"Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia." H.G. Wells
Nothing to do with cycle tracks, but this grumpy-looking fella was in Medellin's aquarium
The ciclovia or 'bike path' event emerged in Colombia's capital, Bogota, in the mid-70s as a way of encouraging citizens out on their skates or bicycles on Sunday mornings. For several hours each week, sections of motorways around the capital were closed off to traffic. Today, Bogota's ciclovia is over 120 kilometres long and each Sunday an estimated 2 million people get to experience tarmac that is only congested with the sound of meandering skaters and cyclists. The concept has since spread to many cities around the world.
Why do they all look in the same direction?
On Saturday evening as Seamus, Ellie and myself prepared for a night out in nearby El Poblado, I momentarily disappeared to the bedroom, only to be woken up at 5am by the voices of Ellie and Seamus who had just returned from El Poblado's dancefloors. An hour later the sun was rising on what promised to be another sunny day in Medellin and after the others had gone for a snooze, I pumped up Rocinante's tyres and rode through Envigado to the main Route 25 (the Pan-Am highway) that runs north-south, dividing the valley that Medellin lies in. One side of the highway was closed off to accommodate the ciclovia and although still early, many cyclists were already out on an assortment of bikes from flashy racing bikes with sleek lycra-clad riders with serious faces to rusty old mountain bikes with banana-shaped wheels. As I rode towards the city centre I passed young entrepreneurs sitting on the kerbside with a bicycle pump and an assortment of bicycle spares prominently displayed, ready to jump to the aid of any troubled cyclist. Vendors had parked their carts under the shade of trees or overpasses and were pressing fresh orange juice. I reached the northern suburb of Bello before returning to Envigado, happy for being reunited with Rocinante and also glad to have found a good way to make our escape from the city next weekend, the only other option being a 30km climb with a 2000 metre gain in elevation, not the easiest way to be initiated into cycle touring.
Ellie and I met in Bolivia several months ago and spent a month visiting the Amazon basin and hiking to Machu Picchu in Peru. In a moment of beer-induced euphoria she told me she would love to come cycling with me. Yet she still left to fly to England. However, five months later, having chased her the eight thousand miles to Brighton, made a visit home to Ireland, we were Colombia-bound. We landed back into Medellin airport on Thursday evening and after successfully navigating our way through Colombian immigration and customs we were soon squashed into a taxi with Ellie in the back, asleep on her unchristened bike, and me left chatting with the apparently mute taxi driver whilst we wound our way back to Seamus' apartment in Envigado.
So now there are two. Next weekend we plan to start pedaling from Medellin towards Cartagena and the Caribbean coast of northern Colombia before crossing by boat to Panama.
Pedalled: 36,714 kilometres