Week 21 & 22 - Macoa, Pasto and Las Lajas
With only about two weeks left on the visa's we headed further South to Macoa which had unfortunately been hit hard by an avalanche in April 2017. We stayed in Macoa so we could hit the road earlier morning to cross the death road 'Trampolin Del Diablo' West to Pasto, have yet more work done on my bike, get a few supplies before heading South towards the border via the famous Gothic church, Las Lajas. Then, it was time to leave Colombia.
Macoa and the 'death' road, Trampolin Del Diablo
There was just over 2 weeks until our Colombian visa's expired. Kelvin and I along with Michnus and Elsebie headed to Macoa, which was about 150km away and the last town before the renowned 'Trampolin de Diablo' route, known as one of Colombia's 'death' roads. Before we headed out I topped the oil up once again and the bike needed a jump start but it was ok after that. Sadly, my top of the range lithium ion battery that was only six months old appeared to be failing. Personally, if we were to do it all again we would not have used these batteries, I would not recommend the lithium ion batteries. At home, I would give them a try again.
The road to Macoa was a main highway but super twisty, so not so bad at all, except for my oil leak and intermittently dodgy sounding engine. Fourtunately, my bike didn't explode.
I found a hostel on iOverlander with 'fast' internet. I think they were lying. Plus there was nowhere around to eat or buy supplies. Luckily, the emergency pasta came in handy. It wasn't a great place but it was only for one night...you win some you lose some. There was a natural pool down by the river, although a bit slimy, however the surroundings were awesome with several colourful parrots and really bright and beautiful plants. Just to finish off our stay, despite having asked to pay the owner on arrival, (he had said no), when we went to leave, he was nowhere to be found and another guest said he had gone to a Spanish lesson and would only be back in 1-2 hours. We left the money in his sign-in book and hoped that the other people that were there (all 3 leaving also) were honest. I will never know. So we got on the road, had breakfast at a little cafe on route and loads of Colombian school kids came to say hello.
Next...onto the Death road!
In all honesty, as much as I would like to sound really hard and brave, it wasn't what I would class as a death road, especially compared to some of the other roads we had been on without any crash barriers and steep drop offs. To start off there was loose gravel for a few Km to, which always makes me tense despite my best self-talking, then dirt road with plenty of other road users.
The views were awesome, with plenty of twisties and waterfalls. The route was well worth it for the scenery but not for it's nickname. Even I found it easy and I am no off-road queen! The only bit that got my heart pumping a little bit was when a minibus came up against a lorry. The lorry reversed back, and I had to beep as I was not far behind it. I had to pass the lorry on the outside of the road, very close to the edge of the road so the lorry could reverse further and let the bus through. The rest was a sinch. There were even a couple of coffee stops available on the way and only about 90-100km of the way was actually dirt road, the other 50-60km was tarmac.
So overall, definitely go for the views, but don't expect some huge off-road challenge, unless you have never ridden off tarmac before.
Sadly, just before we reached Pasto, my bike started making the horrid noise that it had made when it last broke down, which immediately made my heart sink. We stopped and recorded it so that we could allow the mechanic to listen to it, which was just as well as it wasn't so bad the next day.
We found a hotel and booked in. We thought it was the hotel we were actually looking for, but we later discovered we had actually rocked up at a different hotel with a very similar name. It was quite amuzing becuase a few hours previously I had jokingly said to Kelvin on the comms that "I could so do with a nice bath", knowing that they are virtually non-existent in budget hotels, especially with warm/hot water. Lo and behold, Elsebie and I went into the hotel and we were shown rooms at £20 a night, complete with Jacuzzi bath, AND hot water! Sold! The guys were also very happy when they saw the rooms, although we didn't let on just how good the rooms were until they saw them and just said they were "ok". Surprise!
F**k me, I need to wish for things out loud more often!!! A few days later we found out that the hotel we had been looking for was a bit of a dive.
I had already arranged for the bike to go to a Suzuki mechanic in Pasto, so we took it the day after we arrived and ordered a s**t load of parts and I almost fainted...but, no bike, no travel. It would be the second major surgery on my bike in the last three weeks! I also arranged for Kelvin's bike to have its bearings changed, oil and filter changed, front sprocket changed and rear tyre changed (Karoo 3 Metzeler), of which I had ordered two from Carlos at Don't Stop Adventure in Bogota. I managed to get them sent to Andres' friend Angie who lived in in Pasto, knowing full well that tyres were much more expensive in Ecuador, and we also went for a change in tyre as we found the K60's quite hard.
We met up with Andres' friend Angie a couple of times, and she was really lovely. She had our tyres within a couple of days of us arriving in Pasto and we also got some filter cartridges sent. She took us out for a coffee with her boyfriend and another friend, which was a nice surprise and really lovely. The coffee shop was so good, and we told Michnus and Elsebie about it as it was well worth a revisit.
Over the course of the eleven days we spent in Pasto waiting for my bike to be repaired, and all the parts to arrive, we made daily use of the jacuzzi and found a great place for food. Always a plus! We even got our bikes properly washed for the first time on the trip, for a small cost of about £2.50 per bike so well worth it.
During our time there it was Michnus' birthday and we all went to 'Azul' in the evening for an amazing steak...and it was amazing! I even had king prawns with mine, which I hadn't had for months, so I was very happy. It was a lovely evening and it was very hard to resist the temptation to go back again, but we managed. If you are ever in Pasto, I would highly recommend Azul.
Finally, our bikes were ready to be collected. Oh the joy! We rode them back to the hotel and I felt like I hadn't ridden for weeks. The bike felt very different and so did the clutch...I later found out after riding it a bit more that it was because the clutch lever hadn't been tightened up! I was a little annoyed but I let it pass because my bike sounded much better and it had had lots of TLC and new, shiny bits.
We left Pasto a few days before we aimed to cross the border into Ecuador, and headed to Las Lajas. We stayed in an old convent building with a great view of the Gothic church. We did a lot of walking up and down hill as the church and the whole of that small area was on a hill and into a gorge. The church was quite spectacular in the day, and being the weekend, super crowded. We walked to the church and down into the gorge, along the river. Some young, crazy kids decided to walk all the way accross the river on a fallen tree, with us egging them on. Luckily they didn't fall in, as after laughing I may have felt a bit guilty.
In the evenings as darkness fell, the church was lit up with lights. Sadly, not a nice white or soft blue light, but multicoloured lights, and it looked quite cheap and detracted from the beauty of the church, maybe like disneyland. Whoever came up with that idea needs a slap. The food in the area was typical Colombian dishes, mainly including rice, beans, salad and a meat. Kelvin and I stuck to chicken, but Michnus and Elsebie ate the guinea pig, which was a popular dish in the area. Unfortunately it didn't have much meat on it's bones, and apparently was quite gamey, so not my cup of tea. Also, the meat on Kelvin's chicken was a bit sparse. I think it had been chased a lot in it's living days!
In Las Lajas, I discovered that I now had a different oil leak on the bike and also quite a big one, requiring oil top ups, so although the last one had been fixed, I still had a problem. Great! At least the bike was running and we were ready to cross the border into Ecuador and leave Colombia behind. We would miss it greatly, and it had been a fantastic six months meeting many lovely people and making some really great friends along the way.