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Jun 12, 2024

This week we welcome Tomas Castrillon, the founder of Arriba Travel, to talk about the joys of gravel cycling in Colombia. We discuss the allure of traveling by bike, the unique cultural experiences that can be found off the beaten path, and the incredible diversity of Colombia's landscapes. Tomas shares his personal journey into the world of cycling and how it led him to create a bicycle travel company. He also provides insights into the specific route of Arriba Travel's Bogota to Medellin gravel trip, highlighting the challenging climbs, beautiful scenery, and rural communities that participants will encounter along the way.

Arriba Gravel Colombia Website

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About the Guest(s):

Tomas Castrillon is the founder of Arriba Travel, a bicycle travel company based in Colombia. With a passion for cycling and a desire to share the beauty of his country with others, Tomas started Arriba Travel in 2011. He has been organizing and leading road bike tours in Colombia for over a decade, and more recently, he has expanded into gravel bike tours. Tomas is dedicated to providing a premium experience for his clients, combining challenging rides with comfortable accommodations and delicious cuisine. He believes that cycling is a way to explore and connect with the diverse landscapes and communities of Colombia.

Key Takeaways:

  • Gravel cycling in Colombia offers a unique opportunity to explore the country's diverse landscapes and connect with local communities.

  • Colombia has a strong cycling culture, with cyclists of all skill levels and backgrounds enjoying the sport.

  • Arriba Travel's Bogota to Medellin gravel trip is a challenging and beautiful adventure, featuring steep climbs, stunning views, and comfortable accommodations.

  • The trip takes riders through rural communities where they can experience the agricultural traditions and warm hospitality of the Colombian people.

  • Safety is a top priority for Arriba Travel, and the support team ensures that all participants have a positive and enjoyable experience.

Automated Transcription, please excuse the typos:



[00:00:00] - (): Craig Dalton: Tomas, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for having me, Craig. How are you? I'm doing great. And, um, yeah, good evening to you. I'm super excited to have this conversation. We've been chatting a few minutes offline and I was just sharing, and the listener knows this well, I love gravel travel. I just love the idea of a exploration in foreign lands by bike.

**** - (): And in particular, the. Kind of versatility, a drop bar gravel bike gives you in your exploration. Of course,

[00:00:32] - (): Tomas Castrillon: it's great. What, what is it that attracts you about traveling with your bicycle? I mean, you're, you're, you mentioned it a little bit, but what's like, let's put it this way. What has been like the greatest adventure that you have been, uh, that you have had while, uh, traveling with a gravel bicycle so far?

**** - (): I think it's just,

[00:00:51] - (): Craig Dalton: you know, it's the idea that culture can unfold slowly. So as a tourist, you might go to a city and you might read a tourist map and go do this, that, and the other things, but there's so many things in between that a bike enables you to see along the way. And obviously as, as gravel cyclists, we're looking to get out into the wilderness and out into destinations unknown.

**** - (): And surely if the route is well designed. , you're, you're going well off the beaten path. Correct. So you're, you're interacting with a part of the culture that may not see so many foreign travelers. Mm-Hmm. . So you're gonna get a really authentic experience versus sort of a whitewash tourist experience you might get in a major city.

[00:01:34] - (): Tomas Castrillon: Correct? Correct. And, and what has been like the place that you said like, oh, I want to come back to this place? Or is there a place that you said like, oh, I would love to, uh, go and see that place on my, on my gravel bicycle.

[00:01:45] - (): Craig Dalton: Well, I'm going to give you two answers. One self serving in this conversation is Columbia, which is where I'm talking to you.

**** - (): And we'll get to that and why I have that in my head. Second is, is Girona. I went to Girona last year in Spain, and I think, just think there's miles and miles of gravel to explore there. And Girona itself is a great, City hub for these kinds of adventures. So as someone who, you know, I enjoy being in European cities, so you can have enough of that in the evenings, but still go spend your entire day riding your, riding your head off into the Spanish countryside.

[00:02:24] - (): Tomas Castrillon: Of course. Of course. Of course. Yes. Yes. I, I think that, uh, like coming a little bit back to me, I, I fell in love with cycling like from a very early age. Uh, maybe you're aware of these, like you were telling me, they told me before we started this conversation that your father used to be a racer, but there was this wave of Colombian cyclists back in the eighties and they were like, I was, uh, uh, I'm 42.

**** - (): Now I was five when these guys were storming the, the, they were doing so well in the, in the pro tour. And for me it was like, Oh my God, I really want to do that. I really want to ride my bicycle. My family on my father's side lives in Medellin, on my mother's side lives in Manizales, so they are far apart in terms of particularly time, because moving around these mountains can take a lot of time.

