Having crisscrossed the globe on many adventures, I’ve learned that people tend to find other people that share a common passion. On my travels I may not understand the inside jokes, or even the language, but I do understand motorcycles and bond immediately with others who have this passion.
The alarm rose above the din of the street below that was already busy with the early morning routines of Colombians readying for work. Groggy from a deep sleep aided by too much aguardiente and cerveza I was hardly awake when Micho knocked on my door yelling, “Despertarse, amigo.” WAKE UP! I suited up and hastily packed my bags, ready to hit the road.
Micho, a man who shares the common language of the love of motorcycles, owns Elephant Motorcycle Expeditions and was eager to get on the road to battle the congestion of Bogota’s morning traffic. As I exited the room, I looked at the alarm clocking that was still beeping at me—5:15 am. Micho helped grabbed my bag. “Café por favor,” were the only words I could muster.
The traffic in Bogota was indeed thickening by the time we got outside the city limits and finally opened up our bikes. We carved along the smooth roads in the rolling farmlands toward the Magdalena Valley, where the Magdalena river cuts through deep forests and dramatic mountains. The valley is shaped like a ballerina’s foot while en pointe, the toes touching Ecuador, the heel Venezuela. And right, dead in the center of the foot is Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados, our destination for the evening.
The 4 days exploring the Colombian countryside led us down dusty dirt roads overlooking expansive vistas, along picturesque ridgelines of coffee and banana farms, through small, colorful colonial towns with welcoming, waving hands and hot coffee. We had flat tires, crashed bikes, busted shoulders and big grins.
Colombia is known for many things. Its stellar landscape, the kindness of the people, the delicious food, and yes, cocaine and violence. The latter, was a fact many of my American friends would bring up as I prepared for my trip to this South American country. I replied to their fear and ignorance the way I always do to people who assume a place is dangerous because they heard it on the news, “You never know until you go.” This motto has me packing my bags and stepping into the world with a cautious mind and an open heart. I’ve never regretted it. Micho and his band of motorcycle adventurists had me falling in love with Colombia, around every turn, in every small village. They showed me their country through eyes that love it, that are loyal and proud of it—not the eyes of the media that would have you believing there is a murder on every corner.
I’m glad my passion is for motorcycles. I share a bond with like-minded people. People who love adventure, leaning into curves, pulling up outside a small cantina in the middle of nowhere and ordering the local fare. Motorcycle people, my people, no matter where they are from, love to move, to travel and learn and answer for themselves the way the world really is.
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