The Tatacoa Desert gets about 39 inches of rain a year. I’m pretty sure most of that fell last night and today. Last night we leapt from the tent to put the rainfly on the tent and covers on the panniers as the rain started to fall. So much for stargazing in the desert. The upside is we got to see first-hand how the mounds, gullies, and labyrinths are created by water washing over the landscape.
The rain continued into the morning. We had to pack up wet, in the rain. This is done fast and furious because we want to keep stuff as dry as possible. Every second something is outside the tent or a pannier, it is getting wet from the rain and from the water dripping off our hands. I left camp without brushing my teeth because my toothbrush is in my clothes bag and I knew everything on top would be soaked by the time I opened the pannier and dug around with my wet hands to find it. Feels like I have sweaters on my teeth. Gross.
We ride a few miles into town for coffee and the store owner confirms that it will rain all day. Discouraged, we set out again. The next town is about 25 miles away.
It’s miserable riding in the rain. The water from my rain jacket pours down to my shorts, which then pools into my shoes. I feel the water slosh around every time I push on the pedals. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if I knew there was a warm, dry place waiting for me at the end of the day.
An hour or so later…everything is wet. My fingers are pruning. I’m soaked through and when I checked the panniers I noticed they too were taking on water. Our panniers are not waterproof. We have rain covers, however the waterproofing in the material or seams are failing. They have clearly lost their waterproofness. This does little for my spirits. So far clothes dryers are impossible to find in Colombia.
We roll into Neiva, capital of the Department of Huila, and head to a grocery store to stock up and then the plan is to find a hotel to dry off.
While shopping, the sky clears and like a miracle the sun comes out in full force reminding us how very close we are to the equator. We decide that we’ll probably dry off faster by riding in the sun, rather than in a hotel room. So we mosey out of town. On our way out, we pass two bike tourists in an otherwise empty parking lot with all their stuff splayed out on the hot concrete. It looks like a lawn sale. Marion and Virgile, from France, are biking from Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina. They too got caught in the rain last night. We copied their idea and pulled all our wet stuff out of the panniers and within minutes everything was dry.
It felt good to commiserate with other people who are going through similar experiences. They even had ants eat through their tent in Mexico, just like ours! As Marion and I were talking we were scratching at the hundreds of bug bites that the tiny biting flies have inflicted over the past few days. Apparently they’ve encountered those as well.
Energy renewed, we learn they are also headed to San Agustín, but via the backroads. They’re on mountain bikes. It will take them 10 days to reach San Agustín. We’ll take the main road and get there in 3. Hmm, backroads in the rainy season? No thank you. We decide they’re way more hardcore than us.
We found a nice spot to camp behind a gas station tonight. It has a manicured backyard, showers and coconut trees, reminiscent of a similar camp spot in Guatemala. We’ve been warned about roadblocks ahead from the agricultural strikes. We’ve definitely observed a greater military presence on the roads. There are a few truck drivers at the gas station waiting out the strikes and roadblocks. They assure us that the strikers will allow us to pass.