…which translates as ´your life has more value´ and is emblazoned in red neon on the careening Transmilenio busses in Bogota. I am about a week shy of 1 year since I rode from my sister´s house in California to Colombia. My hope has been to change a few minds; that women traveling by bike is possible and wonderful in Mexico, Central & South America. In 10 months and 8 countries the biggest problem I had encountered was the trucker in Baja who popped out, completely naked and danced while shouting ¨holaaa hermosas!!¨ which I now chalk up to hilarious because I will never shake the image, hard as I try; and some nosy police, which in my opinion are to be avoided anywhere. I have been possibly stalling on a new post because I will have to admit that, on my 3rd day riding with a man, I was robbed. More likely I haven´t blogged because I have been riding as much of the incredibly diverse landscape of Colombia as I can. More than distance logged on my tires (only 2 flats, there I said it! superstitions be damned). I am more proud of the people I have met, and the campos and pueblitos that have opened my eyes to jaw droppingly beautiful mountains and culture tucked away off the main roads.
I feel like a bit of a failure because I let the one thing happen that everyone said would happen, by lack of planning. In a last minute attempt to save money in touristy Tayrona I rode the short 4k road to Taganga, within eye shot of a police station, unbeknownst to me, a notorious spot for theft. This once idyllic fishing village has experienced a boom in tourism that has had negative effects. I simply had my head up my ass and have accepted it as part of the adventure.
I only had a backpack and my bike on me. In the blazing heat I was riding uphill with Matt (from New Orleans) who I had just met up with that week. He was riding behind when a young guy with a large kitchen knife came barreling down from a hill on my left. He pushed me off my bike where I fell a few feet onto the side of the road. I ran and he followed and tackled me again swinging the knife up and down in the air like a Friday the 13th movie. Matt and I were able to laugh about this later as it was very dramatic of him as well as the screams I was making, which were like the roars of a lion. Years ago I had taken a self defense class and learned a situation can be detered by acting strangely, instead of screaming like a girl in a Hollywood flick. Having this knife in my face was terrifying on a level that I have never known, but it was as if I became another person, a person who could handle something like this. I was on my back kicking in the air to get some distance and then realized I had on my back the very pack this desperate person wanted. He grabbed it and fled down the hill, still jack knifing in the air towards Matt and then hopped onto a motorcycle where his pal was waiting. The police showed up and were very odd, asking about my money but not my name or other info. I left with my health, my bike and a hug from Matt who was very kind and later brought me a new journal and many beers. We were able to stay at his cousin Jorge´s childhood home in Santa Marta before heading South. His amazing family was so great to us & I felt strong as ever & ready for the road. The scenario did play over in my head, what I could have done differently and then eventually faded away. The people who stoked my fire and helped get me back on my wheels I will remember always. What I have learned is that traveling by bike is far more a state of mind than physical and the support, encouragement & friendship I have experienced is life changing. I am incredibly grateful to everyone who donated funds to keep me pedaling, it is an enormous help.
After riding La Linea a road famous for it´s gradients, I explored Cali and not wanting to leave or rush the rest of the route, left my bike to bus to Olon on the coast of Ecuador to meet up with my best friend from New York. The bus was zombifying, I honestly feel like biking is easier. Completely hooked on Colombia, I decided to start back up in Cartagena to ride to Santa Marta and the other side of the cordillera which was spectacular. I have developed a true love for the unpaved backroads and this country is full of some of the best. In the state of Boyaca when I asked if the road would keep going up steeper (subiendo?) people replied ¨siempre¨ or would stop to say the road was rocks and cobbles that it was a crazy idea, and it was! Crazy awesome and led to the most amazing view imaginable with no traffic.
My iphone was stolen with all my photos & so these photos were taken by this free spirit who speaks 4 languages and beasted some serious hills after destroying his derailleur. It happened about 1k from some hot springs we had been looking for. ¨Our lives are amazing¨ he said with this luck and I pulled him with a rope passed a family who were barely phased by our caravan. We built a fire which I have been doing a lot lately, so nice in the cold and we made rice and sardines and drank beers to celebrate my 11 months on the road and his 2 years, so many stories. The next morning the pools were full of families. We turned his bike into a single speed, in his honor I tried to ride in the same gear ratio and didn´t last long. He is now riding Ecuador with a visiting friend and Matt is gloriously using all of his 3 month visa to explore the gems of Colombia. I am headed South & will soon post route info from the past 2 months.