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  • Writer's pictureJeremy Brown

Tales from the Colombian Highways

Our lodging nestled just beside the bustling artery of travel, with Santa Fe poised gracefully at the threshold of the majestic mountains, presiding over the precipitous descent into the Valley below. Embracing the dawn with a promise of adventure, our quaint accommodations

Though a nascent addition to the hospitality scene, its aspirations soared high, evidenced by the rooftop dining area, a sanctuary in the making that hinted at future evenings filled with prospect of cool evenings under the warm glow of the villages charm.

Breakfast, a ritual of sustenance and anticipation, greeted us with familiar comforts and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, a blend as rich as the landscape unfurling beyond. The panorama of cascading peaks painted a breathtaking tableau, an invigorating prelude to the journey ahead.

With a swift adjustment of the chain, our wheels found rhythm once more, propelling us forward into the unknown, where every bend held the promise of revelation and every vista whispered of the wonders yet to be unveiled.

The hotel's proximity to the highway didn't promise serenity, a fact acknowledged with a wry smile as we sought repose amidst the hum of passing vehicles. Yet, convenience was its own reward, and the ease of rejoining the road was a boon for the weary traveler.

Navigating the labyrinthine topography of the immediate surroundings proved to be a feat of dexterity and nerve. The incline outside the hotel garage plunged precipitously, only to intersect with the ramp in a dance of opposing angles, creating a pinch point that demanded a deft maneuver.

This peculiar quirk of Colombian roads, where highways carve through flat terrain with unforgiving precision, necessitated a bold gambit. With Heather poised on the bike, we found ourselves teetering on the edge, amidst a ballet of trucks, buses, and fellow riders, each weaving their own narrative of audacity and skill.

As I recount this feat, it borders on the realm of folly, yet in the moment, it was controlled chaos. Mirroring my actions, countless other riders ascended the steep ascent, their motorcycles tracing precarious arcs along the precipice, a testament to the inherent daredevilry that defines Colombian roadcraft.

In the side mirror, I caught glimpses of fellow two wheelers, their steely resolve etched against the backdrop of concrete cliffs. There was no room for error, no safety net to catch a faltering balance. This, dear reader, encapsulates the essence of riding in Colombia – a dance with danger, where every twist of fate is met with unwavering resolve and a dash of Colombian bravado.

The road unfurled like a ribbon of promise, beckoning us forth with the caress of warm morning air and a gentle downward slope. As Santa Fe receded into memory, the verdant embrace of the jungle yielded to undulating hills painted in hues of golden grass.

Soon, we found ourselves ensconced within a narrow canyon, where the road stretched wide, flanked by sentinels of towering trees adorned with patchwork bark, their verdant canopies offering respite from the sun's embrace. To our right, a narrow band of pastureland stretched before the ascent of grassy hills, while to our left, a grey river danced with white-capped rapids, its pace mirroring our own in a mesmerizing ballet of motion.

As we traced the river's serpentine path, the landscape unfurled in a kaleidoscope of hues and textures. Sweeping curves embraced us, leading us deeper into a realm untouched by familiarity. The road, a flawless canvas devoid of imperfections, offered freedom unbounded.

Lost in the rhythm of the journey, we encountered a revelation – a sight hitherto unseen in our South American odyssey. Pine trees, their stoic silhouettes standing stoic watchmen upon grassy slopes, heralded a shift in the landscape. The air, tinged with the redolence of pine, whispered of untold adventures yet to unfold.

This stretch of road, an embodiment of perfection, unveiled vistas unseen and experiences unimagined. Each twist and turn revealed a tapestry of wonder, weaving together the disparate threads of nature's bounty into a tableau of unparalleled beauty.

Before us lay a modest wide spot in intersecting paths, scarcely more than a fleeting interruption in the grandeur of the landscape. A handful of roadside establishments punctuated the scene, their presence a testament to the resilience of human endeavor amidst nature's dominion.

