“We would love to receive both of you in our humble house”

This sentence was the beginning of meeting two strangers who became our family in Ciénaga.

The Day Before

The day started in silent mode. We had to pack our stuff and leave Bahia Concha, even though in our deep inside we wanted to stay longer as you can find out why in the post ‘Bahia Concha – Part I & Bahia Concha – Part II’. The fresh morning rushed us to leave as soon as possible to catch the morning breeze. Without any breakfast, we left what was our beautiful bay for 2 days.

Last photo before we left Bahia Concha

I still have in my memory how hilly and loose gravel Tayrona Park’s road was to come here. It made me unconfident from the beginning and my conscious mind that I wasn’t prepared for this, came true. It was hard during the first 2 km. The rain from last night made the road even muddier. The good thing is we are traveling with good mountain bikes from Berg Cycles that we can trust with this kind of road.

Apparently, our difficulties on riding in that morning didn’t stop right there. When we passed Santa Marta, our stupid GPS sent us thru what we felt a “bad neighborhood” with a deadly steep road. Beleive me, it was really hardcore! Even though Luis asked me to NOT STOP, I couldn’t make it, and neither Luís did… after the hard morning and with 35 kg of our bikes and panniers, we couldn’t do it.

We had so many challenges on that day, really. We wanted to go without plans and stay whenever we felt tired. Bad choice! Once we got tired it was too late and traveling with all this bags and bikes in places that can be dangerous for us, is just not a good idea. So we decided to book a place to stay near Simon Bolivar International Airport. With the low energy left, we searched the place but apparently, our address was wrong… Luís asked a local to call the number and once he did, we found that the room wasn’t available. The search continued… we were without water for the last hour and dogs were barking at us and chasing our bikes…. I was scared like hell and both of us were dehydrated. On that same day, I realize how strong the sun is that my phone couldn’t work with the heat.

Santa Marta
View of the city of Santa Marta after our scary climb with bikes

Honestly, the total distance on that day was 20 km only. We started at 6 am and lasted until 1 pm. Now that I’m writing these memories, I just realized that yesterday we cycled 103 km in 6 hours. Compare to yesterday’s trip, 20 km is nothing!! I know, we are green but we will get stronger.

Anyway, after all the hard work finding a place and keeping ourselves hydrated, we found a reasonable place for a fair price. I felt grateful to have a good bed with clean blankets, fresh shower, and air conditioning!! All that felt like a little piece of heaven for us. From this experience, we learn that we should arrange well the destinations before we go, and as I already said, it will be tiring and can bring some risks for us, since everyone tells us stories of travelers that got robbed in Colombia.

We slept early on that night to handle another round of cycling to Ciénaga on the next day. And surprising, that trip turns out to be the best moment we experienced so far, on our bike tour.

Ciénaga

The sound of the alarm shocked me! Was time to wake up at 4.30 am. We are trying to start the day early and make it as our habit since Colombia has tough weather after 9 am, but every time the alarm plays it’s really hard to get out of the bed. The heat and the high humidity aren’t the best ingredients for a pleasant ride.

Again, we do what we are getting pros on. We packed our stuff and left the hotel, heading to Ciénaga. As I remember this was our first time meeting so many cyclists on the road. Seeing them cycling so fast, motivated me to push my bike harder and eventually be like them! We were compliment every time they passed us and vice versa. Luis and I took a shortcut to Ciénaga and left the main paved road to an asphalt road. Both of us prefer small roads actually and this one was quiet and green, away from car’s that don’t respect that much the cyclists when there’s no side space on the road for us. They horn us like they were the kings of the road!

Once we arrived at Ciénaga, we felt peace and we liked the vibe of the small town. There was no rush like the big cities and we felt that local people were nicer with us. Also, in Ciénaga I found out that Avena is great for breakfast!! It’s important for me because I like good food! The Avena name, literally means “oat” in Spanish and in English would be “wheat”. Avena in Colombia is a kind of a concentrated beverage made by mixed of stewed oatmeal, milk, and sugar. And what I had on that day was mixed with cinnamon and clove. It’s a must! It was so delicious!!

After that good breakfast, we went to the hotel that was located in the center of the local market, making the road quite packed that morning. We arrived and we saw the hotel is on the second floor. Both of us knew that it would be difficult to bring our bikes and panniers… the travel is never over! Anyway, we put aside the difficulties, and I went to ask if we could do an early check-in. With my limitation on speaking and understand Spanish, I went up with my phone while Luis stayed on the street keeping an eye on our stuff.

It was complicated for me to talk with the hotel staff because I can’t speak Spanish and they can’t speak English. I was lost… After a quite long time, we finally managed to understand each other and they allowed us to do an early check in. YES!

When I went downstairs, I saw Luís talking with a couple of cyclists. Luís introduced me to both of them: Jose Franco and Yolima. Luis told me that they saw us on the road earlier and with a little bit of conversation, Jose offered his place for us to stay instead of staying in the hotel. After we understood who they were and their good will, we accepted it, after all, mingle with the locals is always attempting for us to learn their culture.

From that moment, Jose Franco and his family become our new family. We had a really great and memorable time with them.

Read more about our experience with Jose Franco and his family in the Sketch Stories.