The Top of South America

Back on the Road

I returned from my trip to San Francisco to meet my new niece with a new luggage system and a bunch of parts. After 27,000 hard miles my bike was in need of a fair bit of maintenance. I replaced the rocker arms, clutch, countershaft seal, linkage bearings, headlight, tail light and did an oil change. 
I found a great garage and awesome new friends to help with the repairs!
Then mounted the new luggage.
The bike was ready to go!

First to Bucaramanga

I needed to go to Bucaramanga first to extend the paperwork for my motorcycle. After spending an entire day at DIAN I finally got my paper work.
Most of the times having a motorcycle is great, but this is one of those things you just have to deal with when riding in other countries. 

Bucaramanga to Santa Marta

I’m no stranger to being stopped by the police and military at checkpoints in the road. Most of the time it’s seemingly random who they ask to pull over. Sometimes they ask me for my paperwork. Sometimes they just ask where I am going and how much more motorcycle cost and let me go. However, the ride from Bucaramanga was particularly boring, straight and filled with trucks. I was getting pretty brazen in my methods for getting around them. Nothing was off limits, passes on the outside, inside even cutting across dirt sections to beat them to a turn. So I crest this hill going about 70mph when I see a cop walk into the middle of the highway and tell me to pull over. He’s very nice but explains that what I’ve been doing is not allowed. He goes over what the lines on the road mean and when it is allowed to pass. He even shows me some pictures of me. I pay a “fine” and after a nice chat about my trip and how much my bike costs I was on my way. 

Santa Marta

Before leaving Ibague I placed an order for a worn part on my shock that I didn’t have. Shortly after arriving in Santa Marta I decided it was too worn and therefore to risky to ride any further. I decided to reroute the package to Santa Marta. To kill the time I had a friend fly in from Bogota and became a tourist.

The best thing about Santa Marta is the street food. Here’s some ceviche we found.


Tyrona is giant park just north of Santa Marta. It consists of a jungle stretching to the coast line and  a number of beaches and islands. Beautiful place. We went hiking, got some juice by the beach and went swimming. 


Minca is a small mountain town just south of Santa Marta. It consists of some restaurants, two water falls, birds and a spectacular view of Santa Marta. We were planning to stay one night but I got food poisoning at the Lazy Cat so we had to stay an extra night.

Pozo Azul.
Sunset from our hotel.


Taganga is a small fishing village just outside of Santa Marta. It consists of a couple beaches, a couple bars, some nice restaurants and at least a dozen dive centers. The diving in Taganga is plentiful and the calm, temperate waters makes it a great place for learning. Taganga got itself on the map for diving by being one of the cheapest places in the world to dive. 

Playa Grande.
The days catch.
I ended up staying in Taganga for over a week. Swimming, snorkeling and learning to dive. I got two certifications which should do pretty well to prepare me for diving in Galapagos if I make it out there.

Fixing/Breaking the Bike…Again

After a frustrating time dealing with the courier company I finally got my parts. However, in trying to remove the existing part the mechanic I found damaged my shock. Despite me telling him to stop the frantic and maniacal way these guys work on bikes won out. His brute force method resulted in this. 
Luckily that same day I found a pretty big machine shop that said they’d have it fixed the next morning.
That night I treated myself to an awesome french restaurant in Taganga!
The next day I got the shock back and it actually looked pretty decent. Finished up the repairs.
And was back on the road by 1pm.


Palomino is a chill beach town a few hours north of Santa Marta. Everyone told me it was a chill place. However, there aren’t words to describe just how chill a place can be and how chill Palomino is. It’s basically a dirt road to a beach with a couple of hostels and restaurants. The water is particularly good for swimming or surfing so there isn’t a lot of activity. It’s just chill.
I went to get a bite to eat and the monkeys came down from the trees to say hi. 
Here’s where I had lunch.
This stray dog decided that he wanted to play frisbee with these people. They weren’t happy but I thought it was really cute. 

Palomino to Cabo de la Vela

As I continued north from Palomino I noticed that there weren’t many gas stations. And what gas stations there were were derelict. However, there were literally hundreds of people selling gas in bottles on the side of the road. I thought about it for a few miles and then it hit me…this was Venezuelan gas. 
So when I finally needed some I found out just how cheap it was too…about 30-50% cheaper than at the gas stations.
The further north I got the worst the roads got. Pavement turned into choppy pavement, turned into big unpaved road, turned into dirt road, turned into desert road, turned into desert. 
Then I hit the coast.

The water was a beautiful blue and green. Just gorgeous and serene. 

Cabo de la Vela

As I got into Cabo de la Vela I rode out onto the beach. Seems the thing to do here besides hide from the sun and the intense heat is kite surf. As I pulled up to take a picture a bunch of them saw and swooped in to get in the photos. 
Sleeping is done mostly in hammocks or in little huts. It’s actually quite expensive there. Food, sleeping, water, drinks, everything was twice as expensive as in Taganga. Electricity is supplied by generator. What little plumbing that’s here is supplied by barrels on the roof. The fresh water is driven in on trucks. It’s a pretty inhospitable environment and mostly inhabited by the native Wayuu people. I decided to stay in the fancier hostel because I felt like meeting folks. I ended up with this hammock right on the water.
I met a few others staying in the hostel and we went to see two of the three sights.
This photo shoot was hogging the Ojo de Agua which turned out to just be a dirty puddle. I guess it was dry season.
Then we went to find the lighthouse. My new friends from Bogota said, “This is Colombia so don’t expect too much…it could just be a lamp on a stick.” As it turns out…
We waited for sunset and more tourists showed up. Also this Wayuu boy hung out with us for a bit.
Views from the lighthouse.

