Iron Roamer Goes to Albania?!

Yes, it is true, I’m going to Albania to work as a Law Enforcement Development Officer with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). While there I hope to get lots of motorcycling in too πŸ™‚

The Email

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I received an email that created some panic and stress. The email was a job offer from the OSCE. What caused me stress was that they wanted me to start on January 21, only weeks away. Meanwhile, I was home for Christmas until January 10, my motorcycle was in Bogota, Colombia, and I was to be in Vienna, Austria, on January 21! How was I ever going to accomplish that?

OSCE

Many of you I am sure have not heard of the OSCE before. The following is from their website:

With 57 participating States in North America, Europe and Asia, the OSCE – the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe – is the world’s largest regional security organization. The OSCE works for stability, peace and democracy for more than a billion people, through political dialogue about shared values and through practical work that aims to make a lasting difference.

The OSCE is a forum for political dialogue on a wide range of security issues and a platform for joint action to improve the lives of individuals and communities. The organization uses a comprehensive approach to security that encompasses the politico-military, economic and environmental, and human dimensions. Through this approach, and with its inclusive membership, the OSCE helps bridge differences and build trust between states by co-operating on conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation.

With its Institutions, expert units and network of field operations, the OSCE addresses issues that have an impact on our common security, including arms control, terrorism, good governance, energy security, human trafficking, democratization, media freedom and national minorities.

Our activities cover a wide range of security issues such as conflict prevention to fostering economic development, ensuring the sustainable use of natural resources & promoting the full respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

I have worked with the OSCE before in Macedonia as a Police Advisor, and then as an Organized Crime and Transnational Threats Advisor. So I am familiar with the organization and the region.

The OSCE in Albania

The mandate for the OSCE in Albania is, “to assist Albania in developing effective democratic institutions and to promote the rule of law and human rights in the country. It does this through a variety of legal and administrative reform initiatives; activities aimed at fighting corruption and trafficking; and programmes to develop the country’s media, support civil society, and train police and customs officials.”

Law Enforcement Development Officer

As for my position, I will be stationed in Tirana, Albania. I will be responsible for working with all Albanian law enforcement bodies to offer strategic and tactical law enforcement advice and assistance.

Why?

So the question that may arise for some of my followers is why would I leave my motorcycle adventure. I can assure you it wasn’t an easy decision.

Motorcycling has given me freedom to come and go as I choose. I rarely set my alarm. I also get to see so many sights and cultures that people only dream of seeing. All this on a motorcycle, where I experience the wind in my face and the freedom of the open road. There is also the identity of being a motorcycle adventurer. All very tough things to give up.

However, like everything in my little mind, there are also down sides. First, there is little socialization on my trip. Part of this is due to the language barrier, traveling by myself, being on the move most of the time, and me not being the most extroverted person in the world. Working in one place satisfies much of this.

Second, the trip has taken a toll on my health. This isn’t entirely the trips fault ha ha. But I don’t eat the best and don’t exercise. This can of course be combated with some discipline. Discipline I don’t seem to have. I need a routine and a stable environment where I can focus on my health.

Third, on the trip I am constantly spending money. Don’t get me wrong, I live a comfortable life on the road, but of course it would be nice to earn money for a change πŸ™‚

Lastly, I get this nagging feeling once in awhile of being “useless” and not contributing to society. Much of life is a quest for meaning greater than oneself. I have a need to contribute … even if it is just to help one person.

International police development, along with motorcycling have been my passions. I worked Namibia as a Capacity Building Advisor, then in Macedonia after which I motorcycled around the US for 6 months. Then worked for a bit more at thee Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner in BC, Canada, before doing this year and a half trip from Prudhoe Bay to Bogota Colombia. Now I’m flipping back to international police development.

Having said that, I still plan on riding πŸ™‚ The plan is to buy a motorcycle to explore Albania and neighbouring countries. Also to do motorcycle tours through Italy, Spain and Portugal. So I will continue to blog about my travel experiences πŸ™‚

I look back at all I have accomplished on this trip with satisfaction, and with some sadness that this part is over. But also excitement about what lies ahead.