**** - (): And so for me it was like, My mind was absolutely captured by, my imagination was captured by like these mountains and how they were ever since it was like for me, a constant sense of exploration that bicycles bring brings into my life. It's still going on. As I told you, it was like from the, from a very early age that I caught the bug for cycling.

**** - (): So, yeah.

[00:03:41] - (): Craig Dalton: At this point in 2024, that sort of history of Colombian cycling is certainly in the pro tour as well known. There've been some grand champions and some phenomenal riders from Colombia. Is there a part of Colombia for those of us whose geography might be struggling to understand the country?

**** - (): Talk a little bit about the country and maybe are there hubs of cycling in Colombia that, that, that generally speaking we're graduating these phenomenal cyclists?

[00:04:08] - (): Tomas Castrillon: Well, yes, like just to give you a broad idea, like, eh, Columbia or better the Andes, the Andes mountains, once they arrive into Columbia, they split into three branches.

**** - (): The East branch, that is the one that in Bogota is located. The central branch. And as I got, I mean, as a reference point, Medellin might be the best, uh, reference point for that one. And then there is the West branch of the country. You have like pockets of, uh, cycling development all across the country.

**** - (): Okay. So there is people from Bogota that are super strong people. People from Boyacá, so to give the audience a little bit of an idea, Nairo Quintana, these guys are all from Boyacá, well, Nairo Quintana particularly from Boyacá. And then you have people from the other branches of the Cordillera, so you have people like from Medellín, like Reygo.

**** - (): So, but in general, like cycling is so, so, so big in Columbia that you get cycling from all across the country. So even places that are relatively flat, and we do have a lot of flats in Columbia, particularly closer to a north side of the, of the country, close to cities like Cartagena. So it's more like Caribbean on all these kind of atmosphere.

**** - (): There are cyclists over there as well. So actually cycling in Columbia, it's so big that it's really. Actually, hard to grasp. I'm, I'm local. I ride my bicycle almost every day. I'm still, I'm surprised sometimes by the sheer number of cyclists that you can see on the road. It's might be, uh, in the, in the team we have like this joke that there are so many.

**** - (): Uh, uh, I forget the one in English, so many hobos cycling their, their bicycle or across Columbia because you see somebody riding their bicycle full kit on in the middle of nowhere at a time that you were supposed to be doing some work and you will find always somebody riding their bicycle. And that's even more so on places like, I'm coming back to your question, like big cities, Bogota, Medellin, Manizales, coffee hub region.

**** - (): All of those places have a really, really strong cycling culture regardless. So I think that, uh, when it, when you think of a country that has like these super strong background in cycling, I would say that Columbia, uh, it's, it's like in my experience, I'm having trouble a little bit in Europe, in other places of the world.

**** - (): I would say like Columbia is still like, it's the best place for riding a bicycle, and it's amazing the number of people and people that get. Like how, not only the cyclist person, but actually the whole society. So one thing that we have in our tours and I mean, still surprising is how encouraging and how, uh, how our relations, our relationships with cycling or between cyclists and drivers is so positive.

**** - (): Compared to other places in the world, because we, I mean, I'm not saying that it's 100 percent perfect, but the number of cases of road rage that we face, it's very limited compared to, I mean, the number of cases that you would see are very limited compared to the number of cyclists that you will see on the streets, right?

**** - (): So, so that's, that's one very, very important thing about Colombia as a whole.

[00:07:19] - (): Craig Dalton: Yeah, that's really great to hear. Going back to you personally, you know, you mentioned sort of becoming aware of these great Colombian cycling stars and wanting to do it yourself. Yeah. As a child, what was your pathway into the sport?

**** - (): Were there clubs and different local organizations that helped foster your interest? Or was it a, was it a a solo endeavor that you pursued.

[00:07:41] - (): Tomas Castrillon: I think that for all cyclists in Colombia, it has, it's changing a little bit, but for many of us, particularly for my generation, it was basically a solo path. I would say, uh, I joke around this one as well, is that, uh, cycling used to be a nerd sport and I love it when he was, I was very nerdy at school.

**** - (): And I, and I, and I really love that about cycling. And I mean, I, and I loved like the people that are my friends from bicycles. All of them are freaks. So, so the point of that one is that, uh, uh, there was really not an established path. I did race a little bit, but it was basically on my own without a coach, without anything.

**** - (): It was. And it was never really an established pursuit, like what I was really, really attracted to about the, the bicycle was basically the state of mind that it created for me, like the, uh, searching for that, that experience that is completely ungraspable, but, but you really know that that is there. Like the beauty of the terrain, the beauty of the physical effort, the conquering the mountain, stuff that we all cyclists can relate to.