Crossing the bridge over the languid waters of the now placid river, its once swift current now a somber shade of brown, we entered a realm ensconced in verdant splendor. The hills, cloaked in dense foliage, embraced us in their emerald embrace a Colombia unfolded upon us yet another costume change.

At the bridge's end, a choice awaited: left or right, each path promising its own adventure. The road, weathered by the relentless passage of truck traffic, demanded a cautious pace as we navigated around yawning potholes. With each turn, the road ascended, tracing the contours of the hillside until it disappeared beneath the shadow of a towering freeway.

Pressing on, we followed the road's tortuous path, the hum of the engine reverberating against the concrete expanse above. With a mighty thump, the Royal Enfield announced its presence on the freeway, its rhythmic cadence a symphony of motion as we embraced the open road, soaring above the undulating curves of Colombia below.

Several kilometers down the monotonous arteries of the concrete giant awaited our exit, a portal leading to Jerico, a mountain town renowned for its beguiling charm nestled amidst the foliage covered peaks.

As we veered off the main thoroughfare, the landscape underwent a metamorphosis. Rolling green fields surrendered to precipitous drop-offs, the road winding sinuously upon itself as it ascended ever skyward. The exhaust of the bike punctuated the air with bursts of energy, a growling roar echoing off the canyon walls as we tackled each steep incline.

Gear shifts became a dance of precision and power, the engine roaring through its repertoire as we negotiated the relentless switchbacks. Second gear for a burst of acceleration, then a deft clutch maneuver to engage third, each transition a testament to our determination to conquer the mountain's ascent.

For thirty-four kilometers, the battle raged on, the bike laboring against the relentless gradient. The road narrowed, each turn drawing us deeper into the heart of the mountain, until finally, a intermission awaited us around a long sweeping corner.

There, perched upon the roadside like a sanctuary amidst the twisting turmoil, stood a humble coffee stand. Behind it, a vista unfolded in breathtaking splendor – a panorama of Colombian countryside several hundred feet down laid out like a patchwork quilt beneath a canopy of billowing clouds. Shades of green danced in the sunlight, juxtaposed against the azure canvas of the sky, a dazzling array of color and contrast left us momentarily breathless in its wake.

Jerico, etched into the hillside like a forgotten secret, revealed itself to us in all its rustic charm. The focal point of this quaint enclave was the square, a rare patch of near level ground adorned with a majestic brick cathedral, towering pine trees, and a verdant park complete with bubbling fountains—a bustling oasis at the heart of town.

Every thoroughfare, it seemed, led inexorably to or from the square, the steep inclines challenging even the most intrepid traveler. One-way traffic dictated the rhythm of life, while the upper reaches of the square remained a sanctuary for pedestrians, inviting exploration on foot.

After a circuitous journey through the labyrinthine streets, we found a spot to park our trusty Royal Enfield, blending seamlessly into the tapestry of village life. From our vantage point, the cathedral loomed large, a silent guardian presiding over the ebb and flow of daily existence.

As we settled at a patio table, the scene unfolded before us like a living tableau. Brightly painted Willys jeeps, adorned with clusters of ripe bananas, awaited eager tourists keen to explore the nearby fincas (farms) and coffee plantations. We savored our pizza, content to be mere observers in this vibrant tapestry of humanity.

Amidst the hubbub, a family at the neighboring table interrupted our reverie, their curiosity piqued by the vintage appearance of our modern steed. Such encounters were commonplace, and we welcomed the opportunity to share our passion for the Royal Enfield.

But as the sun taking its bow at the mountain top, casting long shadows over the cobblestone streets, we knew it was time to heed the call of the road once more. Cartagena's leisurely sunsets were but a distant memory; now, the swift descent of twilight urged us onward.

Two paths beckoned us forth: the well-trodden highway route, a four-and-a-half-hour journey retracing our steps, or the road less traveled—a local path southward, unpaved and uncharted.

In the end, our hearts led the way, guiding us down the dusty trails of adventure that lay ahead, as we embraced the unknown with eager anticipation. And so, our journey continued, ever onward, along the winding paths of Colombia's rugged landscape.

To be continued…

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