DCIM100SPORTAbove photo was taken last May in Quito. It is a motorcycle/truck beer delivery vehicle.

Am experiencing motorcycle ambivalence.

Met two gents traveling by motorcycle at the hostel. One, from Barcelona with a fabulous tricked out Yamaha  and a new arrival from Australia, riding a Suzuki enduro.  The man from Spain is heading North. The Aussie, heading South.  We chatted and exchanged tales of the road a bit. Apollo, from Barcelona left this morning heading for Cartagena, where he plans to locate a sailboat that will take he and his bike to Colon. Many bikers prefer this route/method of crossing the infamous ‘Darien gap’ to other options.

There I am seeing these dudes with their bikes, and I start to get a bit envious and nostalgic and then I think about the border crossing ordeals and I remember that biking through Central and South America has it’s drawbacks. I console myself, secure in the knowledge that I’ve ‘been there, done that’. Finally I give up my ennui and decide to be content with wishing my fellow ‘hermanos de motos’ all the best. Buen viaje, amigos.

More bikini clad ladies around the pool this morning.  Hard for me to just casually saunter by without noticing.  I do my best to not ogle.  Barring that, I am committed to  ogling sideways only. I need some sunglasses.

It's good to be the  king

It’s good to be the king!

I organized my gear a bit, changed bunks in the same room, got one closer to the door so as to disturb my fellow roomie’s less with my up and down nightly behavior.  Added a few more days to my reservation here.  Gave my imminent trajectory some thought.  I like to walk through the day of departure in my head so as to keep any surprise factors to a minimum.

With the above in mind, I mounted a local private bus service to the main bus terminal in Cali. In many C. and S. American towns, it often happens that there are more than one ‘major’ bus terminal. Sometimes there is a North terminal and a South terminal or just different terminals for catching buses to different destinations.  I wanted to get first hand knowledge of the layout  of the terminal with some time to just walk around not bothered with minding my gear (which remained safe at the hostel).  No problem getting to the station.

Located the bus services that go toward Ecuador and one that has through service all the way to Quito.  The ‘international’ bus only  departs twice a week and it departs at 4 AM. The other option is to take a Colombian bus that is not ‘authorized/licensed’ to cross borders. That kind will only go as far as the border town itself. Got the needed info and will spend a few hours pondering my options.  Had a bite to eat at a restaurant in the terminal while watching a TV monitor with news reporters  in Havana, Cuba at the ‘peace talks’ — ‘La Paz’ between the Colombian government and the farc forces. There were images of men in the jungle toting AK’s in full combat gear, sporting fatigues… transposed with images of men in suits at conference tables, from Cuba.  Interesting way for a gringo to have lunch.

Around  3PM, I tried to get on a bus to go back to my hostel. I say tried because even though I took careful note of the bus that dropped me and I asked if that bus returned to the place that I boarded… when I attempt to find the bus I was met with a host of difficulties.  One, I found a bus with the name/number that I was looking for and got on and then asked if it went to San Antonio (the barrio where the hostel is) and the driver shook his head no and pointed in another direction. Now, if my Spanish skills were nothing short of excellent, which they are not, I might do a lot better at this process. As it is, I am forced to muddle through.  Strange city (over 2 million strong). Hugely different mass transit process. Some ‘private buses’, some ‘municipal buses’.

Understand, I could have just got in a cab. That is what I did when I first arrived. I wanted to gain this new knowledge. Sometimes you can learn quite a bit by muddling through on the local buses. So, you might make some mistakes… find yourself in a place that you were not really going… etc. If you make sure that you do this in the daytime (would not recommend doing this at night)  you can see and learn quite a lot.

I found that I was directed ‘back and forth’ across the terminal to catch a bus going to San Antonio.  The problem is magnified not only by the language issue but by the simple reality that even the local folks do not always know the correct bus.  It’s not that they are actually trying to misdirect you (although this may occasionally happen) it is more a matter of them wanting to be helpful, but not actually knowing themselves.  So, you can see that all this is actually just a part of Rik’s adventure.

Wound up asking cops, security officers, bus station attendants and in the end found myself on a new municipal bus.  Had to walk through an underground tunnel to the other side of the street, walk over an overhead pedestrian walkway over another road before finally arriving at one the municipal bus stations.

The municipal buses  only travel in special lanes and have special ‘paradas’ (bus stops) in the middle of the road. The municipal buses almost never drop anyone curbside of a road, although they  occasionally do that too. You have to KNOW your route. (Did I mention that I do NOT know my route?)  By the end of my adventure I had been misdirected twice. Had to reverse my route completely, returning to and getting off at the same station I originally boarded… asked more folks… and finally got the right info and was finally on the right bus.

Even though I was on ‘the right bus’ this time, there was another out of the ordinary wrinkle.   I was lucky enough to be sitting next to a lady who assured me that this bus was going to go through San Antonio. About 5 minutes into this trip there was a uniformed man in the middle of the street waving his hands wildly and who got the driver’s attention and who spoke some agitated words to him… and off we went again. The lady said that we were going to take another route from the normal one because there was some ‘bad trouble’ of some kind on the normal route.

She assured me that this was not an every day occurrence, but sometimes happens. She was communicating back and forth with the driver in my behalf. She pointed out the stop where I should dismount the bus and gave me brief instruction about the direction I should proceed.

This big blue municipal bus that usually only drops people at the special prescribed stops opened it’s doors and let me out curbside. The bus took off. I  thanked the lady and waved as the bus pulled away.  I walked a few blocks and sure enough, I began to recognize the neighborhood. I was able to walk directly to the hostel no problem.

Stay tuned for more exciting tales…