Manizales, Colombia

A few email excerpts about Turbo to Medellin and on to Manizales.

[June 6, 2010]

yesterday we went to get tickets again, this time the boss was like 50,000 for the bikes, but nothing extra for weight. we went along with it, hoping it would get us out of capurgana. this morning us 3 went to the dock and two other cyclists (one argentine with only 2 panniers, another CRAZY 65+ year old german guy with a home made trailer with fake wooden panneling and a weiner dog) had also bought tickets but there was just NO space in the boat, so we figured they’d have to wait another day.

our boat had 33 passengers, really packed, though the bikes were OK for the most part. we get to Turbo and are at the military checkpoint when sure enough, a same sized boat with ONLY 10 passengers, including the 2 cyclists show up. why they didn’t evenly distribute the passengers between the two boats is beyond me!

we made it 35 miles south of turbo, hope to do the rest to medellin in 4 days.

[June 13, 2010]

Was 15 miles of up up and up to the pass, where we asked a cop about the tunnel (only ’cause he had a pickup). He didn’t know about the cyclist restrictions, but offered to take us through anyway. I think he was in a hurry, he had his flashing lights on and drove like a maniac, but a well trained one. Missed out on a bunch of the descent into the valley since he didn’t stop to let us out until the first town.

Medellin is incredible. Maybe it is just the feeling of vastness of any other big city, which I haven’t experienced since Guadalajara, but there is something particularly captivating here. Wandered and took a ride on the Metro system, which includes cable cars that float over the steep hillside barrios where it isn’t feasible to build rail or bus lines. Mexico City is my first love, but Medellin seems a little less frumpy, grimy and, well, Mexican. Am staying with an old friend of my parents way up above the city where the breeze makes you consider putting some socks on.

Greg and I went on a bike shop crawl and finally found me some Tektro levers, but no luck for his 22 tooth chain ring. Was looking at the Surly website, it says maximum tire size for 26″ rim is 2.1″. Fatties don’t fit fine?

Yes! Hot water and shampoo and conditioner… felt a little unnatural.

[June 19, 2010]

Leave Medellin Wednesday afternoon, just barely make it over the 2,500 m pass when it gets really dark, cold and rainy. We’re hoping to camp but glad we get a hospedaje above a gas station. Not just goosebumps, but feel cold down to the bones. Our bandeja dinners end up costing only 11,000 for both, not sure how.

Next morning we descend all the way down to La Pintada at 600 m, back to the river Cauca, same river that goes through Santa Fe de Antioquia. So what was the point of biking all the way up to Medellin? Follow the river for quite a while, then camp out after the road left the valley. Warm? Yes, hot even, but the prickly heat is gone for now. Next morning a gentle climb for most of the day, then the long uphill to Manizales at 2,200 m. Very deceiving, we keep thinking we’ve reached a pass, but Manizales is not at the bottom of a valley, but kind of spread out on a side of a mountain. Would be happy to avoid another big city but my ATM card is supposed to be here Monday.

Thankfully there are Calles and Carreras so directions people give us mostly make sense. Greg and I find the hostel and then go grocery shopping. We’ve missed the ‘ley seca’ cut off time by one hour, all the booze shelves are taped off. After the long climb we were hoping for a beer with our pasta dinner (sauce was: 2 sticks butter, 2 cups cream, half a pound parmesan cheese).

On our way back a young guy approaches us and starts walking backwards, facing us, mumbling incoherent things. I notice a wooden handle in his hand, blade up his sleeve. I point this out to Greg and right then he tries to grab Greg and pulls out the knife. But the guy is too wasted to be of danger. This happens on a busy intersection in front of a huge mall with tons of people walking about. Other than that Manizales seems like a pretty safe town, there are 6 universities, so plenty of hip students around.

On our way back we stop at a tiendita, the owner happy to sell us a dozen beers, “just be discreet”. That should be more than enough for the next three days, but somehow the supply dwindles as other hostel guests are helping themselves.

My card is supposed to be here Monday morning, so we’re thinking of leaving right after that. We’ve got to figure out if we head straight east from here, around the north side of Nevado de Ruiz, where the road tops out at 3,800 m, or if we should go south via Pereira and Armenia, then head east via Ibague (pass is ~3,400 m), which is what you did. How have the roads been? I hope you’ve been staying warm enough!

After crossing the ridge it seems like an easy two or three days or so southbound along the Rio Magdalena valley. Then probably to San Agustin and over the mountains again. Need to sit down and figure out how to get out of Colombia in 14 days.


just added up miles if we go the manizales-neiva-san agustin-popayan-ipiales (according to bing), and it is 650. if we leave on monday that is 13 days left in the country… yikes. manizales-cali-popayan-ipiales is only 450. might need to try and get an extension but who knows how complicated that might be. or maybe get close enough to the border, take bus to ecuador and back. dunno.


[re: extending via]

based on the DAS website… 70,000 pesos, passport pictures, and an official request/form of sorts. no mention of turn around time (1 hour, 1 week?). DAS office in the main (capital?) cities of each departamento.

looking at maps greg and i think we may just go the express route to ecuador… there will be plenty more rough mountain roads further on.

[June 20, 2010]

The ‘blue law’ is due to the 2nd round of presidential elections today. I explained the cashier that I was a foreigner and couldn’t vote, and so would she please sell me the beer, but that didn’t fly.

After looking at the mileages and the terrain, it looks like Greg and I are going to scrap the idea of the magdalena river valley. We’d have to bike ~650 miles in 12 out of the 13 days left on our stamp, assuming no bad weather or sickness delays (Greg basically slept in the bathroom last night with food poisoning of sorts). We’d end up killing ourselves and/or having to bus a hundred miles or two to Ecuador. So we’re hoping to just stay off the busy roads and enjoy a slower route through the Cauca valley.

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