For many weeks we had been told by various locals to go to San Agustin which was apparently beautiful. So that’s what we did! We tried to find the Casa de Ciclistas in town but found out that it was closed, so we headed to a campsite together with Ana and Adrien, two fellow cyclists we had met on the road for the second time.
We met some lovely people at our campsite, those traveling by bus and foot, by car, or like us by bike. Although we are not big archeology enthusiasts we decided to stay the next day and have a look around on bike. On the way to La Pelota, Adrien, who had come along, had the unfortunate experience of an exploding tire (his tread had worn down so there was hardly rubber left, plus the disadvantage of not having a fat bike 😉 ). So we continued on the rocky dirt road up and down and up and down to La Pelota to see some tombs and interesting stonework, and from there to el Estrecho del Rio Magdalena, a beautiful spot where the river (in the north of the country very wide and polluted) is deep and narrow and clear. We went back uphill to La Chaquira which offered a stunning view on the valley and surrounding mountains and waterfalls.
Ana showing me a type of braiding. They sell friendship bracelets and other things as they go.
The fire master doing his thing.
Checking out the sites in San Agustin.
Some of the ancient stone work and me being silly in the background.
Brakes that are hard to come by
The next morning we set off for Pitalito. We were in search of a return spring for avid bb7 brakes as Dan’s front brake was in lack of one. A shop in San Augustin had called around and located one for us, so like two happy campers we headed on into the city, bought the replacement pads which came with the spring and tried to cycle to the park and make the fix. However, after cycling around for a bit longer my brake suddenly made a horrendous noise and when Dan took a look, it turned out to be another broken return spring (poor brake maintenance on our part). Dan selflessly put the new spring in my broken brake, and we went back in hopes of finding another set. The shop had no more replacements, neither did any other shop in the town. A fellow who worked in the shop had a friend who had a few spare pairs, and sold us one. Half an hour later, our brakes were up and running. As it was getting late, we opted for a cheap hotel and met up with our friend Rutber, who we had met a few days before. He is currently opening an English institute in Pitalito and we wish him the best of luck!
The end of the world
The next day we ran into Ana and Adrien again. We cycled past the small community of San Juan to find a place to camp. During our descent, we were surrounded by rainforest with little opportunity to camp. Eventually I spotted a house that looked a bit run down and empty. Adrien backtracked a bit to ask a local farmer whether the place was inhabited and whether we could stay there the night. Indeed, we were free to set up camp and so we did, putting our tents next to each other under the roof. Once down at 600m in Mocoa the next day we made our way towards El Fin Del Mundo, a waterfall that we had been told was worthy paying a visit. We camped just before the entrance and hiked up in the morning. The dog from the hostel came along and became our guide. A little ways up, a man informed us we were required to pay a fee of 2500 pesos each. We were surprised as we had been told it was free. We told him our story, that we were travelling on a low budget, and he made us a deal. We could go up for free if we collected any rubbish we saw on the way… Definitely! Unfortunately we lost our path close to the waterfall, ending up on a muddy trail to who knows where. Something didn’t feel right and Dan’s intuition turned us around. We went back, located the correct route and found ourselves staring over the edge of a cliff at water falling down 70 meters – beautiful. We cycled for a few hours in the afternoon up to 900m and camped at a school in a small caserio.
Ana and Adrien making their way up the hill before Mocoa.
One of the many beautiful little waterfalls on the way up to el fin del mundo.
All uphill from here
When we got up we faced a long day of 60k uphill to the next town, San Francisco. What we didn’t know was that it included some downhills and a climb up to 2800 to eventually descend to 2100. Although the road looked like a main highway on the map we were glad to find out that there was very little traffic, probably due to it being mostly dirt and rather narrow making it tricky for cars to pass each other. We had some stunning views but were hindered by fog much of the time to see any of the surrounding paramo. Exhausted and with saddle sores we decided to camp at a restaurant, one of the very few places on the road, on the final uphill. The next day was similar in terms of ups and downs. We cycled into a beautiful valley which held four villages (San Fransisco, Sibundoy, Colon, Santiago) and were back on asphalt. The first couple of km out of town were steep and I was hurting and tired, we managed to cycle to a small village and camped at an empty “cabaña” as we didn’t seem to be welcome to stay at the (not in use) school. We continued cycling up the paramo in the morning and met Mike, who I had found online and emailed a few months back, on the road. He is cycling from Ushuaia to Bogota, also on a fat bike. We chatted for an hour and continued. We bypassed Pasto and wanted to stay somewhere close by but there were no places to stay and so we had to keep going, tired and short of breath due to the elevation (3200ish). Luckily it was “only” another 5km uphill and then all the way downhill for around 20km. And what stunning views! I felt like an ant surrounded by giant hills.
Today we had a gentle climb of around 1200m over 40km into Ipiales, just before the border to Ecuador. We found a nice hotel just before the centre to rest our weak muscles.
Mmmmm mountain water!
When the fog lifted the views were beautiful
Camping at the restaurant.
Dan cooking dinner at the cabaña.
The cool wet paramo leaving its traces in our hair.
Dan, Mike and I.
The cañon before El Pedregal – the photo can’t do it any justice.
Summing up Colombia
Colombia has been a great experience. 21 days cycling from Bogota to Ipiales, 1 rest day, 2 sick days, 1 excursion day. We met some amazing people, cycled on lovely (dirt) roads (the grading was mostly really good), and saw stunning landscapes. For hotels you usually pay around 20 000 pesos (10 USD) for two people, we’ve had cheaper and more expensive ones. Camping can be tough in cities but in smaller places you can easily ask at fire stations, churches, schools, or restaurants. Street food ranges from around 500 to 1500 pesos per piece (empanadas, arepas…) and a meal at a restaurant usually costs about 5000 pesos. It’s a beautiful country and we hope that many other people get to experience the same warm hospitality that we received.