansd switch causing a short. The fix was easy, cut the wires and twist them together, tape them up and zip tie them to the frame. Done.

So, that problem solved I hit the road back to Medellin hoping to collect the Ricor parts …which I really wish I had for the last 2 riding days!

I goofed around with the helmet cam also by mounting it on the left side engine guard, so your seeing what my left foot is seeing! lol.

Back at the Shamrock I met up with Albert who was back from Scotland so it was nice to finally meet him. unfortunately, there were no Ricor parts yet and I was beginning to formulate a plan B. As good as Medellin is to visit, I need to keep rolling south as the clock is now ticking in Ushuaia to arrive and get out of there before winter arrives. That night I returned to my favorite cafe in the Zona Rosa and wrote a bit more for the blog as I’m still several days behind.

Day 136 – Cerca Valparaiso, CO

Day 136 – Cerca Valparaiso, CO      01/04/11      Mileage: 0

The Hotel Pipinta is so good, I decided to stay another day. I focused on getting some blog posts written as I was several days behind. I still couldn’t post them because of the lack of internet, but at least I can upload them the next chance I got. I also took a short hike down to the river, spent an hour in the Turkish steam bath, did some pool time and drank some beer. Here are some token picks from the hike…

Day 135 – Pereira, CO to Cerca Valparaiso, CO

Day 135 – Pereira, CO to Cerca Valparaiso, CO      01/03/11      Mileage: 116

I wanted to stay one more day in the area, and specifically in Manizales. It was early enough in the day to perhaps hunt down a room, and still get somewhere else in case I didn’t. The road from Periera to Manizales is really fun 2 lane divided highway with endless 3rd and 4th gear sweepers and I was glad ride that a second time, this time going up hill.

Check this out…a side car Vespa!  We we’re stuck in traffic in Manizales so I got to chatting with him. He’s from the UK originally but was in town to see if he could get the Vespa in the parade later that day. That’s one crazy rig!

I didn’t have any luck finding a place to stay in Manizales…the closest being a 6 square foot patch of cement in an open courtyard at a hostel for $22…no thanks! I guess it wasn’t meant to be, so I hit the road back north towards Medellin. After about an hour of riding, I came across a nice looking hotel-restaurant perched on an outcropping overlooking the river. The Hotel Pipinta is a great place…good food, pool, awesome views, sauna, turkish bath, pool tables, and all for $22! Hmmm, slab of cement in a smelly hostel, or all of that…it’s a no brainer to me and I’m glad I passed on the hostel. After getting settled into my room, I hit the pool and had a light lunch.

Now that’s a gym with a view!

They build a nice overlook with an excellent view up and down the river.

The only thing missing from the mix is internet, which is too bad as that would be the cherry on top. But given their distance from the nearest town, this was the trade-off. Dinner was equally tasty and after I retired to my room to get some work done on the laptop.

They even ordered up a great sunset over the mountains…

Day 134 – Santa Barbara, CO to Pereira, CO

Day 134 – Santa Barbara, CO to Pereira, CO      01/02/11      Mileage: 199

Like yesterday, I could have taken the main road to Manizales, but where is the fun or challenge in that, right? So after the town of La Pintada, I banged a left over the river and headed back up into the mountains. The road today was like yesterday with plenty of mud, dirt, land slides and missing pavement….in other words, good fun! Some condensation got in the helmet cam housing, so most of the pictures did not come out today…I salvaged what I could so that’s why some appear blurry…

You might want to take this turn on the outside!

I finally pulled into Manizales and the place was packed. What I didn’t realize is that it was festival week so the chances of finding a place to stay were zip.

I had just enough daylight to make it to Salento, a small town tucked into the foothills of the Andes Mountains. When I arrived, it was even more packed than Manizales! My search for a room didn’t produce any results, so plan C was to backtrack…I hate backtracking…to a no-tell-motel about 15 miles back. Once again, it proved to be a great option…clean, inexpensive and my own garage for the KLR.

They even had room service…chorizo with papas fritas and 2 cervezas…served through the secret pass-through of course.

Here’s the secret wall pass-through. They put the food in the pass-through and then knock on the wall. Dinner is served, I I never saw the waiter!  lol.

Another fun day in the saddle!

Day 133 – Rionegro, CO to Santa Barbara, CO

Day 133 – Rionegro, CO to Santa Barbara, CO      01/01/11      Mileage: 116

Morning came and I was up around 9…which is not bad considering we didn’t get home until after 3. I packed up the bike, thanked my hosts for their generous hospitality and then hit the road. Given the late start, I wasn’t going to get very far, so I had the modest goal of Manizales some 160 miles away via all back roads. That was the plan anyway…but what I really did was chase roads that were on the map but did not exist, and find roads that did exist but are not on any map. I had to backtrack some 20+ miles today because of a road that simply wasn’t there…I hate backtracking! I also had to give up my goal of getting to Manizales to backtrack to a hotel before nightfall. So as far as progress goes today, I went almost nowhere…but the riding was great and I guess you could say I had a great time getting nowhere! Here are the pics… 

You could use that leaf for an umbrella!

One of countless landslides on the road….

Now we’re having fun!

They weren’t kidding!

This landslide took the whole road with it, so they just carved out a new temporary path across it. Just don’t fall off to the right side, it’s a looooooong way down!

Now where did I put that coin?

Now that was a great day of riding!!!!  🙂

Day 132 – Medellin, CO to Rionegro, CO

Day 132 – Medellin, CO to Rionegro, CO      12/31/10      Mileage: 26

This morning a ran a few more errands before packing up the bike. Tonight of course was New Years and I was once again invited to join the festivities up in Rionegro with Lilly, Santiago, and their extended family.

