Category Archives: Twaddle Stories

Customer Stories from Skedaddle Holidays and UK Weekends

Customer Story: Cycling Colombia

What is great about cycling holidays, is that they are always accompanied by a sweet sense of achievement when you complete the journey. And this is especially true on our fantastic (but challenging) road cycling holiday in Colombia. Our Customer Competition winner, Aileen Jamieson, just had a chance to experience it all first hand! Read her full story to get a real sense of what it’s like to cycle in Colombia…

‘I had never heard of Saddle Skeddadle before, but suddenly an advert appeared on my Facebook after I had been searching for “warm winter cycling destinations”. Desperate to get away from the snow and icy conditions in Scotland, the Colombia Emerald Mountains trip in February seemed like the perfect getaway. I booked the trip 3 months in advance, giving myself plenty of time to get fit (or so I thought). Winter came early in Scotland, and so I reluctantly joined a gym and became best friends with a Wattbike. I convinced myself that there was no way that I would be the slowest cyclist on the trip…

Prior to flying to Colombia, I chatted a few times via email with tour leader David Hall which really helped me with my planning. I arrived in Bogota a few days early to acclimatise and hiked up the Montserrate mountain, smugly looking down on the others who had taken the cable car. I felt fit! The next day all the other Skeddadlers arrived, unpacking their bike boxes and talking about all the epic trips they had done and races they had won. I started to worry. These people looked serious!

The first day in the saddle soon arrived and we were all excited to get on our way. The sun shone, the arm warmers soon came off and the adventure began. Each day started and ended with a climb, and I have never experienced anything like it. I soon learned that everything is achievable if you ride at the right pace and take your time. There was no benefit in racing to the lunch stops as service in Colombia is very laid back, so the food never arrived until after the last person had appeared anyway! The back-to-back challenging rides soon took their toll on me and by day 5 I was worn out. I made the decision then that the support bus was there for a good reason and there was no shame in taking a boost for a few miles. That opportunity came on the morning of day 6, when there was a particularly steep climb (with 16% grade). Another rider and I hopped into the bus and took the opportunity to enjoy the view and take photos of our team as we drove past them. It was the brief respite I needed, and at the next coffee stop I got back on the bike and re-joined the group. It’s amazing how a small boost like that can improve your day considerably, and the drivers Tito and Oscar were so fantastic it would have been a shame not to have spent some time with them!

After a rest day in Medellin, we were all keen to get riding again, and once more the ride started with a long climb out of the city. I noticed the locals use a cable car and wondered if perhaps I was missing a trick somehow! The next day had a particularly steep descent, with rough surfaces and tight bends. I am not a confident descender in these conditions, so I decided it was time to take the magic bus again. Somehow it felt less of a cop-out taking a bus downhill than uphill, and again it gave me far more opportunity to view the beautiful countryside scenery than I would have managed had I been focussing on the road. It also gave me the chance to meet some of the local police who were happy to have their photo taken with me, a memorable moment for sure!

Once we had left the mountains the temperature started to soar to over 35degC. This is why I came to Colombia – to work on my tan lines! The roads were also much flatter and considerably easier. I finally felt like I was on holiday. When we arrived in Cartagena at the old city walls there was a mixed feeling of pride in completing the journey and sadness that it had come to an end. An epic adventure that I will never forget, with a group of amazing people who I intend to stay in touch with and meet again on the next Skedaddle adventure!’

Feeling inspired? Find out more about our Colombian road cycling holiday, our most ambitious and exciting road trip to date!

Long-haul adventures with our top tips!

For when a weekend getaway or a city break just doesn’t cut it, long-haul holidays are made for getting out of your comfort zone and exploring our beautiful and diverse world. Read this inspiring write-up by our guide and cycling journalist Hannah Reynolds about how nothing quite compares to cycling in far-flung destinations and get some of her top tips for your next adventure…

Long-haul travel, however you do it, is always an adventure. It’s frequently said that ‘travel broadens your horizons’ and it does, in every possible sense, but travelling by bike, pedalling towards that exciting, changing horizon brings you more in touch with the country you are travelling through. Here are a few reasons I prefer to travel by bike…

Travel like a local…
On the surface travel is about exploring and experiencing differences, but often the things that bring most warmth and humour are the connections created by similarities. One of the great things about travelling by bike is that you become part of the throng of cyclists. Many countries use bikes as a primary mode of transport, instead of being shut behind the glass of an air conditioned tour bus you are out there with everyone else, getting covered in the same dust, struggling with the same heat and sharing in an ordinary day-to-day experience.

