Uphill ride, coffee and cacao

Dear friends and family,

15 miles (25k) to my finca ( farm) above the town of Minca, in the mountains.


  • Slept well
  • Well hydrated
  • Fueled
  • New shorts and gloves
  • Real bike jersey  instead of UV protection, sweat inducing shirt I brought
  • Early (6am) start
  • Route planned

First five miles were easy, flat roads. The problem was motorcycles everywhere. If right lane crowded will go on other side of the road, weaving between opposing traffic.

They ride up on sidewalks to get around traffic too, and regularly  passing in middle lanes with trucks on both sides of a two lane road.

Usually two or three people  aboard, plus furniture or work products.

I Learned to hold my position, don’t move left or right fast as then they could gauge the passing space. Yikes!

Then it started uphill. The road gains almost three thousand feet (5000 meters) in elevation in ten miles (18km), so is fairly steep and all uphill.

Since I was properly prepared I steadily cranked uphill. At first several road bicyclists rode by, cheering the gringo on.

Then I thought to myself “I’m almost a full time bicyclist who has already crossed a continent” and couldn’t allow that to happen any more. So I cranked faster, shifted up a gear, and increased my speed. Sure, I was probably one and a half times their weight and was carrying bags weighing almost thirty pounds, but not to be left behind, that was me.

So, my increased speed took me past the last place rider in the group and soon took over leadership of this pack. They sure were surprised to see me uphill of them!

And that is only in my imagination! I borrowed that idea from a writer/bike tourer named Alastair  Humphreys who actually did something similar that he shares in his book. After bicycling around the globe over several years he was in Italy, with only Western Europe to cycle through to finish back home in th UK. His boot sale bike was held together by wire and tape after years of riding. He was climbing a steep hill with his packed bike and had the weekend warriors pass him on their ascent on their carbon fiber racing bikes. He let them by and then figured he just might be in better shape after riding full time for a several years, so sped up and enjoyed leaving them far behind. That is what I aspire to. Someday? Maybe? I can still dream.

Reality: The first five miles were easy, but I passed no one and probably fifty cyclists passed me. As they passed they shouted words of encouragement, or that was what I imagined, because I understood so little of their Spanish.

It was over 80 F already, but wasn’t my first ride, so I was actually pretty happy with how well I did. I found I could pedal steadily on grades of 7, 8, and even up to 9%, ( my estimate) but when it got steeper had to walk some- not all.

For the last three miles a young (28) Colombian rider named Luis rode with me, urging me to “Vamos” ( get going) when I wilted. I thought maybe he was a doctor wanting to practice CPR and thought he saw a prospect.

Turns out he was just a nice guy who bought me an arepa and juice in Minca, the little town near the top.

Minca is a mountain resort town, loaded with restaurants  ( I saw Mexican, Thai, Pizza and a French bakery) and offering guided tours of all types. From coffee and cocoa farms ( like where I’m staying) to waterfall and birding tours. Most start on the back of a dirt bike up a mountain trail. 

Luis headed down and I had another 55 minutes uphill to my finca (farm), on maybe the roughest road I ever tried. ( an aside from later- I think I was really tired as it’s not THAT bad)I rode some and could barely push the loaded bike on other parts.There was one section of a short downhill and I remembered our guides on a past mountain bike trip in Utah saying “lay off the brakes” but it didn’t seem that wise with the huge cliff  next to the trail. It would be a stretch to call it a road.

I followed the signs to finca San Rafael, my destination. Most visitors take one of the dirt bike “ taxis” up the hill. The driver cradles their big backpack between the handlebars, passenger sits behind, and up the rough road they go.

As I arrived, completely soaked with sweat and probably looking rough, the cook gave me a cup of the Cacao drink made from  the cacao they grow here to restore my vigor. It tasted wonderful and I’m sure that’s all it will  take.

It’s now two days later and I am sipping coffee on the deck outside my room to reflect on the first phase of this adventure. 

Wow, I’m in Colombia, living the adventure that I’ve been planning for months. I rode my bike up here.

I am completely comfortable here. I’ve slept well in my too short bed under the mosquito net. My legs are a mass of sores from the bug bites. They seem to be not mosquitos, but more like sand fleas. You cannot see them come or feel the bite, but the next day can see and feel the itch and the pox look. I’m learning about a day late to really cover my ( especially) legs and feet with the repellent and wear long  trousers at dusk.

Very tranquillo here. Days start with coffee and my journaling in the early morning sun, with my view of the mountains. This finca (coffee and cacao farm) offers unlimited coffee and cacao which is grown here. I must discipline myself to not go overboard on this.

The employees bring their kids to work over this holiday season and I can look down from my upper deck to see them playing with their Christmas gift dolls and squirt gun and toy helicopter. The kids seem to really enjoy the many (22 I was told) rescue dogs and cats that live here. I had my coffee yesterday with a black kitten sprawled across my lap, enjoying each other’s company. The place is guarded by these dogs, so I feel safe. See the picture attached.

The cooks and cleaners speak Spanish only, so I get regular practice. The volunteers ( part of the farm volunteer network worldwide) speak English. Most guests speak English as well. Presently guests are from Germany, Netherlands, UK, Slovenia, and New Zealand. More active travelers here compared to the partying beach scene on the coast.

The swimming pool here is quite cold, filled with water streaming down from the high mountains above us. It’s a wonderful contrast to the afternoon heat.

So far all the plumbing in Colombia is simple: turn on a faucet and cold ( normally non-potable) water comes out. None of the adjusting for hot or medium. It’s on or off. All cold only. Simple.

I feel like I’m getting used to the heat and the slow motion lifestyle. They include breakfast here  in the nightly fee, but offer lunch and dinner here for a fee as well. It’s unclear each day when the lunch and dinner will be served, it depends on the cook and cooking time. It’s not like you show up at a prescribed time and sit and eat. It’s more like either showing up and either having them put food in front of you or showing up and having them start deciding what to cook to eat an hour later. Schedules are fluid.

I’ve got lots of planning to do, as I don’t have a route of any other cross country rider to follow. I can see the roads to follow, but I have concern that there are gaps between towns offering lodging that are longer than I can, or want to, ride in the heat. One of the first questions people ask is how many kilometers I ride per day. I feel embarrassed to answer “forty so far” as that seems so wimpy. Seems like I should be able to ride a lot longer each day, but so far, starting at 0530, with the temperature at 80F, after three hours it’s almost 95F in the hot sun, and doesn’t feel healthy. So, compromise my health or be manly? 

One big reason I adventure is to learn about myself. No guarantee I’ll like what I find.

I’ve got the days available to travel that slowly, so I’ll see how I deal with that dilemma.

Wishing all of you a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Sending love,


We don’t spam! Read our [link]privacy policy[/link] for more info.

5 thoughts on “Uphill ride, coffee and cacao”

  1. Charlie what a great adventure. I can’t wait until your book of all your adventures comes out. And after that the movie!

  2. Its all about taking your time and enjoying the beautiful country not about how many miles you go. Sounds like a great adventure though!

Comments are closed.