All posts in South America

End Route: Colombia Bikepacking Trip Report Day 4-5

We got into Cajamarca after our jeep broke down for the 3rd time shortly after leaving Touché. The breakdown kept us roadside for about an hour before we decided to leave on two wheels. We covered too much ground on the jeep that day. The plan was to initially get to Cajamarca to catch up on the route since we missed a full day. It was nice to finally be on the bike and riding the trail. It was a short ride in and longer when I stopped to snap a photo. This segment of the ride was mainly downhill so I took it slow on my V-brake setup, while George had disc breaks and went down ahead fast. Battling the terrain on my bike was a bit tough but still manageable. I ride a rigid setup that some would raise an eyebrow at since it’s not the ideal choice for a trip like this. Others, such as purist may appreciate the character.

After arriving in Cajamarca we found a hotel and put our bikes down for the night. Cajamarca is a truck through route city, small and punchy. For dinner we ordered whatever he was having. Looking back, it must have been a Sancocho de Pescado. A fish soup dish served with rice, yucca, potato and corn garnished with a lime. It was a hearty stew like dish. Fuel for tomorrows ride into Ibagué.

In the morning we were out the door around 8:30am. It was 32 miles of road riding into Ibagué where we would pick up our off-road route. Riding the road was sketchy. Trucks were nearly rubbing elbows as some viciously passed by and the local motorist think they’re in go carts. This is why I prefer being off-road. We got into Ibagué around 11:30am.

We decided since it was early to grab a fast lunch and continue pushing forward on the route. It was a bit tough finding the trail head. George was already frustrated and it was only getting hotter out. After finding the route we climbed for hours. This section was tough and one of the biggest climbs and bike a hikes I’ve ever done on my rig. After reaching the top the trail became very dangerous. The trail narrowed in and We suddenly appeared on a foot trail that led to homes of the locals that lived in the mountains. They were shocked to see us on bikes passing through their, and at the same time paid us no mind. The route became steeper and more technical as we continued to push on. I ended up taking a spill over the bars and broke my fork V-Brake boss. At this point I only have a rear brake.

After skidding everywhere, we approached a dead-end to the trail, seemingly by it’s appearance. We had to either continue on this path or head back to the trail head. This was the moment where I had to make the decision to hike back up to the main trail or take a risk on the rough foot trail. After conversing over a plan we decided it was best to abandon route and seek alternatives. We hiked back up to the main trail which was brutal. We ended up riding back into Ibague where we ended our ride.

Its easy to get comfortable in areas like these. The remoteness of it plays a big part. Part of me wanted to continue, while the other part just needed to take a step back to consider our safety. While going for it and taking the risk could have ended in reward, It’s all about knowing your limits.

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Colombia Bikepacking Trip Report: Day 2-3

It was a slow ride from Armenia into Salento. Distancing away from the cars we go further and farther away from black top roads and onto the dirt track high into the mountains. You can hear the tires rustle as they transition. The distractions of cars sounding off horns and motorbikes revving up their engines as they pass by slowly quiet. We were then undisturbed. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for. It was all new, the same but different. On the trail the Banana trees and large snowflake like plants replaced the usual shrubs from back home, and the palms took up most of the trail dramatically. We were in the wild.

It was a big climb into Salento that took us just under 3 hours. We took breaks in between; no rush it was the first day. The initial plan was to get close to The Cocora Valley so that we can see them first thing in the morning. That soon changed after we decided to stop for a beer after making it into Salento. We then met Zack, a Floridian who worked the bar at Luciérnaga Salento. After hanging in he convinced us we stay right here in town. We booked a night at La Serrana, an Eco Farm Hostel not far down the road. We parked our bikes for the evening and walked back to the bar for a second round of Club Roja

That evening the night was clear, and packed with entertainment close by. Several more rounds of Club Roja, and a late night walk back to the hostel. – (I read my own mind). Tomorrow, a new day, a new ray of sunrise with a new warmth.

