Part Thirty Six – Leaving Colombia

It is with a heavy heart that I now bid a fond adios to Colombia. I’ve tarried here far longer than originally planned, but somehow even before arriving suspected that this place would be as beguiling as it has turned out. Oh, there are of course the lovely ladies, and the women folk are also something very special indeed. Throw in a good smattering of charming colonial cities, lush pretty countryside and people who are helpful, friendly, relaxed and engaging then you really couldn’t wish for much more in a country. Not to mention the good cycling road shoulder, serious cyclists out on the roads and traffic that is, in the main, courteous. However, as I leave, I am still left with some serious questions:

Why is it that no cheap Colombian hotels have shower-heads?

Why is it that people put pineapple (and in Pasto, even marmalade!!) on pizzas?

Why don’t more people appreciate my salsa?

Why is it that in the local music videos the farm boy crooners strut their beer guts while local scrubbers wave their voluminous posteriors about the place and this is considered good?

Why does no one here appreciate that never has a banana been improved by frying it?

Caution – Footballers on road

Central Popayan

Popayan is a cracker of a little city with a huge collection of white-painted colonial buildings around the city centre. It is a modern sophisticated place (being a hardcore cycling adventurer I know sophistication when I see it). As such it sports a large number of museums and galleries and the local people seem to have perfected the art of looking at truly average art works and pretending to see something of value in them where no such value exists – a skill I have never really mastered.

Popayan Doorway

High Road on the way to Pasto

Cycling Fuel of Colombia – note banana

Lovely oily potato soup

Orange drink stalls like this one are a god-send half way up a big hill

South of Popayan

I’ll miss this place very much as I head south into the high Andes. I just bought a map of South America and I am usually a great lover of maps. This one, however, has me a little perturbed in that the road south is still very long indeed and a lot of it runs through the centre of the brown and white that denotes huge elevations. This is a double-edged sword in a way; the Andes of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Chile are both daunting and enticing at the same time. I do enjoy a good climb in a masochistic sort of a way – it’s just that it looks on this map like they go on forever! Over 4,000 meters in places it is as high as the Tibetan plateau and unlike a plateau the rises and dips appear unceasing up to Bolivia where the salt plains might be a respite.

I must add to this post (again, in the near-constant pursuit of self-glorification) that your most humble correspondent has now become the pin-up boy for custom made bicycle manufacturing. Yes, out go the scantily clad, shock absorber fondling busty scrubbers in barely visible swim suits  and in comes your T-shirt clad correspondent sitting on his arse next to his bike! I balked (this time) at the idea of a series of nudes, but what the hell – if the coming Andes steel-up the buns sufficiently I might reconsider, I just hope that the good folk at Co-Motion Cycles will be able to handle the influx of orders!

It also appears that cycling fame is short lived in this day and age. The spike in hits on my site that sent me into such excitement has come crashing back down to earth, my ego along with it. Might just have to write another article for the newspaper. Regardless, it is for you my loyal clickers that I toil away week in week out bringing you these rare insights into the world of bicycle touring and the human condition.


Part Thirty Five – Southern Colombia

Statue in the old centre of Bogota

15th May (Medellin – La Pintada (75km)

16th May (La Pintada – Truck Stop) (98km)

17th May (Truck Stop – Zarzal) (111km)

18th May (Zarzal – Cali) (131km)

Finally managed to extricate myself from the comforts of Medellin after two weeks of redefining what it is to dance the salsa. Am now back on the road heading south with a renewed vigor and an expanded girth. It’s amazing just how much condition you can lose with just a couple of weeks of excessive coffee, beer and pizza eating (conceivably age related? surely no). This and a bit of a cold made the nasty little climb out of town all the more difficult but then there was a flat run south to Cali over the following three days.

The Colombians continue to be a friendly bunch along the road. A guy on a motorbike pulling in alongside to offer up mangoes seems less odd than it did a few weeks ago. Medellin has a well deserved reputation for the friendliness of its people and the time that I spent mooching around the Parque Liares certainly reconfirmed this. I was also able to do a little side trip over to the thriving national capital, Bogota to visit Nick and Julianna for a couple of days and check the place out.

Colombia continues to be a treat to ride with a wide shoulder and lovely people and views along the way. Cali is a rough and ready city throbbing with salsa rhythms and a grimy understated charm. Its a great pit stop for a couple of days before heading into the mountains to the south. Am busily trying to lighten the load even more before spending whole days chugging up hillsides. The Schwalbe marathons are now fitted replacing the chinese jobbies that are now happily discarded

There is about 500km to the border with Ecuador and then a couple of day’s ride to the capital Quito, the next pit stop on the road south. The mountain roads that await in Ecuador and Peru will trace a path along the spine of the Andes that will I think be the toughest riding of the entire trip. The road in Ecuador will roll between 2,000km  and 3,000 metres in elevation while it gets all the better in Peru which will be between 3,000 and 4,000 metres. Should be interesting. On-on.

Top of the hill south of Medellin

When too much green is barely enough – the mountains of Colombia

Bogota Street Scene


Buff3y & Dali. Think this one is called, ‘Woman with bread stick on head’

Buff3y with a Miro in Medellin


Rock Falls aplenty along the road south of Medellin

A large number of birds


Fame At Last!

Well well!  Having previously joked about this blog being “the fastest growing bicycling blog on the web” (when in reality only my mum and a couple of people mistakenly looking for vampire slayers were logging in), I might now have to reassess.

With the publication of a little article on the trip in some of the Australian media (link above), buff3ysbicyclingblog has just gone completely viral! If people are actually going to look at this blog I might have to sharpen up my act a bit, i.e. get serious and take some of the less than polite language and commentary out of the postings. Or not.

To celebrate my belated (but, of course, much deserved) elevation to the realm of bicycle-touring and international media super-stardom, I’ve finished off a little video clip. Given that I’m now in Colombia, I gave it a bit of the Latin rhythm treatment. See link below.

Production: Bob ‘Buff3y’ Stanley

Camera: Bob ‘Buff3y’ Stanley

Editing: Bob ‘Buff3y’ Stanley

Gripping: Bob ‘Buff3y’ Stanley

Bicycle riding: Bob ‘Buff3y’ Stanley

Music: Fruko & Sus Tesos playing ‘El Caminante‘ from Historio Musical de Fruko 1 [L@tina Music]


Part Thirty Four – Medellin Salsamatic

I have received a number of notes expressing concern over the lack of postings in the last couple of weeks so this posting is to put your collective minds at rest. Please be assured that I am still alive and in Colombia having spent some time in Medellin.

Far from spending all of his time loafing around the many bars of Parque Lleras in the central restaurant / bar district throwing down endless shots of the local absinthe variant and beer chasers,  [well, in truth doing a good bit of that]…your correspondent has also been working on his salsa moves. Now, it’s not easy for your average gringo to overcome a propensity to hop around the dance floor like some highly strung robot and slip into the Colombian salsa groove. This makes it all the more amazing that Buff3y was able to leap from the bicycle and onto the dance floor and in the process miraculously and instantaneously adopt the sensuous moves and sexily gyrating hips of a ‘Paisa‘ (a local of Medellin).

I was tempted not to post the footage of our dance class as it might raise the expectations of any prospective students to Baila-Latina to unreasonably high levels given that the salsa moves are so obviously groovy in the extreme. Yet Yamile seems somehow able to teach even the most incompetent tourist how to give it up on the dance floor.

Can’t remember the name of this maneuver but please don’t try this at home without strict supervision

With my infinitely patient Dance Instructor Yamile