From Barichara to Bogota

Journal 8: Biking from Barichara to Bogota Colombia

Back on the Road

Upon finishing the Hostel Tinto website and the first draft of Last Man Power’s business plan, I was ready to start the long ride to Bogota.  I took off around 9a.m. and enjoyed a beautiful morning ride back down to San Gil, where I stopped in to say goodbye to Sam.  From there, I began heading south/southwest towards Bogota, with visions of sushi, fun times with Paola, and my own apartment dancing around my brain.

Day 1 rides are always challenging.  Even after a mere 2 to 3 weeks off the bike, both the lungs and the muscles have to readjust, and consequently I didn’t make very good time.  At about 5pm with no village nearby, I found a road side store selling homemade sausages, and obtained their permission to sleep in a field adjacent to their store, where a lone cow was grazing.  They were extremely friendly, and were eager to tell me about an Australian bike who had chosen the same field to camp in a few years back.  I kicked the dried cow patties to the side to clear myself a campsite and slept like a log.

Over the next 4 days, I followed 45A towards Bogota until I reached Ubate.  I got hit with a few serious spells of cold rain during this leg as I topped 3000m for the first time which caused me to pull over on the side of the road, throw a 10x14 foot tarp over my Surly, and duck underneath for a nap.  While hiding from the rain in my little blue cacoon, I could hear cowboys walking by on their horses, unphased by the weather.   I met a beautiful girl named Laura in the country who insisted that I sleep in her families house rather than in my cold tent.  I always have mixed feelings about these offers, because they always come after I’ve set up my tent, blown up my air mattress, and settled into my campsite, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer.  Her family cooked me a warm dinner, but unfortunately communication was a struggle.  She spoke with a strong country dialect and couldn’t get used to the fact that I have the vocabulary of an 8 year old.  I did have an interesting conversation with a man from Bogota the following morning over breakfast who was working a  5 million dollar hydro installation.  We shared pictures and designs and agreed that the raging river that ran through those mountains could provide electricity for thousands of homes.


In Ubate, I forked out the money to check into a hotel.  It was Thanksgiving and I wanted a warm shower and a good meal.  Ubate was a neat town, and I was glad I stopped.  It claims to be the cheese capital of Colombia, and there are multiple factories where you can check out the entire production process.  The following morning, as I was enjoying my cup of coffee and preparing to hit the road for the final leg into Bogota, I glanced up at the TV and saw major flooding on the news.  I inquired as to where it was, and to my chagrin, the flooding was located in Chia—right in my line to Bogota.  I decided to stay for another night to research alternative routes.

After scoping out the geography—and spending an afternoon teaching a little green macaw some English words—I was confident that I had a good route and set out again.  This final leg would take me over 10500 feet, but the climb hit me early in the day and I conquered it without blinking.  The downhill into Bogota featured a 2400 foot drop which lasted about 18 minutes.  Those unfamiliar with bike touring cannot understand the overflow of emotion that can hit you on these well-earned downhill segments.  At 50km/hr, I weave in and out of traffic, straddling the center yellow line, enraptured by my own freedom, with tears in my eyes which may or may not have been from the stinging wind.  I let out a long sustained shout as Bright Eyes sings the lyrics “dreamt I was riding on a motorbike.”

For those bikers who are following this route, a word of advice: the kilometer signs that tell you how far you have to go before you reach Bogota are measured to the outskirts of the city.  Finding a hotel here—much less an affordable hostel—will prove extremely challenging.  Plan an extra 15-20 kms to get to the Candelaria in Bogota’s city center where you will find plenty of hotels and hostels to suit your budget.

Until next time, safe travels everyone.

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