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’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 Bogotá 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 bike shop 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.