Colombia (2017)

#HaveMoreFunBoyacá

Beginnings

We had planned to have a low key summer, to stay in Utah and "explore our own backyard" with the dogs. But Connie went to India on a work trip in February and when she came home she announced simply, "I need to ride my bike." And so it began. We decided we wanted something rural, something mountainous, something difficult, dirt roads. We considered trips to the middle east, Thailand and Vietnam, or Chile. After all the hours on google maps and different cycling touring websites, we found the Oh Boyacá route on bikepacking.com. It had most of what we wanted and we could see a way to adjust it for the time we had available. Colombia. It was settled. We'd fly to Bogotá, take the bus to San Gil, look for Glaciers in El Cocuy Natural Park, explore the Paramó, then head back to Bogotá via Villa de Leyva. According to the original plan, we'd cover something in the neighborhood of 500 miles wiles with 65000 feet of elevation gain over the course of 10 days mostly on dirt roads. The plan was to camp and to enjoy the Andes and the folks who made the mountains their home as much as we could. We knew the Andes were big. We were counting on it. We were still surprised.

San GIl to El Cocuy

We went to Boyaca for the mountains and dirt roads, and it didn't take long to find them. At least we thought we had found the mountains. We would discover later that we had merely pedaled into the foothills. Either way, the first few days found us wanting for food (always wanting for food), but pretty stunned by the things we were seeing and the roads we road. Our plan had been to camp most nights, but we quickly discovered that for just a few bucks we could get a small hotel in whichever town we made it to. While we were there we had a chance to grab a beer or two, chat with family, and take kids' recommendations as to where we would find the best dinner. Seemed like a good deal to us.


EL COCUY TO VILLA DE LEYVA AND BOGOTA

Then we found the real mountains. We climbed in the mornings and descended in the afternoon, we saw tropical glaciers. We hunted for fuel for a stove. We found set up camp in the dark on the porch of a hacienda we thought was empty only to be awakened before dawn with an offer to come inside for coffee. On a quick descent before the climb to the high point of the trip, Connie ran into a motorcycle at slow speed. Everyone scraped by without damage or injury and we set off on the climb over the pass. 4600 vertical feet later, we topped out at the high point of the trip at 13,600 feet above sea level. A few more days of climbing descents, and managing the trucks in coal country and we settled into Villa De Leyva for a day off, some coffee, some whiskey, and some people watching before ending our mountain adventure and exploring the big city of Bogotá


In general we aim to travel light and fast. We work our gear hard and trust it to perform on smooth roads and the rough dirt of the Andes. We've found a setup that works and stays out of the way to push ourselves to do more, see more, and have more fun. This isn't a comprehensive list of what we carried through Colombia, but it captures the important pieces that set us up for a successful trip with options to camp, cook for a day if we needed to, and push through the mountains. The only thing I would have changed was the gearing on the bikes.

  • Bikes: Elephant Custom Steel Frame (with a Ritchey Breakaway System and a Gevenalle drivetrain) and a Ritchey Breakaway Cross (with Sram Force components)
  • Bags: Revelate Designs bike packing bags
  • Tires: Clement (now Donnelly) MSO X'Plor tubeless 36mm (We rode for 10 days on some pretty rough dirt roads without any flats).
  • Camera: Sony a6300 with a variety of lenses. Only one of them broke after flying out of its bag.
  • Camping Gear: Zpacks tent, Klymit sleeping pads, Lafuma sleeping bags

By way of a last word, I'd just put a plug in for Colombia in general, and for Boyacá specifically. Our trip was unbelievable and there are more adventures there to be had. If you can't get to Colombia, just go ride your bike. #RideEverything. Find and make a little bit of light in the world.