**** - (): It was never really a comp, there was really not a competitive edge on my behalf about cycling. It was more like a, uh, sort of a meditation kind of activity and, and a personal search for a way to, to, to exert myself, to really get tired and like, Like put my demons to rest sort of speaking.

[00:09:13] - (): Craig Dalton: Got it. And how did you arrive at the idea to create a bicycle travel company?

**** - (): Areva travel?

[00:09:20] - (): Tomas Castrillon: And well, we, it was basically a little bit by chance, like those are like the random paths that life takes you on. And it was, there was definitely a side of me that always wanted to be related to bicycles. I, I never really wanted to be a part of a. Like the corporate world per se, I really wanted to instead be part of something that I would find beautiful in, in the broad sense of the word.

**** - (): Uh, so for me that was cycling. So like 14, 15 years ago, uh, I was helping some friends develop an international, like the first proper international race here in Columbia. And that led into some more connections with, uh, the tourism side of, uh, of, of that kind of events, and that created some opportunities.

**** - (): So, I mean, it's completely, like, I would say that, like, all those steps are, uh, Sort of random, but there were like, it was, uh, at the same time, there were also the work that I put into like making those random events come into like the fruition of like, what is now Arriba travel. So, so basically that's where we are now.

**** - (): And, and you know, in a way that's, that's still the philosophy that I still bring into a company that it's like a place for, uh, for people to to foster the sense of exploration that we all have in within. So, uh, gravel, as you said, that has just enhanced that part of, of my personal desire to take my, uh, that desire for a new adventure a little bit further.

**** - (): Right. So, uh, so that's, that's how I come in. That's how I came into it sort of tourism side of, of it, but really in the end, it's basically Thinking about like, okay, what are the places that I want to go for myself? And if I would take a friend of mine, would I take them that way? Or is that the most beautiful road that I can make it is basically that the question that I'm answering all the time when I'm, when I'm thinking about a trip.

[00:11:32] - (): Craig Dalton: I love it. What year did the travel business start for you?

[00:11:36] - (): Tomas Castrillon: It started a, as a travel business, we did our first, a big road bike tour in 2011. So to give the audience a little bit of perspective, we were like basically the first. Company that, uh, did something as big as this one. It was a two week trip from Bogotá to Cartagena.

**** - (): So by the Pacific, by the Pacific, by the Caribbean coast. And it was two weeks long. And, uh, that was with, uh, a, we, we, with a UK based agency that we work and we are still working with them. So, uh, so, so yeah, so that, that's how it started. It started basically as many of us in the industry, like something on the side.

**** - (): Yeah. And all of a sudden it started to it started to grow and to becoming what is it now.

[00:12:29] - (): Craig Dalton: Amazing, a two week long trip, that's quite a quite an adventure.

[00:12:33] - (): Tomas Castrillon: Yes, it is. Yes, I mean I see it still is, it still is. Like, one of the things that I was telling you about Colombia is that, I mean, people don't really understand, and it's very, very hard for people to understand how big really Colombia is.

**** - (): So Colombia, when you put it together, or when you compare it, is the size of Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, and Netherlands all together. So when you, so when you put all of that together, you realize that you really can have a 1000 kilometer touring on the spot. It's basically, it's basically that big that, that Columbia can get.

[00:13:10] - (): Craig Dalton: Yeah. Three big mountain ranges. Exactly. To choose from as well. You've got some tough days in there, I imagine. Yes, exactly. Exactly.

[00:13:17] - (): Tomas Castrillon: I mean, and yes, tough, beautiful, everything all at once. It's incredible.

[00:13:22] - (): Craig Dalton: You mentioned. That first tour, those first tours were on the road. When did you start thinking about getting off road with clients?

[00:13:30] - (): Tomas Castrillon: Well, my, my background as a cyclist is more on the, on the, on the mountain bike scene. So as I was telling you, I was, I was very interested as a kid in, in, in, in the sense of adventure. So come the nineties and the first mountain bikes start to show up in here in Columbia. And on these family trips, I would see, I don't know, a path road that would go into the mountains.

**** - (): And I was always curious. Okay, where does that path leads to? So for me, mountain biking was always, uh, this first love that I had for cycling, like And, uh, yes, like, like the first thing that that, uh, that really caught my attention, like, okay, I really want to do this because I really want to explore even further than I have ever been, or in places that are not traditional sort of speaking.

**** - (): So in 2000, in two, in 2000, I started, uh, watching on tv, the, uh, adventure, uh, adventure races. And, and it really. This sort of endurance, the sense of adventure that this, uh, events brought. So I started to, to do a little bit of those events. And at the same time, I started to befriend people that were doing a little bit of what we currently call gravel.

