Friday, 7 September 2007


Today we will cross the border to Colombia. Colombia is one of the most diverse and interesting countries of South America. Having all climate and vegetation zones of the continent, the country is seperated by three cordilleras into two major valleys. Our journey will take us across thousands of meters high mountain passes down to steaming rainforests and sizzling metropolises.  

However, Colombia is also the country of the drug barons and Guerillas. Approximately 40 per cent of the country are still controlled by insurgents and  paramilitary forces like the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) and the ELN (Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional).  As the global political situation changed and the rebels lost their support by Russia and Cuba, they now specialize in drug trade and kidnappings in order to fund their armed conflict. 

Those occupations are certainly most lucrative. As the production of Colombian cocaine solely provides approximately 80% of the world market the annual incomes of this illegal business are etimated to be around 4 billion Euros!

The people of Colombia belong to the most cordial and friendly of the world, nevertheless we will keep our eyes open and avoid nocturnal overland travel in any case.

Crossing the border runs fast and smoothly.  The soldiers are so amazed by us and our motorbikes that they don’t let us pass without a picture of all being taken.

Colombia here we come!



We spend the evening in the small city  of Pamplona. The hotel owner insists on us parking the bike in front of our room so we have to ride them through the local restaurant first.

Very much to the amusement of the guests, who get up and cordially welcome us!





Saturday, 8 September 2007


As we ride over the highways of the country we soon experience our first surprise. Contrary to Venezuela there are fruit stores at the roadside again and the short brakes at the side of the road become healthy refreshments.




Certainly Colombia has a lot to offer. When ever we stop we immediately find ourselves surrounded by friendly locals and particulary the pretty girls seem to have a certain weakness for long traveled bikers like us. We rarely get away without a memory picture. There one nearly feels like young Che Guevara on his trip around South America!


Even the infamous road blocks turn out to be good fun. When the policemen stop us they can’t wait to hear our story and wish us a good journey. Many foreigners do not come to Colombia with their motorcycles, so they are obviously impressed by our adventurous trip.

In the evening we arrive in San Gil. The small town lies in the mountains and we find a  nice little lodge.

We park the bike in the patio just in front of our rooms and enjoy the evening.





Sunday, 9 September - Monday, 10 September 2007


We spend the days relaxing and looking around the city. The trees are hung with some silver looking beard like curtains, so called „Barbas de Viejo “.

This form of vegetation houses innumerable insects and micro organisms and represents a unique ecological system.









Tuesday, 11 September 2007


As we start the bikes in the morning, there suddenly is smoke allover Chris motorbike.

Seconds later his whole wiring harness is burned down.

Apparently, a loose contact at the headlight touched metal and caused the problem.  

Since my „baptism of fire “in West Africa, where the same happened to me, such a thing is my worst nightmare. You stand in the middle of the road and nothing on your bike works any more. 

The only option we have, is to push the bike back into the lodge and begin with the laborious repair. One cable after the other is cut out and replaced by a new one.



10 hours later, we have finally sorted out all of the problems and wired up the whole thing again. Unfortunately the starting relay could not be saved any more. We decide to simply short circuit the starter. Chris has now got two cables coming out under his seat and when he wants to fire up the engine, all he has to do is briefly connect them. What  on one hand, is ideal when you are either likely to loose your key or want to make a fast move, one the other hand means, that from now on the bike must never be left unattended.




Wednesday, 12 September 2007 - Thursday, 13 September 2007


This morning Chris bike works fine. We drive over beautiful mountain roads and in the  afternoon we reach the town ‘Vila de Leiva’.



The former colonial town was founded in 1572 and now has the most preserved historical center in the country.





Friday, 14 September 2007


On our way to Bogota we stop in Zipaquira. Next to its many salt mines, that region offers a very special attraction to the visitor. The world famous salt cathedral of Zipaquira, an underground church built of salt, offering space for 1800 people!



The cathedral is an impressive work of art and a place of unique atmosphere.

A monument reminds of the workers who lost their lives during the years of construction.



All kinds of spirits and angels are driffting from shadows to spotlights and give the place a mystic touch.




Saturday, 15 September 2007


Today we reach the capital of Colombia. The city of Bogota lies on an elevation of 2600m, just in the middle of the mountains. Like most other South American big cities, the place has an infamous reputation for its unforgiving traffic and pollution. As we arrive in the late afternoon, the metropolis receives us with surprisingly little traffic and relatively clean air. That’s a good start and as we manage to find proper lodging, we decide to stay for a few days and check out the city.  



After Austria’s Vienna, one must also have seen Bogota by night.  The Mirador Torre Colpatria, with 162 meters the cities highest building, adds an futuristic touch to the nocturnal skyline.



Sunday, 16 September 2007


To the east, the city is limited by the Cerro de Monserrate. The mountain offers a spectacular view over the enormous metropolis of 8 million people.