The Ride to Punta Gallinas

The local Wayuu’s in Cabo de la Vela, google maps and the blogs I could get to load (the cell reception was almost non existent) all said the same thing. And that was that there is a maze of dirt roads in the middle of a hot desert, deep sand, big rocks and that it’s very hard to navigate without a guide and a 4x4. The lady who ran our hostel was trying to convince me to follow a tour truck that was leaving the next morning but that didn’t sound like too much fun. So I ran into town to try and find someone who could kind of outline the general path to take. Almost immediately I found a younger guy who told me it was easy and to just hug the northern most roads and that I’ll be fine. That was the answer I was looking for so I got gas and headed back to my hammock…no more info necessary. Tomorrow at sunset I took off to try and get out in front of the heat.
Almost immediately I ignored what the guy had told me and decided to head south out of town and go more through the middle of peninsula. The riding was fast flowy and super fun. I ended up going through some Wayuu farms that I don’t think the tours go through so the kids were chasing after me and super excited to meet me and see the bike. 
There make-shift fence had a gate that was just a well balanced tree branch.
Then the fast flowy two track opened up to some open desert flats. Here it’s possible to hit top speed and go flat out. Also get some spectacular views.
Most of the riding was easy, hard packed, fun and fast.
There were some sandy sections but they were short and so it was pretty easy to power through them. 

Puna Gallinas

In less than 3 hrs and 80 miles I made it out to El Faro Punta Gallinas. The most norther piece of land in South America.
It was there I noticed that maybe I got a little to close to some cactus in the cactus gardens.
I pushed on further into Punta Gallinas and found this soccer field. Just before I got here I came across some locals trying to fix a bike. One of the guys had just crashed in a particularly gnarly sand wash (I got bogged down in it as well) and had bent his front rim. We weren’t able to bend it back but he was able to ride away slowly. Looking ridiculous while he did…must have been at least 2” off true. 
Explored off the roads for a bit and found some beautiful places and wildlife.
I decided I better go find a place to stay but thought I’d go all the way to the end of the point first and then choose a place after I had seen what was available. About 2km from the end I got a flat. I pushed it under motor power until I found a nice bit of shade to change the tire. Changing the tire in that heat in direct sunlight is torture at best and potentially dangerous. Before too long I had the tire off.
And not long after that some locals found me. So much for being remote!
They were really fun and great people. They made changing the tire not a chore at all but a total blast. I’m actually quite glad it happened. This kid was the one who found me before getting the others.
Showing off this giant colorful grasshopper looking insect (which turns out to be a giant grasshopper). 
In the end one of the boys insisted that I take one of his homemade slingshots!

All fixed!
I decided not to push my luck any further for the day and stayed at this hostel.
With this view.
And this food.
And these goats.
And this painting.
And this beach.
And this sunset.
And this happy guy

Back to Cabo

Early to rise after a tough nights sleep with high winds making for a very loud swingy night in a hammock. I found some gas.
Then rode out to the sand dunes at Playa Taroa. 
The pictures speak for themselves but this is where the “desert had turned to sea". The back side of the dune is a solid 45 degrees. To get down to the beach to have to slide on your ass. Therefore I only rode on the front side of the dune.
If you look closely you can see my tracks. A few minutes later a goat herder came over the dune to the west…looking like a shot out of a film.
I then headed for Cabo.
This time I decided to try and get lost. Purposefully taking the road that obviously looks less like “the way”. Also, ignoring the suggestions for locals pointing the opposite direction as I rode past their farms. The result was a sandier, rockier, narrower and sometimes roadless way.
Here the road disappeared and became just a goat trail. Kind of a pain in the ass on a fully loaded bike without knobby tires. That sand is pretty deep and that trail is narrow and those branches are low. Still eventually I made it out and then found “the way” the tours go. Tell tail sign is the homemade road blocks were the kids as for money or candy. 
And then for some reason there were tanks.
Then I rode to Bucaramanga for 10 long, straight, hot hours. 


Baja had prepared me well for desert riding and navigating. Zero crashes and never really getting lost only knowing that I might be off the beaten path for a while. Also, I have the best bike in the world for desert riding…minus the road biased tires.

The further I go the more I get wary of people telling me something is too dangerous or difficult. It’s getting hard to judge what might actually be too dangerous (crying wolf?). This was neither difficult nor dangerous, it was just fun. Compound problems might get you into trouble out there but overall there are enough people and enough movement that someone will find you. So if you are a moto traveler and you stumble upon this blog post and you are contemplating going, I say go for it…bring water (duh).

Spoiler - GPS Track


Northern Colombia
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