Making it Happen

Back to the problem at hand, how will I get my motorcycle to Vancouver and me to Albania?

First, I emailed the OSCE and they agreed that I could start February 1, instead of January 21. Phew, that gave me a bit more time to figure things out.

I emailed and phone a bunch or cargo and logistic places. Only one responded. That was Veronica from Cargorider! Veronica was a life saver. She came back with a quote for $3000 US to get my motorcycle from Bogota to Vancouver, leaving Bogota on January 26. I took it. It was going to be tight, but doable. I hope.

It was now back to Bogota to see Veronica and make things happen. Fingers crossed!!

Motto

You may remember I have a motto for this trip and life and general. It comes from Helen Keller who said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

Here is a similar quote from Theodore Roosevelt, β€œIt is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I continue to live an adventurous life and daring greatly.

Home in Vancouver Canada for Christmas

I was really looking forward to going home for Christmas to visit family and friends.

Buying Spree

One of the first things to do was go on a buying spree for not only Christmas gifts but also things I needed to replenish for my adventure. But first was to see a doctor and dentist. The doctor was easy, and I got prescriptions renewed and a 6 month supply of medication purchased.

With the dentist I got my teeth cleaned. However, he also advised that I really needed a tooth pulled and an implant put in πŸ™ Well … that was going to have to wait. No time to do it now and I wasn’t feeling any pain anyways. This could come back to bite me πŸ™‚

One of my biggest purchases was a new phone. If you remember, mine had gotten water inside and the screen wasn’t working.

Visiting Family and Christmas

Getting medical checkups, and buying stuff, was the dull part of Christmas. The best part was visiting family, especially my 3 kids, spouses, and my 2 grandkids. Well ….. soon to be three grandkids πŸ™‚

One evening we went to the Stanley Park Christmas train. Very cool …. both the weather and the park. Not use to cool weather after being in heat for such a long time.

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And of course there was celebrating Christmas πŸ™‚

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The second best part of Christmas was the food … homecooking. My diet on the road is crappy. I know. I eat a lot of processed foods and once in a while I venture out on my own to eat a good meal at a restaurant. This isn’t the same as home cooking though. So I really enjoyed the Christmas meal made by my ex-wife. Thanks!

Visiting Friends

Visiting friends was also a priority. First, was a dinner with old high school friends. Some I hadn’t seen since high school over 40 years ago!!

While at home I took a bit of an excursion for a week to Vancouver Island to visit friends. For the 2 years prior to my adventure I worked at the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner in Victoria on Vancouver Island. So it was really nice to visit with some of my former colleagues.

I also went up island to visit another former colleague from my Abbotsford Police Days.

Panic and Stress

Interrupting my good time was an email I received on my first morning on the island. It was instant panic and stress that would stay with me for weeks. In my next blog post I will reveal what it was all about.

In any case, I made a conscious effort not to let it interfere with the enjoyment of being home.

Coming to an End

My Christmas vacation was coming to an end. One last meal with my kids and their families and it was time to go.

As far as social media goes I was pretty much dormant over Christmas. There were a few reasons for this. Of course I was busy. But also my life appeared to be in a state of transition and stress due to that email.

My Route on December 8, 2017

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My Location from December 9, 2017 to January 9, 2018

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Back to Bogota Colombia and Park 93

It was time to ride back to Bogota and Park 93 to get ready to head home for Christmas. I say Park 93 because when I was in Bogota the last time, one of the nicest areas I visited was Park 93. It is a small park in the Embassy district of Bogota and it is surrounded by restaurants and patios not to mention two Starbucks ha ha. So I was looking forward to enjoying all of this.

Curves

The ride from Salento to Bogota was going to be longer than I have done in a long time. About 6 hours. I left early to tackle it. The ride consisted of going over a small mountain range. As I climbed it got colder and colder. But the view were spectacular. Why didn’t I take a picture πŸ™ So bad at that. You’d think that after a year and a half on the road I would be better.

The road was full of twisties. Unfortunately, it appeared to be a major trucking route and I was stuck in line ups for a lot of the curves.

