I’d enjoyed Colombia so far but the best was left for last. Setting out from Popayan on route 25, I was really in for a change of scenery and altitude. The first thirty miles brought me higher into the hills and probably the worst roads I’d come across in this country so far. The congested, narrow road corkscrewed higher and higher up into the mountains and back into the clouds. I’d seen all this before, but what was new was that every few miles there were road works, complete with uneven, ripped up pavement and stop signs.
My heart dropped when I saw the first construction delay, but then I realized this was a godsend. There was a lot of slow traffic since Popayan, which I’d been struggling to overtake because of the narrow and twisty roads. It was going to be a long, slow day until I realized I could just overtake the slowpokes when they were stopped for construction. Then, once I’d jumped the queue and the lights went green, I was first out of the starting gate , bouncing over the ground up tarmac and dirt. Add to that the bike was faster than any other vehicle over the rough sections under constructions and I was off to the races! In this manner I leapfrogged almost all the congestion along this hilly, twisty part of the country. This is exactly why you want a motorbike if you are travelling in this part of the world.
Eventually I came down in to a valley and the road straightened out and temperatures picked up. Traffic faded away and, I was on “easy street” again and made good time along a lovely tree-lined roads
This part of Colombia was a lot less developed than the central highlands and all manner of weird and wonderful vehicles plied that highways and byways here.
I was still on route 25, the “main” road, and principal artery to the Ecuadorian frontier. In fact I hadn’t really deviated from the main road since Cartagena way up in the north, so on a whim I branched off and aimed for the village of La Union, an hour or so off the principal highway.
I was glad I did. The road was even narrower and much more potholed, but there was little traffic, great views and a couple of nice small towns along the way. Here’s a rare onboard video treat of my ride through the country town of Mercaderes (Apologies for all the wind noise – you might need to turn down the volume..)
It didn’t look far on the map but I had to negotiate numerous deep ravines, and very steep hills along the way and arrived at La Union two hours later than I estimated. The challenging terrain was fun without having to contend with traffic, and I rolled into town after a very enjoyable ride.
I didn’t see any hotels so stopped at a motorbike shop to ask if they knew of any nearby. Not only did they know but they insisted on leading me there. Then before I left they gave me a gift of a T-shirt and fresh pastries! I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before but travellers here are very, very well received. I was feeling bad about all the help they were giving be so before they took me to the hotel I asked to buy a bolt that had come loose and fallen off the windscreen earlier that day (no doubt from scrambling over those road works). Well, if I was thinking that would return their generosity, I was wrong. They found the correct bolt, fitted it and got offended when I asked how much. Oh well, I tried!
While all this was going on, the boss of the shop was on the phone telling the family to get down there NOW. It was family photo time!
So if you ever find yourself in the village of La Union, province of Nariño, Colombia, be sure to stop by at “Motos RPM”. They are on the main and only street and they will be delighted to see you. Good luck trying to pay for anything though.
There wasn’t much in the way of restaurants in town, so I ate at the food stands that circled the main square. The food was cheap so I bought a small plate at each stand before moving on to the next one and sampling whatever they had to offer. This being Colombia, and me being a distinguished carnivore, let me tell you I ate well that evening. All washed down with the finest beer. Plus, since I was going from stand to stand, I exercised as I dined! Think of it as an all you can eat buffet, except with more walking.
Sated and bloated, I stumbled back to my hotel. It was a strange setup there. You entered from the street via a narrow archway which led to a passageway, which in turn opened out on to a roofed-over patio/parking lot complete with living room furniture and sunshade umbrellas. It was cheap and it worked for me though.