We started our day drinking coffee on the porch outside our room overlooking the river. Our room was a bit rundown, but it was perfect for us. We found it last night, just as the rain started. It had a bed, bathroom, roof, and a safe place to put the bikes for the night.
The windows never have screens. I was trying to read last night by the light of my headlamp, but bugs kept dive-bombing my face. The upside to the lack of screens was our room was filled with fireflies.
The first 15 miles today was an easy climb, riding along the Tarazá river. Then we crossed the river and the road went straight up the mountainside. We’ve finally made it to the Andes Mountain range! When they built this road, I’m pretty sure the engineers’ thought process went something like this:
Why don’t we just pave over the existing donkey trail?
All right, now that that’s settled, who’s thirsty?
It’s steep, probably the longest climb at this grade we’ve done. Even in the granny gear, it’s a knee grinder. It’s very slow going, about 3-4mph. At that speed I feel like I’m barely moving. I am reminded of a conversation I had with some Canadian travelers in a hostel in Panama. They warned us not to miss the Panama Canal as we went over the bridge into Panama City. They travel by bus and apparently they were over the Canal before they realized they were crossing it. HA! At our speed, it’s impossible to miss anything. We get a good look at every inch of what we pass by.
It’s hot out, but not the melt-your-brains-in-your-helmet-hot, like we experienced in Central America. And there’s water everywhere, weeping out of the side of the mountain. Every so often we stop and cool off.
We stop for lunch at a restaurant and learn the owner used to live in Massachusetts. He fixes us a typical Colombian lunch which starts with a brothy beef and potato soup, avocado, and fresh squeezed fruit juice, then the main is a plate of fried pork with rice, beans, salad, fried egg, and plantain. It’s a lot of food and runs us $4/person.
Bellies full, we continue to climb, straight into the clouds and the rain. At one point we could barely see more than 20 feet ahead. We’re on a narrow mountain road with little shoulder. We are amazed that it’s used as a trucking route. The switchbacks are so tight the trucks have to move out to the other lane to navigate around the corners. I’m amazed there were no head-on collisions. The trucks coming down are going about as slow as the ones going up. There are no runaway truck ramps, so if they lose their breaks, I guess they’re S.O.L.
waterfalls in the distance waterfalls in the distance
waterfalls in the distance
waterfalls in the distance
The views are spectacular. The landscape is so lush and green, quite a contrast to our start outside of Cartagena. We began the day around 400 feet of elevation and by the end of the day we’re up above 6600 feet. A total climb of 6611 feet, we miss our record climb by 84 feet. Dare I say, it’s chilly up here! I’m not complaining, but neither of us can feel our fingertips.
We have luck and find a hotel at a truck stop, the only business we’ve seen for miles. It looked a little dodgy at first but the old lady who showed us the room and also runs the attached restaurant was very nice. The room even has HOT water showers!
Budget hotels, delicious food, beautiful views…life is good here in Colombia 🙂