We finally left all the comforts of home on Boxing day and set off across the steaming hot plains towards the distant mountains.
We had a lovely Christmas in Santa Marta with our AirBnB hosts Mark and Ana, and with Ana’s extended family. Thank you all for making us feel like part of the family. In Colombia they celebrate in the evening of the 24th December rather than on Christmas day.
Our fat bikes were of great interest and some test rides were required. Unfortunately Ana’s sister fell off just after this photo as she couldn’t reach the ground. All OK though.
We found it best to start out just before dawn, around 5:40 most days when was a nice cool 23°C. Generally by about 11:00 it was heading up to 40°C. This area is full of wetlands and lakes and many of the place name’s started with Cienaga, meaning swamp.
There were lots of roadside cafes along our route which gave much needed shade as well as a place to mend to odd puncture.
Cycling around Aracataca
Gabriel Garcia Marquez was born here
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A farmer selling milk by the side of the road in 40C heat!
Leaving Aracataca early in the morning
From the pictures this probably looks like a rural idyll but the reality is a little different.
The driving in Colombia is horrendous. This truck, lying on its side, narrowly missed wiping out half the village. It was probably trying to avoid a coach who would have been overtaking a column of trucks on a sharp bend.
The road we were cycling along for the first couple of days was narrow and very busy with massive American style trucks, coaches driven by maniacs and Christmas holiday traffic.
We had a shoulder of road that is about 2 foot wide, sometimes. This is a 2-way road!!
In the cool of the early morning was a bit scary
But this did not last for too long. It soon turned into perfect cycling conditions. A new and not yet open dual-carriageway just for us!! There were some workmen but it was always break time or lunch or tea time. Not much happening.
One of the many fruit stalls we passed.
Most of the villages we passed though were very poor, with very basic infrastructure. But the building of the new road and the reduction of the violence has brought the hope that tourists will come to the area, so in amongst these houses will suddenly be an incongruous metal and glass fronted hotel.
One or two of the towns seem to be thriving, such as this one at Aguachica. Although most of the affluence here seems to be on the outside.
After Aquachica all the farming land looked much more organised, with well fed cattle,
Affluent looking farmsteads
We spent New Year’s Eve in a small town called San Alberto, which must be the most crowded and loudest town I have ever been in. The whole town is vibrating with the sound of 300 or 400 amplifiers, turned up full volume and playing competing salsa music.
Added to this most of the local populace with their whole family, including babies and dogs (and the occasional trussed live sheep!), riding around the town on motorbikes,
and the odd youth letting off large firework rockets in the middle of the crowded streets while holding the centre of the rocket casing in his hand. He had just let go of the rocket when I took this, leaving a trail of smoke.
San Alberto marks the end of 750 kms of totally flat cycling. Tomorrow is the start of 2017 and the start of our major mountain climbing which is going to be a bit of a shock to the system. I just hope that it gets cooler as we go up.