ROAD TO: HONDA, TOLIMA
So the weekend is coming and between selling the KLX and having the KTM 1190 Adventure in the garage for the 16.000 kms check up, I’m basically motoless. Lucky for me I got a call from a Kawasali dealership, Potenza Cali, asking if I wanted to ride the most epic bike of all. The mighty KLR650. I’d never ridden the KLR so this was a very cool opportunity. I took the offer and wound up with a brand new KLR650 for my trip. Best part, it had gone through Mastech the moto build process.
Finally I can get to test the KLR650! Good times.
Saturday morning I got on the bike and the adventure began. I know everything and nothing about this bike. It’s reputation clearly precedes it, the «around the world» bike, reliable and easy to fix. Good on road and off road behavior. A single cylinder engine that’s been in the market for ages. One of Kawasaki’s biggest seller. Other than that I know nothing. Popular adventure bikes in Colombia are mostly twins, V-Strom, Versys, Super Tenere, R1200GS and lately Multistradas and 1190 Adventures. Twins. I always thought that touring required a big large displacement motorcycle, full of high tech gadgets and a ginormous saddle. I realized my mistake once I tested the humble KLR. The feeling with the bike was immediate. Going up the twisty roads that lead outside Medellin felt great, like a pair of old tennis shoes, comfortable, known, familiar. It’s not a quick bike, it’s more of an enjoy the ride kinda deal. Enough torque to overpass and power to keep a respectable highway speed. I usually ride fast when traveling, all about the destination, getting there. This time it was the opposite. Relaxed and no hurries. Maybe it was the bike, maybe it was the short trip, however I was having the time of my life. Once I hit the curves between Santuario and Cocorna I realized I could also turn on an 21» rim. Another personal myth debunked.
289 km. more than enough to test the epic KLR650.
First stop, Palacio de los Frijoles. Sausage, arepa and mondongo, a very light breakfast. Checking on the gauges I asked myself «How much gas do I have?» realizing there is no gas meter. «Just keep going, I’ll figure it out». Once I hit Rio Claro things started to get hot, but it was just the warm weather, not the bike like some other big adventure bikes. I’m looking at you 1190!
A lot of history is hidden behind this old colonial town.
Highway speeds between Dorada and Doradal allowed me to test high speeds, hitting 130 – 140 kph easily. Wind protection is also good. Be wary of speed cameras and police checkpoints as they are looking for speedsters. They hang out at their usual spot, with speed limits of 65 kph in this flat twin lane highway. Absurd. In La Dorada there is another one, this one with 40 kph limits. You’ve been warned. Nonetheless I got pulled over a couple kilometers before getting to our destination. » God, what did I do?» I thought. Luckily it was just a routine stop, «where did you come from, where are you headed» and stuff like that.
Honda! It’s time to see more of this fantastic town.
Honda is located in the Tolima department, in the center of Colombia. Between Cundinamarca and Caldas. It got promoted to a City in June 15, 1830. Spaniards called it «Villa de San Bartolome», and then it was called the city of bridges because of its more than 40 bridges over rivers Magdalena, Guali, Guarino, and Quebrada Seca. Conquistadors used the Magdalena river as their main route, so this place became an exchange point early on, specially because of the mines that sprung nearby. Gold made this place very important. Then came coffee and iron and progress. Honda became Colombia’s railroad hub connecting two of the biggest ports in Colombia at that time. Caracolí at north and Arrancaplumas at the south.
Getting here was easy, but finding the hotel was quite hard. We asked around and got there as Waze just kept getting us lost. The hotel is located in Calle de las Trampas. The Stone roads evoque Andalucian architecture. It’s the local tourist spot within the historic centre.
Flowers, balconies, stone roads and lots of green make this a really colorful town.
From the outside you don’t get much of what’s happening inside Posada de las Trampas. High walls finishing in clay tiles make narrow streets with leaves and flowers. From above it looks amazing. We go inside, leave the bikes in the parking spot and on to the lobby. The staff is waiting for us, greet us and take us to our room. Room 14. Best. View. Ever.
There are still remnants of the old rail road that came through here.
I took a cold shower, dressed and to the pool it was, time to relax. I talked to Virginia, the hotel’s chef, who kindly gave us a tour of the place. Lot’s of history here. » This house is known as Casa Diago, as the Diago family bought it in 1956. Houses here were built with materials from Guali and Magdalena rivers. Restauration started in 2007 and finished in 2010, however we couldn’t open until 2011 because there was a lot of water damage in the road thanks to the winter season.» We had ceviche and it was time to hit the streets.
The hotel’s pool is really great for relaxing and having a beer.
Honda is a very small town with a lot of small displacement bikes going around. We walked up to Catedral de Nuestra Señora del Rosario, built in the XVII century, and it’s been working ever since. It’s a lovely big church and you should visit if you like this kind of places. We sat down for a beer and called it a day.
Sunday I got up late, the hotel has an amazing beds and I wasn’t about to let it go to waste. When we got of the room we found that the town was in quite a commotion. Today was the VI Festival de Bandas Músico Marciales, a festival with about 45 bands from all around the country. It was really nice, people singing, all dressed up and overall happy people everywhere.
We got to enjoy the parade as it went through the hotel’s main entrance.
Lunch time came and we went to the Plaza de Mercado, built over the Convento de San Bartolomé de los Franciscanos. It has 148 columns and 108 doors. It was declared a national monument in 1996. Really beautiful place, but we found no lunch there. We wound up in a restaurant later on after a very colorful taxi ride with «El Chulo«, who kept insisting that the best food in the whole town was in his house. Taxi drivers here will likely treat you as a tourist, kindly, but expecting an extra tip. We had Arroz, Yuca, Patacón, Bagre with Tomato and Onions. Yum yum. Delicious.
«Envy Kills» a message from Honda.
From there we went to a bar called «Cirrosis» where we were poorly impressed by the amount of motorcycle riders in the area. Mostly didn’t have a helmet, some where drunk and carrying one or two passengers. So bad. I had a couple of beers and walked back to the hotel.
The KLR received the Mastech Bike Build treatment and was ready for adventure. Honda’s bridges and surroundings were perfect for the test.
For the last day I wanted to check what else the town had for me so I ran a little checklist of places to see.
- Calle de las Trampas
- Puente Navarro
- Catedral de Nuestra Señora del Rosario
- Plaza de Mercado
- Museo del Río Magdalena
- Casa Museo Alfonso López Pumarejo
Sadly the last two were closed. However I got to see a town full of color, joy and history, a great place I was sorry to say goodbye to. We loved the hotel, especially since the had once last surprise for us, the La Posada Las Trampas had served us a Tamal Tolimense for our final farewell. Very delicious.
The one and only tamal tolimense!
So, what had I learned over the weekend?
- That the best hotel in Honda is La Posada Las Trampas, you can follow then on Instagram here.
- That you don’t need the most expensive adventure bike to enjoy a ride. The KLR650 costs about 1/3 of the price and will get the job done.
- That more is not always better, it’s the journey that matters, not only the destination.
This are some of the things I’ve learned with the years, and in this particular weekend I got to remember. The KLR650 is not the prettiest nor the fastest bike, but it’s a bike that inspires you to go on adventures. Now all I had to do was to take it off road.