Feb. 8 – Armenia to Popayan

2009 February 12
by joe

I got up early, and went across the street for coffee.  Coffee came pre-sweetened, as it does here sometimes.  Where we had stopped was just outside the city proper, in a truck-stop like area that had all truck service and trucker related businesses, restaurants and hotels.  The area had a very unsavory air to it, and everyone seemed to have a rather bad attitude towards gringos. There were a collection of strange persons hanging around, and several ‘characters’ approached asking for money.  One strange little man in particular had followed us around the night before, and would not take no for an answer.  He saw me come out in the morning and latched onto me again.  He pestered me endlessly until the restaurant owner finally chased him off for me so I could eat in peace.

After coffee I wandered around a bit to see if I could locate a place for us to get out the tools and work on Levi’s brakes.  I walked passed an entrance sculpture that we had missed coming in in the dark, and was amazed at what the town had chosen to display at the entrance to their town:  a painting of a nude woman being ripped apart with hooks.  (see Levi’s post for the image)

When Levi was up, we had breakfast and moved the bikes to a nearby gas station that had a large area for us to work in.  As we were leaving the mud-hole we had been told was hotel parking, a guy came and demanded $4.00 for parking fee.  We knew it was bull, but we didn’t have much choice but to pay him.  He laughed at us as he walked away.  No one seemed to mind that we set up to work at the gas station, and we completed the brake job in short order.  I also made some adjustments to the broken windscreen, that helped stabilize it and keep it from flopping around too much.

Finally, we loaded out of the hotel, and headed down Panamerican Sur towards Cali.  Good road, then even better road;  passed lots of military checkpoints, and cars were stopped in front or behind us, but they never even looked funny at us.  Lots of toll booths, but always with a bypass ‘lane’ (barely wide enough for our monster machines) for motos.  We passed an area with very fancy estates, many with wall, gates and private armed guards.  No doubt the country homes of Cali wealthy.

We lost our way for a while in Palmira, when we tried to bypass Cali and head straight south.  For much of the day we road on excellent highway through a very wide valley that was at high altitude. At one point we were over 12,000 ft. in altitude. My bike rolled over 10,000 miles since leaving Michigan.

 Popayan is a large city, but wierd and strange in what it has and doesn’t have.  We explored the town a bit on foot, but everywhere we went we were either overcharged, rudely ignored, or asked for money outright.  Very uncomfortable.  We ate pizza and beer for dinner, then stayed in the hotel.

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