We finally got on the road! The first stage is both easy and difficult. Easy because it will be completely flat, the first and only flat stage until maybe Bolivia. But hard because we have to get out of a big city like Cali, which is never easy, and get used to our heavy loads. Our target is Santander de Quilichao, 55 kms away.
The most direct way is through the Calle 5, but it’s quite a busy avenue, so we tried to find something quieter in a parallel street, so we chose Calle 8
Cali pretends to be cycle-friendly, but it has completely surrended to motorised traffic, like most cities around the world. Pollution is bad, but thanks to the weather with frequent rains the air is cleaned frequently. But the noise level is crazy. There are luxury towers just next to very busy roads where I wouldn’t live even for free!
Getting out of the city was a mixed experience. We would go from nice protected cycle lanes to completely exposed to traffic, to three lane highways with a generous hard shoulder, all while cycling along the many universities in Cali
As usual, being my luck, I had a puncture after just 20 km. And that is despite using one of the most popular touring tires, a Schwalbe Marathon Mondial, that many cyclists have used for thousands of kilometers without a single issue. Oh, well…
Other than that, the only inconvenience was the heat. Our weather app always says it’s going to rain, but in the end it’s sunny and hot most of the day, and only in the nights it rains, usually in short violent bursts. Hopefully it will continue, as we are still supposed to be in the dry season in Colombia.
The main highlight of this road to Santander is the sugar cane plantations everywhere, and with them, the “trenes caneros”, which are trucks that in the Australian style can be carrying up to 5 trailers all at once, fully loaded with sugar cane. We saw a few of them, to the delight of the kids
After passing a toll control, which is fortunately free for cyclists, we had a very long stretch of road, after which we just had the last kilometers before Santander, ever so slightly upwards. We noticed it with our weight and the heat of the day, so we took a last break on what seemed like a recently closed restaurant with plenty of tables in the shadow and very clean. Nice!
We arrived in Santander exhausted but happy to have made it in our very first day. Plenty of room for improvement, from luggage distribution, panniers setup, etc, but that will be for another day…