Fools Guide: Medellín => Jardín by Bike
Unless you’re either in really good shape or you’re a fool, why would you bike to Jardín from Medellín… Me? I’m the latter. Considering my reasons for doing it were to burn of all the Chicharones and Chorizos that I had eaten the week before when my dad came to visit, I hadn’t really thought the trip through too well. I just knew I needed some exercise and some friends mentioned how gorgeous Jardín was and screw it, I made up my mind! First thing I did was invite my friend, then tell some people I’m doing it, then check how far it was…
Anyways, you’ll know as much as I do as I explain how I got through this, and how your foolish self can too!
If anyones wondering about my bike. No it’s not some carbon bike frame that I bought for 2 million pesos. You don’t need none of that!
But instead I have this beauty that I purchased for $300k pesos! And no, it wasn’t actually a birthday present… She’s gotten me through some tough trips, I’m just have to make her hustle so’more.
Yea… So maybe going out for a few drinks the night before wasn’t the best plan, but this guide is a fools guide for a reason. Too late to go back, drink a shit ton of water. Drink more. Wake up to pee in the middle of the night and repeat. My body will be asking for it the next day.
Anyways, I’m all packed. Got my 2 ½ liters of water, $150.000 pesos, bike ready, alarm set for 5:30 to leave by first light. What more do I need?
So here’s the route. You’re taking the highway Medellin southwest out until you pass the village of Caldas as you try to escape the smog storm that Medellín resonates. Speaking of, you should invest in a smog mask if you’re living anywhere near Medellín.
It helped me thinking of this journey in checkpoints using villages: Medellin -> Caldas -> Amagá -> Bolombolo (halfway point) -> Salgar (signs for it) -> Hispania -> Andes -> Victory!
Anyways, getting out of the city won’t be too difficult. Until Estrella it’s like 12 miles of flat until you advance to some measly hills to land you at checkpoint 1, Caldas.
Continuing you will get a nice variety of ups and downs as you follow the signs to Amagá. Once you get to the weird wall of concrete cubes get ready for a treat… Save for a few minor inclines, you will be flying down the mountain passing Amagá and making it to the halfway point, Bolombolo in 2-3 hours. Soak up the sights!
This was the foreshadowing that almost made me shit my pants before doing it. Biking in the mountains of Colombia has made me realize one law of nature. Whatever goes up, must come down… In this case I was absolutely racing down this mountain with amazing scenery left and right of me the whole time thinking “so when am I going to be climbing this again?”
Dashing down that hill I made up my mind immediately that I am not returning by bike (remember this).
From Bolombolo, there wasn’t much climbing . Just grinding along the river listening to the whistling grillos (pronounced gree-johs), or crickets that echo from their tree-tops. Here you’re confronted with more gorgeous scenery!
Now Fatigue is kicking in. There’s 54km to go and I’m now aware that that mountain I just flew down, yea, I have to go back up… Had I known the altitude of Jardín before doing this journey, maybe I could have successfully talked myself out of this.
And so I started my routine of walking, pushing my bike up this mountain and swearing at myself for the stupidity of this venture. “Tonight I’ll be in a bed”, is what I helped me get through.
There was long a time of just chugging forward, but also places of intense beauty which I would have missed had I come by bus.
I do not know how to describe the mindset when fatigue kicks in and you need to get somewhere. I found myself grabbing small unripe mangos from passing trees, eating them with their peel for energy. I was mixing two bite fulls of arepas with a swig of water to swallow food faster. To say I was not a foolish wreck is foolish.
Many groans, moans, hours and complaints later I made it to the village of Andes. Being oblivious to what lay ahead of me, I shared my destination with a local and asked him, “A lot to climb?” His response was just laughter… Like a mad man I couldn’t help but laugh myself.
From there the hike to Jardín…
While I’m going mad ascending the hills, I spot my favorite trees which I just had to write about. The guayacán is a strange tree that dots itself almost randomly amongst pastures of green in the mountain ranges. It’s colors vary from yellow, to orange, violet and more… It’s mesmerizing…
The Last Stretch
While I’m toiling up this hill, I knew it wouldn’t be an easy climb as I saw 12-year olds riding flying down past me on their small bicycles, heads down, racing to reach light speed. Haha, reminds me of where I was 6 hours ago! After 20 minutes I’d see the same kids grabbing hold of the back of trucks climbing the hill saving them the trouble of climbing. But this is a fools guide, not a cheaters guide, your going to finish what you started!
At this point my legs locked up a few times and mandatory breaks to massage the leg muscles were necessary. I was too close to stop.
Then I crawled past the mountain side and saw
The spiteful joke of arriving to Jardín is that you’re still ascending into the village once you enter. I doesn’t get flat until you lock your bike up in the city square and stumble your way to the closest bed clutching ice cream and granadillas.
That was my foolish journey biking to Jardín. I can’t regret it, because obviously it’s behind me and my short term memory will blur how terrible it actually was, but it made me more aware of my bodily limits.
I hope you, my readers, could get a sense of enjoyment reading about my misery! Climbing up that mountain had me thinking how I would never wish this upon someone else. Then I thought about it again. Wait no, there are so many people I would wish this on. It was a struggle but I won’t ever look back on these things and think, “Meh, I should’ve stayed home…”
Jardín was gooOOOorgeous, like the trip getting there. Maybe I’ll write about her some other time…
To top off the cake, if only I knew I’d have to make the reverse trip back to days later…
Here’s a list of few things I wish I had or thanked the agnostic the gods that I had:
- Water + Chia Seeds: A little hack I learned from a parcero, or friend, on a group hike. Pour 2 spoonfulls of chia seeds per liter into your water bottle… Shake… Wait… a couple minutes. The cool thing about chia seeds is that in water their seed-like casing turns into a jelly like casing. It adds a nice barely noticeable flavor and added jelly texture that tricks your ravished body into thinking your getting much more than just hydration.
Where to find semillas de chia in Medellin: I would look in your local tienda naturalistas (“natural” stores). I found mine at la Minorista
- Portable Phone Charger/Extra battery – You probably won’t need it for GPS purposes, but you drain a lot battery being in tourist picture-taking mode.
- Hat + Sunscreen – God I wish I had remembered my cap… Thank god I had sunscreen or I would have arrived to Jardín one baked gringo. If it’s a typical day in Colombia then you will get hammered by the sun.
- Granadillas – This is personal preference, but these delicious jelly seeds taste like heaven when toiling. (Hack: since Granadillas take up a lot of space, buy 10-15 granadillas beforehand and empty the seeds into a tupperware container and carry that with you)
- Chocolo Arepas – No, they’re not chocolate arepas but sweetcorn arepas. Unlike those dis-enriched white arepas that don’t have any flavor nor nutrients (and they’re not even cooked all the way through), these arepas are tasty, compact, and they go down perfectly with water when you’re tired, scorched and crawling up the never ending mountain!
- Smog Mask – The… air… pollution… in this… city… really is… terrible…
Food + water while traveling: If you have limited space in your bag, fear not because there are villages and restaurants of varying levels of quality along the route. By bringing 3 liters of water you should survive. I rightfully assumed that you would be able to fill up your bottles for free at road side pit stops along the way (plus, though I’ve never tried it, there are some natural mountain springs with tasty looking water).
Hostels in Jardín: Haha there are none. Only hotels. There’s a hostel outside of the village called Hostal Selva y Café though you can find a super cheap closet like room at El Paisa Hotel located here for $20-30k night. Otherwise google knows more than I do. I went there and figured it out…