It is hard to cycle in Colombia and not think of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, one of Colombia’s most famous writers, a Nobel prize winner and easily one of the greatest writers of the last one hundred years. He is a favorite of both of us, I love his magical realism style, infusing reality with a much needed sprinkling of the magical, the extraordinary, the not quite real, bringing the reader outside the normal bounds which hem in our lives and allowing us to touch the ethereal. The ride from Medellin has had its fair share of the ethereal and in the highlands of Colombia it is possible to get a feel for the inspirations of this great man, the towering valleys, the friendly people, the politics, the cafe culture with its lively debates, really feeling the extraordinary every day.

Since Medellin it seems we have been living days of two halves: sometimes this is physical, a good nights sleep leaves you waking with a spring in your step or a second wind helps the afternoon fly by, but mostly it has been for geographic reasons. Leaving the city in the full flow of morning traffic and finding a hill we didn’t quite expect, climbing endlessly upwards to Alto de Minas for 40km. If we didn’t expect the climb, we certainly didn’t expect the views from up there, Colombia stretching into the distance, coffee, fruit and sugar plantations and little villages scattered throughout the valleys, one of the best views of the trip so far, and with 40km of riding the valley tops and descending to the floor, it was certainly a day of two halves.

Colombia is a perfect example of where you look to alternative sources of information to help in route planning. This country has seen so little tourism in recent times, and many cyclists have avoided it, often out of necessity. We were lucky, the last five years have seen a big improvement in the security situation, ordinary Colombians can go about their daily life without fear of death due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time, drug trafficking and the FARC have been brought under under some sort of control, there are many police and army checkpoints along all major routes. The country is opening up. We have been following a few blogs on various routes and one such, from Dave, suggested a route up through the highlands and away from the Pan American (thanks Dave 🙂 To add to that, it was also election time in Colombia, possibilities of a change in power with Mockus, a mathematician and Green Party candidate hoping to spring from nowhere to the position of highest power in the country, certainly a situation to set the cafes alight with inflamed passion.

Mornings are so much better here, getting up with the sun has it rewards in pre- cycling trips to the local panaderia where you can get several pasteries and coffees for a couple of dollars, a good sugar boost to get you through any day. Even a day of two halves. We left La Pintada, cycling at our ease against the flow of a raging river, perfect white water, weaving through the high valleys and loving every moment of it, an early morning stillness in the air, fresh weather, big smiles. We were heading to Riosucio, it was somewhere high above and it was Saturday, the day before the elections.

The ride up and the ride out the following day are among the best we have done and Riosucio turned out to be one of the most charming towns we have visited in a long time. It is set high in the hills, it has a colonial feel to it, the like of which we haven’t seen much of since Mexico, it has cafes and panaderias on every corner, two lovely squares, and after a long, long ascent, one of the most relaxing hotel rooms we have had in a long time, complete with terrace and setting us back 5 quid.

Sunday morning cycling, quite roads, election day, high in the hills, impossible but to feel so lucky to be here, enjoying a great days cycling. And we weren’t alone, cycling is so big over here. Dozens of locals out on the roads.

We followed the valley tops for the morning, taking in the beautiful views in all directions. Two days of awesome bike touring with Riosucio in the middle, two days that filled our hearts with even more love for this country, two days of magical reality.

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