We left Cartagena riding to the north with the intent of traversing northern Colombia to the Venezuelan border. There are two borders open between Colombia and Venezuela at the moment, but Americans still aren’t allowed into Venezuela. The landscape for the most part was flat farmland with the occasional unfenced cows, grazing in the fields and working their way into the street. The roads were a mix of broken tar with potholes that could swallow a front wheel. And when the roads got better it was usually just dirt and gravel. The days started out warm and progressed to a stifling lowlands heat without a cloud to be seen. In the country, the travel was easy, with not many vehicles on the road. When arriving in town, the main veins through would become clogged with big exhaust belching diesel trucks and motorcycles going everywhere. Throw into the mix broken tar and enormous speed bumps every several feet and you have recipes for potential disaster.
We made a stop for the night in Magangué, in a small hotel down a side street. This stop had little to offer but a place to lay our heads for the night. Of significance though, was the conversation we had, via Google translate, with the two girls that waited on us. This was just a small place with a couple tables in front of their family house. An old, rusted gas oven provided the heat source to cook our dinner. Two young girls, maybe 14 to 16 years old, were the ones to wait on us. Their dad was doing the cooking. They were very interested in us, and the USA. We were the first people from America they had ever had at their small restaurant. We received question after question about how they could leave Colombia. Many questions revolved around the travel north to catch the Mexican pirate train to the USA, and how much it would cost. The girls were very friendly, but in their eyes you can see their desperation trying to find a better life. There aren’t many times I’m left speechless, not even a smart answer, but this is what happened as I was listening to these girls. Sometimes life can be so sad, and so unfair.
The next day we worked our way to the village of Santa Cruz de Mompox. Mompox, as it’s known, has a historic center that was designated a UNESCO heritage site in 1995 due to its beautiful colonial architecture. Mompox is also historically significant in the role that it played liberating South America from Spanish control.
We found a beautiful little hotel, La Gloria, on the edge of the downtown area. There is a pizza restaurant in town, el Fuerte, run by an Austrian named Walter. The inside architecture and decorating make this a very special place. Add in excellent pizza and their specialty, ginger beer and lemonade by the pitcher, make this a top restaurant.
Leaving in the morning we continued on towards Cucuta, on the Venezuelan border. We arrived in Cucuta to long queues of stopped vehicles entering the town. It seems the public transportation network was protesting government regulations concerning their services. All the taxis in the city had blocked all access to the city, the downtown area and the airport. Both lanes were blocked, incoming and outgoing, by stopped vehicles. Switching to gutter and sidewalk mode, we made our way to the front of the stopped vehicles and to the blockade. After trying to explain to them we were tourists just traveling through, some people moved some stone barriers so we could get our motorcycle through.
This was an interesting part of Colombia, being so close to the Venezuelan border. With the problems going on in Venezuela, many people are making their way through the border to Colombia. For many miles we saw men, women and children all walking, carrying backpacks with everything they owned.
After leaving Cucuta, we drove about 100 km south to the village of Bochalema. Just as we arrived in town we parked in the square just to get our bearings and a drink. Within minutes, a truck with two policemen stopped and asked for our papers. We provided our papers to them and wrote our information in a notebook. They kept trying to tell us something with a concerned look on their faces. Using Google translate we found out they were telling us that this was a very dangerous area of Colombia and that we should move on. We had found a very nice Airbnb in town to stay at, so we decided to stay anyway. La Martinica was a beautiful house just a couple blocks off the square. Mrs Martha was our host and couldn’t do enough to make our stay comfortable. We walked into town that evening and found a small restaurant run by a family. My meal was good, Melanie’s was iffy. We walked back to our Airbnb in the evening as the lights of the city were coming on. We of course had nothing but friendly encounters on our walk. The rest of the evening was quiet and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay at this little house.
That’s it for now and on to Chicamocha Canyon tomorrow.
Cheers, and adventurous travels to you.