In Myanmar we ended up in a race with two young boys. They were cycling home from school on old steel bikes, at least two sizes too big, with their tiffin tins banging against the handle bars. As we sedately rolled alongside them on the dry dirt road I caught a sidelong glance from the two lads and their pace increased. After a few metres they were out of the saddle and hunched over the handle bars, school bags flapping behind them. I caught what was happening and exaggeratedly pedalled faster myself. We kept glancing across at each other to see if either had pulled ahead and all of us were laughing. When they stopped at the end of the village we waved to each other. A few minutes of warm, funny interaction thanks to our bikes.

Sensational cycling…
Cycling makes the inrush of the new sensations of travel unavoidable. If you are riding you need to take deep breaths, to keep the oxygen flowing to your working muscles. In those deep breaths you might get the smells and tastes of fresh, spicy cooking, the scent of an unusual flower, a waft of perfume as someone walks down the road. Or it might be something much less pleasant, more basely human or agricultural but you have to suck it in. There is no sanitizing air-conditioning on a bike ride.

Food, glorious food…
Food and sharing meals is one of the greatest pleasures of travel, after a long day of riding your appetite is significantly sharpened making your meal not just more enjoyable but making you more inclined to try new and unusual flavours. Hunger is the best sauce and like an army, cyclists travel on their stomach. Whilst sitting in a restaurant is always pleasant the most memorable meals are often the spontaneous ones, when you pull up to a café, or grab a snack from a street vendor, and eat your meal with strangers taking a break in their own day.

Depending on the country and the season you might be able to refresh yourself with fruit picked fresh from the tree. Nothing beats eating a juicy sun-warmed pineapple that was cut free just moments before. On my most recent Skedaddle trip in Myanmar it was melon season, we passed row after row of ponderous melons, their stalks tied to canes with bailer twine to stop their heavy flesh contacting the ground. We could smell the ripeness as we cycled past, perfectly sweet to the point of almost bursting open.  When we came across some pickers by the roadside we were offered one to sample; cut into wide slices and handed around the group we ate it in big clumsy bites with the juice running down our chins. It beats a dry cereal bar as a riding snack any day!

Get out there!
Long-haul adventures take us further away from our comfortable and familiar environments. Whilst sometimes challenging and disorientating it is always exciting, if we are open to what is going on around us. The best way to experience a new place is full immersion, jump in with both feet, or as we prefer, with two wheels.

Top Tips for your next cycling adventure…
Some people approach travel with a lot of preparation, research and planning; others go for the feet first full immersion without any preconceived ideas. Whichever approach you prefer here are some practical things to do before your trip to help you get the most from your experience:

1. Visas – it’s a small bit of admin vital to your trip, do it ASAP within the time frames for the country you are visiting. Some don’t allow you to do it more than a few months in advance.

2. Injections and health. Some courses of injections need to be started several weeks before you travel so visit your doctor for advice as soon as your trip is booked.

3. Buy some cycle clothing appropriate to where you are travelling. You may need lighter weight clothing, or even SPD sandals instead of your usual mountain bike shoes. Long loose clothing on the bike is often cooler than tight skimpy Lycra and will give you more sun protection.

4. You don’t need to read every guide book going before you travel but do learn a little bit about local customs and traditions, particularly anything that might cause offence, even accidentally.

5. If your trip includes many visits to temples or shrines make sure you have something that you can slip over your cycling kit to cover your legs and shoulders that will fit in your rucksack.

6. Download the xe.com app to make quick and accurate currency conversions so you don’t get stung when haggling in the markets.

7. Have a little bit of cash ready to use when you land. Most international airports have an ATM so make sure your cards will work in the country you are visiting.

8. Buy World Adapter socket plug so you can charge all your devices and have the right socket wherever you go.

9. Trying new foods is part of the fun of travel but some people find it comforting to have a few familiar snacks, especially if riding all day, so throw in a couple of treats.

Feeling inspired? Discover our full range of long-haul holidays for an unrivalled opportunity to explore the heart and soul of a destination on two wheels!

Simple pleasures of a cycling holiday…

Simple pleasures, that is what life is about, breathing in fresh clean air, feeling the sun on your face and the wind in your hair, our cycling holidays are packed with these moments.

Here are our top ten simple pleasures of a cycling holiday…

1. Working up a hunger so food tastes really good…
When you have been cycling all day and build up an appetite, the tastes and flavours of food are heightened. When travelling to a new country trying the local cuisine and savouring new flavours is one of the best ways to discover new cultures and cycling makes room for more of these food experiences. Your hours on the bike mean you have space in your belly for not one, but maybe two desserts, and it can all be eaten guilt-free.