On a Sunday you are naturally not the only one on the mountain. Thousands of people walk up the steep path to the church and want to see the statue of the Senor Caido (fallen Christ). Rumor has it, that this statue is connected to many miracles.




 Monday, 17 September 2007



While I go for a run, Chris almost becomes the victim of a robbery. As he takes out his camera to take a picture, suddenly a man pushes him down and tries to grab his camera.

Fortunately Chris is faster and manages to hold on to the camera and kick the robber with his boots.

Certainly, Bogota is not one of the safest places on earth. We must constantly keep our eyes open.







Tuesday, 18 September 2007



After the rather moderate experiences with Bogota’s pickpockets, we hit the road to La Dorada. The small town lies in a fertile valley just below the mountains. From here, we will try to cross the Cordillera Central on dirt roads.







Wednesday, 19 September 2007


The narrow gravel path leads through tropical valleys and across breath taking mountain ranges. However, things are not that peaceful around here...



After some more specific observation of the mountain-slopes, small plantations and farm houses become visible. Several times a day, military helicopters patrol the mountain ranges and control what the farmers cultivate and harvest. Because of the isolation and poverty of many farmers within the alpine regions, their temptation is huge  to grow a more profitable agricultural product. The Coca plant.

The government annually invests hundreds of millions into its fight against the Guerillas and drug smugglers. Nevertheless, in the mountains only a relatively small part of the poisonous harvest can be located and destroyed. The dense fogs wrap the valleys into grey veils and movements on the ground are almost impossible to be detected.


We spend the evening in Florencia, a small mountain village. Due to the constant threat of the Guerillas, the military patrols the roads in combat formations and  strategically important points are fortified with heavy machine guns and armoured vehicles.

As we park the motorcycles at the main square, we are immediately interviewed by the commander and asked about our travel plans. He also urgently recommends us to spend the night in the village. Well, nothing else we intended to do!  

For the people life is anything other than easy between the lines of the armed conflict. Nobody exactly knows who really stands on which side. Too enticing it is for many to jump on the train with the illegal million dollar business and the rebels specialized in drug trade are never becoming tired to recrute new helpers from the mountain population.



Thursday, 20 September 2007



We leave the village in the clouds of the morning mist and say good-bye to the friendly people. Many of the villagers are already up and on the road to wave us goodbye.

Though some look a little surprised as we head off into the other direction as we told them the night before. Sometimes it is better to do it that way because you really never know!



The rustical dirt road leads us down the mountain again and in the evening we reach Medellin where we will stay for some days.






Friday, 21 September 2007 - Sunday, 23 September 2007 


Medellin, the capital of the province of Antioquia, is a very modern and wealthy city. The three million metropolis lies in a valley at 1700 meters elevation, right in the middle of the Cordillera Central.

At the beginning of the 20th Century the coffee trade brought the first large upswing to the city. With the beginning of the 80's the city of Medellin attained more undesired popularity and became the worlds capital of drug trade around the infamous cartel of Pablo Escobar. His own, official  political party was even elected into the congress in 1982, but with the government passing new laws against the drug trade Esobar resorted to other means. He declared war to the parlament and a devastating wave of terror struck the entire country.  

Thereupon, a special unit of 1500 men was formed and it took them nearly two years to hunt the cartel boss down. In 1993 Escobar was shot in Medellin, but for many he still remains a hero.

He had always been conscious about the importance of the public opinion and being the public man he was, more likely than not his status made him invest large sums into non profit projects and infrastructure programs.

After his death the problems with the drug trade did not disappear.

Despite sharpest interventions of the government, the Guerillas and Para Militaries took over the drug market and with the decentralization of criminal power the situation for the population rather became worse.




Today Medellin is an interesting city and it is absolutely worth seeing the center around the Basilica de la Candelaria. Plazoleta de las Esculturas boasts an enormous exhibition of Fernando Botero, Colombia’s most well-known contemporary artist.









Monday, 24 September 2007


Today we continue our journey again. Before we reach the coastal lowlands of the north we must cross the mountains for a last time. The winding road leads by green palmtrees and the mild temperatures at 2500 meters make riding a pleasure.




Tuesday, 25 September 2007



This is as good as riding a motorbike does get! The roads are superb and the curves endlessly swing from the left to the right. Viva Colombia!








Wednesday, 26 September 2007



Today we arrive at the coast and reach the city of Cartagena. Cartagena de India is our last stop at the South American continent. We will spend a few days here and try to find a sailing boat, which reliably transports us and our motorcycles to Panama.

The city was founded in 1533 and quickly became Spains most important port in the new world. Nowdays it is a living museum.


An enormous town wall surrounds the historical part of town and was originally designed to repel the numerous pirate attacks.



