Colombia day N-1: Leaving Amazonia; the journey home. ~~~ Flying back to Bogotá from Amazonia feels like returning home from a foreign land. Partly because we've been in Bogotá several times now so it's starting to feel familiar - especially the hotel apartments we're staying in - but mostly because our Amazon experience has been one of the most unfamiliar experiences of our lives. There's little I've done that I can liken it to.
Being in the jungle is no doubt a memorable a...
Colombia day 21: The last leg ~~~ Today was our final day cycling in Colombia. It's been a truly amazing experience, everything we'd hoped for and more.
The day started unsurprisingly with some climbing to get us up and over the ridge into the Bogotá plain. We had originally thought that we might finish our tour in Honda and get a taxi to transport us and Dobbin back to Bogatá, as we'd heard that the climbs back up were heavily trafficked and uninspiring. In the end it was e...asier for us to cycle back, and with the help of Strava heatmap chose to climb up most of the way on a secondary road. This worked perfectly, the climbing yesterday was on one of the least trafficked roads we've had here, and the views were, of course spectacular. Being slightly off the main tourist and trucking routes also takes to smaller towns with a more authentic feel. The first hour today continued on the same road, where we had a couple of different cyclists ride with us and attempt to chat. Our Spanish is improving, but general conversation is still not really possible. We've got quite good at guessing the questions people ask about us and our trip and giving an appropriate response. Most of the time we have no idea if we've just answered the question asked though.
The last part of today's ride was on the busy autopista, and on a mixture of large roads and cycle paths into Bogotá. Standard fare for cycling into a major city, and while it seemed chaotic in places it's not that dangerous as everyone is moving along at around the same low speed. The segregated bike lanes (also segregated from the pedestrian paths), made a nice change from the chaos on the road.
We had a little change of plan when we turned up at the airport hotel we'd booked. They really were not happy about allowing bicycles inside, and insisted that it needed to be left outside. Given we were planning on leaving the bike at the hotel while we go and see the Amazon for a few days, this didn't seem like a sensible plan. Instead we made use of the free cancellation policy and rode in towards the centre, to stay at the hotel we stayed at when we first arrived in Colombia. About 10 minutes away from the hotel it started raining. Really, really heavily raining. Apparently it's been quite wet in Bogotá over the last few weeks, so it makes us feel good that we've been lucky with the weather. We pulled up at the hotel soaked through, but still received a really warm "welcome home" from the staff who quickly checked us in and found Dobbin a safe a dry place to sleep.
We'll be resting tomorrow then fly to Leticia Saturday for 4 nights staying with an indigenous village in the jungle! This will likely be the last blog post of the trip, we'll aim to put a few photos and things on Facebook: http://fb.me/TandemThings
Tour summary: https://spotwalla.com/tripViewer.php…
~~~ Published on November 30, 2017 at 03:36PM
Colombia day 20: from bogs to Bogotá ~~~
The trick with long distance riding in lumpy terrain is keeping in mind the total climb in the ride, not the absolute altitude you're heading towards. This is a mindset I learnt when randonneuring, but turns out it applies pretty well to cycle touring too.
Reason I mention this is that our day consisted entirely of climbing into the Andes for the third time, on the home stretch towards Bogotá. Our stretch goal for the day was Guayabal ...
Colombia day 19: Ups and downs, lots of downs! ~~~
Today has been dominated by Nevada del Ruiz. Last night we were staying in a hotel with hot springs provided by that volcano and this morning we cycled up over the closest road pass to it before descending almost to sea level where we passed through the ghost town of Armero. This poor town was destroyed in the the eruption of the volcano in 1985. Unfortunately we didn't get to see the volcano today due to there being a lot of... cloud this morning.
We started out a little late having been unable to resist spending some more time feeding the hummingbirds and mockingbirds at the hotel. That was one of the most amazing and unexpected pleasures we've had on this trip. After a 500m climb taking us over 4000m altitude while cycling for only the second time - the other time was on our previous South America trip. We then had to descend before climbing to the Letras pass which was 300m lower than our highest point. There were a number of other climbs of 100m or more on the first half of the descent. Overall, it was definitely a day of descending though.
Due to our ever changing plans, we departed from our originally planned route on the descent and then turned South at Mariquita. This town marks the official start of the Letras climb 'the longest climb in the world'. There were plenty of bike shops in town which enabled us to pick up an spare chain in case of more failures. It took a couple of attempts to find though as the first shop we visited didn't carry anything so old fashioned as a 9sd chain! This road also took us through Armero. I remember covering a little bit about the tragedy there in Geography in school. A disaster which claimed 20 000 people out of a population of around 29 000, and occurred through a tragic combination of circumstances, miss-communication and lack of resources. There were several more thousand killed elsewhere in the same eruption, most notably in Chinchiná close to the coffee farm we visited a couple of days ago.
Our target destination for today was Cambao, a distance of 152km. A long day, but we made it into town as the sun set behind the mountains behind us. Tomorrow we start the long climb up to Bogatá.
~~~ Published on November 28, 2017 at 05:41PM
Colombia day 18: getting into hot water via buckets of cold water ~~~
Today's ride went up. And up. And up.
Getting out of Manizales was exciting, as they don't do shallow inclines in the slightest. We plummetted down to the main road to Letras, the famous high pass to the west of the city as featured regularly in Veluta Colombia and known as The Longest Climb In The World. That's with regards to the Eastern side, which we'll have the joy of descending tomorrow. But first we ...had to summit it.
We decided not to crawl up the main road but instead take a secondary road, that passes by some thermal spring areas on the edge of the volcano range we were hiking on 2 days ago.
We were encouraged at first to see a group of 8 road cyclists heading up past us: suggests paved roads! An hour later we passed them again coming back down. They'd reached the end of paved roads no doubt. Indeed at 13km mark the road gave way to gravel, which we'd be on for the remaining 12km to our destination for the day. The maths is pretty simple from here: 12km across and 1200m vertical assent, so a 10% average grade. Fortunately it didn't fluctuate too much, a few flatter bits and a few ramps in the 13-15% area but otherwise very constant.
By 15km the mist had turned to light rain, and another km it got heavier. Only the second time we'd needed to don rain jackets this tour, which is not bad for 18 days in rainy season! At 20km / 3000m elevation, there was a short flatter bit where water was really starting to pool up in giant muddy puddles, then it went steeply up again. As I shifted back into lowest gear there was a BANG and the pedals went limp under us. Broken chain. Fortunately we'd packed spares for such an eventuality so was only a few minutes job to pull out the mangled link and put in a quick link to replace it.
As we crept upwards we could feel the air getting thinner and breathing more difficult. The temperature also dropped to 7C, along with the heavy rain we were starting to get pretty cold if we stopped. Keep moving to keep warm! Thankfully the rain never turned torrential - not enough to form rivers in the ripio - so it was quite manageable even with occasional patches of slippery muddy sections.
At last the Termales Ruiz hotel and hot springs came into view! A glad sight. Just as we were checking in, a large group of French pensioners rolled in. The same group we saw at the coffee farm doing a tour yesterday afternoon! We're clearly still on the gringo trail then, despite our adventurous routing choices of the day. We'll try the springs and sleep here today, then head over the top of the pass tomorrow at about 4000m! The highest point of our tour, and all down hill from here to Bogotá (except we dipn below its height and will need to reclimb 4500m back up to it...)
~~~ Published on November 27, 2017 at 12:31PM