The smell of freshly baked bread wafting from the bakery as you pedal past, the rich dark scent of coffee at just the right moment to perk you up and the first sip of an ice-cold drink at the end of a hot day, are simple pleasures, richly enjoyed.

2. Feeling really relaxed at the end of the day, your legs lightly buzzing with tiredness…
The physical exertion of cycling makes it much easier to relax. The endorphins from exercise calm the buzzing in your brain and a gentle feeling of tiredness slips through your whole body, leaving you heavy legged and relaxed. When you reach your destination for the day it is time to sit back and recover from your efforts. There is no need to rush around. Laze by the pool, read a book, take a gentle walk or kick back with a beer. Cycling will have used up your nervous, chattering energy leaving your body feeling peaceful and indulgently sleepy at the end of the day.

3. Ever changing scenery…
Travelling by bike is fast enough to see changes in scenery and culture, even over the course of a day, but slow enough to absorb it and take it all in. You can easily see the big panoramas of mountain tops, castles, dramatic waterfalls and deep gorges but cycling is also slow enough and intimate enough to notice the small things. Flowers growing by the road side, the herd of cows that turn to watch you as you pass, the witty piece of road side graffiti you’d have missed in a fast car. Taking the time to really observe and feel the place you are in is a mindful exercise we don’t always have time for.

4. Exploring without the coach trip herds…
In a small group of cyclists, you have the freedom to soak up the ambiance and discover new places in peace. Instead of battling your way through a busy car park, or elbowing people out the way for a better view, you have the luxury of choosing when and where to stop and look. Whilst the hoards flood one picturesque village, snapping away and waving their selfie-sticks you can pedal your way to the next one, the one off the beaten track. There you can take time to listen and observe without a bus horn honking to get you back on board to tear off down the road to the next compulsory stop.

5. Smiles, waves and interactions with other cyclists and the locals you meet…
When you are on a bike you become part of the global community of cyclists; wherever you are in the world cyclists acknowledge each other. It might not be more than a casual lifting of a forefinger from the handle bars, it could be a beaming smile and a wave, but having a moment of connection with a stranger in a foreign place feels good.

6. The way a bike eases conversation in any language…
Bikes are great conversation starters. Arrive anywhere by bike and someone will want to know where you are going or where you have come from. Arms will be flexed to show how strong they think you are, the bike will be lifted and stroked with appreciative murmurs, thighs will be slapped in praise of your strong legs. People arriving by bike are interesting, they have a story, and you will soon be welcomed into a circle of faces to tell yours.

7. Cold drinks being cold…
Nothing is more refreshing than a cold drink when you are really hot. With sweat dribbling down your spine and dripping off your nose, your jersey damp and streaked with salt and the sun warming the back of your neck, the first sip of that drink is nectar. Watching the condensation bead on the side of the glass and the ice pop and crackle, you hold the glass to your face and really, really appreciate it.

8. Sleeping well, because your body has worked hard, and waking up refreshed…
When you open your eyes in the morning but barely remember your head touching the pillow the night before you know you have had a good night’s sleep. A day of fresh air and exercise is a great antidote to sleepless nights. Climbing into bed at the end of the day your body feels truly tired and relaxed, your bed a welcome haven, and before you know it your eyes will be closing as you drift off to dreamland.

9. Picnic stops in stunning locations…
Lying back in the grass, biting into a freshly made sandwich, is a wonderful feeling. There is something about eating out of doors that makes everything taste better. The flavours are stronger and richer, the textures more distinctive, you can dispense with uptight table manners and bite into a sun-warmed peach letting the juices drip down your chin and really taste the moment. Eating your lunch with your bare feet wiggling, or if you are lucky dipped in a stream, a gentle breeze blowing and a blue sky above can turn the simplest of picnics into a banquet that you won’t forget.

10. Embracing the trip bubble…
Ride, eat, sleep, repeat. Life on the road is simple. When you are in the trip bubble the worries of your day reduce to the important things; what is for breakfast? Where is the café stop? How far to picnic? Chocolate or strawberry ice-cream? Your daily chores are no more than wiping down your bike and rinsing out your cycling shorts. With so little to worry about your mind has space to dream, to think, to ponder the small and trivial things you see as you pedal. As the trip bubble reduces your stress your horizons can expand to take in all the new sights and sensations that reveal themselves as you pedal.

Feeling inspired? Check out our full range of cycling holidays in UK, Europe and worldwide to experience all of these firsthand!