The first part is an update on the exciting events which have happened since I arrived in Colombia. If you´re just looking for information on buying a bike in Bogota please skip to the second part. The third part is written by my fiancee!
Part 1 Romance and drama in Colombia
South America was in the midst of World Cup fever when I touched down at Bogota´s El Dorado airport on 10 June 2014. I had only one thing on my mind, and that was seeing my girlfriend, who I had not seen for 8 months. It was an emotional reunion and one of those moments I will never forget. The first week was a case of spending time together, catching up, meeting friends and acclimatising myself. Quite a challenge in Bogota. The city is huge sprawling concrete jungle, and crazy with traffic and noise, and very few places to escape to, with a lot of distance to travel if you want to go anywhere.
We stayed in the Northern part, close to the parque del Virrey, a safer cleaner part of the city. We visited the centre with its old colonial buildings, much nicer than the majority of the ugly blocks that dominate the rest of the city. We managed to visit the museo del Oro (the gold museum), and the fantastic Botero art gallery, full of not only the wonderful fat-bottom caricatures of Botero, but also a wealth of work by other artists. I started to learn a little of Colombia´s colourful history, about Simon Bolivar, and the fight for independence, and Colombia´s rich culture and varied mix of people who are mostly a mix of white (after the Spanish colonial influence) and native Amerindian. There are some of the most beautiful women you could imagine but also some of the biggest bottoms I have ever seen! Maybe it´s the diet. I have enjoyed an array of Carne (meat), a mix of arepas (a corn based bread) filled with cheese, sweetcorn or egg, and of course a wide range of drinks, from raspado, a mix of crushed ice and lots of sweet sugary flavours to beer (they have a beer called BBC which stands for Bogota Beer Company, but mostly I´ve been drinking Club Colombia. And then there´s aguardiente (their own special firewater that tastes like ouzo) which they buy by the bottle and drink shots as a form of ritual with meals or for any celebration. And when it comes to celebrating, Colombia is a very special place indeed. Some people call it Loco-mbia!
Firstly, Colombia were in their first world cup for 20 years and secondly, the team put in a great performance and scored some spectacular goals. After winning their first game, the Colombians partied in the street so hard that the entire country had a hangover. Unfortunately as some people had no self-control, there were some deaths (probably driving related) after the first match and the government then banned all sales of alcohol on the days of every other match. We watched some of the games in Bogota, and then we flew to Bucaramanga to meet Pao´s family. It is hot, damn hot, and tropical, built below and on the side of huge mountains, but much greener and not as crazy as Bogota. And then we had more reasons to celebrate. It was her sister´s birthday, and Pao was expecting me to make a speech, which I did, in Spanish, and told her sister, and her aunts and cousins how grateful I was to meet them and how happy I was to be able to celebrate her sister´s birthday with them. Pao knew I would make that speech because I was with her when I wrote it. She also knew that prior to coming to Colombia I had flown from South Africa to Vienna, to see my brother´s new daughter, and to catch up with the rest of my family who had also flown over from the UK. What she didn´t know was my other motive for going to Vienna was to buy a ring. When I got down on one knee, she was a little surprised. She couldn´t even hear the question because of all the screaming that her aunts and cousins were making. She said yes though. And that´s what matters. We plan to actually get married next year.
We spent a week travelling back South by bus, from Bucaramanga to Bogota through a beautiful area called Boyaca. On the way we stopped at Barichara, Paipa, Iza and Villa de Leiva. We returned to Bogota to buy Paola a bike so she could come on the journey with me, to cycle the whole of South America. Yes, that´s right. I now have a thirsty sidekick!
Part 2 Buying a bike in Bogota
We were looking for a bicycle for Paola and we found a zone called ¨Siete de Agosto¨(named after the day that independence was acheived) . The nearest transmilenio (bus) stop is Avenida de Chile, near the cemetary. The road is calle 68, and there are about thirty bike shops, all right next to each other. Mostly they sell road bikes and mountain bikes, or cheap city bikes. So getting one which was suitable for touring was difficult. I had expected to have to buy a mountain bike, but we managed to find a ¨Specialized Crosstrail¨ in the Nativa Specialized shop. The guy that served us, Manuel, was an experienced tourer who had done Australia and promised that this was the right bike for the job. It is aluminium, and much lighter than my bike but more diverse than a mountain bike, it´s suitable for roads and tracks, and should do very nicely.
I had ordered ´butterfly´touring handlebars from Wiggle in the UK and my dad had kindly posted these out to us. It was easy for them to fit this part. It was still difficult to get a front rack fitted as there simply are none available, but we eventually realised that as Paola would be able to manage with just rear rack because I was carrying all the camping equipment and tools. We were very relieved to also get some great cycling clothes at very good prices at the Nativa Specialized shop too.
And then the question of speed. How do you make sure that your inexperienced cycling partner can manage hill climbs up to 3000m and also to keep up a similar pace to you when she starts to get tired? The answer is to buy an electric motor. There is a shop in Bogota called ¨El Tomacorriente” (which means ¨it takes current¨), a store that is currently fitting an electric motor system called BionX. We have tested it, and it´s brilliant. Super smooth and it adds up to 200% of your cycling power. We have been told it will go up to 45km per hour and will last for 65km. It´s not a total replacement for cycling but should help with hills and exhaustion over long distances. I must also add a huge thank you to the workshop at El Toma Corriente who gave us spare spokes and even organised a spare cassette and chain to be sent to Pasto in the South of Colombia when we arrive there.
Also we bought Ortlieb panniers and some other camping essentials from a shop called 14ochomiles, which does cycling and camping equipment. Even with a discount (thanks Javier!), this stuff was quite expensive as all these things are imported. The ortlieb panniers are the best you can get and so it was worth it.
So now we are ready. We should be back on the road and heading South tomorrow. We are very very excited.
Happiness is only real when Shared – Christopher McCandless (Into the Wild).
Part 3 ( Pao´s intro )
Hey everyone, my first post begins with a BIG thank you !!! There are so many thoughts, emotions and ideas going thru my mind but what i really want to say is thank you to an incredible, amazing guy who has given me so much. His love, support, encouragement, friendship has made me a better woman, a better person… and now to start this incredible challenge with him is just another step into building memories and moments that we want to share with you and encourage you to take chances!!! Thanks to my family and Ed´s family, my truly amazing sister and my incredible friends.
As you already know, this past two months have been full of surprises… so many happy moments that i just want them to keep coming. I am beyond excited and anxious for tomorrow, i may not have the resistance to go as fast or far as Ed, but i have a great determination to accomplish each day and give a little more, so wish me luck. Thanks for following and your support, i promise next posts won´t be as cheesy as this one. Tons of love.