Thursday, November 21, 2013

Road trip to Bogota, Villa de Leyva and Villavicencio

[ FYI - I have been a bit slack with the blog in recent months so have added a few posts today and backdated them to when they should have been written :) ]

Last week Carolina and I headed off on our first decent distance road trip in Colombia. From our home in Armenia we drove to Bogota, stayed a couple of days before continuing on to the historical northern town of Villa de Leyva. While in this area we took the time to visit Lake Tota, the largest lake in Colombia which also happens to be at more than 3000m above sea level.

We then headed to Villavicencio in the state of Meta to visit some Colombian friends of ours that were previously studying in Australia. Unfortunately my camera packed it in so I don't have too many pictures of this last part of our trip. The trip from Bogota to Villavicencio used to take around 7hrs on terrible roads, but now takes only 2.5 as they have built 3 huge tunnels and quite a few large bridges. However our local friends told us that as the area is located on a geological fault line, the mountains are constantly moving! Hopefully there is plenty of maintenance to make sure the tunnels and bridges stay safe over the next few years!

The final day was a huge drive from Villavicencio all the way back to Armenia twice crossing the Andés mountain range. I've driven from Brisbane to Sydney in one day before which is much longer in distance, but this was way more gruelling as the roads are extremely windy and filled with slow moving trucks. Well we made it back home safely, but that will probably be our last road trip as we are planning to sell the car soon as we get ready to return to Australia in the new year.

At the Puente de Boyacá (Boyacá Bridge). This small bridge is extremely famous, and is where the British and republican forces defeated the Spanish in the Battle of Boyacá, giving Colombia it's independence from Spanish Monarchy.
Villa de Leyva
The main square, the biggest in Colombia apparently
Lots of great traditional architecture in Villa de Leyva
Lago Tota
Out little car is really not designed for these rough off road tracks but made it through and back home without a problem 
At 'Playa Blanca' (white beach) at Lago Tota. This is a natural 'beach' that has formed in one corner of the lake, 3000m above sea level.

Checking out some anacondas in Villavicencio

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Club Milenium Halloween Party 2013

I have never really been into Halloween too much in Australia but it is quite widely celebrated here. My mountain bike club, Club Milenium, had a great dress up party with plenty of very interesting costumes! I was dressed as one one of the guys that 'looks after' your car when you park on the street here (whether you want the service or not), Carolina as Jasmin from Aladdin. There were quite a few people (including my own Dad!) that didn't recognise me under the wig and fake beard! And of course, no Colombian party is complete without A LOT of dancing, no excuses and sitting on the sides here.

Definitely one of the stranger costumes of the night!
The lovely ladies all together

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Salento 4WD trip into the mountains

Having ridden my bike up the road from Salento about 4 times and raving about the views, we finally organised for the rest of the family to see it by hiring a guide and a 4WD to take us. Salento is at about 2000m above sea level and the peak between Quindío and Tolima is at about 3200m. So between those two points the weather can change very drastically. We were extremely lucky with the weather as even at the very top the clouds stayed away and we had great views all day.

Not the traditional Jeep Willys but still an old classic!
Very, very fresh still warm milk
Freezing winds up here at this old abandoned school!

At the very peak, the border between Quindío and Tolima.
Father and son hanging on for dear life!
This little guy certainly wasn't worried about getting kicked by a cow, he was helping dad round them up for milking.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

MTB Events September-October 2013

Salento to Ibagué

First on up the 29th Sept was a massive 100km ride from Salento in Quindío, to Ibagué in the next department, Tolima. Almost 8hrs actual riding time and 12hrs with stops, I was wrecked by the time we finally got there! We then had to come back on the bus which took another 3hrs or so. All in all a VERY long day but completely worthwhile.

Freezing cold wind whipping around the mountain as we climbed into the cloud line!

At the peak (3200m or so) and the border between the two states - Quindío and Tolima
Some riders were lucky enough to have support vehicles to carry all their water and spares, not us though!
Instructions for evacuation if the very large nearby volcano blows up...
Hot thermal springs from the volcano
View from the top of the final climb - 30kms downhill from here to Ibague

A local taking her huge pig for a walk...

Ciclopaseo Biela Floja

On the 6th of October there was a Ciclopaseo, which is like a family friendly group bike ride. A lot of the members from my club rode with their partners and children. My Dad, Gary and I did the half route which had us see some great scenery, without being too demanding.

With my Dad, Gary in our first MTB event together
Ready to get this thing started!
Annnd were off and heading up the main road of Armenia which had been closed off by the local police
Plenty of hydration and fruit stops were provided
My friend Jairo from Milenium MTB club teaching my Dad some Colombian slang

At the finish line waiting for the raffle...didn't win anything this time.