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The privilege of a world cyclist

schommel in rubber band
A captured free bird
November 4, 2018
Cycling through the coffee fields in Colombia
Drugs and coffee
November 17, 2018

Tuesday 25 september - border Ecuador Colombia

As a cyclist, border crossings are usually a piece of cake. The police officers are more interested in our trip than our bags. Most of the times it never takes never takes more than ten minutes and we do not expect anything else on the border between Ecuador and Colombia, until we see hundreds of people sitting down with large suitcases. They are Venezuelan refugees that try to enter Ecuador. There are tents from Unicef ​​and the Red Cross to take care of the refugees because they often get stuck on the border for a few days. We see sad faces everywhere where the despair lies in the eyes. We feel guilty that we as cyclists voluntarily choose this adventure and border crossings are one of the best moments. They are running away from poverty and abuses in Venezuela and are looking at us with contempt. The atmosphere does not feel pleasant and we want to leave as quickly as possible, but first we need a stamp. There is a special row for foreigners, but it is also long and slow. After two hours, Zoë has already moved twenty meters. Olivier waits with the bikes and has to queu when Zoë is ready. That will be a night with little sleep, we fear. An hour later, Zoë walks outside. Olivier can quickly go in for his stamp through the exit gate. The privilege of a cyclist, and again we feel guilty towards the Venezuelans who stand here for hours or days.

The privileges of a cyclist gave some Colombians an idea. If crossing borders are so easy, we can take advantage of that, they thought. Before the border of Peru and Ecuador we met two Colombian cyclists. They were in a hurry and told us that they would cycle no less than 130 kilometers, in full headwind. The Colombians are really crazy about cycling, we thought. They had nice bikes with homemade bags. We found them a bit big and wondered what they were carrying. We quickly took a picture and they cycled on. A few weeks later we hear from other cyclists that two Colombian cyclists have been arrested at the Chilean border with 18 kilograms of marijuana hidden in the bags. They did not rode 130 kilometers at all, but did almost everything by bus. Only on the parts where there is control, they used the bicycle. Liars! It is a pity that such people give the image of cyclists a dent.

Until then Zoë thought to do a surgery in Colombia, but all reactions from friends and family silently reverse those thoughts.

And then we are in Colombia. The travel advice of the government colours orange and red which means 'traveling alone when necessary'. Yet every cyclist is lyrical about Colombia so we start with a mixed feeling. We immediately notice a big difference with Ecuador. There are cyclists everywhere, cars have respect, it is much quieter on the road and the slopes are less steep. Life is cheaper than expensive Ecuador and the landscape colours fifty shades of green. In comparison with Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, there is hardly any waste. The gardens are well maintained and are full of colourful flowers. The houses have no windows and life takes place outside. During the long climbs, the cheerful music sounds from the houses. Music that only suits the coloured houses, the colourful gardens and the sunny weather. People wave us exuberantly and hundreds of thumbs go up from the cars, motorcycles and bicycles.

These are the perfect preconditions for optimal enjoyment on the bike, but we can’t. Since the unexpected news in Quito our head isn’t thinking about cycling. We want to go to Medellin for a new check as soon as possible. There are so many questions, so many doubts and so many ambiguities that eat us up. Is a surgery necessary, is that complex, where do we do it, how long is the recovery time, do we still get to Mexico? We do not feel well and wonder why we cycle. Mentally these are tough days with only a few bright spots.

One of them we have in Pasto. Via Instagram we knew that two cyclists come to the south. Coincidentally also a Belgian-Dutch couple and they are in the south of Colombia. Especially for us they stay an extra day in Pasto. We would only have breakfast together, but at four o'clock in the afternoon we still have hours to chat. It is fantastic to exchange stories and talk with other cyclists who understand what is so fun and heavy about cycling. Zoë her tumor is discussed. 'In the Netherlands!' they say immediately. Until then Zoë thought to do a surgery in Colombia, but all reactions from friends and family silently reverse those thoughts. The idea that we have to interrupt our journey and return home, even if it is two weeks, we can’t accept.

These lovely people and beautiful landscapes keep us going, but we do not enjoy it.


With regret in the heart we have to say everywhere that we stay only one night. The Colombians are crazy about cycling and are very interested. Every day we got offered bananas, a fresh fruit juice, a lunch or a place to sleep. When we set ourselves up for a seemingly deserted house for the lunch break, the door suddenly opens and we get freshly squeezed papayas juice. One day we stop in a small village for an ice cream. The neighbour walks by and asks if we want a few bananas. Olivier already has a whole hand, about twelve bananas, on the back. She comes back with a whole bag of bananas, a pack of grapes and some other fruit. Another neighbour sees everything happen and sprints out with a big bunch of bananas. The neighbour across the street comes with oranges and mandarins. We continue to cycle with thirty bananas and three kilos of other fruit. These lovely people and beautiful landscapes keep us going, but we do not enjoy it. We need a rest, a decision. A surgery in the Netherlands or in Colombia? It means a lot for our journey and the plans for the coming months. A conversation with the gynaecologist from Belgium hopefully brings more clarity. Tomorrow morning is the day.


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