The two most arduos of these ambushes took place in 1586 led by Sir Francis Drake and in 1741 by Edward Vernon. Cartagena was a worthwhile target. Often the Spaniards had to store gold and treasures from their raids on the mainland and wait until the ships would arrive to bring them back to Europe.  

The old part of town still consists of  well preserved Spanish architecture of the 16th  and 17th  century and is a place of great atmosphere with its narrow streets and animated places.



The best place to spend the evening is without a dout Cartagena’s Cafe del Mar. This vibrant club is located on the top of the old town wall and boasts with stunning views over the Carribeean sea, especially in moonlit nights!





I bid farewell to South America ......


Von Cartagena geht es weiter mit dem Schiff nach Zentral Amerika.As there is no road connection betweenEs ist praktisch unmöglich mit dem Motorrad auf dem Landweg von Kolumbien nach Panama zu fahren. Colombia and Panama, we will leave Cartagena by ship. Hierzu müsste man die Darien Sümpfe durchqueren und dieses Gebiet wird zur Gänze von Guerillas kontrolliert die den Drogenschmuggel nach Nord Amerika organisieren.

Though there does exists a landbridge between the two countries, the area is a swamp and virtually impassable. Further more, the infamous Darien Gap is controlled by guerrillas and paramilitaries who use its secluded waterways to smugel Colombian cocaine to North American markets. 

In regards of the situation, a Wir nehmen also lieber ein Segelschiff.sailing boat is the safer option and as a bonus, we will enjoy a nice cruise across the Caribbean sea. 


Durch etwas Glück treffen wir auf Ludwig und seine „Stahlratte“.With a bit of luck we meet Ludwig and his "steel rat". Ludwig ist ein deutscher Kapitän und mit seinem Zweimaster über die San Blas Inseln unterwegs nach Panama. Ludwig is a German captain, sailing a two master via San Blas Islands to Panama.

Sein Boot ist fast 40 Meter lang und so ist es kein Problem uns mitsamt der Maschinen mitzunehmen.His boat is almost 40 meters long and it is not a problem that we bring the motorcycles.




Donnerstag, 4. Thursday, 4 Oktober 2007 October 2007


Heute machen wir uns daran die Motorräder zu verladen.Dadurch, dass die Stahlratte so groß ist können wir die Bikes nicht direkt vom Steg an Bord bringen, sondern müssen sie zuerst in ein Beiboot verladen.As the steel rat is a big boat, we can not directly load the bikes on board from the pier.

First we put them into a wobbling dinghy.....

Den Hinterreifen voran geht es ins Schlauchboot...



Und schließlich mittels Flaschenzug an Bord! And finally they get winched onboard


Gegen Abend sind die Maschinen sicher am Schiff vertaut und wir verabschieden uns von der Skyline von Cartagena.In the evening the bike are safely tied onto the deck and we say goodby to Cartagena, descending in a beautiful sunset.






Freitag, 5. Friday, 5 Oktober 2007 October 2007


Als wir heute die Kolumbianischen Gewässer verlassen wollen stoppt uns die Küstenwache.As we are about to leave Colombian waters, we are stopped by the Coast Guard. Die Männer kommen an Bord und durchsuchen 4 Stunden lang das gesamte Schiff.

The men come on board and search through the entire ship for 4 hours. Zusätzlich nehmen sie von Crew und Passagieren die Fingerabdrücke und überprüfen die Papiere für unsere Motorräder. In addition, they take the crew’s and passenger’s fingerprints and check the papers of our motorcycles. As we have properly stamped out the motorbikes at the customs office we have no problem at all.  Dadurch, dass wir die Maschinen vorschriftsmäßig beim Zoll ausgeführt haben gibt es keine Probleme.



Mit solchen Stops ist zwischen Panama und Kolumbien immer zu rechen.Such controls are pretty normal between Panama and Colombia. Wir befinden uns auf einer stark frequentierten Schmuggelroute und sehr viele der Boote transportieren heiße Fracht. We are on a busy smuggling route and a lot of ships are transporting hot stuff.

Nach beendeter Untersuchung entschuldigt sich der Kommandant für die Unannehmlichkeiten und bittet uns ein Protokoll zu unterschreiben, welches besagt, dass die Kontrollen korrekt durchgeführt wurden.After having completed the search, the commander apologises for the inconvenience and wishes us a good journey. Whereupon we head onto the open sea.

 Selbstverständlich machen wir ihm gerne diese Freude und nehmen endlich Kurs aufs offene Meer.


Die See ist ruhig und in der Dämmerung erscheinen die San Blas Inseln am Horizont.The sea is calm and as dusk creeps in the San Blas islands appear on the horizon. Wir werfen Anker und verbringen unsere erste Nacht in Panama, unter Millionen von leuchtenden Sternen. We find a good spot to anchor and spend our first night in Panama, under millions of shining stars.