Category Archives: Colombia

Colombia

Colombia

What comes to mind when you think about Colombia? For the adult generation it is most likely drugs (Medellin cartel and Pablo Escobar), coffee and FARC in that order. For the younger ones it may be the singer Shakira and world’s highest paid TV-actor (2019) Sofia Vergara.

Escobar jail

While planning my ride in Colombia, it was clear that the country still greatly suffers from its drug infused past and is struggling to change that image.

While Colombia today is much safer than in the past, US travel advisory states: “Reconsider travel to Colombia due to crime. Exercise increased caution in Colombia due to civil unrest, terrorism, and kidnapping. Some areas have increased risk… Violent crime, such as homicide, assault, and armed robbery, is common.  Organized criminal activities, such as extortion, robbery, and kidnapping are widespread. While the Colombian government signed a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) terrorist group, some dissident groups refuse to demobilize.”

Great encouragement indeed for adventure travel in Colombia!

Local police was well respected

On the other hand, the problem locations are well identified and only covers certain parts of the country. The internet is also full of praise by the motorcycling community. Some even calling it today “A safe haven for motorcyclists”.

Perhaps I should find out myself!

This time we were be a familiar group of riders, most of whom I have earlier been in many other exotic places. Our ride took place in March 2022 and started from Medellin, which most know as the town where Pablo Escobar founded and run the Medellin Cartel, and eventually died 1993.

Our ride took us to some fantastic places and like its people, also the landscape is fascinating. Highest mountain Pico Cristóbal Colón is 5730 meters high and the area we are riding was truly mountainous.

Medellin from my hotel window

Medellin

Our starting point was the famous city of Medellin and we would be heading geographically east and south of Medellin for our ride. The city itself is a popular tourist destination and a very lively place indeed. It turned out that our hotel was just at the party district and entertainment was guaranteed. The city however, also has a very rich history and great sights to visit. Botero sculptures and museums and churches to mention a few, not forgetting Pablo Escobar museum, parks, etc. After listening the tour guides, it is still a bit unclear who the biggest villain was, the corrupt police and politicians or the drug lord. Views vary.

These days Medellin has done a lot to abolish its image and public transportation is one of the shining examples. Metro system and most notably a gondola system taking people up and down the steep hills around the city, allowing easy access to the whole town for work, education and entertainment. This system has been adopted in many cities around the country, we noticed on our rides through some of the cities.

Gondola to the houses on the hills
Mural on a wall

Medellin is full of street art, mainly murals.

Three Kinds of Roads

To begin with, the area for our ride was very mountainous and therefore all roads were full of curves and bends. Great start!

For a biker, there were basically three kinds of roads. Firstly, some fantastic smooth and clean tarmac stretches that were used also by heavy goods traffic. These roads can be very congested and the only way to move forward is filtering through the traffic and lane splitting. Particularly as there were several roadworks and lines that were miles long. Hitting an open stretch of road, high speed cornering and smooth riding was a hoot!

Curves ahead!

The second type of roads were also mainly tarmac but as many areas are geologically unstable, the road could have sinked or risen suddenly for more than 30 centimeters or as often the case, could be missing any proper surfacing at all. These may come as a surprise or there could be a speed limit of 20 or 30 km/h giving indication that something strange is ahead. For obvious reasons these roads had a lot less heavy traffic and were quite entertaining to ride.

Wooden foot bridge, passable by bike as well!

The third and the road we used the most, was an unpaved mountain road that was often really hard to ride and just full of rocks and steep inclines and declines. With slippery deep mud in the middle, as it rains a lot. Average speeds around 20-30 km/h. A stretch of 100 km could take more than five hours to complete including mandatory drinks breaks.

Rocky road
Muddy road (Photo Tomi Ranta)
River crossing

Temperatures varied a lot from 35c and sunshine on one side of the mountain and 10c and rain on the other. Mountain roads climbed to 3000 – 3500 meters and views over the forming clouds were amazing.

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