We thought we were leaving Cartegena nice and early at 08:30, but it was already 32°C. Having left the UK 4 days ago at -2°C this was a bit of a shock to the system. After 3 hours it was a steady and very humid 43°C.
The first day of a cycle tour in a new country is always a bit nerve wracking until you get in the swing of it and accept life as it happens. As I was not sure about accommodation in this area I had assumed our distances to start with would be small and booked AirB&B’s ahead, where I could see them, up as far as Santa Marta. For the other days we could see a hotel symbol on Google so we would hope for the best, although this was a false hope as it turned out.
Leaving Cartegena we cycled along the coast on a very wide shoulder in light traffic, past small shops and stalls pulsating with salsa music. After every 5km of cycling we spent 20 minutes sitting in the shade under a tree.
Arriving in the tiny pueblo of Galerazamba where we hoped to spend the first night we cycled past the remains of what had at one time been a large coastal resort, but was now abandoned. We found our hostel all locked up and peering through the gates it looked overgrown and unkempt. We had no phone signal, there were no other hotels for about 30 km and we had already cycled 60 km in the heat. We were sitting folornly under a tree outside the gate when a caretaker arrived. All was OK!
Having learnt our lesson we left at 6 a.m. the next morning and cycled through the deep sandy lanes through the village, watched by family groups from each doorway. I made their day by miscalculating a sandy bank with an obstacle in it and landed in a tangle of limbs and bike almost in a doorway, where I was untangled and lifted to my feet. Luckily nothing hurt except my pride. The cycle out along the beach was uneventful (luckily) but spectacular.
Later we thought we would get off the main road for a while and take a back way. All went well to start but as the gradient increased the recent heavy rains had gouged out deep trenches which were beyond my cycling skills. We eventually made it to the large city of Barranquilla where the accommodation was the other extreme. Our bubbly host, Nazly, whisked us off in her car for a tour of the city and chatted excitedly to us in Spanish, and somehow our newly learnt Spanish seemed to emerge.
We spent the whole of the next day cycling across the bay on a very flat and narrow strip of land that separated the sea from the marshes and the bay.
On one side the waves on the other a strange mixture of lush greenery and cacti. We had spotted on Google that there was a hotel of some sort at the far end but when we arrived, tired and hot, we found the worst slum village that we had seen so far, and the hostel was in the centre. We were already the centre of attention so decided to keep peddling, possibly for another 40 km to Santa Marta. Luckily we found somewhere not quite so far and next to a great beach.
Getting to Santa Marta was like entering another world. We were passed by lots of roadies on their fast racing bikes, wall to wall shopping malls in some areas but still the run down historic old centre that has had a lot less spent on it than Cartagena.
Tomorrow we will leave our bikes for 5 days while we walk through the jungle and up some very steep hills to Cuidad Perdida, the Lost City.