We decided to fly to Colombia rather than sail, if we had an infinite amount of time and a bottomless pot of gold then of course sailing through the San Blas would have been our preference, but at over $1100 for the two of us it just didn’t fit our budget. Flying was a fraction of the cost, so although a little less beautiful still got us to where we wanted to be – Colombia!
The most exciting thing about arriving in Colombia for me was that the beautiful people over at MSR had FedEx’d us a new tent, and boy was I so excited to see it I insisted on putting it up in the hotel room we stayed in. Unfortunately the fun police ‘Herbie’ insisted that we weren’t allowed to sleep in it inside a hotel room 😦
The next best thing about arriving in Colombia was that we came in on a Sunday where 120km of Bogota’s roads are shut down for the ‘Ciclovia’. It absolutely fabulous, we could cycle the whole way from the airport into the city centre on completely closed roads. It was like a festival, there were bikes everywhere, pop up mechanics, vendors selling all shorts of amazing foods and literally thousands of people out cycling, roller blading and jogging in the closed streets. Hello Colombia!
At an altitude of 2600m the temperature in Bogota was a huge sigh of relief from being in the oven of Central America, in fact it rained, well not quite rain – you know that west of Ireland style drizzle / mist where you don’t think it’s really raining but you get absolutely drenched all day, known affectionally from my rowing days as ‘mizzle’? It was like that, every day, Herb was in his element!
We spent our time in Bogota hunting out great coffee and getting jobs done like acquiring me a new set of granny gears. Ever since Mexico Herb has had a greater range of granny gears than me, and being a total weed my lowest gears were all starting to wear. With the Andes in sight we (I) decided it was time for a change and if I was to have any hope of pedalling and not a lot of pushing for the rest of the continent, new gears it was going to be. We also managed to do another successful cull and I’ve managed to ditch one of my back bags. Less weight and new gears, these Andes are going to be a doddle!
Our first real test of ‘Loz vs Andes’ came while trying to leave the Case de Cyclista in Medellin (yes, we got the bus North to Medellin, it doesn’t count though because it’s north – shhhh!) We had been itching to get in some rough roads as often the scenery is 100% more amazing and there is little to no traffic. The only downside is that I am terrified of cycling on anything other than tarmac. Having never been (nor do I have any desire to go) mountain biking I am not confident cycling on anything that bears any relation to; gravel, dirt, rocks, sand or cobbles. Ok, maybe after 10,000km I should have gotten a bit better at bike handing but I’m not really sure that is the case? Praying that the dirt roads would be more ’tarmac like’ we set off in search of some wilderness. Oh my goodness it did not disappoint. My new gears were playing a blinder and the dirt roads were so compact that even though a little bone shakey at times I managed to not fall off once! Not falling off in a whole day of off road riding was like having 10 birthdays in one day. To add to that the weather was perfect and my confidence soared.
Loz 1 – Andes 0.
Now the next little bit about Colombia is not about cycling at all, it’s about the people. We had heard from other bike tourers that Colombia was up there with Mexico in terms of favourite countries. Now, we LOVED Mexico so there was already a pretty high bar set but our next experiences in Colombia threw the country right up there.
I can’t quite remember why but at the end of a days cycling Herb and I had an argument. A big argument about, well, nothing, I have no idea what the argument was about -probably did the chicken or the egg come first + both of us being hangry. Anyway it ended up with me crying and Herb storming off in search of the supermarket. After I’d half pulled myself together I cycled over to the supermarket to see Herb had parked his bike in line with all the other motos and gone inside. There was one space on the end where I wheeled my bike to wait for his return. Now, I am not quite sure what happened next. I have no recollection of doing anything wrong BUT as I was stood there with my bike, Herbie’s bike fell. Not towards me, but away from me in the direction of the other motos. Now imagine a line of dominos. Suddenly I’m stood holding onto one bicycle with Herbis’s bike and seven other motos crashing to the ground.
I was rooted to the spot, I just stood there and cried. Within seconds there where people rushing all around. Herbie emerged from the supermarket and gave me a ‘look’, people where trying to pick up their motos, checking them for damage, some just drove off, some looked angry. Out of nowhere a little lady appears by my side and grabbed me, I swear she didn’t come higher than my elbow. She hugged me tight and told me to ‘tranqui’. Another guy helped pick up all the other motos and warn off any of the angry looking owners. Between the two of them they calmed the situation down, everyone was suddenly a lot more relaxed and the only guy who seemed genuinely pissed was practically chased off by my new savours. Before I knew it I was sat in the sewing shop opposite with a glass of water and an oreo cookie. The guys who had come to my rescue were the owner of the textiles shop and one of his sewing ladies. We ended up sitting chatting to them for ages about our journey and me apologising 1000 times.
If this had happened in the UK I would no doubt now be involved with seven insurance claims and someone probably claiming for whiplash. The kindness of these people completely overwhelmed me and they are absolute angels in disguise. They assured me time and time again I didn’t need to pay for anything, nothing was damaged and it wasn’t my fault. Now I doubt any of these statements are true and I only hope they have had no repercussions of my actions, But I have learnt my lesson. Never go anywhere near a parked motorbike.