The Home Straight: Making for Cartagena

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!


Riding out of Sabana de Torres with 600km of this ahead of us wasn’t so inspiring!


The riding was long, hot and hard – not the classic cycle touring we were used to


After around 200km we turned off the motorway onto the much quieter road to Mompox. Quiet enough to herd cows on, apparently


The biggest climbs on the route were bridges over the Cesar and Magdalena rivers. This is the Magdalena before the crumbling colonial port town of El Banco


The following day we reached the rather less crumbling colonial port town of Mompox – a UNESCO world heritage site, and fully deserved


The architecture in Mompox was stunning


As was its setting, on the banks of the sleepy Magdalena river


It was Semana Santa (holy week) and the town was full of tourists. So much so that all the hotels were full or charging astronomical prices. But there was a lot going on in town. This was an art competition on one of the plazas


Our room for the night – after trying and failing to find a room in about 10 places, somehow we asked in one hotel and they offered us a room – probably the biggest we’ve stayed in this year – as long as we didn’t mind sharing a bathroom with the staff. The only catch: we had to leave before 8am the following morning as town was full for the main Easter parade


So we prematurely left Mompox and made our way for the speedboat to Magangue, bikes safely stowed on top!


We were getting close. This was our final dirt road on the continent


And our final stretch of motorway


And before we knew it, we were rolling into Cartagena late on Easter Saturday


With surprisingly no hotels in the final 30km before Cartagena, we had to hastily find a room in the outskirts before dark. Turns out a room without AC above a Chinese restaurant might not have been the best choice – Cartagena is hot!!


On Easter Sunday we rode the rest of the way to the old city and out onto the beach. This was the end of the road!


We did it!!!!


Cue my most ‘liked’ Facebook photo upload


A short ride around the city followed, before the bikes went away for a little while and we got ready for some quality beach time!


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