**** - (): So it was basically, it was off road riding on, uh, on dirt paths. So it was, and I'm bringing this, and it was where it was early 2000 when I started to say, Okay. I want to go and explore with these guys or parts of the country. So, so there was always that in my mind and, and, and for me, it was still like this sense of exploration.

**** - (): So we did, so 10, 12 years ago, we started doing road cycling, but I always felt that itching, like to tell people there is also one beautiful side of Columbia that it's absolutely Magnificent. Uh, and it's even more challenging perhaps that, uh, that a road bike trip, uh, and it was, uh, uh, I, I have to admit to everybody, like in the beginning, I was very dubious about, about the gravel thing, because, uh, Because for me, it was a, it was like, is this either mountain biking, uh, and road cycling?

**** - (): It was not clear. And to be fair, uh, seeing the terrain in Colombia, it's still very complicated sometimes to say, to define it, okay, this is road cycling or, or this is mountain, sorry, this is gravel, gravel cycling, or this is mountain biking when you have a 15 kilometer climb at 10%. I mean, probably sometimes for some people, a gravel bicycle might be a little bit undergeared.

**** - (): As you were mentioning. So, so, so, but, but I started to doing it and I started to think of it like, okay, this is a great way for me to, I mean, there was sort of the market opportunity. It was a growing as, um, as a, as a trend. In cycling. So, and, and basically it made sense that it made sense at some point.

**** - (): Okay. Okay. We, we, we have, uh, just after the pandemics, I was like, we really have to do something that is gravel related. I was getting my first gravel, my proper gravel bicycle. And I was like, okay, we, I think that there is some merit to having a new category in the whole industry. Okay. And I, and I was completely sold on the idea, uh, on the idea of gravel bicycle for, for myself.

**** - (): Therefore, as I was telling you, once I'm sold on myself, I can tell like, okay, I want to take people to go and do all these great adventures that we safe, great safe adventures that, that I want to, to create. So for me, that, it was, that was the case that was basically the case on how we became from an idea, A little bit of personal, uh, or personal history and combining them into, into creating a, uh, sort of a business opportunity.

[00:17:35] - (): Craig Dalton: So now you've got the gravel bike and you're sort of able to free your mind of thinking, okay, I don't only need to be on the road, but I can go on the trail. You shared with me a really fantastic looking gravel trip. Talk to us about how you sort of conceived of the route and give some details. Where are we starting?

**** - (): What are we experiencing?

[00:17:59] - (): Tomas Castrillon: So how it started or how, like, basically for all trips, like, like how I, I, I start to think of a great way to connect to spots, like, uh, so two big spots on the, on, on, on the map, right? So you, like, some people know about Columbia. And some people know about Bogota and for example, me is getting all this attention at this moment.

**** - (): So you start thinking, Hmm, okay, I want to create an itinerary that connects these two dots on, on the map. And, um, and, and you realize that, and, and I know that, okay, we have, we have had an itinerary that connects Bogota to imagine on a, on, on the road for. I mean, it's our flagship prep is still our best selling trip, but there is still these, uh, people that want to take it to take the adventure a little bit further.

**** - (): So I basically start to think, uh, on, uh, trying to imagine how a route like this one will be perfect. And I just start putting the pieces together and creating an itinerary that is going to be both challenging and beautiful and has everything that I want about a, our, a cycling trip, like great accumulation all around, all along the road, because that's actually One of the hardest thing to, uh, to sort out in Columbia.

**** - (): We are still particularly in rural, in rural areas. We, we are still, uh, lacking like the tourism infrastructure in many places. So when you're thinking about putting together a trip, like you have to, uh, deal with all these constraints and find like the best, the best route that really makes people happy to come over and makes people safe to come over.

**** - (): And, and it's a route that is interesting and it's a route that has, uh, many, uh, points that, uh, many places that, that, that can be a landmark for, for people to see. So when thinking about that district in particular, I would start looking into a route. And so I know that I want to get away from, like, usually what I want to see is for people to test their, test their stamina quite a few times over these mountains.

**** - (): So going up and down, going up and down and finding, like, a, Being captivated by this country as much as I am, right? So that that's basically how, how it begins and how it, it really develops into finding the best, uh, path for that one.

[00:20:31] - (): Craig Dalton: I'm always curious when you're, you know, when you're bringing a, um, A group of mixed people who don't know one another to to a trip.

**** - (): It's often difficult to assess people's abilities and kind of create the right amount of climbing and descending and technical abilities. I know. I recall on one trip. I went on prior to signing up. They sort of gave us a little road map. Like, you know, You ought to be able to do this if you're going to enjoy this trip.

