My first contact with Colombian hospitality was through Oskar. I crossed the border at a bad moment. Just a few hundred meters into the new country it started raining as hell. My clothes were completely soaked and due to the over 3000 meters elevation it felt pretty cold immediately. Although it was not yet noon I called it a day when I reached Ipiales and instead of continuing I contacted Oskar through Warmshowers to have a warm place to stay and a chance to dry all my gear. Oskar lives in an old gas station, which works now as a car park. His job is to watch the cars and trucks 24 hours. As there’s enough space he’s hosting passing cycling tourists and according to his guest book a lot of them. The rain didn’t stop for two days, so instead of just passing through Ipiales, I ended up staying there two nights.
From Pasto I turned east onto an infamous road, el trampolin de la muerte or in English the trampoline of the death. It’s windy dirt road going down into the rain forest. There are more than 100 turns and many opportunities to fall down into the steep valley. According to some statistics hundreds of people have already lost their lives in accident there. However, on a bike it’s not really dangerous and despite some tough climbs I enjoyed the scenery a lot.
Past plenty of water falls it went down to Mocoa. There it started raining heavily again, but this time it wasn’t cold but steaming hot, what made it little bit less nasty. Still I prefer dry climate.
In Mocoa I bumped into some other touring cyclists from Argentina and we camped together sheltered under this pavilion, shared stories from the road and shared lots of mate. The next day I rode on, while they try to hitch hike to the coast. They had enough of mountains and heavy rain.
And because constant rain isn’t annoying enough, my tire burst a few kilometers out of Mocoa. A loud bang woke me up from day dreaming until I realized what had happened. Luckily I carried a spare one. The tire didn’t run for that many kilometers, so Schwalbe was so kind to sent me a replacement.
I was already looking for places to camp, when David overtook me on his mountain bike and offered to host me at his house in the next village, which was 15 kilometers away. I didn’t really want to cycle that far, but the prospect of staying with some great people and having a shower was tempting, so I kept up with David’s pace and we got to his house, where his family welcomed me with excellent hospitality.
After all the rain in the days before I was glad to reach a desert. Because of it’s geographic location the Tatacoa hardly ever gets rain, so that some crazy rock structures could form over the years. But deserts are anyway some of my favorite environments. I pushed my bike a few hundred meters off the road and had the probably best camp spot for a long time.
No rain, a great wild camping spot, a simple meal after a long day of riding, what do cyclists need more?
After Ibague I went back into the mountains and chose a small dirt road which should lead me to Salento. Those palm trees (Ceroxylon quindiuense) just grow above 2000 meters altitude and get up to 60 meter tall. It’s Colombia’s national tree.
Arepas, a kind of thick corn tortilla and typical food in Colombia. I couldn’t get enough Arepas con Queso.
That’s Jose. I met him on the road, while he was cycling to his finca to work. He’s growing mainly bananas and coffee. Before he turned off he invited me for a drink and we had a chat about his country and his work.
The Casa de Ciclistas in San Antonio de Prado near Medellin is a beautiful place to hang out and rest. Manuel and Marta have a second little house just for passing cyclists. I stayed a couple of days with a bunch of other travellers to recover from the steep roads in the previous days. It’s definitely the most beautiful Casa de Ciclista I’ve visited yet, so if you are near Medellin on a bike it’s definitely worth going there, even though it’s not near the center of the city.
And finally the Caribbean. Since I left Ushuaia I was thinking a lot about the moment I arrive at there at the beach. It was hard to believe, that my time in South America finally came to end. So many impressions and experiences I earned over the fifteen months on this amazing continent, it’ll take a while to realize all of it.
Adios Sur America! There’s no road connection between Colombia and Panama, why it’s also the cold the Darien Gap. Thick jungle and guerrilla activity makes not that easy to cross it, instead we are going to take some small boats over to a new continent.