Charmed in Colombia

Colombia has completely swept us off our feet. The unwavering enthusiasm of Colombianos for a couple grimy, wandering thirty-somethings fuels our fatigued bodies and minds. The Andes are equal parts punishing and invigorating, and we've hardly made a dent in the range we'll ride the rest of the way to the bottom. Our keyboarding cannot keep up with our cameras, and thus, a necessary photo dump below. More words, and stories of South American splendor to follow, shortlyish.  

 Colombia's coffee triangle, the Eje Cafetero, is a stunning configuration of breathtaking topography, agricultural abundance and the impossibly charming colonial pueblos that always seem to be located at either the veryyyyy top or veryyyyy bottom of any given valley. 

Colombia's coffee triangle, the Eje Cafetero, is a stunning configuration of breathtaking topography, agricultural abundance and the impossibly charming colonial pueblos that always seem to be located at either the veryyyyy top or veryyyyy bottom of any given valley. 

 Coffee with a view. 

Coffee with a view. 

 ....Andes spent.  

....Andes spent.  

 While the wax palms of the Cocora Valley are natural, the surreal scene along the valley floor is not. Grazing cattle have kept all aspiring palm seedlings at bay while the existing trees continue to grow to almost two hundred feet tall. The resulting landscape is one of those bittersweet beautiful accidents, where the contrasting trees are actually the last remnants of a once healthy forest. Of course, in the meantime, the grey trunks against the impossible green make for some incredible photos. That, or a super challenging frisbee golf course.  

While the wax palms of the Cocora Valley are natural, the surreal scene along the valley floor is not. Grazing cattle have kept all aspiring palm seedlings at bay while the existing trees continue to grow to almost two hundred feet tall. The resulting landscape is one of those bittersweet beautiful accidents, where the contrasting trees are actually the last remnants of a once healthy forest. Of course, in the meantime, the grey trunks against the impossible green make for some incredible photos. That, or a super challenging frisbee golf course.  

 If you want the tree to look taller, trim the bushes around it. They don't call 'em wax palms for nothing. 

If you want the tree to look taller, trim the bushes around it. They don't call 'em wax palms for nothing. 

 As the last few backpacker-toting Jeeps descended for the evening, we set up camp to palm/stargaze, armed with a couple beers and an emergency ration of instant noodles.

As the last few backpacker-toting Jeeps descended for the evening, we set up camp to palm/stargaze, armed with a couple beers and an emergency ration of instant noodles.

 Coupla' beanpoles.  

Coupla' beanpoles.  

 An absurd place worth the sweaty detour.  

An absurd place worth the sweaty detour.  

 Though Colombia's dark history has contributed to its dangerous reputation, our experience has been anything but. At times, it seems individual Colombianos take it upon themselves to singlehandedly reverse foreign perceptions. Another cyclist used the term "kindnapping" in reference to the phenomenon and it's too fitting not to repurpose. This lovely family did just that, holding us hostage for an afternoon with a beautiful lunch, conversation and bundles of food to go. 

Though Colombia's dark history has contributed to its dangerous reputation, our experience has been anything but. At times, it seems individual Colombianos take it upon themselves to singlehandedly reverse foreign perceptions. Another cyclist used the term "kindnapping" in reference to the phenomenon and it's too fitting not to repurpose. This lovely family did just that, holding us hostage for an afternoon with a beautiful lunch, conversation and bundles of food to go. 

 When you realize you're all just waiting for the food to show. 

When you realize you're all just waiting for the food to show. 

 Never say no to an invitation, even if you have just eaten a huge breakfast. 

Never say no to an invitation, even if you have just eaten a huge breakfast. 

 Animals are loved as pets by Colombianos, but these critters also fend for themselves in a way that would weed out many of those domesticated in the States.

Animals are loved as pets by Colombianos, but these critters also fend for themselves in a way that would weed out many of those domesticated in the States.

 Simple roadside snack of tinto, eggs and fried potatoes. More green in the decor than our diets these days.  

Simple roadside snack of tinto, eggs and fried potatoes. More green in the decor than our diets these days.  

 Cute until he tried to unclip our bags. 

Cute until he tried to unclip our bags. 

 Tinto is the working class's coffee, made from beans not fit for exportation, served in tiny plastic cups, usually from street vendors with carts full of mismatched thermoses. Tinto translates to inky water and is made palatable by adding a lot of sugar. Aidan's face says it all.

Tinto is the working class's coffee, made from beans not fit for exportation, served in tiny plastic cups, usually from street vendors with carts full of mismatched thermoses. Tinto translates to inky water and is made palatable by adding a lot of sugar. Aidan's face says it all.

 Cowlombia

Cowlombia

 Yer buñuelos are showing.  

Yer buñuelos are showing.  

 Available at nearly every tienda, these deep-fried dough balls have become a go-to snack. 

Available at nearly every tienda, these deep-fried dough balls have become a go-to snack. 

 Descending from our first Andean climb of the trip.

Descending from our first Andean climb of the trip.

 Things that protect you from the world above.  

Things that protect you from the world above.  

 Hills of felted gold, or so they seemed after a rainy night and excitement to descend.

Hills of felted gold, or so they seemed after a rainy night and excitement to descend.

