Ciclo-Ruteros de Colombia
Date: 3rd June – 9th June 2012
Distance: 3010 to 3010 miles
We originally planned to stay in Medellin for two days, but the ‘originally’ hints at the reality. Seven days later we ended our stay as it began, following Hernando through town on his sticker-smothered motorbike, however this time, our panniers were similarly adorned with ‘Motoruteros de Colombia’ stickers. In this week we took more photos than we thought possible, and if you double-click on any photo it’ll take you to our gallery where there are even more photos than the ones shown below!
We were kindly hosted by Hernando the whole time, and he organised many things for us to do, starting with a motorbike-tour of the sights of Medellin. Our previous motorbike experience ranged from a fair bit (Sarah) to next to nothing (Geoff), but the hilly, bumpy bustling streets combined with the smooth riding of Daniel & Alex (our two motorbike-chauffeurs) quickly got rid of any uncertainties. Medellin is nestled in a valley, but over time has swallowed other towns and sprawled up the sides to create a giant metropolis. Each of these areas has a central focal point usually consisting of a square, park and church. We quickly lost count of all the ones we visited, but we do remember one being full of cats and dogs due to free vaccinations being given out. Another square was next to the Centre for Culture and had many shapely Botero sculptures in it. The day finished with a hair-raising ride up far too many hairpins to a view of the city as the sun went down. Quite a day, and quite a City.
After a day of washing and taking in where we were, we were off on another road-trip, this time further afield to Guatape, kindly driven by a friend of Hernando’s called Libardo . A dam was built round here and the steep small valleys have now all flooded to create a lake like no other. In a bizarre twist of fate, the best possible viewpoint in the world presented itself in the form of the Peñon de Guatape. The views from the top of this huge granite monolith were spectacular. On the way back we stopped off in the untouched Antioquean town of Marinilla. The square here reminded us of Crete, full of evening life, and with countless old men sitting and chatting to one another.
The following day Isabel took us on another trip round this city this time by taxi, the fantastic metro and the even better cable-car. These key bits of infrastructure have transformed Medellin and allow much improved access to all parts of the City and hardly any traffic problems compared to other cities we’ve visited. The cable car takes you up into some of the previously impoverished parts of the City and this support for the whole social structure of the city was reinforced by building a very modern library in the middle of the slum. Urban planning at its best! That evening Sarah cooked delicious Greek food for everyone, which went down a treat after one too many meals of rice and beans.
The motorbikes beckoned again, and Thursday saw us both sat behind Hernando and Libardo on a day-trip to the old capital of Colombia: Antioquia (after which the province is named). The tunnel was closed on the way out which meant taking the old road and two contrasting styles of riding, the careful, yet fast, Hernando, versus the ‘accelerate to the bump’ Libardo 🙂 . The old road certainly gave plenty of bumps, dirt and landslides to keep the average motorbike passenger awake for days. A feature of their riding is the midway beer or tinto stop, something we’ll try and incorporate into our own riding style from now on! The town of Antioquia was a lovely colonial town, but the highlight was the old suspension bridge 5km away. This must have been built around the time of Brunel, we wonder which came first!
Following a few days of preparation, we were all set to go, and soon our feet hit the pedals and were off for the rest of Colombia and beyond guided by Hernando and Isabel on their motorbike.