IN PURSUIT OF ADVENTURE
Why do we look for adventure? Is it to escape the routine of the hectic modern life? Or to take a break from work? To challenge ourselves, see new places or seek solitude?
Each one of us has different motivations to do so, and like most of the significant decisions in our lives, the outcome of adventure might be uncertain and can be characterized by unpredictability and fear. It’s that uncertainty that fuels our drives and empowers us to be fully present and connected to what is going on around us and take us one step away from our comfort zones.
What adventure is might be relative, but usually for us cyclists, it is a plan that takes us away from the usual route, causes excitement and awakens the spirit of curiosity towards the unknown. It is when each of our adventure-seeking paths converge that experiences like Scarab Adventures happen. A rediscovery of both, the seldom visited towns and popular ones, through the less-traveled roads with curated cycling itineraries and support along the way.
A visit to the coffee region and the town of Pácora, the exploration of the Boyacá back roads that lead to the popular town of Villa de Leyva and, now on its latest iteration of Scarab Adventures, a visit to Santander. With its rugged terrain and conditions, it presented many challenges but impressive beauty as well. A group of 20 cyclists came together in the capital of the Santander department to tackle a challenging route.
Day one started from Bucaramanga (at around 925 m asl) which with its over 160 parks, is known as the “City of Parks”. The route headed south towards the first climb of the day: 9km at an average grade of 8.3% up to the plateau of Mesa de los Santos. This geographical feature has spectacular views of the Chicamocha Canyon and it is known worldwide for two traits: the high quality of its coffee and high seismicity of the area. The route followed a paved road across the plateau, until it veered off into a shaded gravel road bisecting a coffee plantation up to the end of the road.
The pavement gave way to gravel as the route weaved through coffee farms that eventually morphed into fields of tobacco. The surface turned chunkier until the town of Villanueva. The destination for the day was less than 10 downhill kilometers away! The beautiful, historic and Colombian heritage town of Barichara. The cobblestone streets and whitewashed buildings were the perfect backdrop to lay back, recover and celebrate the day’s accomplishment.
The return trip was jam-packed: two canyon crossings, three major climbs (including a 24 km gravel climb), 130 km to cover and 2910m elevation to gain. On paper, it didn’t sound too bad, but in practice, a long and challenging day was ahead. To start, a descent from town towards the bottom of the canyon carved by the Suarez river. Then, back-to-back climbs, from 500 m asl up to the quiet town of Galán and then to La Fuente, at the base of the dreaded 24km gravel climb up to Zapatoca at 1720 m asl.
The road bordered the edge of the mountains of the Natural National Park Serranía de los Yariguies. Elevation was slowly gained as each turn revealed a new viewpoint of the canyon on its way to the town of Zapatoca. At the town’s main square, cold drinks, lunch and some of the best coffee in the area awaited at Cafe Castillo Zapatoca. The break was quick because the hardest section of the challenge followed: the canyon formed by the Sogamoso river with the last major climb of the day. The landscapes here showcased an unbelievable contrast of colors and textures not usually associated with Colombia. Green hardy bushes, rocks and earth in red and golden hues, all brightly lit by the midday sun.
The road took the shape of a snake as it made its way down to the river. Informally known as the Mortirolo of Santander, a series of switchbacks took the steep face of the canyon away and out of the river banks and the Gomez Ortiz bridge. Once on the bridge, the scale of the features and the temperatures within the canyon became evident. With the hairpin turns, the grades went up to the double digits as the temperatures hovered around 40 degrees Celsius. A slow but sure moving forward along the 10 km climb would lead to the reward: cooler temperatures and stores with ice cold drinks.
The final stretch back into Bucaramanga, although not as challenging, it wasn't easy either. A few rolling hills, a 5km climb among fields of pineapples and stretches of gravel stood in the way of our final stop. Slowly and in smaller groups, all got back to the city. Tired, hungry, thirsty but happy and satisfied, each rider recounted their weekend of adventure cycling. Even in those final moments, with rest and recovery still a few hours away, some already pondered about what is next. How about you? Are you ready to unleash your quest for new experiences? Perhaps you can start with the next Scarab Adventures!