The next day was the usual for me. I kept my routine and work up before 5:30am. I didn’t want to but it was automatic. 5:43-5:44 I felt the earth shake. No one believed me, I was the only one up. It rumbled and my heart started pounding after what I experienced. I stayed up for a while quiet with my eyes open, then grabbed my camera and went outside. After breakfast we packed our bikes and took a jeep ride from the center of town over to Salento with our bikes. The plan was to check out the Wax Palms in the Valley and then pickup our route near by afterwards.

The Route that we took was wrong. We were going in reverse for about 45minutes on a downhill course. After a few mountain bikers came down and told us we were going the wrong way we had to leave and head back into Salento. On the way we meet a few mountain bike riders who showed us an alternate route that will take us into Tochê. This was the actual route that was on our map. It was clean in the beginning, but later that evening things took a turn for the worse.

The sun began to fall so we needed to find camp. We setup stealth slightly hidden from the high grass off the route. It was dark by the time our tents were setup. George prepared the stove for dinner. Upon functioning the stove, it combusted and later burnt out. We were out of a stove, and later out of a sleeping back as his rolled down the edge of the ridge we were camped off of. After a combination of hike-a-bike and climbing for 3 hours prior to to this unfortunate event, we decided to descent back into Salento to try and find fuel and a new stove, and possibly a blanket of some sort for George. It was a long day.


Colombia Bikepacking Trip Report: Day 0-1

Colombia, one of the South American countries I’ve always wanted to visit. I dreamt of seeing the Wax Palms in the valley so much I almost tattooed one along my right rib cage in Bogotå. Bolivar Square, a magical place where birds fly wild in front of you waiting for you to push the shutter. The vivid colors of the colonial villages, the coffee, the food, the people, the sounds, and the mountains – I <sigh>.

I’ve been wanting to ride Colombia for a couple of years. I’ve had a few trips under my belt on the home turf, but an international trip was far fathomed before coming into fruition. My stomach was turning when George said he was down. Right there I said to my self “wow, this is it.” So now, how do you deal with the fear of the unknown? You do it by simply recognizing you don’t have much of a choice.

That was initially my thinking in bikepacking Colombia. You do everything you can to plan to the tee. Bike properly together and working, insurance to back your ass up if things go south (oh it did), and whether or not the route your riding is actually rideable. There’s so much you can do in terms of preparation, but the core of it all is just going for it and figuring things out on the go.

A short Uber ride to the LIRR to meet up with George at the AirTrain, then a 6 ½ hour flight into Bogotå, Colombia. We got in late evening, exhausted from time travel and pulling our cumbersome bike bags that kept tumbling over. We booked a hotel for a couple nights before heading West to Armenia where our route begins.

The first full day in Bogotå was amazing. Sort of a culture shock for me because it was my first time out of the United States, let alone on a pretty intense bikepacking adventure. We were on our bikes, the best way to travel here. Bogotå has an incredible system of bike lanes setup all over the city. The lanes are pretty safe, but riding in the street can be dangerous. However, I think everyone looks out for each other. Yyou can tell they have a method going to keep everyone safe on the road, so I didn’t feel uncomfortable riding with the cars and motorbikes. We kept it tourist style and explored just about everything during our first couple days there. We jumped from restaurant to café to historic landmarks and diving into different neighborhoods to check out the scene.

A couple of days later we booked a 9-hour bus ride from Bogotå to Armenia, Colombia which is point A of our route. George’s tire exploded after getting sliced by a sharp end on a water bottle cage makeshift he installed right before boarding the bus. We had to find a tire at a local bikeshop there which came by quite easy. The next day begins our first day of the trip where we ride into Salento, a 26 km ride with a massive climb. This was where the feeling began to be real for me. The next day the Wax Palms await.


-Stay tuned for Day two of this trip coming soon. Follow @manualpedlpix for images and updates.