Riding with Narcos or how I got interested in Colombia.
As the plane landed in Bogota, all my preconceived ideas about Colombia came back to my mind.
How I eventually landed there is a little less interesting that what I learnt along the way. The short version would be that over the past months I had become obsessed with Narcos on Netflix. Then, one thing lead to another and finally I made the decision to see by myself what the place was all about.
Colombia is preceded by it’s reputation, and I wasn’t initially immune to it. My firsts associations with the country were about the violence and drug dealing. Those were the thoughts I had as the plane approached the airport. Fortunately, recent press articles were more favorable and I had the peace of mind necessary to plan a trip to Colombia. So much so, that I decided to give the country one further opportunity, and explore it on my bicycle. Or in a rental bicycle as I found it easier and was guaranteed a great bike.
Once on the bike, everything ran as smoothly. The landscapes were only stuff you dream of
However, when the plane landed, I still felt a little bit of hesitation. What was what I was going to find? How far off was the deception from the series form the reality? All those thoughts run through my mind several times. I breath deeply, and there I was just about to be out in the wild from the confines of the safe airport environment.
The feeling didn’t last long. Just as I stepped out of the baggage claim area I was warmly welcomed. Tomás, the tour leader, was there greeting me. I had been in touch with Tomás by email over the previous months, so it’s always nice to put a face to the image I created.
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The official start of the tour was the next day, so I had a little bit of time to explore around Bogotá. I must admit I wasn’t really expecting such a vibrant city. The blue glass facade of the office building contrasted with the oranged colored of the ollder brick houses. More importantly, I was impressed at the lively feel of the streets. Nothing would give away any signs of trouble.
Once on the bike, everything ran as smoothly. The landscapes were only stuff you dream of; mountain behind mountains and every possible kind of environment you can think of. Just until you try, you can make sense of how warm it can get and how much the landscape can change on a long descent by the equator. Conversely, but way more painful, is seeing this changes on a long climb like Letras. [Michael rode the tour Heroica – Ed. For information please click here]
Food was really tasty. I really enjoyed the wide variety of soups and different juices offered along the way. Most of the time roads were in great shape, with the occasional, as Tomas said, interesting section. Beside the tour guides, the support drivers spoke very little English but they were great, always ready to fill your water bottle again.
there’s this unending feeling of happiness ,warmth, and easy going in all the Colombians I met along the way
As for those preconceptions I think they have widened. It’s clear that Colombia isn’t what is depicted on any tv show, quite the opposite: there’s this unending feeling of happiness ,warmth, and easy going in all the Colombians I met along the way, but they are marked, as we all are, by their history. What I found though is a country that’s making strides to leave it behind. Talking to Tomás was interesting exercise, is nice to see the vision of a local, and get a deeper understanding of the different situations.
Sometimes I would be completely surprised at myself at how easy it was to forget about my previous apprehensions about Colombia, and instead realizing how much I was enjoying the moment: either riding a bicycle on a descent or just chilling around in one of the small towns drinking beer like any local.
My advice: think about Colombia as your next cycling destination. If you are like me, possibly the thing that is deterring you from flying over there would be safety issues. But fear not. The place is safe. Period. What you will find instead is a great spot for riding your bicycle, warm and friendly people that will make you feel welcome the whole time.
This post belongs to the series of posts done guests about their experience of riding in Colombia. We appreciate all your feedback and stories. If you have a story you want to share please let us know. We will be happy to include it in our blog.