Cycling above the Clouds

Riding the Andes by Bicycle


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Cali es Cali…

‘Cali es Cali y lo demás es loma!’, meaning ‘Cali is Cali and the rest is [just] mountains’, is a famous catchphrase for the people of Cali. Living on the (sugar cane) plains, it’s basically their way of saying why Cali is better than the rest of Colombia, in a slightly tongue-in-cheek way. Cali is the third largest of Colombia’s main cities (Bogotá, Medellín and Cali) and the other two are indeed right up in the mountains.

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Changing Landscapes

Following the previous short day, I planned to ride a longer 120km to a town called Buga. Most of the first half of the day would be downhill, so I was still expecting that it would be a fairly easy ride. What I hadn’t anticipated was just how much the landscape and would change – visible most significantly in the varying fruit and veg growing at the side of the road.

I started off in the familiar territory of the coffee and avocado plantations, with their little button trees dotting the hillsides.

As I descended and the temperature warmed, these soon morphed into banana and plantain trees, casting long shadows with their fingery leaves

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The tallest palm trees you ever did see

Next stop out of Salento was to visit the stunning Valle de Cocora which stretches away from the town and runs right up into the mountains.

Time for another ride, this time on the back of a Willys Jeep from the main plaza in Salento, to get to the start of the hike. I rather enjoyed myself, although I do still get strangely nervous travelling in vehicles now as I’ve got so accustomed to the slower pace of a bicycle.

The Valle de Cocora is famous for the dizzyingly tall palmas de cera (wax palm trees) – Colombia’s national tree and the largest of the world’s palm trees, growing up to 60m tall.

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In the Zona Cafetera

The stunning view out across the coffee zone from the small town of Filandia

After relaxing all the way to my core in Santa Rosa de Cabal, I was ready for the next bit of climbing to take me up (yep, more hills!) to my first night proper in the coffee zone, staying on a family ‘finca’ (a farm, or smallholding). Stopping just at the top of the turn off to the small town of Filandia, I arrived at Finca Campestre La Adelita, run by an amazing woman called Sonia, with the help of her son Pablo.

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