• 14 October 2021





I returned to Bogota to Hamdi Kosem’s house after spending 9 months in Chile (I had gone to Chile for a week but after entering the country the borders were closed for 9 months and complete lock down for 5 months. This is another adventure and there are many things to tell about).

Not knowing when to set off, days after days passed at Hamdi’s house in Bogota. The reason was that there wasn’t a bicycle to ride on. At last, the bicycle had arrived in Istanbul but its parts were not assembled. Anyhow, I had to wait for 2 months more for my bicycle to arrive in Bogota.

Well, what did I do in Bogota in that time? I had caught Covid-19 after 12 days arriving in Colombia from which I had managed to remain safe in Santiago. Not only me but also Hamdi caught Covid-19. How come? I took the Chile – Colombia flight (You might say how come to take a flight between adjacent countries, please read my previous article) and Hamdi took a flight from Miami to Bogota at the same time. Did we catch Covid-19 on the plane? And who, me or Hamdi? This remains unknown. In the mean time we had only contact with Ali and he didn’t go to take a PCR test. Since we didn’t show any symptoms we also didn’t go for a PCR test! We were invited to Hamdi’s friend’s house and there were elder people at home. So we took a PCR test and were diagnosed as positive. Hamdi’s friend was diagnosed as negative and Ali didn’t show any symptoms. Well, nothing to do we stayed at home for 14 days.

The day we went to take a PCR test, we rode 120 km on bike at 3000 m altitude and had spent the whole week on bike. Dude, we already hadn’t ridden during lock down and on top of it this happened. We were isolated at home. During these 14 days we played play-station, watched movies on Netflix. At the end, the PCR test was negative. Meanwhile, how we felt during those 14 days? I farted more than I did in my whole life. Dude, I thought I was going to explode. Talking to my physician Leman on the phone: “I’m going to lose my ass”. Shekept laughing throughout the whole talk. Dude, I’m serious. I didn’t change my diet, didn’t get diarrhea but continued to fart uninterruptedly. Well, it decreased on the 12th day and finally I got rid of it. The next day after I was diagnosed as negative, I said to Hamdi: “Let’s go out on bikes for Calera climb”

The Calera climb is one of the famous climbs in Colombia. It is 7 km long with 10% slope. Starting from the city center at 2690 m altitude, it ends at 3100 m and my fastest climbing time is 27 minutes with the KronRC3000 road bicycle. The best time for this route is 14 minutes. Those riders are not human. Anyway, after recovering from Covid-19 we rode on this route. Dude, at the top I felt dizzy and how.

Hamdi I feel dizzy.
The same. If I hadn’t seated down I would fell of my bike. Also, my lungs are done. I had to stop while climbing.

Normally, we don’t stop for a rest during climbing this route. But this time I also wanted to stop for a moment. Covid-19 didn’t show the known symptoms but we realized what it did with our bodies.

The next days both Hamdi and I had periodically repeating headaches. Though not intense as much as a migrainepain, it lasted long. Furthermore, once a month I’m feeling chilly. It feels like hypothermia, even I zip my sleeping bag, I’m not able to heat up myself. It lasts about 2-3 hours. On the other hand, my pulse and blood pressure remain normal which I periodically control anyway. During that time in Colombia nobody took care of us, we didn’t use any medication and I don’t think that I’ll get vaccinated in short time. Hope the best.

One of the biggest happenings to be remembered from my world tour was the publication of the children books we were writing together with Mine Poge since 2017 by Ephesus Publications. That was a long long adventure, worth for every second. We really worked hard. I don’t remember how many times we have read those books. At the end, a silly smile covered my face. Well, we had to ask others for their opinions. During the work on the books, Mine’s daughter Ada Poge helped us a lot and shared her opinions with us. Dude, Ada was 8 years old at that time we started to write. I also had sent the books to my late father. “Dad, please read the books. Your opinion is very important for me?” My parents liked the books very much. I really wished that I would be able to publish these books before the death of my father. We worked hard to have them published. Companies didn’t agree with our requirements included the Ephesus Publications. That time I was in Turkey due to the illness of my father.  My father was deathly ill and we knew that. Therefore, I wanted him to see the books published.

Dad, we really tried hard, but no publisher agrees with our requirements.
Never make compromises Gika. Don’t hurry, you’ll publish your books whenever your requirements are fulfilled. I trust in you. At the right time, those books will meet many people.

This was my father, all he taught me remains in my mind, always. We filed the books deep in our computers. After a year, Ephesus Publications contacted us to publish our books. I remodified our requirements and despite this change they approved. I was feeling happy because the stories of “The Man on Iron Horse” were to be published as 4 books series. But, at the same day I also cried my eyes out for minutes. As I said, it would be so good that my father could say “Well done Gika. The books met their readers on January 15th 2021. In four months we reached a sales number of 8400 and the first edition run out of. Without being advertised on newspapers, TV or any other billboards, just via social media we reached this sales number. I hope these books will reach many children and become a piece of their dreams. Someday we’ll pass away anyhow… (You may buy the books here)

I’m staying at Hamdi’s home. He hosted me for one and a half months before the outbreak and then 3 months after outbreak. I shared the kitchen expenses. Hamdi became like my brother during this long time, he is really a very decent young man.

