After having spent so much of our time in South America riding the smaller back roads – that have enabled us to enjoy all this continent has to offer up close, at our own pace, and usually with only the noise of our canine friends for company – it was a shame to end it with 600km of riding on highways. But no matter how hard we looked at the map, we couldn’t see any alternative. The Andean foothills had by now given way to a huge expanse of flatlands surrounding the great Magdalena river – that we had first encountered way back at its source in San Agustin – and while Colombia’s highlands are full of winding dirt roads connecting the small towns villages that dot the hillsides, down here it’s mostly just long, wide paved roads leading to the cities on the coast.
Still, spurred on by the prospect of reaching the finish line – and of seeing two UNESCO world heritage sites in a week – we churned out the remaining distance in just six days, stopping for an afternoon at the first of those sites, the stunning colonial port town of Mompox. And on Easter Sunday, 16 April 2017, exactly 11 months after we boarded the plane to Rio, we pedalled into the second, Cartagena’s even more stunning old city, and rolled the bikes out onto the sand at the shore of the Caribbean Sea. It was a beautiful and fitting way to end this great journey.
Of course there were mixed emotions about reaching the finish line. I immediately felt very proud to have completed such a long and challenging trip – nothing like anything I’d ever done before – and equally grateful for all the memories that I’ll be taking away from it. It was also a relief to be putting the bikes down for a while to get some rest after riding almost 1000 miles in the three weeks since we left Medellin, and more than 7,000 miles since the trip began. It was also a huge relief to know that I wouldn’t have to eat Colombian food for too much longer. But mostly I was actually quite sad that the road ended here for us – in South America at least – as it’s without doubt been the most fulfilling year of my life and just the most incredible experience to which my saccharine blog writing really can’t begin to do justice.
But hey, roll on the USA!