Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The People Make the Place

In Colombia we’ve met the nicest people of our trip so far.  Every day we’ve met at least one person who has surprised us with their generosity.  The three destinations in this post also include brief stories of some of the people who made them all that much more special.

Our first stop on this leg was Colombia’s main coffee growing region.  Two days out of Medellin we reached the towns of Chinchiná and Santa Rosa de Cabal.  Our main interest here was a set of hot springs in the mountains and a few cups of coffee.

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The main square in Chinchiná and the best thing you can find there.  Yes, that’s a pineapple sundae served inside the pineapple.


As we were drinking one of the best cups of coffee of the trip in Santa Rosa de Cabal, a local approached us who was eager to show us his town.  He bought us another cup, took us to the bus to the hot springs, and made sure the driver would let us off in the right spot.

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Termales de Santa Rosa must be some of the most beautiful hot spring pools in the world.  When you get too hot, you can go stand under the waterfall to cool down!


Resting our tired selves in the termales.

From Santa Rosa de Cabal it was two days ride to Cali.  On the way we met a fellow cyclist training for La Ruta de Colombia (Colombia’s Tour de France).  He took an hour out of his training to gab about cycling in Colombia and point out the sites, and then invited us to his store in town for a snack.


One of our first sights in Cali was this statue erected for the Pan-American games in 1971.  Why is this meaningful?  Because Dave’s dad Alex travelled to Colombia to represent Canada on the basketball court at these very games!

Cali was a bustling city with an industrial feel to it.  There wasn’t much for the tourist outside of the crazy salsa parties that the city is known for.  But we did find one of the best hostels of the trip in Hostal Tostaky.  “Don’t bother putting your bikes away yet”, they said.  “Sit down and relax while we make you a coffee from our espresso machine right here behind the front desk.”


Enjoying a rooftop Michelada in Cali and admiring the street art.

From Cali we climbed back into the mountains to Popayán.  Leaving Cali we must have rode past 100 other cyclists.  At a roadside stand about 8 of them invited us to sit and talk and treated us to a juice and a snack.  Then one even rode with us about 4km to the main road to make sure that we could find our way!  To top it off, a couple hours later a family on the side of the road invited us over to drink a homemade juice and talk about our trip!

Popayán is known as Colombia’s white city because all the buildings downtown are painted white.  It is surrounded by beautiful mountains.  On our two days off we took a butt jarring 2.5 hour bus ride into Purace National Park, and checked out the Coconuco Termales.  As a bonus, we met up with the first fellow touring cyclists that we’ve seen in South America, Lydie and Eric from Switzerland and France.  They are on a mind blowing 3 year world tour!


Looking out on the main square in Popayán from our hostel window.

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More termales in Puracé National Park.  This beautiful area has just been opened to tourists in the last few years.  We got off the bus in the wrong spot, but had a wonderful time walking in the mountains at 4000m elevation.


Visiting Termales Coconuco near Popayán.  Our silver wedding bands after a couple minutes in the termales … oops.

It seems like our blog is starting to read like a Colombian tourism advertisement.  I almost feel the need to write something negative.  So here it is: Colombia is hilly.  And by hilly I mean really, really hilly.  In fact, our next rest day activity consists of finding and installing lower gearing.  We even met a Colombian who helped with this though, when a construction worker ran behind Jenn and pushed her uphill for 100 meters so she could get a little rest!

From Popayan we ride high into the Andes towards Pasto and the Ecuadorian border.  We’re a little sad to be leaving this country that we’re starting to love.


  1. Aw, love that you are having such a good time & connecting with good people!! Sooo wonderful!

    Your dad is a pro basketball player Dave?? Wow!!

    Buen viaje adelante!! Can't wait to hear about the next adventures, like crossing the equator!!!!!!! on your bikes!!!! from Vancouver!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SON LOCOS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! hahaha


    ps. I love the rings, it's perfect!! -- a bit of character, life, and warm (no pun intended!) fuzzy memories to them!!

  2. True the hills don't sound like fun, but what goes up ... must come down, spinning wheels gotta go round type of thing. Enjoy the downhill! JPP

    PS Very cool about your dad having been there for B-Ball. Little did he know at the time who the next member of the family would be to visit.

  3. They say it's hard but they fly across the mountains like nobody we've seen so far !! (even with all camping gear ... I still don't understand how you managed to pack all this in such small and light panniers !) We gave up 12km before Pasto but kept on pedalling towards Ipiales the next day where we will stay 2 nights to enjoy Colombia one more day ! See you down the road ! (or in Ipiales, we are at the Hotel Emperador, next to the white - blue church, carrera 5, with wifi and supposedly hot water, well, not yet ...)

    1. Hey Erik (I assume)! We're in Ipiales too! Headed out in a bit. I don't think Lydie got our Facebook message, but we are going to come by your hotel around 8 am and see if you guys want to ride together again. We got new cranksets in Pasto, down to 22 teeth in the front now!

  4. I agree with Rainbow, it's great to add yet another story to your rings!

    I'm happy to hear that you guys are meeting friendly people everywhere you go. :)