The curves also provided another phenomenon. At each curve was at least one person with a flag. These people were not government workers but rather people who set up house on the curve and were there to direct traffic for tips. They were actually very useful. The curves were sharp and big semis had a hard time negotiating them and staying in their lane. So these people would stop traffic if necessary so truckers could take the curve better. They also served as a warning for oncoming traffic to be careful. The people in poorer countries are so ingenious in making money.

To tip these people, drivers would throw money out of their windows.

Soon, however, this will come to an end. The government is building a freeway along the route that will eliminate these “jobs.”

Torrents

As I entered the outskirts of Bogota I could see the storm clouds gathering. I was only 20 km from my hotel at Park 93. However, it was also rush hour and the traffic in Bogota is horrendous. I was barely moving.

Then it hit. Torrents of rain. It wasn’t long before I was soaked as I had left my vents open in my riding suit as it was also hot. At least once I was soaked it felt better than the shock of getting wet ha ha.

I wasn’t the only thing soaked. The roads too became saturated and huge lakes formed. The outcome of these was me getting splashed as cars went by me. Also they became so deep that they reached my boots and splashed over top of them. As approached lights I tried to time things so I wouldn’t have to stop in the lakes.

It took me well over a hour to ride the 20 km to the hotel.

Park 93

Once I arrived I dried off. For the next week I could enjoy Park 93. During the day I went to Starbucks to work and sit in the park for a bit.

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At night the park turned into a Christmas fairytale.

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I wish we had similar parks back home. When it comes to socialization the Central Americans and Colombians have us beat with there plazas and parks to hang out at and enjoy a coffee and talking to people.

Socialization

Speaking of socialization, that is the one thing I miss while riding. It came to the forefront one night as I walked around Park 93. The restaurant patios were filled with people laughing and enjoying each other’s company. Even though I am not the most social person, I miss that and I suppose it being Christmas time brought it more home. I got pretty down.

This has happened periodically throughout my adventure. Social encounters are brief due going from one place to another. They are also rather limited due to the language barrier. One thing I should have done is learned Spanish before heading out. But even if I meet up with someone who speaks english, the conversation is fairly superficial. As a result, small things like a smile become important. Perhaps it is lucky I’m not that social to begin with or it would hit me harder.

Soon I would be heading home for Christmas though.

Motos y Servitecas de Colombia

If you remember, in Jardin I dropped my motorcycle and broke off my mirror. A place recommended by one of the blogs I read was Motos y Servitecas de Colombia. This place is a bit of a hole in the wall but the service was amazing. They were so friendly and fixed my mirror right away. They even detailed my motorcycle. I would highly recommend this place.

Motorcycle Storage

The one issue to take care of before I flew home was storing my motorcycle. I was very fortunate that a person I went to college with knew a person whose father lived in Bogota. As a result I made arrangements to store my motorcycle at his place. It worked out perfect. Now I was ready to go home and see my kids and friends.

My Route on December 2, 2017

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My Location from December 3 to 6, 2017

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In preparation to fly home early in the morning, I moved to a hotel close to the airport.

My Location on December 7, 2018

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The Andean Town of Salento Colombia

Upon the recommendations from people on my coffee plantation tour in Manizales, I decided to ride to the Andean town of Salento. It was a really short ride as you can tell from the map at the end of this post. However, it was relaxing, and the last few kilometers into Salento were twisty among a beautiful forest.

Salento Attractions

Salento is known for the nearby parks. East is Cocora Valley where lofty wax palm trees, a national symbol, and home to rare parrots. Salento is also the gateway to the snow-capped peaks of Los Nevados National Natural Park, to the northeast.

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When I arrived in Salento I looked at tours to these areas. In the plaza there were a lot of 4x4s lined up to take people into the mountains. However,they are expensive, especially if you are going as a single, and it requires at least a day. The weather also wasn’t the greatest. So, I decided not to go but rather just enjoy the town.

Coffee Shop in Salento

One of the first things I do when visiting a new town is find a relaxing coffee shop. No Starbucks in this village πŸ™‚ It took me a while to find a coffee shop here that had the atmosphere I was looking for. I finally found one tucked away amongst a group of stores. This was my first thing in the morning stop.

