Bogota…

Hey, I arrived in Bogotá last night after a day of suffering to climb the two and half vertical kilometers up from the Valle de Rio Magdalena… in reality it was more like 3 kilometers of vertical to get over the mountains before descending into Bogota. Although only 98km it really hurt… 80km were uphill and my legs were really feeling the preceding 5 days on the bike.

My last update was from Neiva but too much has happened since then to stick in one post so I’ll write some separate posts for the days that have passed since Neiva and backdate them so they appear below. First though I think I will tell you about the last couple of days….

(juice vendor in Neiva)

I spent Saturday night in a tiny “nowhere place” called Boqueron at the start of the climb up out of the valley. I had planned to go further on Saturday but after 85km I cracked… the heat, a steep section of climbing and a sleepless night in Saldaña (see below) all conspired against my plan to make it as far as Fusa. Boqueron is one of those places that really exists only because trucks and buses need cafes and stuff to stop at… it’s just a scruffy little collection of cafes and a shop located on a bend in the road right by a river. Oddly enough there is a guesthouse there… with a swimming pool! The temptation was too much to resist. It seems that folk from the city retreat down here to spend a night by the pool with a BBQ. The couple that run the place really took me under their wing, enjoying the novelty of having a foreigner to stay and giving my Spanish a real stretch of a workout by telling me all about Colombian politics, the poor relationship with Venezuela and the involvement of the US in the politics of the area…… Leaving there yesterday morning was brilliant, I was invited into the family home for breakfast before setting off to face the long climb ahead. I know I probably shouldn’t say this but in any other circumstances the chap at the guesthouse would have looked the perfect pimp in his cowboy hat, sleeveless white top, big belt buckle, embroidered trousers and white leather cowboy boots….. In Colombia though, and especially Boqueron, it just looked fine…

The first couple of hours of climbing was fine, it was very steep but that meant I was able to get some altitude in the bank before the day got really hot. Approaching Fusa I joined a bunch of roadies from the local squad out for a sunday morning training ride, this was great fun and good for morale… especially when I realised that they hadn’t actually slowed their climbing down much to keep pace with me on my loaded bike. They escorted me for 10km or so before we went our separate ways.

(my roadie escort in Fusa)

From Fusa after a short descent the climbing became relentless, and very steep. The final 10km or so up were a real grovel despite stopping a couple of times along the way for food, water and coke… (the fizzy drink kind…), I’d lost my voice by midday…. The relief I felt when the road finally began it’s descent back down to Bogota at 2600m was incredible and I found my legs again for the final crazy 10km or so through the traffic into town…. Riding through the outskirts was an experience very much akin to fairground dodgems with buses, trucks, cars and motorcycles all juggling position on the road… quite the adrenalin rush. Maybe I have something wrong with me but I really enjoyed it…. I also enjoyed steaming past some of the local roadies on my loaded bike… :o) Once in the city proper the riding was dead easy with a good network of bike paths and only light sunday traffic in the city centre. Found my way to a hostal in the La Candelaria district with no problem at all… beyond a temporary inability to walk or stand properly thanks to fatigue. It was a long, hot stretch from San Agustin.

I am going to hang out here for a few days to recover then make a tour to the north before returning to catch my flight home. Although not the end of the journey I do feel rather flat today… the most exciting part of the adventure is over and I doubt I will experience quite the same level of welcome as I did in the less-travelled south…

Before I forget… police and army checkpoints… if you are reading this and planning a cycling visit to Colombia then you might like to know that I experienced no bother at all. The road from San Agustin especially was crawling with army and police performing vehicle checks… I was totally ignored at all of these, just riding through without stopping with just the occasional smile from the officers on duty. You will also see on the road south of Popayan sentry points located at all the strategic points on the highway… bridges and so on. Probably best not to take any photographs….

So back to Bogota then, first impressions are favourable… the usual colourful bustle, some nice ramshackle quarters tucked away amongst the more modern stuff, terrific graffiti… and city prices. Having got used to paying maybe 500 pesos for a coffee out in the countryside I’ve had one or two “f?&k me” moments in the coffee shops hereabouts… especially that 3500 peso cafe latte… but it was good coffee and heck, it’s still only one old English quid…

I’ll go for a wander tomorrow with my camera and show you some pics…

5 thoughts on “Bogota…

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