Brian and I both love cycling, and were excited that it’s so popular in Colombia. Racers and mountain bikers are everywhere in this country and Colombian cyclists rank among the world’s best. We welcome any opportunity to get off of the boat for some fun exploring and exercise and Colombia offers cycling tours and more. We’ve found it easy to join the nation’s cyclists across the county. This post details some of our favorite ways to enjoy cycling in Colombia.
Cycling in Cartagena
One of our favorite activities in Cartagena was the bike tour with Gerardo. Cartagena is a mostly flat city, except when you’re climbing up and down the walls, so biking is relatively easy. In Cartagena, the sights are spread out and the climate is hot, so riding a bicycle is an ideal way to cover all that territory. Many people ride bicycles in Cartagena, so the drivers are used to sharing the road with cyclists and don’t grumble or honk at you. If you have bikes on your boat, Cartagena is a great place to use them.
Sailing in Colombia is different from the ideal conditions in the Eastern Caribbean: trips are a lot longer and other cruiser boats not as common. Conditions can be rough, with strong winds, and navigating is challenging with incomplete charts. Because of these difficulties, some cruisers don’t stop here at all on the way to Panama, and others only visit one port: Santa Marta or Cartagena. As longtime fans of Colombia, we spent extended time in both! Here’s what our experience has been sailing in Colombia.
All information in this post is based on our experiences sailing the Caribbean coast of mainland Colombia. The country is vast, with Pacific coastline and occupied islands alongside Central America, which are not discussed here.
Welcome to Colombia
Arriving in Colombia on our boat was different from other sailing destinations. Colombia is so big that we saw the country a full day before we could enter a port. And the conditions are rough. Santa Marta, Colombia is infamous for heavy winds and rough seas, so much so that many sailors coming from the ABC Islands or further choose to skip the port entirely and head straight to Cartagena.
We just got home from a hectic month of selling our house and everything in it, well mostly. It’s been less than a week since we returned to the boat in Cartagena, and I finally feel relaxed. It was a mad dash to get it all done before closing and visit the people and places we wanted to in Toronto. Selling a house and moving out is a big life moment, but doing it to stay full time on a 46 foot boat and travel on it is life-changing. I also realized there are a lot of tips I could have used about how to purge, so I am sharing them here.
What to Keep
Selling our house and everything in it could have been traumatic. But we were primed for it through a combination of terrible tenants and a fun life on our boat. Other people have to do this under much more trying circumstances, and I am aware of our fortune. Here are some ways to make this process easier.
The hardest part is deciding what to keep. Will you use it and do you even like it? If the answer to both is NO, then don’t keep it. This time, our second and more final round of purging after 2.5 years on the boat, I was more cutthroat. I washed any clothes that seemed even mildly off – the beauty of an in-home washer and dryer – and piled up anything I have no chance of wearing anytime soon. If clothes were in good shape, they went into the DONATE pile. If not, straight into trash bags. On a boat, those would become rags, but we weren’t flying rags back to Colombia with us!
Our return to Toronto after living on a boat hasn’t been smooth. The Covid pandemic did not make it easy, but having our vaccinations helped get us in the country. After that? Mayhem and memories.
Why The Return
This return to Toronto is temporary. We’ve come to realize over the years that our house in Toronto is no longer our “home.” Our boat is now home. But before we moved onto the boat we didn’t know if we’d last on it, so we kept the house in case we wanted to come back for good. But now we know we love boat life and that’s our life now. With the good real estate market, we sold our house and we wanted to return to Toronto to empty and close on the house.
Cartagena is one of the biggest cities we’ve sailed into, and even with Covid lockdowns, we found it lively and entertaining. Even though this isn’t our first visit to Cartagena, we still had a lot to see and discover. I went on some tours my first time here, but I’ve done a lot in the 5 years in between visits, so the city seems new to me. It’s been a blast exploring Cartagena again. Read on for my Cartagena highlights.
Orientation to Cartagena
When you arrive in Cartagena, the views are stunning. The ocean is next to skyscrapers and old stone walls. There’s an ancient clock-tower and a modern gold building. On the water are old wooden sailing ships and luxurious catamarans. On the streets are women in colorful traditional costumes, including fruit hats, alongside hundreds of people driving mopeds.