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).
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.
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”):