San Agustín: Archaeology Side-trip

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San Agustin Image
San Agustin Image (View on flickr)

Randy and I have made a priority of visiting many pre-Columbian archeology sites during our bike trip from the north pole to the south pole. After a month of riding the beautiful country of Colombia we decided to go off-route and take a bus 6 hours from Popayán to San Agustín, a magical place full of thousands of pre-Columbian sculptures and burial sites. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, San Agustín is a place of natural beauty and important universal culture. Some artifacts have been carbon dated as early as 3300 B.C., and aparently it was one continuous culture from that period to the date it mysteriously disappeared in the 8th century A.D.

Who built these and why are both total mysteries. Some theorize it was all a city for the dead - since humans live a short time on this earth but a long time in the after life, the burials require their own city. This spiritual place is a burial place to honor those in the after life. The hundreds of burial sites found throughout the 50,000 hectare area are full of treasures, potteries and huge sculptures guarding the tombs of the dead. Standing erect are mystical megalithic sculptures representing gods, and mystical animals. Almost all the sculptures have mammoth heads two or three times large than the body, either short legs or none and also human and animal features intermixed. The majority have jaguar or eagle features carved into the huge free standing carefully sculptured rocks. Some are realistic and others are rather abstract.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

The Casa de Ciclistas in Cali, Colombia

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Miller, Pablo, and Nancy making Ajiaco soup for Mother's Day
Miller, Pablo, and Nancy making Ajiaco soup for Mother's Day (View on flickr)

We stayed at our first "Casa de Ciclistas" (House of Cyclists) in Cali, and it was an incredible experience.

Casas de Ciclistas are a special Latin American institution, probably started by a gentleman in Trujillo, Peru named Lucho. He opened his home to travelers on bicycle years ago and has now hosted hundreds. He has a very humble home, but always makes it available for cyclists, and is one of the best known resources for touring cyclists in Latin America.

Well, other people think it´s a good idea too, and our new friend Miller Hernan in Cali. Miller is interested in touring, and decided to follow Lucho´s example, and what a delightful Casa de Ciclistas he has created. Hernan's family has a very simple house in a calm "tranquilo" neighborhood in southern Cali, and they just invited us in. We put up our tent in their very nice patio and were more comfortable than we've been in 90% of the hotels we've ever stayed in.

But it even went further. We were there for Mother's Day, and Miller invited Nancy to join his mother for the dinner festivities. And they shopped together for the ajiaco soup, then prepared it together and it was a delight.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

We're Sponsored! (Sort of)

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Randy and Nancy leaving the Casa de Ciclistas in Cali
Randy and Nancy leaving the Casa de Ciclistas in Cali (View on flickr)

We met some very nice people in Cali. One of them was Jose Lopez (and his whole family), an excellent and active cyclist who has ridden the entire country on his mountain bike. Jose belongs to a group called Colombia Nuestra Meta (Colombia Our Goal), which does major country-crossing rides and raises money to get bikes for kids in remote villages.

Last year, Colombia Nuestra Meta rode the entire route that we're riding (impressive!) and this year they're doing a route that's even harder, crossing all three mountain ranges that define this country, crossing it from east to west.

Jose met us and gave us a grand tour of Cali, and then gave us two absolutely beautiful cycling jackets (shown in the picture) - the nicest we've ever had. Our job is to take a picture of ourselves in front of famous South American sites with these beautiful jackets. It gives us a good excuse to get more pictures of us together.

Thanks, Jose!

Colombia: Notes along the way

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Randy getting a lift on a passing truck
Randy getting a lift on a passing truck (View on flickr)

Some notes from our 1000 miles (1600+ kilometers) so far in Colombia:

It's very common here for cyclists to grab the back of a slow-moving truck for a ride up to the top of a hill. It's loads of fun. Don't slap my hand too hard...  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Colombia Wrapup and Memories

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Woman carrying her bundle of firewood
Woman carrying her bundle of firewood (View on flickr)

Some more ramblings about our (wonderful) time in Colombia:

Colombia is such a diverse country. I'd say there's more money here than in any country we've been in since we left the US. Many relatively small towns have very fancy downtowns, with great services. (If you're looking for a place to invest, you should consider Colombia. It's looked on so poorly by the outside world, but is actually thriving and on the way up.)

On the other hand, we've seen poverty as severe as many other places, and lots of rural scenes. Horse carts galore, competing in cities with fancy cars in underpasses. Bicycles loaded with all kinds of construction goods and equipment. People living along the highway in shacks made of plastic sheeting. Beggars crawling around in the cities. Sometimes very sad.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Colombia Maps and GPS Information

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Mapas de Ruta - the excellent strip-maps we used in Colombia
Mapas de Ruta - the excellent strip-maps we used in Colombia (View on flickr)

The most commonly available map of Colombia (outside the country) is the widely available one from ITMB (International Travel Maps). As usual theirs is quite poor, but since it was the only one we could get before arriving in the country, we bought it.

However, we were able to get some excellent map resources at the national institute of geography, the Instituto Geográfico Agustín Codazzi, and that did us very well. They offered a number of maps, but we bought their set of route maps "Mapas de Ruta", that gave 1:750,000 renditions of the major highway stretches of the whole country.

There are also a couple of widely available travel guides for the country, with lots of great information, but they're big glossy books with lots of ads and they're extremely heavy. One of these is the Guia de Rutas Por Colombia and another is published by the big telephone company Telefonica.

The GPS maps we used don't seem to be available, but a helpful visitor commented "If you are looking for very good maps for tha garmin GPS try Gisco at"

Nancy's remembrances of Colombia

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Cartagena bay
Cartagena bay (View on flickr)

About a year ago Randy and I started talking about the pros and cons of riding through the most northern country of South America. We all know that Colombia has had a bad reputation for years because of narcotrafficking, the FARC guerrilla organization, paramilitary groups, kidnapping, etc. We even told our family members we would skip this country and fly straight to Ecuador. After reading the wonderful adventures of other cyclists who dared to enter the foreboding country we started to understand things have changed for the better of the last few years. The most current reports tell how Colombia has gone and is still going through a great metamorphosis. Much of the change can be attributed to the President, Álvaro Uribe, who is determined to make Colombia a safe place after more than 40 years of conflict.

The following is my impression of Colombia during our bicycle ride in May 2008.

We entered the seaport of Cartagena after sailing from Panama. The cityscape looked like a mixture of Quebec, Canada, Miami, Florida, and New Orleans, Louisiana. Cartagena is surrounded by stone fortresses built to protect the city from years and years of pirate attacks that the city endured in the time that it was a key treasure port for the Spanish. Currently there is an astonishing number of new skyscrapers being built -- I counted over 20 huge cranes hanging over the city´s waterfront, a sure sign of prosperity and growth.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Incredible Scenery in the Colombian Andes

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Take a look at this incredible video (view it full-size here). We were riding our bikes through southern Colombia, climbing into some of the most awesome mountain scenery we've ever seen, and here's a little sample. A big sample. Look at that waterfall! Nancy says "I was awed, I was brought to tears, and I was humbled by the realization of how small an insignificant we really are in the big picture of time and space."

New Photos (Colombia and Ecuador) and the Maps are Updated

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We got our photos of Colombia all updated, and also the maps and elevation profiles of our route through Colombia are now there.

You can see the pictures:

The maps and elevation profiles (including an overview of the route) are here.

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