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The winking lights of Santa Marta hold my gaze some 45km back down the mountain. We’re all feeling a little weary, but are swiftly revived by the first of many rum shots as a surprisingly chill Alpine breeze creeps around the mountain edge.

I shiver for the first time since entering Colombia, a sensation both pleasing and strange after the humidity of Minca’s heavy jungle climate.

As part of the unique Los Pinos experience, we sit down to a delicious alfresco dinner of spicy chicken stew, rice and fresh guacamole – made from the creamy produce of trees growing only metres from our table.

The host of this base-turned-hostel, a charismatic Colombian called Alejandro, joins us and lubricates both the meal and conversation with copious pours of honey rum and tales of his life on the mountain.

His hosting skills are both effortless and enchanting, and, inspired by the Colombian ability to truly live in the moment, all my anxiety about the downward descent disappears.

We drift over to large, lumpy sofas that have been placed near a roaring fire. The warmth is a welcome counter to the fresh frost that has settled across the milky, moonlit landscape of valleys and bluffs.

My eye is drawn away from the scene by a storm that flickers out at sea, its pale blue current brightening the sky in sharp shocks and prompting our host to propose a drinking game for each burst of electricity.

More rum shots appear, this time served up in a local maracuja (passion fruit) shell, muddled with the fruit’s tangy seeds and fragrant mountain honey.

It’s hands down the best shot I’ve ever had, and in arguably the most memorable of surroundings. But our tales around the campfire are short-lived; all eyes in our party droop as the warmth of the fire and rum takes hold.

Next morning, I’m up at 5.30am and my reward is an exclusive view of the valley as a snaking morning mist curls around the mountain and early sunbeams hint of a glorious day ahead.

We breakfast on cinnamon porridge, local bananas and some of Alejandro’s addictive Minca-grown coffee. I’m wired and ready to saddle up.

 Tom’s good nature and intuition for our group’s varying tolerance for thrills makes him the perfect guide, but you get the sense he’s game for going as far as possible without jeopardising our safety.

The occasionally tricky roads are made significantly easier by our £2000 state-of-the-art bicycles, shipped over from Europe with Armadillo treads and super-light aluminium frames.

We go through the basic safety procedures and a few warnings about canyons, then clip on our helmets and hit the trail.

For 30 free-wheeling, fanciful minutes, we glide like greased lightning down, down, and lower still through jungle-fringed cloud forests where monkeys howl and hummingbirds skit through deliciously fragrant flora.


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