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Walk Around Salento

As I walked around Salento, I noticed a considerable number of tourists. I could certainly understand why. The town is picturesque.

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Dogs at every corner sleeping. Kind of a common sight throughout Central America and now Colombia.

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The plaza was a disappointing. While Salento is beautiful, I much preferred Jardin.

Mirador Alto De La Cruz

One thing I have mentioned before is that it is difficult for me to keep in shape while motorcycling. It could be done for sure, but for me I need to get into a routine. Routine just doesn’t happen on a motorcycle trip of this kind. And that is one reason it is so appealing. Everyday is different. The result is that I have gained weight on the trip and my muscles have atrophied ha ha ha πŸ™

Getting to the Mirador Alto De La Cruz consists on many steps up a hill. I was sore for days after climbing the steps in Medellin. So when I first saw these steps I said to myself … NAH not going to do it. However, I finally told myself I had to do it. The views must be great and the exercise would be good for me.

The Mirador Alto De La Cruz did not disappoint on both counts.

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Salento Rain

As I mentioned, the weather was not great while I was in Salento. The torrents came in the afternoon.

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Time to head back to Bogota where I was looking forward to going home for Christmas.

My Route on November 29, 2017

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My Location on November 30 and December 1, 2017

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Jardin – Small Town Colombia

My next stop after Guatape was Jardin. I was hoping my luck would turn as I was feeling a bit grumpy. But it didn’t. Well … sort of. Jardin turned out to be an amazing little town that I really enjoyed.

Riding to Jardin

To get to Jardin I just followed my GPS. I really shouldn’t have as it took me through Medellin and all its traffic. And it was a route I had already taken. I don’t like backtracking. It also rained as I went through Medellin. Not a lot, but apparently enough to get my phone wet.

I had my phone in the same waterproof pocket I had used the entire trip. Up until now it had kept it dry. I guess my coretex waterproofing has seen better days.

When I got to Jardin the phone screen started to flicker. I turned the phone off and put it in a rice bath.

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Hotel Kantarrana Urbana Jardin

I stayed in a really nice hotel. It was cheap, the staff were really nice, and it was clean. All I could expect in a hotel.

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Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and Parque Principal

My first stop after checking into my hotel is the main square and the church that is always at one end.

The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception was very cool as most all the churches are in Colombia.

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Unfortunately, the square, Parque Principal, was under re-construction. That was really too bad :-(.

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The businesses around the park were quite different than I had experienced before. Rather than restaurants or craft shops appealing to tourists, these were just hole in the wall cafes. And what I found odd was that no one seemed to have food or beer. Everyone was sipping on coffee.

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The town looked so nice that I decided to spend one more day in Jardin than I had originally booked.

Exploring Jardin

Perhaps exploring is too grandiose of a word ha ha. Jardin is very small. But I enjoyed walking the streets and looking out into the hills beyond it.

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I noticed as I walked around that most people lived in small places along the street consisting of a bedroom, living room and kitchen. A lot of the time the living room also served as a parking lot for their motorcycle or bicycle.

A wonderful little town. I just wish I was there to enjoy the park as well.

Cafe Europa

A really nice small little restaurant in Jardin is Cafe Europa. I counted only 6 tables in the restaurant.

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The nights I was there I enjoyed a Greek salad to up my vegetable intake which has often suffered on this trip.

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And of course a beer.

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While I ate at Cafe Europa, this one server always spoke to me in Spanish. I didn’t find anyone in Jardin that spoke English so that wasn’t unusual. However, at the end of the last night I ate there, all of a sudden he spoke to me in English. I was kind of shocked. Now I could actually have a more in depth conversation with him.

It turned out that he was born and raised in Jardin but went to Medellin to study English and French at the university. However, he found Medellin and the university to be so big and lots of hustle and bustle. So he decided to return to simple life in Jardin to figure out what he really wanted to do.

He told me that most people in Jardin work 4 or 5 hours a day and spend the rest of the time sipping coffee by the park and talking to each other.

I really enjoyed our conversation and Jardin as a whole. Such a relaxing environment.

