Day 3: Tolu to San Marcos – 130k

306km down: 13,335km to go

Everyone slept better last night. It’s still hot, and so far I have slept with no covers at night. The rosters made their appearance about 4am.

I have been having trouble with my speedo on my bike which is a real issue as it’s hard to turn right at 33kilometres if your speedo is not working. I took it to the tour bike mechanic yesterday and thought it was fixed but it stopped going again today, just a couple of kilometres out of camp.  However, it was lucky that I had taken it to get the speedo looked at as the mechanic picked up there was a problem with my front brake – it was only clamping on one side. So much for spending a fortune at the bike shop before the trip to make sure it was all in working order! There was a screw stripped, and it took the mechanic ages to get the screw off and readjust the brakes so they worked both sides.

We had an early start today – breakfast at 6, to get on the road earlier because of the heat. Even so it was 7 before I got on the road.

Not sure how I managed it but I took a wrong turn before the Main Rd and ended up at a dead end in a paddock. Luckily some young local lads pointed me the right way. Then 2 kilometres later I nearly made a wrong turn again – that old confusion between left and right – but some locals yelled at me and pointed the other way. They had noted the other riders going the other way.

A number of the locals, especially the children, smile and wave and I have learnt hello. They helpfully point the way at some of the intersections also.

The planned ride was 134 kilometres. The first 20 kilometres was pretty good – still nice and cool, rolling hills, and I was feeling pretty ok.

I enjoyed looking at the local houses with their thatched roofs. There are chickens and chicks, pigs, cows, donkeys, and horses, all grazing on the side of the main road. They seem to have a really good road sense and don’t wander out into the traffic at all. They say the South American cows are quite smart, they are interesting looking – they have long ears and a hump on their back. A lot of them have a white bird hanging around – one white bird per cow. The birds eat ticks off them.

The locals have an interesting habit of painting the trunks of trees to match the colour of their houses, it makes for an interesting colour combo going along the street. The houses in the country side are very basic with thatched roofs, and one or two rooms, no plumbing. No running water, but a number of them must have a septic tank but the water is from a big drum and the shower is a bucket of water. The family generally sleeps in one room.

At most houses are chickens, at least one dog, and some have pigs – not so many cats. Although that could be because it’s baking hot and the cats are sensibly asleep out of the sun.

In the more built up area, the houses range from small dwellings with a couple of chairs in the main area, to some quite substantial ranches.

The main traffic here is trucks: large and small, motorbikes by the hundred carrying whole families, wood, shopping – I saw one with the passenger carrying three squirming, squealing pigs. No helmets to be seen. Then there are buses, very few cars, and people on horseback and in carts. There are so many roadside drink stops often a bit of shade, a few seats, and one glass front cooler.

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Drink stops (photo credit: Sue’s Facebook page)

At 20 kilometres the sweep caught up with me as I was the last rider. Three of the riders had gone in the lunch truck to start from 84 kilometres. The sweep is a tour staff member who rides at the back of the riders so will come across any one broken down or in trouble. They will either fix the problem or call for one of the vehicles. Erin, who was the mornings sweep, is a general surgeon from Switzerland who has taken six months off work. As well as being the sweep some days, Erin is one of the two medics on the tour. The other medic is Jodie, a trauma nurse and Paramedic.

It was my first time being the last rider, I expect it won’t be the last until I get fitter and thinner. My legs were tired by the previous two days riding, and overall tiredness from lack of sleep, but I was confident that if I took it slowly and drank plenty of water I would complete the ride. Although I did have to get off my bike part way up a steep long hill.

At about 55 kilometres the road got very uneven and a few pot holes. It was starting to get very hot and humid, and the sun was not covered by clouds as yesterday. I stopped to buy more water – some to drink, some to tip over my head.

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The dirt road begins (photo credit: Sue’s Facebook page)

I got to 67 kilometres where the gravel road started. The first five or so kilometres were ok but then I started to suffer from the total lack of any shade, plus it was 42 to 43 degrees, it was insane. The next 15 kilometres were dreadful: biking for three to four kilometres, stopping and pouring some water over my head, then biking some more.

Even with applying sunblock every hour my arms were starting to burn so I had to put on arm warmers, plus I still had my legs warmers on as my legs had not recovered from the first day. This really did not help!

As well as this the dirt would turn to deep sand and you would get stuck. About 2 kilometres before the lunch stop, we stopped at a bit of shade. I was feeling a bit light headed and made the decision I was going to stop at lunch.

I got going again and made it to the lunch stop which was under three massive big trees. There was another rider – Nelson from Canada – who was also stopping at lunch. Nelson has done a lot of riding but, like me, could not cope with the heat. I had drunk about 6 bottles of water so hydration wasn’t the issue. Along the dirt track a number of trucks slowed down to check we were ok, which was nice. The locals are really friendly.

Having never got in the lunch truck to ride back to camp I was surprised how long it took to pack it all up. I am pleased I made the decision, as although I could have ridden the distance with the terrain, I don’t think I would have finished with the heat. The dirt road went on for another 30 kilometres with no shade! We picked up another rider 10 kilometres along also done in by the heat.

Along the way there were hundreds of anthill mounds, some impressively high –freestanding up to a metre high, and then some against trees and fence posts. I did not get a photo as I was in the truck, but am sure I will see some again.

Just after this we passed Sue who was riding with another rider, Mark from USA . They both gave the thumbs up signal (which means you don’t need the truck to stop) and big grins – or were they grimaces?!  A number of the riders told us that one of the locals had driven into town got cold water and driven back to give it out to them.

Got to the hotel … at about 4:30pm. It was nice to have a chance to get washing done, and sleep in a bed for two nights.  I am sharing with Sue. The room is very basic, and the shower is just like a tap on the wall with cold water, but the toilet flushes – amazing how quickly you come to appreciate that.  Plus they do your washing for a reasonable fee so I don’t have to find a laundry yet.

I had a shower and a cold beer, at that stage Sue came in, she was knackered – and she just finished riding the South African trip 2 months ago!

Once Sue had had a rest and a shower we went up the road, found the local supermarket and bought water etc. We were quite tired so just had something to eat there, got some water and a couple of cold beers, and came back to the hotel. On the way back we were amused to see three cows just wandering the street, one was pulling up the shrubbery by a house.

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Categories: Columbia, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Day 3: Tolu to San Marcos – 130k

  1. Karen Dalley

    Just keep pacing yourself, you know your limits, heat is a bitch especially if it’s humid (also ABs beat the Pumas but not a great show of world cup winning rugby)

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