Podcast: Colombia Dreaming - Part Two

Podcast: Colombia Dreaming - Part Two

Our Colombian dream came to an end of Monday Feb 12, as we arrived home to Vancouver after an incredible 2.5 weeks on the road. There’s no place like home but there’s also no place like Colombia (that I’ve ever been).

In part one, I set the scene explaining how the idea for the route came about, and introduced the amazing team at Hidden Journeys who made the trip possible. Before we set off, I was more than a little anxious about how everything would play out. I’d never been to South America before, always opting for what I perceived to be easier, safer options of cycling in Europe and North America. This trip has changed all of that. Colombia offered up a total sensory experience that is unlike anything else and a cycling challenge that my legs and lungs won’t forget in a hurry.

Cycling through the misty mountains of Colombia

Arriving in Bogota with two days to spare before our trip began, we had a chance to explore the local riding scene. I’d always heard that Colombians are passionate about cycling but I never expected to see so many people on bikes. As we merged onto a busy highway at 6am on a Sunday morning we could have been mistaken for thinking we’d entered a Gran Fondo. Hundreds of cyclists on all kinds of bikes zipped casually along. Cautious at first, we weaved carefully through traffic but as the road opened up, we found ourselves on the front, increasing the pace and stringing out the longest train of riders behind. We’d pay for it later as the climbs began, but that was ok, we were finally in Colombia!

Setting out from Bogota the following morning, we were accompanied by Julian from Hidden Journeys and a few of his friends, who were out for a training ride in preparation for the upcoming Transcordilleras gravel race. Julian is a bike packing legend and was attempting the non-stop version of this year’s event (unfortunately, he took a spill on day one, injuring his knee and taking him out of the race).

Cruising through some lovely corners on a Colombian mountain road

Day one was meant to be easy. Bogota sits at 2600m, and we were descending to the Magdalena Valley where we’d crush 50km of false flat before checking in to El Hotel de los Ciclistas in Mariquita for a good night’s rest. It didn’t quite turn out that way as you’ll hear in the podcast.

Day two was our queen stage. We’d originally planned on climbing Alto de Letras ‘the longest climb in the world’, but while in Bogota we’d been encouraged to consider an alternate climb. Up until six months ago, Alto el Sifon was a gravel climb known as the old Letras pass, which featured in Lachlan Morton’s Alt Tour of Colombia. This route would be more challenging as it contained over 20km of rolling road at over 4000m elevation but the combination of new tarmac, less traffic and a more epic challenge meant it was impossible to resist.

On day four, we made it to Medellin and enjoyed a couple of much needed days off the bike exploring the city. Reenergized, we made our way into the heart of coffee country over the next two days, riding through some of the most incredible scenery we’d ever encountered.

The team regroups in a small Colombian town

I’ve always believed that experiences like this are better when shared with friends. Going into this trip I was confident we’d assembled a stellar group. Some of the guys I knew well and had travelled with previously, but it was the first time we’d all spent any considerable amount of time together. In the group, we had a couple of young guns (Zack and Daniele) as well as some experienced warriors (names redacted). We all had our moments on this trip where we struggled and had to dig deep to turn the pedals. Something special happens when you’re part of a team and I know I could not have kept going every day without help at times (electrolytes and Imodium on day 3 for example).

In the podcast I tried to find moments to sit with each of the guys, so you can get to know them a little more. I attempted to set the scene by recording random sounds and moments that will become memories. Apologies if the sound quality is not always the best but hopefully you’ll forgive me (I used the voice recording app on my phone).

On day nine we returned to the outskirts of Bogota and were relieved to hop into the van for the final 20km back into the city. The roads can be chaotic and if you saw clips of us amongst the traffic, you’d likely think we’re crazy. For the most part though, the drivers we encountered were friendly and gave plenty of room when passing, often sharing an encouraging honk and a wave.

Many Colombians’ love cycling and we felt very welcome in the country. Our final day in Bogota coincided with the final stage of the Tour of Colombia and we pitched up three hours early at the finish area to watch the riders cross the line. The scenes that day will live long. People of all ages chanting the names of their heroes “Rigo, Rigo, Nairo, Nairo, Egan, Egan”, there was even an echo of “Richard, Richard” for the Ecuadorian, Carapaz.


If you’re interested to attempt this trip yourself then I’d strongly encourage you reach out to Atenea at Hidden Journeys. Their support was incredible.


Links to my rides on Strava:

1/9 – Bogota to Mariquita

2/9 – Mariquita to Manizales

3/9 – Manizales to La Pintada

4/9 – La Pintada to Medellin

5/9 – Medellin to Jardin

6/9 – La Felisa to Cartago

7/9 – Cartago to Salento

8/9 – Salento to Giradot

9/9 – Giradot to Bogota


The route through Colombia

If you have any questions about our trip, I’d be happy to chat richcostello83@gmail.com

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the podcast!