My Route on November 22, 2017

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My Location on November 23 and 24, 2017

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Colorful Guatape Colombia

My month in Medellin was amazing, but it was time to move on to colorful Guatape Colombia, a short ride to the town through the countryside.

Penol Guatape

Before entering Guatape is Penol Guatape. My first sight of it brought a huge smile to my face. For years now I have been following riders who have come here. It is so cool to be following in their footsteps to such amazing places. Penol Guatape is certainly one of them.

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According to Atlas Obscura:

By the 1900s, the massive 10-million-ton rock was seen by local farmers as a nuisance, a giant version of the rocks that the farmers regularly dug out of their fields. In 1954 a group of friends β€” supposedly at the urging of a local priest β€” climbed the rock using a series of boards wedged into a crack. These were the first people known to have climbed El PeΓ±on de Guatape. (It is unknown whether the Tahamies had a way of ascending the stone.)

Climbing the huge stone took five days, but the top of the rock revealed beautiful views and a new species of plant, Pitcairma heterophila. The rock soon became a modest tourist attraction.

The rock, which is almost entirely smooth, has one long crack, the one that the climbers used in ascending it. In the crack was later wedged a 649-step masonry staircase, the only way to get to the top of the Piedra de Penol. In the 1970s, the area was dammed, and the view from the rock changed: It now overlooks a dramatic series of lakes and islands.

Today, you can ascend the rock (apparently owned by a local family, though also designated by Colombia as a β€œnational monument”) for 2 US dollars. There you’ll find a few religious relics and a three-story lookout tower.

I noticed that some websites number the steps at 649 and other 727. Huummmmmm maybe it depends if you count in Spanish or English ha ha.

Anyways …. my plan was to hike to the top while I was in Guatape.

Parking

I arrived at my hotel just in time as it was starting to rain.

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However, this turned out to be the start of a series of bad luck, mostly self inflicted.

As I checked in, the clerk said they didn’t have parking! What?! I only book hotels that have good parking. She pointed out a motorcycle parking lot just a half a block away. Phew I thought. As I rode the half block the owner said I couldn’t park there because my bike was to big to fit through the doorway. The parking lot was simply a house you rode into.

Back to the hotel the clerk suggested a big parking lot at the town entrance. I walked in the rain to find it was only a big grass field. No way I was parking there. Turned out that they didn’t allow motorcycles to park there anyways.

For the next hour I walked the town in the rain looking for a place to park. I finally found another house that had a yard where I could park.

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Hotel Guatatur

Back at the Hotel Guatatur I checked in. Strangely, the clerk said I had 2 nights. I thought I booked 3. Once in the room I discovered they only had 2 prong outlets. Good for everything but my computer. I have run into these several times now. It is the one adaptor I don’t have! The result is that I had to charge my computer in the lobby where there was 2 3 prong outlets.

The internet however, was crap anyways. Couldn’t get it in my room. So I had to go to the lobby anyways.

Frustrated, it was time to explore the town.

Guatape

Guatape is known for its colors. In that way the town did not disappoint.

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The sign says “Every angel has a devil who invites him for a good coffee.”

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That’s my hotel in the middle.

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The town is along a lake.

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I was asked a couple of times if I wanted to go out on a boat. Ahhhhhhh I don’t think so.

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One thing that really impressed me … and probably not a lot of other people ha ha … was the sports facilities.

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Of course at the center of every latin american town is a church. The best part of the one in Guatape is that they lit it up at night so it changed colors.

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Time for the Hike

The plan was that after a day of exploring the town I would go to Penol Guatape to hike up the stairs. However, the night before my knees really started to ache and I had to take pain killers. I have suffered knee problems ever since I trained for a marathon a few years ago. Perhaps my knees were telling me something. Or perhaps my mind was telling my knees to give me an excuse not to climb it ha ha. In either case, I just didn’t think I would be able to do the climb. Especially considering the difficulty I had climbing the stairs in Medellin. I was disappointed as it was something I wanted to do.

Instead I enjoyed the town for another day.

