Cartagena - Medellín - Cartagena - Medellín

Medellín, Colombia

After New Year’s in Cartagena, it was not long at all before Noah (my brother) arrived to visit for a week. We spent a couple days in Cartagena, and pretty as it is, there really isn’t a whole lot to do or see in that town.

A typical block in Cartagena's old town Cartagena's very white skyline

After a beach day across the bay, we opted to hop a flight to Medellín. It was unfortunately impractical to have Noah on the back of the motorcycle, mostly for luggage reasons, and a 14-hour bus ride wasn’t appealing given Noah’s short time here, so flying it was. I left the bike in the parking lot of the hotel in Cartagena and one 45-minute flight later we were there.

Medellín is a pretty fascinating city. It’s the second biggest in Colombia, population ~2.5 million, and has made a pretty incredible comeback from being the epicenter of the Colombian conflict in the 90s and 00s. It is situated in a valley, with barrios creeping up the surrounding mountainsides, serviced by cable car lines that are directly integrated with the rest of the public transit system. At around 5,000 feet elevation and 6 degrees north latitude, its weather is consistently perfect.

A view of a Medellin mountainside Medellin Metrocable

We poked around the city, and did a walking tour of Comuna 13, one of the most dangerous (and poorest) neighborhoods of the city during the conflict. Our tour guide grew up in Comuna 13, and described life in the neighborhood as the territory was fought over by drug cartels and guerrillas and eventually stormed by the Colombian army after many bloody failed attempts. It’s now a major tourist spot.

Comuna 13

The next day we headed out of the city for a coffee tour. Medellín constitutes one corner of the Zona Cafetera, the main coffee-growing region of Colombia. It was a 2-hour ride southwest with our guide Andrés, to a coffee farm where we first picked some beans and then shepherded them through the whole process.

A coffee farm with a view Coffee ready to be picked Noah with a lot of green coffee

By night we worked our way through the craft beer bars in town, of which Medellín has an adequate amount. Lots of great food, as well. And of course, coffee.

Noah went onwards to Ireland by way of Puerto Rico, and I flew back to Cartagena, and wasted no time in turning around and heading right back south. Two days later and I was right back in Medellín, though this time not so much too see the city (check), but to get some things taken care of with the motorcycle.

For one thing, there were actual salt crystals still attached to the bike from its journey across the Caribbean, and generally speaking salt and motorcycles don’t mix well. It really just needed a good rinse, but it ended up going to a “moto spa” where two guys spent a solid hour detailing the motorcycle, for a grand total of $6. I swear one of them sprayed it down with Axe body spray at one point.

Then there was the whole issue of my panniers being dented to hell from dumping my motorcycle on them dozens of times, which also did a number on the pannier racks, such that the panniers were primarily being held onto the bike by a couple straps I tied around them.

The pannier dents were taken care of my none other than Bret Tkacs, a minor internet celebrity in the ADV motorcycle niche, also the man who taught me how to ride off-road up in Oregon, and who happens to be spending a month in Medellín. I reached out to him a while back, and we met up to discuss innovative techniques for skinny-asses to pick up motorcycles, but after seeing the sorry state of my panniers, he insisted on repairing them in the parking lot of a local hardware store.

Pannier repair with Bret Tkacs

With the panniers much less sad, the racks themselves were barely functioning and threatening to fail even more catastrophically at any moment, so Bret insisted that I find someone to weld them up before I skipped town. And that I did today, with the help of the very friendly Juan over in the motorcycle shop district.

Juan at work at Honda World Welding the rack Fitting the repaired luggage to the repaired racks

So, with a spanking clean bike with newly rectangular panniers on actually functional racks, I’m ready to get back out to some more adventurous travel and back in the groove with the motorcycle. Adelante!