**** - (): And I thought that was interesting. You know, gravel is so complicated because, you know, you can have the best road cyclists who can go uphill super fast, but the moment they get off road, they may be challenged. And, or ironically, maybe. When they start going down the hill, that's when they're terrified.

**** - (): They go uphill really fast, but going downhill is really complicated. So I'm curious if there's any sort of guide guidelines you put out there in advance for riders to make sure they're going to have the skills to have an enjoyable time.

[00:21:26] - (): Tomas Castrillon: Well, we try to create a, uh, uh, a brochure that has like all the details, like to give you a real perspective on that one.

**** - (): It's never going to be easy because as you know, like the terrain can change for some people can thrive on wet conditions and somebody can be scared to death on a, on a dirt path that is, that is washed out. Right? So it's very, very complicated. And that's when I think that the support team really comes into play.

**** - (): A to make you feel like you can do it like I, I, we can come into this one later, but, but, but, but the, but the, the, the name of the company is about that inspiring people. And I know that. We are all capable of things that we really sometimes don't think that we are capable of doing it. So there is always like this sort of encouragement side from the team, like to make sure that it like for people to feel comfortable about like stepping outside of their comfort zone.

**** - (): Right? So I really want people sometimes to I mean, they might, they might achieve it or they might not, but at least to give it a try. And for us as a team is basically to, uh, give people the tools for doing that. Basically, that's, that's, that's where, uh, that's, uh, that's basically what, what we're trying to do.

**** - (): So in those cases, it's, uh, particularly on a gravel trip is basically offering enough support for everybody. I, either for the fast riders, like fast in terms of gravel or fast in terms of road cycling that they can go up very fast or, uh, or like, or for those who might be struggling a little bit more, like trying to find these balances, absolutely the art of, uh, of putting a trip together, like trying to find some nice details that can help people, uh, enjoy their experience.

**** - (): And in the end, like, this is something that I tell everybody, like, I know, eh, that people like, particularly if you're writing at the back, you might get a little bit, eh, worked up because you feel I'm dragging the, the, the, the, the rest of the group or I'm being the slowest writer. And I tell people, don't worry about it.

**** - (): Like, well, or, and, or the fastest riders are going to, uh, get upset with me. And I'm like, don't worry. A, it's our work to make sure that everybody gets the ride that they deserve. Right. Regardless of like their skill level and B. You know, like, and this happens all the time. It's like, or I, I, or it has been, my case is that in the end we are all cyclists and we all recognize, eh, the, the, the different, eh, stages that we are in our development as cyclists.

**** - (): Right. And in the end, it's when particularly when you're thinking about a bike trip, it's making sure that we are all sharing this experience all together as a team, right? So I'm creating that kind of atmosphere of, okay, this is teamwork sort of, uh, sort of talking. Without a, and, and, and let me be very clear about it without a making like the super fast guy, like going one kilometer an hour is never not the point.

**** - (): It's like for everybody to enjoy at their own pace. Right. So it's for us as a team to create like the conditions for everybody to enjoy and for a team to come together and say, like, regardless of our level, we are all going to have a great time riding our bicycle. Yeah. I think

[00:25:09] - (): Craig Dalton: it's definitely, there's definitely an art to it as a travel service provider, making sure that you can find a way for everybody to have fun regardless of their ability level.

**** - (): Let's talk specifics on this gravel trip. So where are you starting? You know, what is, I assume you're starting in a, in a sort of larger city or community and then you're going out into the wilderness. Just talk us through. Correct. All right.

[00:25:32] - (): Tomas Castrillon: Yeah, sure. Like the trip, as I was telling you, Bogota to, uh, to Medellin, we start just north of Bogota, like the, uh, the sprawl of Bogota as a city is very big.

**** - (): And so we are not riding properly in Bogota, but it's an international airport. So if you're flying from the U. S., it's very easy to access and we move just north of the city and we start moving. And we are first, uh, Like trying to, uh, going West, basically. So we're basically going up and down, like the first few, the first two stages, we are going up and down the Cordilleras.

**** - (): And so the Cordilleras, it's really like the mountain range itself. So it's going is, you know, you really don't find an end to them until you really are at the bottom. bottom of the Cordilleras. And how you know it is because you have arrived into a big, big, big valley and with either the Magdalena River or the Cauca River.

**** - (): Those two rivers are the, from a socio economical point of view, are the biggest rivers, the most important rivers in Colombia. So for our American audience, think of them as the Mississippi River is that big or that important for us, particularly the Magdalena. And the Cauca actually, but both of them are like that big.

**** - (): So you're always going up and down, up and down until you get to Magdalena river. Then we move, uh, uh, then we move alongside the Magdalena river for one full stage. So it's, uh, it's, it's one stage of very hot rollers. Uh, so I mean, I would say that that is never really. an easy day. We try to make it a sort of a recovery day because if you would see at the profiles, we have one big day.