Time to Leave

When it was time to leave I couldn’t find my keys!! I usually put them in my riding jacket pocket or in my helmet. But they weren’t there. I tore apart all my belongings and the room. They weren’t there. Even the hotel staff came in and looked through the room. I walked back to where I parked my motorcycle and they weren’t there either. They must have slipped out of my pocket as I walked back to my hotel when I arrived. Luckily, I had a spare set with me. Discouraging.

I was actually happy to leave. Guatape is a beautiful town, but everything seemed to be going wrong here. Nothing big, just a lot of little things. And for some reason, the town didn’t have an appeal for me. No idea why. It is beautiful.

As I was about to leave the hotel manager came up to me and said I had another night left! I thought so, but I checked with the clerk twice and she said only 2 nights. I was ready to leave anyways. The manager gave me 1 night’s money back. Time to go!

My Route on November 20, 2017

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My Location on November 21, 2017

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Sightseeing in Medellin Colombia

After a week of catching up on my blogs it was time to do some sightseeing in Medellin.

Medellin Metrocable

High on my sightseeing list was the Medellin Metrocable. The Metrocable was in the opposite end of the city where I was staying. That meant taking the Metro to get there.

The Medellin Metro is very modern and very cheap! Only $2 Canadian to take it to the opposite end of the city.

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When I reached the Metrocable I was in for another surprise. The Metrocable is a gondola. Back home gondolas are largely tourist attractions or ways to get to the top of the ski hill. But here they are an integral part of thee transit system for poor people living on the side of the mountain. The big surprise was this Metrocable was included with the $2 I spent to take the Metro. It is just a part of the transit system. So I just transferred to it and off I went for the ride.

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Once you get to the top, this is where the tourist part starts. It no longer is a transit system but a tourist ride over a forest plateau. And you pay extra for that. Almost double my $2 transit fare. So the ride continued.

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The end was rather disappointing. I was hoping for a nice spot to sit, have a cup of coffee, and enjoy the sights. Instead, there were just a few food stalls and no view.

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There are some walks you can do through the forest but that is it.

It was time to head back “home.”

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Of course amongst all the poverty is a beautiful soccer pitch πŸ™‚

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Time to transfer back onto the transit part of the Metrocable

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Soon I was back to my comfortable surroundings in Envigado.

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Downtown Medellin

My next sightseeing trip was to go downtown. One of the major attractions there are the sculptures in Botero Plaza created by Fernando Botero.

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I walked around downtown hoping to see some more great things.

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Other than this mall, I was disappointed.

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I decided to take a walk to another place in the downtown area listed on my sightseeing things to see – Bolivar Park.

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The park ended up being disappointing as well. I guess worth seeing but not mind blowing ha ha. Perhaps I have seen so much now that it takes more to impress me.

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So I just kept walking to lose myself in the city. As I walked I came across the government area. It was deserted but had some nice sculptures.

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Back home πŸ™‚

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Sunday Football in Poblado

Envigado where I am staying, and Poblado just north are reportedly the two nicest areas of Medellin. An English pub in Poblado was suppose to be the best place to watch NFL football. So that is where I headed.

The area where the pub was located was filled with restaurants around a small park.

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Finally got to my pub to watch some football … in English too!

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Regional Metropolitano Cerro El Volador Natural Park

My last sightseeing spot was the Regional Metropolitano Cerro El Volador Natural Park. This is a hill overlooking Medellin.

Here I discovered that after a year of riding and a hernia operation, that I am dreadfully out of shape. I discovered this after climbing numerous stairs to get to the top.

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I am kind of frustrated, discouraged and disturbed by how out of shape I have become. It is a combination of no strenuous activity and poor eating. Something to watch for if you are planning on a motorcycle adventure of your own.

Anyways, I did make it to the top.

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After my exercise I headed past the Medellin river, back on the Metro and home.

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Starbucks

Actually, before heading home after each sightseeing trip, and on the days in between, I spent time at Starbucks at the Milla de Oro. It was my place to relax and enjoy a coffee. Plus they knew me and greeted me by name. Unique about this particular Starbucks was that they wrote a saying on everyone’s cup. This is the one I liked the best:

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“Brian, the best.” πŸ™‚

My Location from October 24 to November 19, 2017

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Working Away in Medellin Ville

After exploring Bogota, it was time to get back on the road and ride to Medellin, Colombia. Once there I would spend a month in an Airbnb I rented. The reason for spending a month there was to wait out the rainy season, get caught up on my blog posts, study Spanish, and do some housekeeping.

