The journey starts with a single pedal-stroke, but getting to "push off" appears to require a whole lot of maps. We left home with two full-size Colombia maps and a general idea of where we wanted to go. Once in Bogota, we start asking questions and quickly find help from a young man working at our hotel who, as luck has it, is a mountain bike racer and has pedaled all over this country. He jumps to our rescue and provides a moto-ruta guide complete with elevation charts. Holy cow! The way we intended to start might break our camels back (or Willie´s legs ... or my spirit) with it´s extreme grades over the mountains. I feel panic rise and Willie considers getting a cog with a larger ring. Christian recommends it, which doesn´t bode well when the mountain bike racer who rides a titaneum tricked-out bike with NO PANNIERS suggests we are going to be in pain. Serious fret ensues.
A test ride on the bike paths of Bogota.
Next help comes from a meeting with non-other than the former mayor of Bogota and world-renowned bicycle advocate, Enrique Pañelosa. Señor Peñalosa and Juan Camila, head of the bike network development inBogota, spend nearly an hour with us and a whole lot of head shaking happens. They mark our map and suggest many options. None can say just how steep the roads are, but do say that small roads are safe and the large roads have heavy traffic. This is the opposite information from some other sources, but we take it all in. They do strongly encourage us to get better maps and send us off to the Institute Agustin Codazi -- better known as the geographic office of Colombia -- where after 2 and a half hours of lines, hand-wringing decisions and more lines, we select five new maps to carry with us. This is in addition to the driving route guide gifted to us by our new cyclist friend.
All these maps, optional routes, partial unknowns, shaking heads, and phone numbers in case we need help, only stir the pot. How do we know if we can actually pedal these mountains? Will my knees hold up? We can´t be sure if these roads are paved. We don´t know if the traffic will be relentless and menacing.
Sleep is a restless muse toying with our dreams--heads spinning with options and no real plan. Our wise and well-traveled friend Zeb likes his beauty sleep, and he offers a zebism to ease our troubled minds.
"The way will become the clear when you are on the way."
To a lesser degree, we didn´t know how we would navigate Bogota. Would it be safe to walk around? Could we trust the taxi drivers? And within these 5 short days, Bogota makes sense. We can find our way around to meet our friend Tom, see museums, get yellow fever shots, buy cycling gloves. All things we didn´t know when we got off the plane.
Tomorrow morning, with bicycle escorts Cristian and his wife Ana, we get on our way. They will take us through the concrete maze and send us off in a direction at the edge of town. At this point, we´re ready for any direction just so we can move beyond questions and discover answers.