Family on Bikes is in Columbia
August 15, 2009
Colombia. What more need I say? What I can say is that it feels GREAT to be here – in South America at last! Yes, we still have a long way to go – and many mountains to cross - but I now truly feel like we are on the downhill side of this whole adventure.
Our boat trip from Panama to Colombia went well – mostly. I was miserable the first day, as was everybody else on board the boat. But once we arrived into the San Blas islands – wow! Crystal clear, turquoise blue water… white sand beaches surrounding tiny tropical islands… Kuna Indian people in their brightly colored clothing… It was fabulous. I could have done without the 27-hour journey across the open sea to Cartagena but, in the end, we made it safely on the shores of South America.
Cartagena, Colombia was nothing but sheer delight. Old town with quaint houses lining the narrow roads, massive forts overlooking the city, fabulous museums and other points of interest, traditional dancers in the park one block from our hotel, mud volcanoes a few kilometers away… We spent a full nine days there and never once got bored.
But the lure of the road beckoned, and we finally heeded the call. After two weeks off the bikes, we jumped back into the saddle to continue our journey. And that’s when the real enchantment of Colombia appeared. We’ve pedaled through itty-bitty town after itty-bitty town, and spent the night in many of them. I doubt I’ll ever tire of watching all the activity – the corn-on-the-cob-on-a-stick vendor, the stands piled high with tangerines, the man squeezing fresh oranges for juice, the kids playing soccer in the park, and the old men chatting on the side of the road. One of my favorite pastimes is to simply wander the streets or find a bench in the park and watch all the activity going on around me.
A few days ago we stumbled into the small Colombian beach resort town of Tolu – and had no idea it was coming. For us, Tolu was simply a dot on the map – a dot where we would be able to find a hotel. Imagine our surprise when we pulled into town and found a full-blown resort town! It was a wonderful surprise for us – with sloths in the trees, hotels on the beach, and delicious street food all around.
Cycling the rural roads has also been delightful. One day, we played leapfrog with a milk truck and watched all the local ranchers haul their milk to the roadside on horse or mule for collection. We cycled alongside farmers on their way to their fields. We’ve passed women washing clothes or braiding their daughters’ hair. Every mile brings new sights and I feel more and more honored to have had this privilege every day.
I’ve always loved the opportunities travel by bicycle have afforded, and I’ve realized lately there really is no other way to replicate this experience. For me, traveling on bike is not about the bike, but about the ability to get off the beaten path and out into the small villages – things that can not happen with any other means of transportation (except walking). If you are traveling on buses and trains, you end up in fairly major cities or tourist destinations. If you have your own car or motorcycle, you can always push on to the next largish town. But on the bikes, there are many nights when we are ‘stuck’ in a tiny little village – and that’s the best part of cycling!
This stretch, as wonderful has it has been in many ways, has also been tough. Although it’s flat, the extreme heat and humidity have made cycling a challenge. We’ve found we need to be on the road by 5:30 in the morning – as soon as it gets light – and be off the road by 9 or so. Which means, of course, that our cycling hours are very limited and daily mileage is low. Although we are more than antsy to get up in the mountains where we’ll have cooler temps, it will take us ages to get there.
All four of us are doing well – although Davy and I have been plagued by ingrown toenails for ages. I wish I could figure out why we’re having so many problems, but it appears to be a mystery we will never solve. Other than toe problems, we are all healthy and dealing well with the stresses and strains of cycling, and we thank God daily for that blessing! In this area where so many travelers get sick, we’ve managed to stay healthy so far. Hopefully that will continue as we move southward!
The boys are also progressing well on their schoolwork. Daryl has completed Algebra 1 and is now about halfway through a Geometry course. Davy is working through a PreAlgebra text. The boys have done a lot of research and written reports about the Panama Canal and local animals. They are also continuing to hone their video-producing skills. All in all, we are pleased with their academic progress.
But, as I mentioned in my blog http://familyonbikes.org/blog/?p=1062 a while ago, the true value of our journey goes way beyond the ‘school stuff’ – it’s the other things they are learning that will serve them best in life. They are learning how to plan and carry out a ‘big’ project and now know that, to succeed in any big undertaking, you just take it baby step by baby step. They’ve learned the value of teamwork and know that you can do a lot by working together. Davy and Daryl have figured out exactly what their own personal strengths and weaknesses are – and how to use them to their advantage. They’ve learned to persevere through hardship and know they will come out triumphant on the other side. It’ll be interesting to see how these little guys grow and develop through life!
Many thanks – once again – to you for sticking with us through our adventures. Your encouragement means the world to us!
Nancy, John, Davy, Daryl
We’ve had a lot of people ask about our route from here, so I’ll give you our current thinking on that. Keep in mind that we may very well take a different path as we learn more about the options ahead. At this point, we are planning to make our way to Medellin, then on to Manizales. From there, we’ll continue south to Cali, Popayan, Pasto, and on to Ecuador. We think we’ll be in Colombia for another couple months.
Now that school is starting up again, we are gearing up for another year with Reach the World. We’re excited about getting in touch with classrooms again! If you can, please donate to http://www.reachtheworld.org/AboutUs/SupportUs.htm Reach the World. Be sure to write Family on Bikes in the ‘description’ field so your donation goes to the program we are working with.
You can now follow us three ways online – on our blog http://www.familyonbikes.org/blog, Twitter http://twitter.com/familyonbikes, or Facebook, Hope to see you there!
Davy now has an email address and would love to receive some words of encouragement! Please write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Experience our Dream Come True! www.familyonbikes.com