Thursday, December 23, 2010

Day 99 (560km): Cartagena or Medellin?

So after looking at the map we realized we were half way to Cartagena so it would be silly to go back south to Medellin and back into the mess of closed roads. We were out of the mountains so I figured we would have less issues with road closures. Just in case though I was watching the news. It was really sad seeing the devastation all over the country. I would be watching a crisis area and then try to find it on my map. There were no issues reported on the news in the direction we were going. The gas station attendant said the road to Santa Marta was open and that was good enough for me!

The road was pretty much straight and smooth so we managed to keep a decent cruising speed just below 120 kph. I find that at 120 kph and over the small screen sends so much wind blast at my head it's not worth it. This was great for making up some time we had lost the previous day. Also due to the straight nature of the road we were rarely held up behind slow moving traffic for long.We were only a few times on twisty hills behind several large vehicles so I employed a new trick. In Colombia the roads have shoulders (a new thing for us since the US) so I just sneak by on the shoulder. While I'm doing it I'm reminded of the signs in Washington that say “End of Shoulder Driving”. I always found those signs funny because I never even knew that shoulder driving had started. 
A lot of the landscape looks like this: flooded
For the first time we were stopped by the police. Alberto is now pretending that he's a gringo so I do the talking. The guy was surprised I was a woman, which I found funny. Anyways they only wanted to tell us that the road was closed up ahead and that we would need to take a detour soon. Thanking them for the tip and directions we continued on our way. We saw the road we needed to take but it was roped off. We decided to continue straight and see how it went. In the next large town we stopped for a snack and to find out information on the road. We were told it was closed and that we needed to take a detour now. The detour would be an extra 2-3 hrs. As we were getting ready to leave a biker came up to tell us that bikes could get through the closed section. He described the way to get through in detail, to the point that he sounded like he had done it, so we trusted him and continued straight. Some cars told us we couldn't get through but we continued anyway. There were lots of bikes on the road so we thought that they were getting through okay. Worst case scenario we can take off our cases and become more or less the same size as the small bikes.

When we got to the collapsed bridge there was a police officer. He said we'd be fine and just cautioned us to go slow. No worries. We drove along the shoulder and there was a narrow section were we slowly walked the bikes but it was overall pretty easy. We were minor celebrities as everyone wanted to know about our bikes and where we came from. I'm glad we didn't need to take the detour, it would have been filled with buses and trucks. 
Driving the collapsed section of the bridge
I had noticed on the map that Tayrona park had camping so we thought we'd stay there for the night. When we got to Santa Marta we asked the police for directions and they said it was far away. We pursued this idea for a little while and then gave up. Camping just for the sake of camping wasn't worth this much of a detour. We stopped at some hotels we saw outside of town but they were abandoned. So we gave up on Santa Marta and continued to Barranquilla. It was worth it because the sunset was amazing, even though I couldn't see anything cause the sun was in my face prior to it setting. When we got to Barranquilla it was late and we didn't want to mess around finding a hotel. We paid a cab to take us to a hotel and it paid off. He took us to a nice hotel and it was relatively cheap. 
Our room in Barranquilla 
While we were watching the news we saw that Bucaramanga was now completely isolated due to landslides. I guess we got pretty lucky with that one.

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