 We flailed our way through a "live" Facebook interview (in Spanish) and were treated to ice cream disproportional to our performance. 

We flailed our way through a "live" Facebook interview (in Spanish) and were treated to ice cream disproportional to our performance. 

 In retrospect, sharing may have prevented the inevitable stomach ache to follow.   

In retrospect, sharing may have prevented the inevitable stomach ache to follow.   

 Cowboys and fresh fruit in Jericó. 

Cowboys and fresh fruit in Jericó. 

 Marketplace papaya. 

Marketplace papaya. 

 Getting backroadsy en route to the coastal road from Cartagena to Medellín.  

Getting backroadsy en route to the coastal road from Cartagena to Medellín.  

 The Andes split into three separate mountain ranges in Colombia. The Cordillera Occidental, Central and Oriental. Our track has us eventually going up and over all three.  

The Andes split into three separate mountain ranges in Colombia. The Cordillera Occidental, Central and Oriental. Our track has us eventually going up and over all three.  

 Daniela and Lili - Quite possibly our most gracious WarmShowers hosts to date. We arrived soaking wet and they welcomed us into their home with good food, conversation and even a little Salsa 101. 

Daniela and Lili - Quite possibly our most gracious WarmShowers hosts to date. We arrived soaking wet and they welcomed us into their home with good food, conversation and even a little Salsa 101. 

 Cars like a well-propped period piece.  

Cars like a well-propped period piece.  

 The bright colonial villages of the Colombia cafetero. Note the grade and the smile.  

The bright colonial villages of the Colombia cafetero. Note the grade and the smile.  

 It was a gamble on whether or not the barber would get a kick out sorting out this particular challenge.  

It was a gamble on whether or not the barber would get a kick out sorting out this particular challenge.  

 Luis has been on the road in Colombia for 48 years, as he put it. His pride of country is proportional to the flag he chooses to fly.  

Luis has been on the road in Colombia for 48 years, as he put it. His pride of country is proportional to the flag he chooses to fly.  

 Simon of Taxi Tandem Tour is riding [a tandem] with an empty seat, picking up passengers as he makes his way south to Argentina. 

Simon of Taxi Tandem Tour is riding [a tandem] with an empty seat, picking up passengers as he makes his way south to Argentina. 

 "It looks as if it were at a school playground amongst other bikes it would get bullied to shit" - Simon in reference to his locally sourced rig. 

"It looks as if it were at a school playground amongst other bikes it would get bullied to shit" - Simon in reference to his locally sourced rig. 

 The Casa de Ciclistas outside Medellín is a guest house built entirely for traveling cyclists by the magnanimous Manuel and Marta. A cozy place to wait out the rain and compare notes with other nutty cyclists. 

The Casa de Ciclistas outside Medellín is a guest house built entirely for traveling cyclists by the magnanimous Manuel and Marta. A cozy place to wait out the rain and compare notes with other nutty cyclists. 

 Couples' suite. 

Couples' suite. 

 Taking the scenic route in Colombia comes at a seriously steep price. 

Taking the scenic route in Colombia comes at a seriously steep price. 

 Habitat includes tall camouflaging roadside pee break grass. 

Habitat includes tall camouflaging roadside pee break grass. 

 A man invited himself to our breakfast table while he drank his. He shared boozy breath, stories of the Illuminati and, eventually, this massive bag of guacamole, which completely excused his behavior. We love the guac.

A man invited himself to our breakfast table while he drank his. He shared boozy breath, stories of the Illuminati and, eventually, this massive bag of guacamole, which completely excused his behavior. We love the guac.

 The photo that single-handedly convinced Aidan it was time for a haircut. 

The photo that single-handedly convinced Aidan it was time for a haircut. 

 Fellow bike traveler Kate staring down at the navigational bare essentials: roads and verbs. 

Fellow bike traveler Kate staring down at the navigational bare essentials: roads and verbs. 

 A particularly relaxing evening at Steel Horse Filandia, a hostel-in-the-making in the hills outside Filandia.  

A particularly relaxing evening at Steel Horse Filandia, a hostel-in-the-making in the hills outside Filandia.  

 Dreaming about our future farm. Someday, right?

Dreaming about our future farm. Someday, right?

 Roadside and completely wrecked, a generous Colombian family offered us space in this long-since-closed restaurant. Easily one of our most colorful campsites.

Roadside and completely wrecked, a generous Colombian family offered us space in this long-since-closed restaurant. Easily one of our most colorful campsites.

 Bros. 

Bros. 

 Fredonia fire station pup, Toby. The Bomberos (firemen) are notorious for opening their doors throughout Central and South America to traveling cyclists. 

Fredonia fire station pup, Toby. The Bomberos (firemen) are notorious for opening their doors throughout Central and South America to traveling cyclists. 

 Around every corner, more freakin' mountains. 

Around every corner, more freakin' mountains. 

 At roughly 12,000 feet of climbing, one of our toughest days yet.

At roughly 12,000 feet of climbing, one of our toughest days yet.

 Tough enough to justify one of these bad jammas. 

Tough enough to justify one of these bad jammas. 

 Thousand yard stare...down. 

Thousand yard stare...down. 

 HeyyyYyy. 

HeyyyYyy. 

 And lastly, this.  

And lastly, this.