Colombia

by Bicycle

Santa Marta to San Antero

This is the first part of Sketch and Cycle Colombia. This is the first country we traveled through by bicycle. Luís and I think that this country was a perfect introduction to Latin America in so many ways. We think that the cycling Carribbean coast, Colombia, is an ideal place to start as the northern part of the country has mostly flat roads.

ROUTE DONE IN August 2017

Distance

452 km

days

10

Difficulty (1-10)

4

Vamonos!

We flew from Bogota to Santa Marta, a touristy town in the north of Colombia. We didn’t have any physical preparation before this adventure begins. For that reason, we think that the cycling Caribbean coast, Colombia, is an ideal place to start as the northern part of the country has mostly flat roads. So, here is it, our first chapter of sketch and cycle Colombia.

It was still early when we left Santa Marta. Luis set the route on his GPS, and we are ready for our first and easy-ride, 14 km.

Vamonos!

The fresh air whipped our faces, encouraging the excitement to push our bicycles faster to Bahia Concha. The intention was good, enjoying and cycling Caribbean Coast before we pedal toward the south of the continent. Yet, as we know that we were out of shape, we were struggling on our very first day on this journey – you can read in here.

“We would love to receive both of you in our humble house.”

That was a stranger said to Luís when we were in Cienaga. He called Jose Franco. A bicycle enthusiast who became our family in this little town. He showed us the warmth and the openness to help us understand better the real Colombian cultures.

We stayed with Jose Franco and his family for two nights before we continued our journey to Barranquilla. Not too far from this city – about 17 km – there is a little town named Puerto Colombia. If it wasn’t a friend suggesting us to stayed in Liliana’s house – Couchsurfing host, we thought Puerto Colombia wouldn’t be on our route.

The longest road

After Puerto Colombia, our next destination was Cartagena. It is one of the most beautiful cities in this country and definitely, one of our highlights cycling Caribbean Coast, Colombia. However, the road from Puerto Colombia to Cartagena is flat that goes 104 km. And mostly, we pedaled through the highway. In this case, there will be not much in between once we get in. It’s the longest road we did in Colombia.

In less than a month, we made such impressive progress! If on the first day we were dying on doing 14 km, we did 104 km on the 6th day on the bicycle! We were proud of ourselves that day. You can read the whole stories in here.

In this walled city, we were attracted by the fruit ladies around the downtown streets of Cartagena. They are very black-skinned, wear bright-colored dresses, and carry baskets of fruit on their heads. With earrings, necklaces made of wood, and sandals, they are easily spotted from the distance.

These ladies lead us to a village called San Basilio de Palenque, where the immense slaves from Africa, from the Congo and Angola, were brought by the Spaniards and who entered Colombia through the port of Cartagena, took refuge.

Farewell Caribbean coast

Before Luís and I heading to inside the country, we agreed to enjoy the Caribbean beach first. Refresh our bodies in the warm beach – that was our purpose. However, Tolu was too noisy for our taste. Unsatisfied, we continued our travel to San Antero on the following day – last hope before we say goodbye to the Caribbean coast Colombia.

San Antero has a quieter atmosphere, away from the touristy and fun crowds. Even though we were there on the weekend, the beach was pleasant to visit and enjoy. It was excellent!

On the campground where we stayed for a few nights, we met a couple of travelers from Argentina. They quit their job, bought a van, turned it into a camper van by themselves, and traveled around South America in a year. Nowadays, in 2020, when we are back in Portugal with Coronavirus around, we have a dream to continue to travel n live in a camper van.

San Antero was indeed a goodbye in this route – cycling the Caribbean coast Colombia. It’s time for us to continue our trip inside Colombia. It took us 18 days to did this route with 8 days off of bicycle. Watch our journey through Colombia here!

Sketchbook

click on the image to see the sketches of this journey
  • Warm beaches along the route
  • Tayrona national park
  • Cartagena
  • Mud bath near Barranquilla

In term of road, this part of Colombia was pretty easy. Most of the roads are tarred and people allow to ride through highway.

  • This route was our first experience to do bicycle touring. So, we played safe in the first months.
  • Tayrona Park is definitely worth to visit
  • Learn spanish and talk to the local. Colombian are mostly friendly and warm people.

In this route there were quite a lot of people almost everywhere, so we didn’t take a risk to do wild camp. A decent room is affordable in this route. However, since this part of Colombia is quite humid, a room without AC will be unpleasant.

  • Food and water are easy to find in this route.
  • We didn’t cook since Colombia have good portion in affordable price everywhere.
  • In this route, tap water wasn’t drinkable that we had to buy bottled water which was easy to find too.

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