Four weeks in Colombia and I think it’s time to move beyond Bogotá. ‘Beyond Bogotá’ is the title of a book I received from my bro Aidan for Christmas about a journalist who was held captive by Colombian guerrillas for 11 hours a while back, but I’m hoping for a different kind of ‘Beyond Bogotá’ experience. For several reasons being based in one location for a period suited. It facilitated a solid training routine and allowed me to work on a few pipeline projects. Can’t reveal the detail of these projects just yet – everything in its own time. It also suited Sharlene as it allowed her to learn Spanish. It was now time for a true holiday – to enjoy the sites, broaden our horizons and relax. Of course training is still important, but the beauty of running is that you can do it almost anywhere.
We weren’t exactly sure where to visit next. We know we want to eventually hit the north Caribbean coast, but which route there? Three weeks is not a lot of time to explore a country the size of the UK, France, and Germany combined so sacrifices were required. We never considered the Amazonian basin – guess the main reason is that it remains a very dangerous area from several perspectives. It’s a vast jungle area occupying about one third of Colombia’s land mass – this means it’s impossible to police and an ideal drug cultivation neighbourhood. The drug agriculture industry and guerrilla activities go hand-in-hand and kidnapping remains a popular pastime for the locals. The second main danger comes from the natural inhabitants and I’m not talking about the crocs, snakes, jaguars or piranhas. The insects there are nasty little disease carrying pests and we are only partially inoculated. The cost of getting there and around is also prohibitive as flying is the only option and guides are essential. The reviews from visitors were mixed – guess it’s an amazing experience, but you have to put up with so many irritations on the route. The pacific coast was also ruled out, primarily due to time constraints. It sounds like an amazing place, but the road infrastructure is non-existent in places meaning flying is the primary form of transport.
Manizales is a bizarrely located university town. Its main street is a mountain ridge with all other streets dropping down. It’s a good party city with the student vibe, but otherwise there doesn’t seem that much to do. Essentially it’s a starting point for tours to several nearby nature and thermal bathing parks. We stayed overnight in a relatively basic hostel (www.hostalpalogrande.com) – good for the pocket as it was only €20 for a private room. Meals in Manizales were also economical – three course meal, including fresh juice, for €2. Beat that McDs. We spent the next morning trying to figure out what to do next. The difficulty with travelling around Colombia is finding quality information. Websites are almost non-existent and when available are frequently out of date. Even the normally reliable Lonely Planet is misinformed in places. Thankfully our hostess was a mine of information & wanted to become best buds with Sharlene. Most of the tour operators leave at 6pm, so we missed the boat there as another night in Manizales would be a waste. Car rental for a few days seemed like the thing to do to give us flexibility to visit areas in our own time. Our hostess enquired at the local rental on our behalf and shortly after we were on our way. Unfortunately car rental proved expensive. The cheaper car options available were without insurance. The search for other operators was fruitless, so it was essentially going to cost the guts of €80 per day. Lesson learnt: For renting a car in go with a worldwide company and rent from a big city – less than €40 per day is possible from Bogotá. We eventually opted on public transport and decided on Salento as our destination.
|Café Jesus Martin - probably the world's best coffee|
|Corcoro Valley (with highest palm trees in world)|
We certainly deserved our pizza dinner, followed by hot chocolate from Jesus Martin. Excluding the hike it was another 100 mile training week. No tempo session this weekend to allow the body to recover. The hills are hard work, but slower pace actually allowed the body to recover a little – it’s speed that kills J Leaving Solento in the morning, not sure where to next ...