Travel report No. 44, from Ecuador back to Colombia, 15.12.2010 - 19.2.2011

Quito - Pasto - Mocoa - San Agustin - Oporapa - Popayan - Cali - Anseram - Santa Fe de Antioquia - Medellin - Cartagena - Bucamaranga - Bogota

At the equator monument we are making a stop and take the chance to stand with one leg on the southern and the other leg on the northern hemisphere. Christmas is spent in the beautiful town of Otavalo in a cosy hostel. Crossing into Colomiba is uncomplicated and fast. The travel on the road from Pasto via Mocoa has everything a cyclist can dream of; fantastic views, beautiful landscapes, sunshine, rain showers, asphalt, very bad gravel road which even turns the downhill cycling - passing thrilling edges - strenuous. One evening we reach wet and cold a small village. At a house with a balcony we ask whether it is possible to camp. As always the answer is a friendly yes. And then immediately these great people serve us hot coffee to warm up. This story of hospitality could be told hundreds of times. The Colombians are very hospitable, friendly and interested, like to chat and let us put up the tent wherever we wish.

On the last day of the year we reach for a second time San Agustin and are happy to again enjoy Igel and Paolas hospitality. And there is a joyful reunion with the Dutch-Australian Verhage family. One year before we met them already in La Paz, Bolivia.
( The two very nice boys Jesse and Sammy are cycling on tandems together with their parents Michael and Ciska for the last 3 years.

To leave San Agustin is not easy, but the wonderful ride, for us the most beautiful in Colombia (which really means something) via Oporapa, Argentina, Leticia, Purace to Popayan makes our hearts beat faster. (We mention all the village names, thinking that this helps other cyclists who might take this recommended route too). The Paramo, located at 3600m, a high moor with endemic plants and many colors, lets us often pause excitedly.

On the Panamericana from Popayan to Cali is not so far. Then too Medellin we cycle the hilly and scenic road via Anseram, Rio Sucio down to the Rio Cauca valley to Santa Fe de Antioquia. North of Medellin the landscape looks like Appenzell in Switzerland and much climbing has to be done. From a altitude of 2700m (pastures with dairy farming) we get rewarded with a great downhill ride down to 250m. And what a change of temperatures. On top its 13, down in the valley tropical 35 degrees C. The people along the coast are mainly blacks, the huts look African too. Good preparation for our next destination. After some flat stages we finally reach the Caribbean. Arriving in Cartagena - a world heritage site - all parts of our body, like our back, bottom, shoulder muscles, wrists and legs ache. So we are happy to walk into the busy center of the Historic Center. Cartagena is very touristy, but for a good reason. It is truly a pearl with its colorful colonial houses, the flower adorned wooden balconies, the cozy shaded squares and narrow streets. For us Cartagena has the most beautiful Historic Center of America.

The arrival of the Verhage family makes us change the plans and together we spend some days at Playa Blanca, a beautiful white sand beach with turquoise water. By bus, which took 24 hours instead of 12 because the road was blocked by a landslide, we reached Bucamaranga. In the beautiful little town of Giron we are so tired that we sleep without earplugs even so being surrounded by two discos. The ride back to Bogota is a treat, especially because of the Canon Chicamocha, but also becaue the truck drivers are on strike and we have the roads almost for us alone. In Bogota we are allowed again to stay with our new lovable friends Angelica and Claudio and enjoy greatly the being together. Claudio gives us a ride to the airport and then we have to say good bye to our friends, Colombia and South America.