**** - (): The first day it's about 18, 1800 meters. So it's about 6, 000 feet altitude. So a lot of climbing still involved on over Over 50 miles or so, like 45 miles, and the terrain can change constantly, it's a half of it, it's a paved, the other half, it's a, a proper gravel, and you're always mixing these two terrains, and that's stage number one, stage number two.

**** - (): It's a, it's a little bit more, uh, it has, uh, it had more climbing. It's closer to a 9, 000 feet of climbing in over overall over the day. And sometimes it can get very muddy. These, these areas, it's, they are a. Like, why Colombia is also known, it's for its biodiversity, and to be this biodiverse as Colombia is, you have, it has to be extremely wet at times, so it can get very wet or very cold, or very hot.

**** - (): So it's sunny, but at the same time, a lot of water is flowing into, into these mountains, so sometimes the roads can get muddy even if, even without rain. So, so it's basically like that. And we get into the Magdalena river, as I was telling you about. And then we have the other side of the Cordillera, which is generally upwards.

**** - (): Like the, the stages itself are also in those 2, 000 meters, 3, 000 meters, both of them into either one very, very big landmark that is the Piedra del Peñol. And the other one, the other stage is basically getting into Medellin. So it's basically finding, finding our way to this maze of the roads, because in Colombia, we, I mean, we do have paved roads and I'm not saying otherwise, but, but the majority of our, of our roads are, are gravel.

**** - (): And how, and it's how these small communities connect between each other and with major urban centers, right? So, uh, and this is, I think that that's what really struck me the most when I, when, when I first did the route as a whole is that when you're doing the Bogotá to Medellín route, uh, on, on, on, on the road, you feel like you're going basically, uh, On on a very, very straight road, sort of speaking, I mean, if these mountains would allow such thing like you're trying to basically basically maximize your speed, while these small roads are like a caress to to to a terrain.

**** - (): So you are you're never going like straight from. Uh, the village A to village B, but instead you are going from the farm of Don Jose to a farm of Don Julio, then back down again to a farm. So you're always up and down, up and down, like going over, like finding your way across the mountains. And I think that that's still is what strikes me the most is how, uh, variable the terrain can get, how beautiful the views can get and, and how constantly you are challenged with, uh, all these, uh, All these aspects of the road.

[00:30:25] - (): Craig Dalton: How many days is the trip in total?

[00:30:27] - (): Tomas Castrillon: In total? I mean, uh, uh, it's five stages and seven days long, the trip.

[00:30:32] - (): Craig Dalton: Okay, great. And talk a little bit about those local communities that you'll be going through. Like as we were talking about earlier, maybe it was offline. You know, you sort of go into a culture and maybe you see a city, but in this experience, you know, we're getting out there into the wilderness.

**** - (): So talk about the communities and maybe the accommodations along the way and the foods that you might experience.

[00:30:54] - (): Tomas Castrillon: Well, yes, Doug. So these are very rural communities. Uh, so, and, and some of them, like all of all, all of these communities are agricultural communities. So each one of them has a special, uh, special crop on the side along, uh, and they are known for, uh, one particularly crop.

**** - (): I mean, uh, since we're, uh, healing several of these small towns. It's, uh, all of them have, uh, have a special thing to them, right? So we get to see some coffee growers, we get to see some vegetables, some, uh, like, uh, uh, peas and all this other stuff, like, it's, uh, it's the number of, uh, Uh, communities is as wide as a, as the terrain.

**** - (): I mean, it's changing constantly. And uh, other places there is sugar cane. Other places are, for example, the bank of a river that was, uh, transforming into, uh, uh, into a dam. And so it's to a dam. So, so it's, uh, so it's, uh. still pre sabbatic, uh, so it's constantly changing. Like, uh, uh, there is everything that you can think about it.

**** - (): So for example, the, the communities at the top of the mountains, they are known for wearing like these big, uh, ponchos. We, and, and some very old people actually still use a, a hat, but very, very tiny. And, uh, as a, as a mean of being, uh, uh, very well put together. And while the people in the, uh, in the, in the valleys, in the hot valleys, they are basically just on jeans and a shirt and with a big, big hat, trying to find a way to cover themselves from the, from the heat.

**** - (): So it's, it's egg changing constantly. The colors at the, at the top of the mountain might be a little bit darker, uh, earthly like, so, uh, uh, greens, uh, uh, browns and all that. While at the bottom it can be completely dark. colorful, right? So it's constantly, constantly changing. And, and, uh, I think that that's what I think that it's more interesting about Columbia.

