Reflection on Colombia bike tour

Dear friends and family,

I’m back in the USA. After enjoying the privilege of living out my boyhood dreams of adventuring and writing for a full three months, it’s now over.  Some, or maybe most, people never get that chance. I got a big taste of it, enjoyed it fully, and long for more.

Trip summary:

About 1000 miles (3000 km) of riding. 

Altitude gain of more than 60,000 feet.

To compare: Last year was 39,000 feet over 3000 miles crossing the US

That’s 50% more climbing over one third the distance. Inclines ranged from 4% to 25%, per my mapping software. Not sure of that accuracy, but feels correct.

The altitude affected my energy as well, but I did get acclimated well over time.


I typically started at 0530 to ride to beat the heat. By 0930 or so it could be 85F, so time to quit. Often checkin time wasn’t till 2 or three, so would have to wait, go eat, and write. Better than riding in that heat and bright sun.

I felt like I could ride pretty well in the heat, but the constant sweating burned minerals that did not recover quickly. Several days in a row of this left me in a serious depletion state, and one day off didn’t allow for adequate recovery. I was surprised at the heat even at altitude, never really let up.

This was my biggest surprise and I had to manage it for the full 90 days. The hardest factor.

Money and cost of living here

I averaged $80 dollars per day, including flights in/out of country, US hotels Miami and Seattle , in country travel- hire cars and taxis and buses, lodging and food.

Because of this, I was not careful at all about spending. Ninety percent  of meals were eaten  out except often I  would get yogurt and granola for breakfast to eat early before restaurants were open.

I would get a separate room , usually with private bathroom. This  gave me opportunity for the maximum recovery. Rooms ranged from $8 USD per night in small towns to $75 in Medellin. Made reservations 60% ahead of time, but it cost quite a lot more for that security of knowing I had a room at the end. Cash in hand created a significantly  lower price. Must have something to do with paying taxes- or not😏.  In small non-touristy towns I took my chances. Never got shut out.

When I was researching on the internet and YouTube for this trip I found very little info on bikepacking long distances through the country. Several rides described in small areas for a few days at a time only. Now I know why: it was hard and hot.

So, that left me to explore routes and roads on my own, which became the adventure. “What would the road conditions be like” was my question to myself most mornings. Had to get out to find out. I did ask at bike shops and those bicyclists ( they always are)  gave me good advice. Asking anyone who drove those routes was a waste of time, as any bicyclist would know.

Three times Google maps showed hotels in towns where there were none. I only suffered this mistake once, which turned into my hardest day.  Hard to say “worst” day, because it gave me quite an adventure. Twice I bit off more than I could chew, but was rescued both times. It’s not like I was going to die, just be very uncomfortable. Who would think to ask when making reservations if the hotel was actually in the town it showed?  I do now.

The people I met.

My highlight for sure. People were a lot friendlier in small towns, even tourist towns. This included hotel workers, taxi drivers, restaurant workers, farmers and of course bike riders. In the country I really enjoyed sharing a tinto ( usually I was treated) with the farmers and bike riders. Some people that had either tinto or juice stands would comp me their offering after seeing how hard I was working on the bike. 

Just like the ride across the US last year, people offered to help and wanted to hear my story to be part of this adventure.

When I told Colombians that I wanted to share, via my blog, about how wonderful their country and people were, I typically saw the tear in their eye that seemed to represent their sorrow for the violent history they endured that tarnished their reputation. I was embraced, often physically, for my efforts on this. I do hope I succeeded in this effort.

My gear: I chose the right bike, a standard Trek hard tail mountain bike with fat tires.  I didn’t once use either warm clothes or rain gear, but it would be hard to not have that with me. Three flat tires were only breakdown, all were defective tubes. Bringing the travel bike bag with me was my best idea- worked out great.

A simple life: three months of only dealing with riding, recovery, and writing and sharing it. Seeing the country and meeting the people while doing the above. Like a 90 day meditation retreat. I highly recommend it. Simple suits me.

What did I learn?

Colombia is a beautiful country with beautiful people, both physically and friendly. People are kind the world over. Proved that again, just like last winter.

When people were frustrated with me ( usually with my poor language skill) I made a point to try to get them to laugh about it with me. I’d say I succeeded about 90% of the time. That sure was both challenging and rewarding. 

Third world? In some ways yes, but as I sit here in Port Townsend Washington waiting on the slow  internet download wheel to spin I miss the faster speeds I got daily in Colombia. I don’t know what the connection is between better internet and economy, but I’m guessing there is a connection. Lots of  free internet in rural areas.I saw signs posted out in the country advertising this.  Has something to do with government involvement versus our private enterprise.

I can do hard stuff, and actually enjoy it. Type 2 fun I guess it’s called. Found some limits in myself. Two days later I would think to myself that if… I ate better, got up earlier, rested more, I could have done it. Good thing I write about it so I can go back to remind myself!

I love bike travel. Just love it. Seems to create magic with people. Right speed to experience the world. As long as I can, I intend to continue it. I was often asked my age. I could even have broken some people’s perceptions about it. Hope so.

Writing: as much fun finding stories and sharing as the touring itself. I’m always looking for the right  environment  to write as I shared in earlier posts. 

This has been a dream life lately. Thanks to all of you that have helped me live it!

Sending love,


PS: I’d love any feedback about my blogging. What did you enjoy? Not so much? Would want more of? I’m trying to improve so feedback can help.

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11 thoughts on “Reflection on Colombia bike tour”

  1. Charlie, amazing trip, attitude, writing and pics. You inspire me and I’m sure others feel the same. Let me know what you are thinking for your next trip. Still a chance things could break free in my life and I could join. Gregg

  2. Charley,

    I really enjoyed reading your posts of your trip in Columbia. Nice to know you achieved your goals and I look forward to seeing you Uptown soon.


  3. Welcome home, Charlie. I’ve never been to Columbia so seeing the country through you was interesting. And many times you reminded me of my bike trip from Mexico to Guatemala 100 years ago – your great writing elicited fond memories. Thank you.

  4. Welcome back, Charlie! I’m sorry to see your adventure come to an end as it was great fun to follow. Excellent job on the storytelling! Looking forward to your next ride – Katy

  5. Did you mean to write that internet speeds were higher in Columbia, where the internet was a public and not private service?

    Also, thank you again for a wonderful vicarious holiday adventure!!!

    You are a good friend to us all.

    1. Douwe,
      Yes, seems that this public service in Colombia provides for better service than our private service, at least here in Port Townsend. Happy to give you vicarious pleasure.

  6. Charlie, thanks for the thoughtful and nicely organized recap. You are quite the adventurous and curious fellow, thanks for keeping this 40 something with a toddler inspired. Why is it that most of us feel able to adventure like this just for a few years…in our 20s and then +40 later, in retirement if lucky? Seems all wrong. Welcome home. Come visit us @ Skookum sometime.

  7. Charley – welcome home. Wow – what an accomplishment! 60K elevation gain is just an amazing number! I thoroughly enjoyed your stories, insights and photos. Such a great ambassador and inspiring traveler. Thanks for sharing your adventure with us.

  8. Dear Carlos –

    Love to see your bicycle touring experience expanding and your love for long distance, slow travel (and amazing storytelling) deepening. In my view, it is the best way to fall in love with this beautiful planet. So glad to be able to support you from behind the scenes 🥰


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