Thursday, August 2, 2007

Colombia: Bottom to top on two wheels

Local Pasto Newspaper

Would you like some more bread with your sugar Paul?

Carlos in law
Paul cyclist

Near Medellin

Lots of beautifully shaded Colombian roads

Mud volcano near Cartagena
Buga pequena
Fried plantain

Rio Cauca

The goal! Cartagena

Botero Sculpture Cartagena
Steak and Patacon

Buenos Dias!Another fine bike ride has come to and end here in Santa Marta,Colombia; one that I´d been dreaming of doing for the last 12 yearssince my first visit to this amazing country. The idea for this trip,aside from getting to know more about Colombia, was to "join some ofthe dots" in my goal to cycle the entire length of Latin America, fromTijuana to Tierra Del Fuego. All that I am missing now is Argentina!
The 3 of us set off from Maria´s hometown of Pasto in southernColombia on July 15th. For my brother in law, Carlos, it was his 1sttime cycle touring and with a new bike and 2 saddlebags, his goal wasto reach Cali, 400km north, which he did. Paul Dumont, a 63 year oldBelgian cyclist, who I met through a friend in Dubai, had the goal of making it to Medellin, some 870km from Pasto. He did that and more,making it all the way to Cartagena with a little help from Steve´sstyle of riding; up at 5am, ride every day and rest on the down hills:)14 days and 1500kms later on Aug 28th, we arrived in Cartagena. Paulstayed a few days and flew back to Belgium to do a tour of Poland andinto Russia. I took a rest day, exploring the historic centre andthen carried on through Barranquilla and Santa Marta in 2 days.
Some notes:-Congrats to Carlos on his 1st tour. I hope he is inspired to do moreafter his butt heals :)
-Paul, a retired engineer, has done 346,000kms through 51 countries,which I can´t even begin to fathom! He has also cycled through everytown in Belgium (5800) and 57 cities of over 1 million Colombia was just a drop in the bucket for him. An excellent travel companion who fuels himself every morning with a few cups of coffeeand handfuls of sugar; likes to stay in the best hotel in town and who will ride until dark if necessary.
-An incredible range of climatic zones; from the spring like Vancouver type weather at 3000m to the dripping humidity of Cartagena and alongthe Caribbean coast.
-The amazing lush green vegetation from start to end with passionfruit, tangerines, papaya and many other strange and wonderful fruit in season.
-Excellent hi ways, with a lot of new pavement, wide shoulders and courteous truck drivers.
-No security issues; plenty of military and hi-way police checkpoints,and we were never asked to show ID.
Met a number of cyclists en route:
-2 Brits cycling from TDF to Cartagena.
-A Frenchman cycling around the world having done 28,000 of hisintended 48,000kms. French and English.
-A deaf, mute Ecuadorian kid on a 1 speed, with a note asking formonetary assistance on route.
-A Colombian with a mid size dog on the back, cycling from Medellin toPasto and back.
-A Brit on a Tandem! Cycling from Alaska to TDF, picking up riders tohelp him along the way."Cada loco con su tema!"
-Flat tires? Paul 0, Carlos 0, Steve 9 Much to the amusement of mycompanions!
-And of course, friendly people offering us cold water or fruit andstopping to chat or riding along on their bike, scooter, motorcycle orcar and chatting!
We arrived in Bogota last night. I´ll be teaching year 3 and Mariawill teach PE part time, both at the same British school in Bogota.
Next tours:-
More in much more to explore!
-Venezuela next door
-Indian Himalaya - July 2008LMK if you´re interested.
Next tour will include some rest days :).....didn´t I say that after East Africa? :)

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