We returned to Quito on a Sunday morning and immediately began planning for our departure to Colombia. With only three weeks left before needing to return to California for work, we’d decided to bus north past the border so we could start in the thick of it.
Our Lonely Planet Colombia suggested we reference state department websites for their travel advisories, in particular Canada’s and Australia’s for their rational perspective. Generally the travel advisory maps have three colors: yellow (exercise a high degree of caution), orange (reconsider traveling here), and red (don’t even think about it). Without question, all the maps had orange as their base layers. One had a corridor of yellow overlapping the Panamerican Highway and tight circles of yellow around major cities (Bogota, Medellin, Cali, and Cartagena, all with populations of 2 million plus). Thoroughfares and cities introduce a suite of other problems for us as cyclists, so needless to say, this new information skeet shot our dream of touring rural dirt roads and exploring on whims. While hemming and hawing about the possibility of thefts and kidnappings, we caught wind about a research opportunity back home. Everything might have turned out just fine in Colombia, but we chose whales over that uncertainty and off we went to Washington State. Colombia will still be there the next time we crave an incredibly beautiful South American adventure.
In a matter of 24 hours, we’d gone from gung ho to packing our bike boxes and shipping out on an overnight flight back to San Francisco the next day. It’s always sad to end a tour, but this one felt particularly bittersweet. Over the course of two and a half months, we cycled the Andean highlands and Pacific coast, the cloudforests and the jungle. We met incredible hospitality sitting around indoor fires, sleeping in schools, and chatting with school kids. We also met some of the most tortuous hills we’ve ever ridden, faced vile illnesses, and forgot about both while gorging ourselves silly on exotic fruits. It wasn’t the first, and it won’t be our last tour.
Currently we’ve arrived to Washington State where we’re studying gray whale feeding behavior in Puget Sound. Once we return to San Francisco and reunite with our bike odometer, we’ll post our stats along with a few other fun details from the road. Until then, we’ll keep enjoying a real bed, dry clothes, hot water on demand, and all the other joys of home. Then again, we’re always at home on our bikes.