**** - (): It's so diverse in, and, and as I was telling you, there is so many things to see in Columbia that, and it's so big that, uh, that is never really one thing to, to, to go over the specific of that. Having said that, so we are still, uh, a cycling tour company and we, and we pride ourselves on offering a premium bike tours, right?

**** - (): So the accommodations that we have found for this trip are all, uh, these boutique places that have, uh, uh, farms that have been, like many of them are farms that have been turned into, into, into hotels. And also it's a, like a. Some of them have absolutely fantastic views and, and we're staying in, in this, a very small places that usually when a tour comes in, we are basically booking the whole place for ourselves.

**** - (): And so it's, it's like that the whole time. So it's a, it's a great balance, I would say, because it's having the opportunity of. A great ride in the, in, during the day of, uh, of what's Columbia like. But at the end of the day, we also want to have a very comfortable bed and a great place to have food and, uh, to share our experiences.

**** - (): And that's why we're fostering like this kind of, uh, wholesome experience where, where we bring all this together.

[00:34:26] - (): Craig Dalton: What type of cuisine do you like to serve the guests?

[00:34:31] - (): Tomas Castrillon: Well, we serve everything like we go. I mean, it's a, our cuisine. Uh, like the cuisine that you get in many of these villages is very, uh, uh, peasants like.

**** - (): So the stuff that these guys usually have and what is mostly accessible is, uh, rice, beans, plantains, that's usually like this, uh, stuff, uh, like the, the, the peasants food that you'll find in, in towns. Uh, once we are, uh, on, uh, in, uh, in hotels and all that, we try to aim for, and of course like, uh, we are, we also have a very strong culture of, uh, steak, uh, regardless.

**** - (): So, uh, so we are, uh, I mean it's pea food, so it's agriculture in the sense that it's, uh. That it's very traditional in that regard. And when we get to the hotels, we have a little bit more of an international flavor to it. So again, the whole thing is to share an experience, like have some wine, enjoy ourselves, like have like some balance.

**** - (): Like, of course, like the traditional Colombian life, but also what we are making. What, what we would be used to, as you were saying in Girona or any other place, like, okay, I want to have a proper meal and clean up, clean myself up and be, and having a great time. Right. Yeah,

[00:35:53] - (): Craig Dalton: of course. If you had to think about this trip, are there any favorite personal locations or moments that you would highlight?

[00:36:01] - (): Tomas Castrillon: All of them.

[00:36:03] - (): Craig Dalton: No,

[00:36:03] - (): Tomas Castrillon: I, I, no, I, I, I think that, and it might be a joke, but, but I, but, and it happens to me on, on all these trips because usually, uh, when I'm briefing people is like, Ooh, I love this day. I mean, it's very hard for me to say like, Oh no, there is a stage that I really don't like. Because. There is always this constantly changing landscape.

**** - (): There is always a new challenge, challenges that are ahead. So it's very, very hard for me like to say, Oh, I particularly like one stage or the other, I prefer, I love, I love them all. And all of them have taught me one thing or the other at some point. So it's, it's very hard for me to say, Oh, there is, this is my favorite stage.

**** - (): I, I would say that the second, having said that, I would say that, uh, the second stage is absolutely beautiful, like, uh, but the third stage as well, like, I mean, it's so complicated. It's so, so complicated. It's very, very hard to say, uh, to, to ping on one, on one, just on one, just one stage. I'd expect

[00:37:09] - (): Craig Dalton: nothing less.

**** - (): Right. We wanted, we're, we're coming to your country. We want you to show us the best we can experience. So it's not surprising that you love it all. Final question is just around the, yeah, go ahead. Yeah.

[00:37:23] - (): Tomas Castrillon: Yeah. Yeah. Well, because you say like, Oh, I want to go to Columbia. Yes. I'm very, very curious about what you want to talk to you about.

[00:37:30] - (): Craig Dalton: So I guess my history with Columbia and sort of interest in going in there, it goes back a long way. So in college. I had a classmate who was from Bogota, Columbia, and he was a big soccer player. And it just sort of talked about how much fun he had growing up there and how much he loved his culture. Then fast forward probably a decade or more, my wife worked for an international technology company and she had a project in Columbia.

**** - (): And, uh, I was actually booked on a ticket to meet her in Cartagena. At one point and then something happened and we were unable, I was unable to join her on that trip. And so I literally had a ticket in my hand to go to Columbia and didn't make it. And then over the course of this podcast, I've had the pleasure of interviewing the team from Scarab Cycles.

**** - (): So I got to talk to them and met them. They were at the Envy Builder Roundup in Utah and it reminded me, and they were just talking about how. The climbing in Columbia is amazing. And then when you get off road, it's just a spectacular country. And then I also interviewed someone who did, uh, wrote up a bikepacking route for bikepacking.