As a retired police officer, Medellin was infamous for its drug trade. However, I understand things have changed. Can’t wait to explore the city I’ve heard so much about over the years.

Ride to Medellin

As I was planning my ride to Medellin I couldn’t seem to figure out how long it would take. Each map I looked on gave different riding times. Because of that I left early.

The first part of the ride seemed to take forever as I negotiated the Bogota traffic. Tortuous! Once out on the open road though it was a nice leisurely ride through the hills to Medellin.

I arrived at my Airbnb at 2 pm after leaving at 7 am in the morning. At first I couldn’t figure out which was the apartment complex and no one seemed to be coming out. I spoke to a manager of one of them to see if he could help. Even though I didn’t understand a word he said, eventually he hooked me up with the mother of the person I was renting from. The Spanish here is Colombia is quite different than what I have been used to in Central America.

After a quick explanation of the rules I got settled in.

Laundry

My first order of business was to find out where I was, what was around me, and to find a laundromat. There is a washer in my Airbnb, but I figured if a laundromat was close by, why fiddle around with laundry.

Well, I walked everywhere and asked everyone and there just wasn’t any laundromat anywhere near me. Very strange. In Mexico and Central America they are everywhere! I guess I will do my own laundry.

The good thing about trying to find a laundromat was that I got to know what was around me.

For my first full day I planned on going to a local coffee shop to get caught up on my blog posts. I got there at 9 am but it didn’t open until 10 am. Well, this wasn’t going to work. I sat there for a bit and said to myself, “screw it,” and headed off to the nearest Starbucks that was about a 35 to 40 minute walk from my Airbnb.

From that day on for the next week and a half, I had my routine.

The Day in the Life of Brian in Medellin

I would leave my Airbnb at about 9 am each morning. The Airbnb I have it really nice – 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 7th floor.

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The garden outside was decorated for Halloween.

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Walk down my street to the main road.

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Cross the busy intersection.

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You can see Carulla on the left of the picture. That is where I get my groceries.

Then walk along a beautiful tree lined street up and down over a small hill.

Medellin

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As I head down to an overpass I reach Santuario De La Virgen de La Rosa Mistica. At first I didn’t know what it was, only that people were there all the time.

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At the entrance is a small store to buy candles mostly.

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Walking inside you see tile plaques everywhere thanks Rosa for answering their prayers.

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And then stairs up to Rosa Mistica.

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From what I can gather, this shrine has a bit of a sinister past. It was once owned by Pablo Escobar for his henchmen to go and pray for protection and bless their weapons. Apparently half the plaques there are from criminals thanking Rosa. It is also known as the virgin of the assassins.

From there I walk down and up to the Santa Fe mall.

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One really cool thing about the mall is that it has a parking entrance just for motorcycles and bicyclists.

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Inside the mall if a very cool play area. Hey Mia and Ben (my grandkids) I wish you were here so we could go play in it!!

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As I walk past the mall I can see in the distance a car park that works with elevators!

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Ahead is a sign that seems to be welcoming me ha ha

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Past the flower vendor I reach my destination. It has it all πŸ™‚ Starbucks, a BMW motorcycle dealership, Hard Rock Cafe, Krispy Kreme and a fitness centre.

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The Starbucks here is always filled with people working.

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Up to the Barista to order, in Spanish ha ha, my usual.

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And then to my spot, ala Sheldon, to work on blog posts and read for the next few hours.

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Once in awhile there there is some impromptu entertainment like this photo shoot outside.

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Often by the afternoon it starts to rain. I wait for it to subside a bit before walking back home.

In the evenings I hunt for dinner πŸ™‚ and either watch the World Series, NFL football, or just Big Bang Theory, which I downloaded the first 10 seasons to watch.

And that is it for the first week and a half here in Medellin.

My Route on October 23, 2017

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My Location from October 24 to November 2, 2017

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