As our friend, Lynda Carlson, wrote “who would have guessed that it would be a relief to hear that you made it to COLOMBIA!” After years of hearing about drug cartels, Pablo Escobar, kidnappings, etc. we had heard that things had changed and it was now safe to travel and explore this beautiful country. And so we reclaimed our bikes from Colombian Customs without too much effort, just the usual bureaucratic paperwork, and rode into Bogota.
We had pre-booked a hostel about ten miles from the airport and arrived after dark feeling not too great, partially due to the elevation (2,546 meters) and an on-coming bout of the flu. This resulted in our first and only drug deal-buying Neocitran at the local farmicia! I needed an extra day to get back on my feet, so we didn't leave right away and RuthAnn took the opportunity to do our laundry in a washing machine! What a treat after hand washing our clothes every night in a bathroom sink.
Our first pleasant surprise was the quality of the roads and the drivers. While they are fairly aggressive, it's not hard to fall into the pattern and feel quite safe. There are tons of bikes, mostly 125ccs, and their riders wear helmets and protective clothing. And they LOVE our bikes! Everywhere we go, crowds form around them and us, asking questions and taking pictures. RuthAnn is singled out for special attention due to her small stature in proportion to her bike.
The second surprise was just how friendly everyone is. People lean out of cars at stop lights to chat, wave and give thumbs up as they pass and always, always, big smiles greet us everywhere. This is a real family-oriented country where children accompanied by both parents and are well-behaved and out-going. They welcome us taking their pictures, especially of their kids and are very proud we have come all this way to visit their country. We get to practice our Spanish and learn what we can about local routes and roads.
The scenery is everything the guidebooks say as we found out on our second day riding through the mountains. Its lush, tropical climate means there are flowers everywhere, bamboo and palms grow thick at the roadside and fields are full of crops. Today, we visited an archaeological site dating back to the 6th century containing numerous statues, reminiscent of Easter Island, that were used as grave markers. It was interesting to read that their graves were far more ornate than the homes they lived in while alive. Guess you can take it with you!