He is also a humble man. He almost travelled the whole world backpacking, but doesn’t talk about unless you ask him. When he decided to set off for such trips in 2010, he came upon my blog. He was following my blog since then. Afterwards, he also made a world tour. We celebrated our birthdays twice during this long outbreakperiod. He prepared a nice birthday celebration on January 15th 2021 for me with a nice present.

A present made by 3 people. Hamdi and my friends Umut and Nihan living in Argentina talked about a present that I could use on the road but Hamdi couldn’t make out what I would need. When I returned to Colombia from Chile I found out that Hamdi was going to USA. I said: “My GoPro broke down in Chile, could you buy me a new model GoPro when you are in USA, I’ll pay when you back on January 10th.” Well, Hamdi, Umut and Nihan had bought a GoPro9 for me. They didn’t let me pay and made a nice present on my birthday. With the support cash sent to my webpage, I had bought spare parts for the GoPro and some of my equipment and all of them were delivered on January 15th by Amazon. That day was unforgettable just like the day in the previous year.

One month after this day, my new bicycle Kron GG1 which I named as “Temur” meaning iron in Mogolian) arrived. Also, Ortlieb and The North Face sent their new products. As in all fields, the outbreak has also alteredmy way on the road greatly.

I stayed in Bogota and Santiago for long periods. Especially, Santiago has become a home town for me just like Ankara. I know this city well and like very much. This is a city I would live if I have to choose a big city abroad. Chile is a Latin American country, people are nice, the nature is amazing, the population is low, there are bicycle lanes, laws for cycling, there are friends, people I like very much. What else do I need? Besides, I also like Bogota and especially its surroundings.  Bogota is a city which hit my heart with its bicycle lane network. Bogota with its 660 km long bicycle lanes is the second capital having the largest bicycle lane network. If you wonder which capital the first is, of course Beijing. The longest bicycle lane in Hatay in my country won’t even come close in its length.

Now I have two bicycles in Bogota, a road bike Kron RC 3000 and a touring bike Kron GG1. I started testing rides with my new bicycle. In the meantime, I was riding with Ali and Hamdi on weekends on road bikes exceeding 200 km length and 2000 m elevation goals. Every weekend we were riding on different routes. With Ali we were also riding during week days. Finally, I got in condition. Well, I’m a touring cyclist, I ride slow, I don’t hustle, I have time to stroll around but at the same time I don’t get tired easily, I’m strong, my condition is good and capacity of lungs high, my dynamic pulse is low. That is, I can ride with athletic performance for hours, can stay in tent and cook. I did these training rides with my new touring bicycle just for testing. Everything on the bike has changed from its gear to panniers.  Well, did the number of the staff I was carrying change? No, didn’t. Is there a change in the number of cloths I was carrying? No, but I replaced them by new cloths. You can read all these on my equipment page. Well, what will happen to the other bike when I set off? Will I send it back to my country? Or will I give it to someone as a present or sell it? Neither of any. Kron RC 3000 will stay here in Colombia at Hamdi and Ali’s house since I’ll return to Colombia from time to time for a certain reason. Not only to Colombia, but also to Chile. In the mean time I’ll continue on my road. Well, what’sgoing on? I’ll tell….

Bogota and its surroundings were places I enjoyed a lot. I think, the bicycle tours we did, made me to like this city that much, I’m not sure. For example, there is a young cyclist Egan Bernard who won the Tour de France in 2019. Before this period the cycling sports in this country was still at a good point but after this with Egan becoming the champion of Tour de France the cycling sport in this country jumped to a new level. How?

Cycling was announced as national sport
Tax reduction for bicycles
Government sponsored 50% all of the cycling teams in the country
Number of female cyclists increased
Intercontinental female cyclist team was established
The bicycle lane network increased by 40 %
The bicycle lane network in Bogota was lengthened to 660 km and is still continuing to increase. Bogota is the second capital having the largest bicycle lane network. Its bicycle lanes are longer than that in all other European cities.
A new cycling team was established fully supported by the government like a private team.
A special airplane was assigned for the national cyclists competing at international races.
The bicycle and spare parts market increased by 60 %.
Cyclists from all over the world started to come for high altitude training to Colombia resulting in an increase in sports tourism income.

What I wrote about sounds like a joke, doesn’t it? You can change the national sport of a country instantaneously, and you should do so! For example, what is the national sport in my country? Oil wrestling. Dude, would you say to any of your female friends on a weekend:

Arzu let’s pour one liter of oil on our bodies and wrestle? Let’s see who fetters whom

You can’t say this but can say let’s ride for 100 km together. Do some sports together. Every single person can say this. You can say we performed our national sports, that important it is. I’m declaring from here: “If someday I become a minister of sports in my country, I’ll announce cycling as the national sport! Anyone who we’ll start to lounge such a work before me, has certainly read this article or is directed by the ones who read this article.”

At the end the bicycle arrived and I’m ready to set off. This time I’m not alone. After Ayca, Melih, Funda, Enes, Ayse, Peter, Gautier, Nicholas, Engin and Javier, Ali will accompany me with whom I rode together in Bogota for a week. Our destination is Quidio, we are going there for a good sake…

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