Thursday 3 April 2008

COLOMBIA - Country Snapshot

February 7 - March 30
Santa Marta 11.15 N - Ipiales 00.50 N (Lat. 11 degrees)
Total kms: 1975kms. Total Days Riding: 30 days
Daily average: 66kms
Total Elevation Gain: 20,180 metres. Days Climbing: 20 days
Daily av: 1000 m. Highest elevation: 3420 (paramo above Belen)
Lowest elevation: Sea level (Caribbean)
Total riding hours: 147 hrs. Daily av: 5 hrs.
Longest riding day: 7hrs 51mins Max. speed: 59 kph
Road Surface: Sealed - 1704kms Gravel - 271kms

1 puncture
1 replaced Rohloff cable
Bottom bracket lug broke off- rewelded to frame

1. El Cocuy National Park - Cien Horas de la Soledad
2. Bucaramanga to Malaga
3. San Andres to Popayan
4. Tierradentro & San Agustin archaeological sites
5. Popayan to Pasto

Cycling is a popular sport in Colombia and I often saw cyclists of all shapes and ages on the road. I rode into Popayan with this jovial group of riders (aged 43-72).

Sometimes I would be encouraged by the shouts of schoolchildren or from passing motorists shouting ole, ole (the Tour de France chant) as I struggled up the hills.
The bike shops are well equipped and I was often helped by the friendly and kind staff like these guys in La Plata and Popayan.

Many people were curious about the Rohloff hub and I discussed it endlessly with people along the way. These roadworkers were more interested in my bike than the dangerous landslides and washed out road.

And here is the collapsed road the lads should have been working on. Why did the chicken cross the road? To have a good look at the Rohloff, of course.

$1 US = 1,850 Colombian pesos.
Daily budget - $US 20-22

The Andean region of Colombia is a predominantly green world. Lots of deep gorges cut by rushing streams and waterfalls, wet cloudforest splashed with flowers and mosses, and steep cultivated farmland. But higher up, it´s a monochrome landscape - the mist-shrouded, bleak paramo often capped by grey bare volcanoes or the white- mantled nevados.

The birds are stunning in this part of the world. Colourful toucans and quetzales in the Santa Marta cloudforest, fork-tailed flycatchers and tanagers of the Upper Magdalena valley, and the shining hummingbirds in the Central Cordillera. Only a sample of the magnificent display of birdlife here.

One of the highlights of my journey through Colombia was the people I encountered on the way.

La Familia Dorado Garzon. Three generations of coffee farmers from Rosas, south of Popayan. They were avid orchid growers too.

Laura, Maria and Melchior outside the Castrillon house above Popayan. Melchior was named after one of the three wise men (el negro, of course) as he was born on the night of the Epiphany. He´s a bit troublesome and not very wise.

A Guambiano man and a ballon seller in Popayan.

As I rode through Colombia I noticed different trends in the demographics of each region. The friendliest people I met were in the southern provinces of Huila and Cauca and the townsfolk were generally more open and expressive than the mountain people. On the back roads in the eastern cordillera, in particular, the villagers were very taciturn and timid and rarely returned my greetings. Perhaps it is the insular nature of these communities but it could be also a legacy of `La Violencia´.

Food is quite good value in Colombia. Set breakfasts and lunches (comidas corrientes) cost between A$2-3. Here is a typical breakfast - soup, fried eggs with rice and platano and a coffee. I buy a lot of food on the way- bread, fruit, cheese, coffee, oatmeal- to cook in my room.

Colombian juices are delicious - with milk or pure juice - orange, banana, blackberry, lulo, passionfruit, tamarind, mango and strawberry.
The beer is a bit expensive. My favourite and probably the most commom was Aguila. Sometimes I was tempted just by the subtle advertising.

Hotels cost between 8,000-20,000 pesos ($A5-12), the cheaper ones with a shared bath, the others with a private bath and TV. Hot water in the cooler regions (above 1000m). The gringo hotels were bad value as usual - small and musty dorm bed for 14,000 in Cartagena, whereas in the areas beyond gringodom you could get a nice room w/ensuite and TV for 12,000. And they always provide a towel and soap.

Some hotel owners seem to think foreign tourists have deep pockets or we share such other peculiarities with our native marsupials. There´s a popular hostel in Bogota called the Platypus and in Pasto I stayed at the Koala Inn. Here I am about to depart. Check out the Grey Nomad - going for low visiblity in a bright landscape. And the old boy was strapped up- notice the kneepad and ankle bandage. After 2 days of hard climbing, the injured joints were hurting a bit.

Colombians travel across their verdant land on various modes of transport.
I saw a few of these colourful vehicles on the road. I guess they´re for kids. One was on a Flinstone theme which had broken down (stone age technology).

The Colombian chiva, the main means of transport in the remoter regions and on poorer roads. It´s actually a truck chassis under a box with seats.

There are lots of horses and mules in the hilly terrain. A father and son heading into Ipiales on a horse and cart.

Different Dimensions and Perspectives
I´m always behind the fast motor vehicles but that´s the pleasure of cycling. More time to view the surroundings, and longer moments of silence and appreciation.

Funny Signs
I´m always on the lookout for odd and humorous signs on my travels. Here are a few from Colombia.
El Palacio del Panty - The Panty Palace. Imagine Prince Charles let loose in this palace!

Lost Bogans
I was wondering where all the Colombian bogans were. This must be a refuge for all those missing bogans out there. Actually it is an amusement park called `Los Taboganes´. In Australian slang a 'bogan' is a hick or ignorant redneck.

The plight of the inhabitants of Pasto and towns around Volcan Galeras which erupted recently. Pleading with the Almighty to free them from thier suffering.

And a really weird one....a sign outside a hamburger joint was promoting their homemade `bugger cream´!

Now for Something Completely Different
Rainbow Chicks - an alternative for brightly coloured eggs for Easter.

And Now for Something Really Spooky
I took this photo on the eve of the Easter procession through the streets of Popayan. Men from the same family carry these incredibly heavy pasos for 3 hours around town every Holy Thursday and Good Friday. They are portable shrines with statues of holy figures.
I met a woman in Popayan (Christina, a relative of the Castrillon family) whose family hold one of these pasos. Her grandfather´s chauffeur was so obsessed with the sacred paso he left instructions in his will to have his skeleton displayed for eternity on the paso.
So here he is...not in the flesh, but with his skeleton out of the closet and firmly in the church.

1 comment:

Tim said...

Hi Pete

Julie, Stu, Lynne and I are looking at your blog, its midnight at my place and we are following your adventures.

Good to keep in touch this way and I hope no more bits have fallen off the old trealie.