Rum, Rafting and Riding in San Gil

Trip Start Jan 11, 2012
Trip End Aug 09, 2012

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Flag of Colombia  , Santander Department,
Monday, May 14, 2012

The Caribbean coast provided us with a fantastic introduction to Colombia, but the extreme heat was starting to take its toll on our travelling party. Sweating nonstop for a week resulted in some significant weight loss for the team, something that is often welcomed with open arms, but unfortunately Big Nick was becoming a bit self conscious about his deteriorating biceps so we decided to head on south to San Gil where we planned to indulge in some serious outdoor activities.

The bus journey to San Gil definitely ranks very highly on our list of least enjoyable consecutive 13 hours. Initially scheduled to arrive in San Gil at about 7PM, we eventually rolled into town at 1:30 in the morning. 13 hours to cover 600km is bad enough, but with the bus's air con set to "blizzard of death" as well as being forced to watch 5 of the most violent movies ever made (all dubbed in Spanish and played at a volume that makes your ears bleed), it was no surprise to see a few tears of joy from both the Jouberts and the Lynches when we finally arrived in the adventure capital of Colombia.

So then, what sort of extreme sports can one expect to find in Colombia? We were hoping to enter a competition to see who could smuggle the most grade A heroin into Venezuela without being caught or maybe just take part in a game of hand grenade volleyball, but unfortunately Colombia is actually quite normal and our selection was limited to the usual adrenaline junkie repertoire. After a brief discussion we opted for white water rafting, mountain biking and sampling some Colombian rum.

First up, white water rafting, an "extreme" sport that none of us had previously attempted. Owing to our lack of experience, we decided to first tackle the less intense rapids before deciding on whether we were brave enough to challenge some crazy grade 5 rapids on a much more violent river. So off we drove to a nearby riverbank, received a basic safety briefing, wondered why the hell we needed helmets and then set off into the abyss. The Lynches, led by the St Andrew's 2003 rowing sensation Donna "Row for Show" Lynch, completely dominated the starboard side of the raft while the Jouberts faffed away on the port side. 6 months in New York had clearly softened them up, but after successfully navigating through some treacherous eddies, flotsam, jetsam, meanders, cutoff slopes and all those other things that you learn about in high school Geography, the Jouberts finally started to pull their weight, thanks mainly to audacious Ally as Big Nicholas was clearly more concerned about saving his energy for the cycle. The battle against the elements, or just the blue element, lasted for about an hour and jubilant cries echoed throughout the nation once we crossed the finish line. Pretty epic stuff indeed. Don't let the photos fool you, them rapids were deadly. Fortunately in and amongst the madness we were able to soak in some incredible views of the Colombian outback.

Next up on the agenda was a mountain bike ride through even more impressive landscapes. In an attempt to bolster our nonexistent fitness levels, we opted for the cross country option rather than a simple downhill ride. This decision was soon to be regretted but nonetheless off we headed into the mountains to commence the downhill leg of the journey. Big Nicholas steamed ahead while the girls and the ginger took it easy at the back of the peloton. Don, previously a strict non-cyclist, has grown tremendously in confidence on the bike after grueling cycles in the Atacama Desert and down the Death Road in Bolivia, so it was perhaps due to a wave of complacency that she involuntarily discovered how to do a forward somersault on a bicycle. Unfortunately none of us were within eyeshot to witness the event but apparently she would have scored a perfect 10 for execution. Lying in the dirt, bike on top of her, bruised, some blood, Don shrugged off the incident like a real Colombian soldier and got right back onto that bike. Would you expect anything less after all those years tuning chicks and rocking okes at Italian Club, Bedfordview, boet?

With the cycling team reunited we continued on to a small pueblo (village) in order to sample some famous chorizos. We're not sure how famous they really are but there is absolutely no doubt about their deliciousness. After the chorizos we cycled for another hour or so to a beautiful waterfall where we swam, ate lunch and relaxed for a while. We were then given the option to either catch a bus back to San Gil or to cycle back up the road on which we arrived. This was one of the easiest decisions that we've had to make on our travels, particularly when you consider that even Grey PE's prom king (4 years in a row) was too tired to cycle home. So we hopped on the bus and reminisced about a fantastic day cycling around the mountains of central Colombia. It was decided that a celebration was in order so we purchased some local rum and played cards in the general area of our hostel. Just the 4 of us. Then we went to sleep. Extreme jol, Colombia style, Boom!

San Gil is a really special place. Relaxed town, friendly people, amazing scenery and plenty of activities to enjoy. It was not without some sadness that we decided to pack up and continue on our journey south to Villa de Leyva, but fortunately the Lynches would be revisiting San Gil with even more Lynches a few days later. Once again we have some bonus writing from Nick which you can read here:, otherwise that's about that. Next stop, giant pizza, a navigational mixup and Ally breaks a bicycle...
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Michelle on

Sounds incredible - sorry about your tumble Don, ouchy !!! Miss you so much - counting the days !!!

Jannie on

Sounds like a great few days, I could tell from the tone of your blog that there was serious positive influence from someone who went to the top Eastern Cape school. Bravo Nick bravo Grey! I'm sad my puppie took a tumble but she has never really showed her potential on a bike!!! Yet - Look after your Sis when "Groot Tone" arrives

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