Sunday, December 02, 2018

The Colombia Trike Tour Has Started - Bogotá to Ubaté

GARMIN Data and Maps: 

Many, many thanks to Maritza and Antonio Luis

I had a wonderful time in Bogotá with my homestay family and studying Spanish at the Whee Institute. The Whee Institute arranged for the homestay and I couldn't have asked for a nicer family to introduce me to the food, culture and enormous city of Bogotá. My room was comfortable and the family was very relaxed. Maritza and Antonio Luis helped me with so many things. They gave me ideas for exploring the city and even helped make medical appointments including with a doctor friend who runs a sleep clinic at a major hospital. This doctor gave me tips to sleep better at night and I haven't been taking any sleeping meds since my 2 appointments with her. They even made suggestions for a pedicure salon and getting my pants taken in. I took care of a lot of things during my month in Bogotá while also studying Spanish 3 hours a day, 5 days a week. I met many people in the family and everyone was very kind and generous. 

Super Nico, Karen and Maritza

One of the hardest things about traveling is meeting wonderful people and then having to say goodbye. The morning I started riding it was hard to say goodbye after having such a terrific stay. Many, many thanks to Maritza and Antonio Luis. I will always remember your kindness and generosity.

Ciclovia Route

Colorful building in Bogotá

Leaving the enormous city of Bogotá with a population of probably more than 12 million people was something I've been very nervous about. Over the years of touring, I've come to know that entering and leaving big cities is best on Sunday mornings. And in Bogotá, every Sunday is Ciclovia which shuts down roads all over the city to motor vehicles. I was able to take the Ciclovia route through a good portion of my ride out of Bogotá. Cycling is very popular in Bogotá and seeing bikes on the road is normal so even though I was riding without the safety of the Ciclovia route I still felt safe. The hardest part of cycling in Bogotá isn't the traffic it's the horrible diesel exhaust the cars, busses and trucks emit. Some trucks belch so much pollution it's actually hard to see the vehicle. On Sundays, there is much less commercial traffic. But even still, there was a lot of gross exhaust. 

Regal winged horse - Bogotá

Eventually, I made my way out of Bogotá and was riding through rolling hills of pasture land. It felt good to see cows grazing on the bright green grass. Although, I have to say I was surprised to see so much trash. Bogotá may be enormous but it is also a clean city. It's unusual to see mounds of trash in the city. 

Leaving Bogotá
YouTube Video - Bogotà to Zipaquirá

Wonderful lunch
I stopped for a fabulous lunch of coffee, choclo and Caldo de Castilla. Yummy! From there, I had to get on busy Hwy 45. This is a major toll road but I saw people jogging, walking with pets and kids, skating, skate boarding and lots of cyclists. I had to go through the toll area and followed the motorcycles through a path that went around the booths. There was a good shoulder which made me feel safer.

The further I got from Bogotá the less traffic there was. The highway went from 3 lanes in each direction to a 2-lane road. I had planned on going through Cajicá but missed the turn and ended up going through Briceno which probably added a few miles. I turned on a road that went passed a huge amusement park that was on both sides of the road called Jaime Duque. It had very interesting buildings and a monorail. 

Zipaquirá church

Pretty soon I was in Zipaquirá looking for a hotel. The 1st place I checked had a good rating on Google but there wasn't any place for the trike. The receptionist sent me to a parqueadero to park my trike but they only take cars. Of course, I was already checked in and had my bags in the room when I realized I was going to have to find another hotel. I ended up and the Hotel Estacion close to the train station. It was very beautiful with all the amenities including breakfast for $24 a night. They also have a parking lot with a 24 hour attendant and a dog to watch over the cars and motorcycles. I locked Myrtle to a pole. 

Myrtle in the carpark

Zipaquirá church on a plaza
Zipaquirá street

Zipaquirá is a sweet town and known for an abandoned salt mine that has a huge Cathedral in it. The next day I walked to the park paying the hefty foreign tourist entrance fee of $20. It was very interesting. Walking in, I met 3 people from Indiana who were in Bogotá celebrating their grandmothers 106th birthday. We all walked through the cathedral together. The cathedral has all 14 stations of the cross in it as well as a church completely underground.  After, I had a fabulous meal of soup, chicken and vegetables. Delicious!

Salt mine entrance
Very nice people from Indiana I met at the entrance of the salt mine. Thanks for including me.

On of the stations of the cross in the salt mine cathedral

YouTube Video - Zipaquirá to Ubaté

With Maricio
The next morning I got packed up and on the road by 7:30 am. The ride to Ubaté was very straight forward although I had a bit of trouble finding my way out of town. I asked a number of people for directions but no one could understand my pronunciation of Ubaté.  Sometimes, even though I'm using Googlemaps I still get lost. Finally, someone understood my question and pointed me in the right direction.  Today's ride would be my 1st big test as there was one big hill. It went 2,000 ft up and then 2,000 ft down into Ubaté. As I started up the hill a young man passed me and then waited. Maricio was on his to go ride in the mountains. Instead, he rode with me for well over an hour. I am truly one of the world's slowest climbers. How he was able to ride next to me for so long was impressive. For awhile he was riding one legged.  He was also very patient with my poor Spanish. Almost everything he said I had to ask him to repeat. A few kilometers from the top we stopped at a cafe and he bought me a coffee and a pastry. He tried out my trike but didn't seem very impressed. Then he went back down the hill and I continued climbing. When I finally crested the hill I was very relieved. I had passed my 1st big test. Colombia is a very mountainous country and I have been very nervous about how I am going to handle all the climbing.

At the top of the hill, suddenly, I was in coal country. I passed many small mines and the road was dirty with coal. The air was thick with coal particles that I could feel hitting my face. This was a very strange feeling. But I had a heck of a downhill and was soon passed this dirty area. The road was curved and winding and I had to feather my brakes a lot. I got caught behind a truck that was bellowing thick black exhaust and I had to pull over to give him room before I continued. It was really gross riding behind that truck.

Ubaté from the air

At the top of the hill I was feeling weak from the big climb but I recovered by the time I arrived in Ubaté and found a great hotel for $15. This hotel also had a parking lot with a 24 hour attendant where I locked up Myrtle. Like all other towns I've been to in Colombia, cycling is a popular form of transportation. Bikes are left in front of businesses leaning up against the curb. Bikes are everywhere.

Ubaté plaza

Grand church in Ubaté

Bike parked in the curbs all over Ubaté

Ubaté is the milk capital of Colombia. Garbage cans are milk jugs.

On all my previous tours, I've ridden just about everyday and have always felt rushed to see everything in the town and also prepare for the next day's ride, take pictures/video, processing and organizing my pictures/video, do all my computer stuff, eat and clean my clothes. For this tour, I'm going to do it differently. I've got 6 months to explore Colombia and I would like to spend a day in each town to take my time and learn more about the places I'm traveling through. With all the climbing I'm expecting to do, I think my body is going to need the extra day as well.

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