Gina and I hit a few hiccups in recent weeks. Beginning with the realization that we wanted to cycle through the Andes and not mudslide down the side of them, we decided that waiting out the rainy season would be the best option in our given position.
Our boat from Panama arrived late, We hit Cartagena in the evening and found ourselves an overpriced hotel (cheapest we came across and apparently the only one with free rooms) which coincidentally our travel mates aboard the Luka also joined us at. At this point we made the decision to put the Andes on hold until the end of rainy season. We looked carefully at our maps, found the most direct route to Bogota possible, calculated our days, and booked flights. We are flying back to Canada to work until Febuary, at which point we will return and continue the main staple of our journey. We are lucky to have a friend in Bogota who will let us store our bikes for the duration of our hiatus.
Cycling out of Cartagena
When your shifter cable looks like this, it’s probably time for a replacement!
Cleaning salt water off our bikes at a fire station, to the amusement of two firemen
A few other things have become apparent as our Central American portion has come to a close. Trying to ship things to South and Central America is a complicated task. One which requires much faith and guesswork. Each country has varying duty and tax rates, and service can be unreliable. We had already experienced shipping extra parts down to our friend in Bogota, costing us $100, and her getting charged import fees. In the end, we’ve decided to see the poor timing as a blessing, allowing us to work a bit and pick up some extra bits and bobs for the mountains.
The one obstacle which has been relentless in its efforts to ruin our final push to Bogota is the shitty highway that leads to Bogota itself. I guess this is our own fault because we need to time our route accurately so as not to miss our flight. The road is 1050 km of asphalt and is essentially flat with amazing views of trucks and diesel fumes. I wouldn’t say it’s entirely unscenic, but it’s certainly no stunner either. I have hopes that once we climb into the mountains there will be some amazing views, but as of now our bikes are particularly unhappy cruising on pavement non-stop. They have made this apparent by refusing to hold air in their tires. Every day or two, Gina and I have to fix a puncture or two, or maybe fix a chain which decides to throw a part of itself away onto the road.
Teased Gina and put on her head a snail almost as big in size
Not all has been unpleasant however. We can happily report that the locals here are really helpful and friendly. We have had road workers on numerous occasions giving us bags of cold water as we cycled past on the hot highway. Free drinks, free meals, and one kid even felt so bad for me and my completely fucked shirt, that he took it on as a challenge to find me a new shirt and gift it to me. Since we stand out like a sore thumb, we find ourselves quickly making friends and people are always keen to give us advice and follow up with us later when they see us perusing the streets. We have also enjoyed trying the new eats and beverages, whilst sometimes frustratingly repetitive, we usually manage to find something a little bit different in every town. There are some really nice vibes in the towns we are passing through, and personally I’m starting to fall in love with this country. I can only imagine how I will feel once we head up into the mountains and dig into the dirt!
Some other cyclists we met on the road. They eventually flew past us once we got tired of trying to keep up with them.
Gina’s very first coffee, cafe con leche
I will end by saying that right now I think we are both pretty keen to get to Bogota. The bikes need new cassettes and chains, and a full replacement of cables wouldn’t hurt either. I’m a sucker for maintaining my bike and keeping it running like new. This is something which often gets neglected on tours as we let our bikes deal with all the elements and forget to give them all the attention they deserve.
Wish us luck! And keep your eyes peeled, in Febuary the real challenge begins.