When I got a couple of new roommates in my hostel and they asked if I’d like a ride to the Ecuadorian border on the back of a motorcycle, I had to say: absolutely!
I didn’t think they were actually serious, though.
I was in Cali, Colombia, to learn some salsa, so I wasn’t expecting to spend an evening hanging out with a couple of guys who were riding their motorcycles across South America from end to end. One of the things I love about traveling is meeting people I wouldn’t normally, though, and they were fun when I understood what in the world they were talking about (that is, when they weren’t discussing things like the sulfur content of their fuel or the obscure bike parts that one must special-order from abroad).
The next day, I had my stuff packed up by the door and was looking up the bus schedule when my roommates, Rick and Rob, appeared at the door, asking if I was ready to head out.
Eek! They’d meant the offer after all, and the idea seemed terrifying. Should I do it? I tried to tell myself to stop being a wuss. After all, Rick and Rob were riding for months, and this was just another day for them. On the other, the thought of weaving through chaotic big-city traffic sent me into a cold sweat. I knew I’d be kicking myself later if I didn’t take them up on it, so I decided to go as long as they had a helmet I could borrow.
They did. Rick strapped my bag to the back of his bike and I climbed onto the back of Rob’s.
We were off. Ahhhh! I felt so exposed out there in the open, and I was convinced that I’d meet my death getting mowed down by a semi. Traffic behaved itself though, and we roared out of Cali without any problems. I started to relax once we got of the city (and after Rob told me that it wasn’t actually necessary to clutch on for dear life). For eight hours we rode over low rolling hills, whipping past grassy farmland, through tall columns of trees and quick spattering rainstorms.
Stopping a few times along the way for gas and snacks, I was surprised to discover how curious about us people were. Apparently Colombia has quite a motorcycle culture (something I never would have found out on my own), and people would come over to admire both bikes, but especially Rob’s.
“Wow!” the gas station attendants would say, walking over to us. “Is that a Harley? How did you get that all the way here? Did you buy it in the States? Are those Fox motorcycle boots? Where are you going? Where are you coming from? What are you doing here?”
It was evening by the time we got to Pasto (the Colombian border town where you cross into Ecuador), and once we arrived we rode up and down the streets looking for a hostel I’d heard about back in Cali.
Rob and I followed Rick, who at one point turned suddenly up a very steep little residential side street, meaning to go around the block. His bike was light and fast, and he was the only one on it, so he zipped to the top with no problems. Rob’s bike was heavier, though, and there were two of us on, so we weren’t as quick.
Halfway up the hill, we started to slow down more and more, down to a snail’s pace, stopping….and then we were drifting slowly backwards, then faster.
Then the bike tipped sideways with a crash and I was on my back, looking straight up at the sky. Faces immediately appeared in all the windows and suddenly about five kids were standing over us, taking pictures with their cell phones and peppering us with questions.
“Who are you? Didn’t you see this street is a dead end? What are you looking for?” they asked, staring down at us like we were three-headed aliens who had crashed in from the moon.
“Oh, us? This is how we park in the United States,” I told them, getting up and dusting myself off.
“Is that a Harley? How did you get that all the way here? Did you buy it in the States? Are those Fox motorcycle boots? Where are you going? Where are you coming from? What are you doing here?”
Rob righted the bike while I told them what we’d been looking for. They pointed us in the right direction and we were on our way (though quickly discovering that the bike’s second gear wasn’t working anymore!). Never shifting above first, we rolled slowly on our way, finding some greasy Chinese food for dinner, and eventually, the hostel.
Your turn to share: what’s the craziest way you’ve ever gotten to where you were going?