Sunday, 12 August 2012

Medellin, Colombia Part 2

My motorcycle is still in the shop getting a mechanical make-over.  So today we decide to check out the local drug scene... literally!

More appropriately, we took the Pablo Escobar tour...a most famous or infamous Colombian Drug Lord.  If you haven't heard of him, here's a little tiny background.


Pablo Escobar
Born December 1, 1949
Rionegro, Antioquia, Colombia
Died December 2, 1993 (aged 44)
Medellín, Colombia
Alias(es) El Patrón, Don Pablo,
El Señor, El Robin Hood Criollo
Conviction(s) drug trafficking and smuggling, assassinations, bombing, bribery, racketeering, money laundering, murder, political corruption
Status Deceased
Occupation Head of the Medellín Cartel


Since we are without motorcycles today.. off in the little tour bus we go.  It's hard to go through Colombia without hearing, learning or SEEING the role this country plays in 80% of the cocaine market.

Like the bad kids we are, Kevin and I took the back the of bus.. of course!


Pablo was such a character and influence over so many lives.  Here is a better summary of what he is about from Wikipedia.

Height of power

"Pablo Escobar said that the essence of the cocaine business was "simple – you bribe someone here, you bribe someone there, and you pay a friendly banker to help you bring the money back." In 1989, Forbes magazine estimated Escobar to be one of 227 billionaires in the world with a personal net worth of close to US$3 billion while his Medellín cartel controlled 80% of the global cocaine market.

While seen as an enemy of the United States and Colombian governments, Escobar was a hero to many in Medellín (especially the poor people); he was a natural at public relations and he worked to create goodwill among the poor people of Colombia. A lifelong sports fan, he was credited with building football fields and multi-sports courts, as well as sponsoring children's football teams.

Escobar was responsible for the construction of many hospitals, schools and churches in western Colombia, which gained him popularity inside the local Roman Catholic Church.

He worked hard to cultivate his "Robin Hood" image, and frequently distributed money to the poor through housing projects and other civic activities, which gained him notable popularity among the poor. The population of Medellín often helped Escobar serving as lookouts, hiding information from the authorities, or doing whatever else they could do to protect him.

Many of the wealthier residents of Medellín also viewed him as a threat. At the height of his power, drug traffickers from Medellín and other areas were handing over between 20% and 35% of their Colombian cocaine-related profits to Escobar, because he was the one who shipped the cocaine successfully to the US.

The Colombian cartels' continuing struggles to maintain supremacy resulted in Colombia quickly becoming the world’s murder capital with 25,100 violent deaths in 1991 and 27,100 in 1992. This increased murder rate was fueled by Escobar's giving money to his hitmen as a reward for killing police officers, over 600 of whom died in this way."

Besides seeing a couple of his homes and ruined offices (still left as they were these days unmaintained because the government can't decide what to do with them). Here's a little map showing the road map, or connections to transport drugs to the United States.


Although he's a billionaire, this is the modest house where the sucker was hiding out during his last days and then eventually killed on the roof out the back.


The tour gives you all the gorey photos of dead Escobar on the roof.  The police took trophey photos as if they had shot their prize deer in hunting season.


Kevin and I ran around for the rest of the afternoon. When we wandered back to the Shamrock, most wonderful Federico from KTM Moto Shop was waiting there with my bike!  I didn't expect him to finish it today and I didn't expect it to be personally delivered, especially this late.. thank you!


Federico as a local man sort of wished we didn't do the Escobar tour.  He explains that it's not a good part of Medellin history and would prefer we explore more positive things.  Totally fair enough.  For the most part, we do take the positive route, but this is such a fresh and dramatic part of history. I'd like to think the city and country are miles better than they were with Pablo and it was good to see the comparison from those times. Modern day Medellin is an awesome city.  Every single one of us have talked about how much we like it here.

I am so happy to have my bike back..!


As much as I wanted to take it for a little test ride around the blocks, we had already had enough beer that it wasn't a smart idea.  So Kevin helped me roll it into the bar for the night.


Federico in his very cool KTM machine..


The next morning however was an exciting opportunity to take it for a day ride.  Albert, who has lived for many years gives us some advice of what to see outside of Medellin.  After being in town for a few days, we are feeling a bit stir crazy and ready to ride.


This is like little Scotland in Colombia!  All three Annie, Albert and Kevin are from Scotland and then one Aussie-American feeling a bit outnumbered. ;-)


After riding for a couple hours we reached our goal destination, Guatape and the La Piedra rock that it's famous for.  There are 647 stairs you can climb to the top of the big rock, and being one who loves stairs, I'm looking forward to it!  (Kevin, not so much.. ;-)


Before we drive on to the rock, he pulls over and asks.. "Want to have lunch before or after.?"  I voted for before, as I had a feeling he'd be happy with that answer.


Fish for lunch was awesome.  What was not so awesome was when I started my bike, and fuel was pouring out everywhere!  I stopped it, the fuel would stop, I started it the fuel was gushing.

Kevin and I watched and tried so hard to figure out where it was coming from up inside the motor.  It was not visible unless we took the Safari tank off.  However!  I am just on a day ride, so I didn't put my panniers on which is where I keep my tools.  Never leave home without your tools!!  (Not like I am much use with them anyway, but they do come in handy for the guys who are.. ;-)

There was a young family here who were trying their best to help with the few tools they had, and their little girl was really special.  She had a million questions for me about Kevin.  "Is he your husband?  Is he your boyfriend?  Do you have kids?"  She will make a great Reporter someday!


Even after her Mom and Dad asked her to gear up, she was still asking questions.  "Where are you from?  Where is Kevin from? Why don't you have kids?  I think you should have kids..."  Lord have Mercy, girl!!!  Too cute..


Kevin is traveling light today as well, he has some tools, but none that will help us here.   Second problem, I want to call Federico at the KTM shop, but can't!  I have a mobile phone, but not a sim card for this country.  So it's useless!  I begged a woman in the restaurant, she didn't have a phone.  I finally found a man and begged him too.  I gave him some money and he let me call.

All the while I am worried that this is the second time I have ruined our day due to bike failure. But Kevin is the best.  He is not fussed whatsoever and likes to repeat me, "it's all part of the adventure".


Long story and long afternoon short, we can finally say goodbye to our new Colombian friends



And a friend of a friend of a friend of Federicos finally showed up with a truck to take it back to the shop in Medellin.


The next morning, all the boys come with me to the shop, and the mechanics were on the job early.  It turned out the problem was the fuel injector (which was our guess, but we couldn't get to it).  They had cleaned it out for me the day before, but the little red gasket must have gotten torn on the re-install.  They had another one in the shop and it was replaced in no time.

Cool!  So we all have another big motorcycle day planned!  James and Mark who know every shop in town want to show us the "motorcycle" street.  " If you need anything for the rest of South America, this is where you'll find it!"


Found this photo in the Kevin files.  I would like to think he was taking a photo of me until I saw what's in the window.. ha!

 Me, Mark and Conor


Kevin got lots of work done.  The rusty exhaust bit on the bottom has been treated and painted black, the scrapes buffed out of his windscreen, and a new tire.



James idea to show me the sticker shop and we went a bit overboard making "Sherri Jo's Because I Can World Tour" decals for my bike on each side, plus my name near the seat and another on my helmet.  No question it's me if you come across my bike nowadays!



I'd say we have done this town justice and it feels like we are completely refreshed for a few more months on the road.  For many reasons, I love Medellin!

Hasta luego!
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