I feel compelled to write a blog entry after 3 days of cycling in Colombia. It's Tuesday, 1/21/14, and I'm writing this from the house of a very generous Colombian men, named Julio, in the town of Honda in the beautiful Magdalena River Valley.
Before taking off from Bogotá to cycle to Argentina, I spent 2 days riding around the city to get my legs warmed up and sort out how my stuff would be attached. It's probably no big surprise that 2 days of training does very little when you're starting 7500 ft (2500 m) abovd sea level and going up/down through the Andes. Needless to say, after 2 days of riding from Bogota, I've gotten pretty good at cursing the mountains as I walk my bike up them.
Here's a graph of the altitude change. I've learned it fails to portray some 1,000 meter inclines while going down in altitude from Bogota:
My legs, lower back & butt are quite sore, BUT I've had an absolute blast. I feel like a kid first learning how to ride a bike...with an 8,000 ft. tall mountain in my backyard. The thrill of soaring down these mountains amidst motorcycles, cars & trucks is indescribable. You've just got to try it yourself!
The first day I rode 90 km from Bogota to Villeta. Why Villeta? Because it was the town I ended up in. That's one cool thing about cycling - you end up in towns you would never think to visit. I would have never attempted 90 km my first day but with the gracious altitude drop of almost 7500 ft, I made it. I was absolutely spent when I finally got a hotel room & took a shower. I laid on the bed for 2 hours just staring at the ceiling thinking, "What in god's name have I gotten myself into? I love it."
I spent the next day resting in Villeta because I was having trouble walking straight and felt the need for my body to recuperate. The following morning I took off early and thought I was ready to start off with a 1000m uphill ride, fresh at 6:45 in the morning. About 20 mins into this ride, I was on the side of the road debating what to do when a couple from Seattle comes slowly but steadily making their way up the mountain like it's no big deal. I'm thinking, "You're also doing this at this hour...here in Colombia??"
I managed to go 67 km that day, from Villeta to Honda. For that initial climb, I did throw my bike in the bag of a truck and ride about 12 km up (passing the couple from Seattle who still managed to pass me again about 1 hour after that). I was welcomed very warmly in Honda with the use of www.warmshowers.org. This is a site for cyclists to post in forums and find hosts who are offering free accommodation/hospitality.
This is my first time using the site and I couldn't be happier. My gracious host, Julio, who is also an avid cyclist, gave me a guest bedroom, clean sheets & towel & a delicious dinner of brown rice & beef tongue (it was actually very tasty!). His friend, Carlos, met me in the town square when I arrived, took me to a great local place for lunch & let me into Julio's house before he got home. Talk about hospitality from complete strangers!
Tomorrow I will be www.couchsurfing.org with a 33 yr old Colombian guy in La Dorada, then staying with another host from warmshowers in Medellin. The world is full of such gracious people. Thank you all.