**** - (): com around Columbia. So I remember I just took away little bits from all these experiences saying like, this is definitely a place I would love to go to.

[00:38:58] - (): Tomas Castrillon: Yes. It's amazing. It's amazing. As I said, as I was telling you, and, and, and I tried to be as, as As on bias as I can about it, because I think that we were of of microphone.

**** - (): We were talking about a, a Bovan classic in Paso Roles, which is a great event. And I love it, but, but, but, but I think that, that the thing about Columbia, it's that it's absolutely impossible to. To, to tell you and to grasp how big it is. Like it's absolutely impossible. Just once you're here, you're like, Oh, wow, this is just so massive.

**** - (): Like there is really no words about it. It's, it's, it's impossible to put it into one single word or one single, eh, Storytelling about, about Columbia is really something that you would have to experience. And, and, and for example, as your former classmate was telling you, like, for example, the warmth of the people, a positive vibe, people, like it's really not, it's really not about the writing itself.

**** - (): It's about the destination is about the experience that I think that, I mean, I'm still completely in love with. And, and, and, and, and again, I, I'm riding my bicycle. all across the country, like 12 months during the year. And that's another thing that it's important. It's like, like we really do have great, like the temperature is not going to change that much.

**** - (): So it's really like a matter of being prepared, like having a jacket on, like the annoyances of the, of, of the, of, of the rain, but it's never really that cold. It's, it's always entertaining. It's always a beautiful. And as I was telling you, how, uh, how, How the landscapes, the people like Mecca, uh, are really an experience that is so, so hard to, to think about in other places.

**** - (): I, I would say that that's, that's a, that's a beauty of it. And I really do hope that at some point you can make it over. Yeah, I was just,

[00:40:54] - (): Craig Dalton: I

[00:40:55] - (): Tomas Castrillon: was just

[00:40:56] - (): Craig Dalton: going to say, I hope,

[00:40:57] - (): Tomas Castrillon: I

[00:40:57] - (): Craig Dalton: hope many of us who are listening today Can ultimately find ourselves in Columbia on one of your tours at some point, because it sounds magical.

**** - (): Great.

[00:41:08] - (): Tomas Castrillon: Yes. Great. Thank you so much for having me over. Great. Do you have any more questions? No, I appreciate you sharing your

[00:41:13] - (): Craig Dalton: story and I'll make sure everybody knows how to find you and digs into the details of this wonderful trip you've designed. Good.

[00:41:20] - (): Tomas Castrillon: Thank you so much. Yes. It's my pleasure. I'm really looking forward.

**** - (): To, to, to, to like start getting more people on our gravel bicycle tours, because it's, it's really another side of Columbia. It's really another side of Columbia. And, uh, and of course, Columbia has had like these black kids, these are these bad history over the years. And, and coming back to my experience and, and I, I was riding my bicycle during the most troubled times in Colombia.

**** - (): I was riding my bicycle on dirt paths in Colombia during the most, uh, uh, troubled times in Colombia. And I still think that. Regardless of that, cycling got like this aura of, uh, invincibility around it. Like it was like, uh, common ground for everybody. And, um, this is a, like to close it up, like, I think that it's worth telling you, I, with my friends that we do, we used to do adventure racing.

**** - (): I do remember one time that we were in an area that we weren't supposed to be in, and it was the middle of the night, like really. 10, 11 p. m. or something. No, it was closer to midnight. It was or 1 p. m. or 1 a. m. Whatever. I really still don't, uh, and, and it was an absolutely beautiful, uh, full moon. And we got to this place and these guys, uh, were, were like, What are you doing here?

**** - (): Like, but, but, and you know that these were the bad guys are quoting them. But, but they were like, so touched by the fact that somebody was willing to get to know their, their, their side of the story that were like, they just were super friendly to us. So. So, so this, uh, so for, for me, that, that, what that story conveys is that in the end, uh, Columbia, it's such a magical place.

**** - (): Like it's, it really, when, when you start hearing about the stories about Columbia, we would say like, no, it's not possible. Yes. It's possible. Like here in Columbia, everything is possible. Um, it's, uh, it's really mind blowing and I'm sorry. I'm lacking like a more, uh, uh, a colorful language to express it, but, but it really, it's, uh, it's really, it's a play that, Oh, sorry.

**** - (): It really, it's a play that, uh, that really goes beyond your imagination and the places that we go are absolutely stunning. And fortunately it's super safe. It's like things have improved so much for the best that, that is really a play that you should really aim to come over if you love it. Thanks Tomas.

**** - (): Thank you. Great for having me. It was great talking to you.