The view of Medellin from the road up to Rionegro.

Santiago and Pablo’s family “farm” in Rionegro.

 They had made reservations for the whole family (and me!) at the local country club, which was great! I felt a tad under dressed in my low top hiking shoes, blue short sleeve shirt and Mountain Hardwear jacket, but it will have to do. I’ll let the pictures do the talking, but suffice to say it was a late night and a good time was had by all!

Day 131 – Medellin, CO

Day 131 – Medellin, CO      12/30/10      Mileage: 0

This morning I woke up feeling pretty sick…not booze sick…cold and flu sick. We left the house early as Santi and Pablo had to work today. On the way back to Medellin we stopped off for some amazing yuca bread which hit the spot.

 This place makes the most amazing yuca bread!

Back at the Shamrock I went back to sleep hoping to shake this cold, so I basically did squat today. Oh well…here’s a token shot of Medellin when I wandered out for lunch in the afternoon.

Token shot of downtown Medellin…

Day 130 – Medellin, CO

Day 130 – Medellin, CO      12/29/10      Mileage: 0

The first order of business was to get the left side engine guard and right side rear pannier rack welded. The local Kawasaki dealer pointed me to a welder, who pointed me to another welder who steered me to yet another welder…but 3rd times a charm I guess. The left side engine guard was particularly bad as the weld had cracked and spread not around the weld but up one of the tubes….never seen that before. The rear rack had a small crack that was for sure going to get worse or split completely the next time the bike falls over on that side…so I had the welder put a nice bead around it.

A good weld should look like a roll of coins laid on their side. This one is pretty ugly, but I think he did a great job for $10. Back at the Shamrock I showered up before Santiago, his girlfriend Julie and brother Pablo came to pick me up. Their extended family from all over (as far aways as Lebanon!), including the Puerto Rican side of the family were all in town for the holidays. Tonight was a big party at their uncles house in the town of Rionegro high in the mountains above Medellin…and they were gracious enough to invite me.

On the way to Rionegro with the city lights of Medellin below.

Their uncles house is amazing and they went all out for the party…it was like a wedding with out the bride and groom!

 At one point, their uncle went and got the head chef and brought him over to where I was sitting and told him to get whatever I wanted…wow!

Me and my parents friend Lilly, she’s the reason that I’m here! In the background is the head chef their uncle sent over.

This was a significant upgrade from the steady diet of road food!

Although I was a complete stranger to him only 15 minutes before, he opened his home to me and made me feel welcome and a part of the family. Indeed, everyone went out of their way to make me feel welcome. Oh, and did I mention that it was a great party too…but I guess that is inevitable anytime you get 40 or 50 Colombians and Puerto Ricans together with good music and wine!

The theme for the party was Tango Night, hence why most everyone is wearing black…

Santiago, Pablo and their mom.


This is the reason there are not better pictures….fire water in a box…oooph.

And she was the pusher making sure all the shot glass were topped up!

I’m not sure what time we left, but after the party we crashed at Santiago’s family’s house nearby. That was a fun night!

More posts coming soon!

Sorry for the dry spell in blog posts, but I haven’t had internet access in a few days now. I’ve been exploring the back roads of the Zona Cafetera between Medellin and Cali. I should be back in Medellin tomorrow or the following day at which point I will get caught up!


Happy New Year!

I hope this message finds you all well! I’m spending New Years with friends and relatives of some family friends in Rionegro just outside of Medellin, Colombia. I wish you all the best and Happy New Year!!!


Day 129 – Medellin, CO

Day 129 – Medellin, CO      12/28/10      Mileage: 0

Business opportunity in Medellin…laundromat! I asked a dozen people if they knew of one and the closest I got was a dry cleaner…and they said it would take 3 days! I walked probably 20 square blocks figuring surely there must be one in the heart of a bustling city…but…nope, I didn’t see one! I finally gave up and knocked on the door of a hostel and the owner was kind enough to do my laundry for $5…and would have it back to me the next day. Anyway, next up was lunch at 12:30 with Santiago who is the cousin of a friend of my parents and gracious enough to meet me and show me around! He picked me up at the Shamrock and took me to the heart of the downtown for lunch where his family owns a restaurant. It turns out he has a passion for travel also and took a year off for an around the world backpacking trip. He lived abroad in France and Venezuela for a while as well and speaks very good english.

After lunch…which I was treated to…he showed me some of the sights downtown.


We also took the elevated metro which was a great way to see the city.

Santiago is very proud of his city and it shows in the way he talks about it. I told him when I first hatched the plan for this trip, I was debating whether to skip Colombia because of the prevailing perception in the US, but the more I read the more I looked forward to visiting. He said that Medellin and Colombia in general has made an amazing turnaround from the legacy of the drug wars and violence. I know he is right because I’ve seen it for myself. I feel safer and more at ease here…in the small towns and cities…than I did in Mexico or other countries in Central America, maybe even Costa Rica. He also told me of a project that the Medellin government undertook to build a library in the roughest part of the city, high on a hill. They had to go in with swarms of armed police at first, and now it is a popular place to come, even for tourist like me. We took a “public transit gondola” to get there, which itself helped to turn the area around.

The black building is the library built in what used to be the roughest part of town.

These projects are a testament to the good that government can do to improve people’s lives when they have the people’s best interest in mind, and not their own or that of the special interests. So I said adios to Santiago and took the metro back to the Shamrock. I spent some time getting some posts up on the blog, and then parked myself in a nearby cafe in the Zona Rosa to write more and take in the scene before calling it a night.