Colombia, I love you!

Riding your bicycle in Colombia is, quite frankly, amazing.  Combining the hugely expansive varied terrain with my (mildly) self-inflicted time pressures, the challenge hasn’t been trying to identify awesome off road routes, it has been deciding which routes to say no to.  Looking at the geography of Colombia it’s easy to understand it’s superb riding potential.  The Andes enters Colombian territory at the border of Ecuador.  Heading north, it splits into the Cordillera Occidental to the west, Cordillera Central in the middle and, eventually, Cordillera Oriental to the east.  Some of these mountains rise well over 5000 metres.  Three huge beautiful mountain ranges, where do you even begin?

Department of Boyacá

Well, in my case the Cordillera Oriental (eastern arm), thanks to the superb details found on whileoutriding.com, who put Boyacá on the ‘back road touring’ map as far as I’m concerned.  Even just glancing over Google maps, there’s an obvious maze of intertwining routes winding through the Cordillera, very few of which are paved.  On closer inspection of the tight contour lines, these routes often wind in and out of huge canyons resulting in 1500 to 2000 metre elevation changes every 50 or so kilometres.  My plan had been to zig zag my way over to Cocuy National Park for its world class hiking; however the ‘in season’ torrential downpours forecast for at least the next week persuaded me to postpone this idea (I believe January and February hold the driest climatic reputations for this area).

Los Nevados

My other main riding experience since returning to Colombia has been an interesting side trip to Los Nevados National Park, near Manizales.  Worth reading Cass Gilbert’s write up of our trip up Volcano Ruiz (see Bikepacking Parque Los Nevados), where we rode over a prohibited pass up to 4700+ metres at 3am on a rainy night with yellow alert Volcano Ruiz fuming away closeby.  Fighting a cold and mild effects of altitude, it was a tough but memorable experience.  I will put up a video up of the experience soon.

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‘Stolen photo’ from Cass’ website. Coming over the pass on Volcano Ruiz in Los Nevados. Full story here: http://www.whileoutriding.com/south-america/colombia/bikepacking-parque-los-nevados-colombia

During my first few days back in Colombia, I spent endless time faffing around trying to pair down my kit to a more bikepacking style.  The Andes are big and a heavy touring bike with gormless panniers bouncing around results in a significant penalty in stability and weight. I managed to drop the two larger rear panniers with an eventual aim to rid myself of all of them. I also managed to put together a short video of my time in Guane hoping to capture some of the emotion of returning to my trip.  Somewhat of an experiment (considering doing more of these), it is set to a popular song (‘una cita’) written by a Colombian group (Alkalidos) that I happened to hear whilst sitting in a hotdog ‘restaurant’ in Barichara. Here it is (“Guane, back for the re-start”):


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7 thoughts on “Colombia, I love you!

    • Igualmente, Cass – I enjoyed that trip immensely. Video to come soon although since I don’t have footage of the riding at night in the 3am rain I’m going to have to go back and redo it. 🙂

  1. Hola Nick, Just read Cass’s Blog- truly enjoyed being along o your trip with him and as usual amazed at your resilience when I see the road and weather conditions you deal with. You look good, healthy and strong and I got a charge out of Cass’s description of you in “shorts shorts” driving through the cold and snow!! Hard to believe we met in Feb 2013 and that I able to continue exploring the world through your eyes. Enjoyed the Video and I imagine it was emotionally trying to return to Guane though I am not sure if that is where you had to end your trip. You have not included the experience in your blog and thus I am assuming that you must have been really hurt. On a positive note, I could feel your usual excitement in your writing as you describe your experiences… May the roads ahead be smooth…..Adele

  2. Hey Nick! I’m headed down to Bogota in 3 weeks to bikepack South America! Wondered if you have a gpx file for any of the Colombia routes? Also, how did you edit your videos? I have a gopro knock off and only a phone to edit and can’t seem to find an app that doesn’t put a big water mark on the video… Hope you’re doing well!

    • Awesome! Check the route under my blog menu I think I put most of my route through Colombia there but need to update the southern section. You should be able to click through and get the gpx from there on the ridewithgps website (under ‘export’). It might be a little large for a phone app but you could try.
      For the videos I have a macbook air 11in (1kg), I edit with imovie. I gave up trying to edit on Android apps, the results were very poor. I’m not sure about the Apple apps, they may be better (there could be an imovie app which might be ok?).
      Good luck with the prep, our paths may cross further south – I’ll be in Ecuador for a while.
      Ps. I shoot the video with Sony Action cam AS15 and sometimes my Samsung note phone. I like the sony because you can strap it to your head and it’s less obvious than the gopro due to its shape. Although the gopro is obviously an awesome action camera and would be happy with either.

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