Kipp (right), Me and a friendly mechanic and his sons.
After having so much fun during our guiding season I was not looking forward to returning to college. So I took a semester off. For me the highlight of three months of travelling was bike touring through Colombia with my brother Kipp. It was everything I hoped for and more. It was challenging, unfamiliar, scenic, educational and challenging. Having studied Spanish for the last 8 years I was amped to spend time in a place where I would be forced to speak Spanish daily. Unfortunately, the local dialects are a little different then what you learn in a classroom in Montana, but I picked it up quick enough.
Bogota at night. We hiked to mountiantop church to get this view.
Kipp and I flew into Bogota, the capital of Colombia, with little more than bike panniers, sleeping bags and disillusioned ideas of a country controlled by drug lords. We had our bikes custom built for us at a small bike shop. This was anticlimactic when the shop owners made us take a taxi back to our hostel with our bikes because they worried we would get robbed riding them back. Before this trip I had never ridden a bike more then 15 miles. On our first day it was 15 miles just to get out of the city, and we did over 40 miles in total. My legs would cramp every time we hit the slightest uphill.
This is one of the tens of overpasses we had to use to get out of the city on our first day.
As we made our way through the country, heading south towards Ecuador, our legs grew stronger and our Spanish improved. The people we met along the way were incredibly friendly. They could hardly believe that two gringos were travelling by bike with little more for protection than pocketknives. They cautioned us against ladrones (thieves), guerrillero (gorilla warriors) and even la policia, whom are occasionally corrupt. We couldn't help but laugh at their warnings. They would tell us that where we were headed was muy peligroso (dangerous), but upon arrival we would encounter nothing but the friendliest community, which in turn would warn us of the dangers of our next destination.
One of our campspots during a brutal three day mountain crossing on dirt roads
After three weeks of brutal temperatures, endless jungles and mountain passes we reached Pasto, a city near the Ecuadorian border. On our last day we biked 90km, gaining and losing several thousands of kms as we wound through the mountains. We felt stronger then ever. It was a magical day. From Pasto we took a grueling 12 hour bus north to Medellin, our bikes stashed underneath us. Kipp flew out of Medellin, heading back to the states for work. I had decided to stay another ten days to fulfill a longtime dream of traveling solo. From Medellin I biked north towards the Carribean coast.
My first day alone I put in 80km, including a 30km uphill slog. At my hotel that night I had to use the elevator because my legs were too stiff to walk up and down the stairs. Despite this I was absolutely stoked. The seven days I spent biking alone were undoubtedly some of the most exciting, and painful, of my life. One day I descended 7000ft in 35km, passing motorists the whole way. Another I biked 140km across flat dessert, drinking at least 10 Gatorades trying to ward off dehydration and maintain salt levels. I took photos with locals at reststops, declined proposals from Colombian girls, lost money playing Colombian blackjack and biked everyday from dusk to dark. I ended my trip in Cartagena, a city on the coast still surrounded by stonewalls from colonial days.
This was the trip of lifetime, one that I look forward to repeating as soon as possible. I gained an invalueable knowledge of travelling, bikes and Colombian language and culture. Biking alone was a small step towards a greater goal of mine, so before I even finished this trip I was already planning the next.
Celebrated reaching the coast with a dip in the warm carribean waters