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Wax Palms Colombia

So I thought it might be time to start a blog. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to share a bit more about my process and inspirations. Also my partner Joe and I have just begun a 6 month bikepacking trip around South America and I’m hoping to create a series of illustrations inspired by the people we meet and places we see. We are currently in Salento, Colombia and have just finished the 5 day ride here from Ibague. I should probably give you a bit of background info before you think I’m some turbo cyclist. I’m not particularly fit or good at cycling up hills. I’ve only been bike packing once before and it was just for a couple of days in the peak district. A fairly big step away from 6 months in the Andes. Anyway, I wanted to see this part of the world and I wanted a challenge. Or really I just wanted to be like the people who do these sorts of things. Strong body and mind. Endurance and will power. Things I don’t really possess. And these qualities don’t just come to you, you have to work quite hard to get them. So I’m going for it. The first day was a baptism of fire, obviously. We went the wrong way and ended up pushing our bikes over the top of the mountain instead of taking the nice road that goes around the side. And when I say pushing our bikes it was both of us pushing one bike at a time as it was so steep. It took all day. Then when we arrived at the top we found that the road was closed. It was getting dark and there was nowhere to camp. Options were to trespass over the barbed wire or to ask a family if we could sleep in their garden. We went for option B which was a good move. You don’t get many chances to sleep on the very top of a mountain you have just climbed. Also it was perfectly flat to pitch our tent. And we had 360 degree views of the mountains. It was almost worth the pain. Almost The next morning the good news was that the road we needed to take wasn’t closed any more. The bad news was that there wasn’t much road, just rocks, and it’s the steepest thing you’ve ever seen. I walked most of it whilst planning my escape route. I was having major doubts that I would make it to Salento on this bike! Then we joined the road we were supposed to be on. Bliss. Yes it was uphill but it was ridable and seemed a lot easier in comparison. The rest of the journey was along a long and windy dirt road up and around the mountains with stunning views pretty much the whole way. It wasn’t easy though. It was 3730 vertical meters of climbing with a max altitude of 3400m. I’ve not done much hill riding before and I discovered it is a physical challenge as well as mental one. At certain points I found myself looking up and feeling the dread of how I was going to get to the top. My body would get stronger just by pedalling but I had to sort my brain out myself. I stopped looking towards the top so much. Generally when it was hard I would just focus on the ground passing slowly underneath me and focussing on each breath. It actually really helped and sort of turned into a meditation. We were slow though. Very slow. We were in the lowest gear for what seemed like forever, But as we slowly hit each milestone, it was hugely rewarding to look back at the winding roads and seeing how far we’ve travelled. On the third day the landscape slowly started to change and we got our first sight of Colombia’s national tree, the Wax Palm, which can grow up to 60m tall! They are native to the mountainous forests of the Colombian and Northen Peru and was the main reason we came to this part of the country. Seeing them towering above us in the rolling valley was amazing and made all the hard work worth it. The illustration at the top was inspired by that valley. Super steep hills, windy roads and towering wax palms being the main features of the journey. A mountain of doubt v2 So I thought it might be time to start a blog. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to share a bit more about my process and inspirations. Also my partner Joe and I have just begun a 6 month bikepacking trip around South America and I’m hoping to create a series of illustrations inspired by the people we meet and places we see. We are currently in Salento, Colombia and have just finished the 5 day ride here from Ibague. I should probably give you a bit of background info before you think I’m some turbo cyclist. I’m not particularly fit or good at cycling up hills. I’ve only been bike packing once before and it was just for a couple of days in the peak district. A fairly big step away from 6 months in the Andes. Anyway, I wanted to see this part of the world and I wanted a challenge. Or really I just wanted to be like the people who do these sorts of things. Strong body and mind. Endurance and will power. Qualities I feel I don’t really possess. And I’m aware these qualities don’t just come to you, you have to work quite hard to get them. So I’m going for it. The first day was a baptism of fire, obviously. We went the wrong way and ended up pushing our bikes over the top of the mountain instead of taking the nice road that goes around the side. And when I say pushing our bikes it was both of us pushing one bike at a time as it was so steep. It took all day. Then when we arrived at the top we found that the road we needed to go down was closed. It was getting dark and there was nowhere to camp. Options were to trespass over the barbed wire or to ask a family if we could sleep in their garden. We went for option B which was a good move. You don’t get many chances to sleep on the very top of a mountain you have just climbed. Also it was perfectly flat to pitch our tent and we had 360 degree views of the mountains. It was almost worth the pain. Almost The next morning the good news was that the road we needed to take wasn’t closed any more. The bad news was that there wasn’t much road, just rocks, and it’s the steepest thing you’ve ever seen. I walked most of it whilst planning my escape route. I was having major doubts that I would make it to Salento on this bike! Then we joined the road we were supposed to be on. Bliss. Yes it was uphill but it was ridable and seemed a lot easier in comparison. The rest of the journey was along this long and windy dirt road up and around the mountains with stunning views pretty much the whole way. It wasn’t easy though. It was 3730 vertical meters of climbing with a max altitude of 3400m. I’ve not done much hill riding before and I discovered it is a physical challenge as well as mental one. At certain points I found myself looking up and feeling the dread of how I was going to get to the top. My body would get stronger just by pedalling but I had to sort my brain out myself. I tried to stop looking towards the top and wishing I was there so much. Generally when it was hard I would just focus on the ground passing slowly underneath me and focussing on each breath. It actually really helped and sort of turned into a meditation. We were slow though. Very slow. We were in the lowest gear for what seemed like forever, But as we slowly hit each milestone, it was hugely rewarding to look back at the winding roads and seeing how far we’ve travelled. The third day was when we caught our first glimpse of Colombia’s national tree, the Wax Palm, which can grow up to 60m tall! They are native to the mountainous forests of the Colombian and Northern Peru and was the main reason we came to this part of the country. Seeing them towering above us in the rolling valley was amazing and made all the hard work worth it! The illustration at the top was inspired by that valley. Super steep hills, windy roads and towering wax palms being the main features of the journey.

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