1,036 km down: 12,605 km to go (climbing 2,000 meters)
I set off in the morning with no idea of whether or not I suffer from altitude sickness. It turns out I certainly do. As I didn’t know if I did or not, I had not taken any medication. Coming out of camp it was straight up a hill – slippery gravel and rock, and on average 8% gradient but it seemed a lot more as it was so slippery. Plus we were at over 2,000 meters to start, and I have lived my whole life at sea level.
After only about a kilometre, I started getting breathless and had to get off and walk. By the time the other truck (not the lunch truck, which heads off before the riders each morning, the other truck stays to pack up camp) caught up with me I had only managed to make 7 kilometres in over one and a half hours.
The grey dog from camp had followed me for a while, then when I tried to shoo it home it ran on ahead. I figured it would go to a certain point and then return back home. Tim, who I was walking with for a while, thought 6 kilometres, I guessed 5, we were both very wrong.
When the tour trucks go by they toot. If you are ok you give the thumbs up, if not the thumbs down. I gave the thumbs down meaning I wanted a lift. There was another 8 kilometres of this slippery rocky road, and then another 25 kilometres to climb.
This truck carries most of the gear and does not have as much space for riders as the lunch truck. There were already three riders in the truck, plus six tour staff, and the back half was piled with gear. They managed to fit me in.
I was wheezy when I got in the truck and went to get my inhaler out of my first aid kit, but it was not there! I must have taken it out for some reason at Medellin! I never not have my inhaler with me! Luckily the wheezing stopped ok.
It was really slow going, as the truck was slipping and sliding, plus there were over hanging bushes that had to be cleared as the truck is high with the bikes on top.
Another kilometre up the road Sue gave the thumbs down (end of her EFI), then another couple of kilometres another rider Fred gave the thumbs down. At this stage it was getting too much to take in the truck.
We stopped at a restaurant / hotel at 15 kilometres and Henry (TDA owner) went in and spoke to the owner, who agreed to take 3 riders 5 kilometres up the road. He would not take any money. He took us up to what I thought was the summit and dropped us off.
It was really cold so I put on all the cold weather gear I had and set off. The first 5 minutes was downhill, which was rocky and steep and hard to get down and stay on my bike, as I don’t have a mountain bike and lack confidence.
Then it started going up again – now we were over 4,000 meters above sea level. I was suffering really badly from altitude sickness at this point. It took me nearly 2 hours to walk from where I was dropped off to the lunch truck, which was about 3 kilometres. I managed to walk about 50 steps, then had to count to 50, then walk another 50 steps, and so on and on and on. I also had to have an occasional rest. The lunch truck was like a mirage, I could see it in the distance at least an hour before I got to it.
At one rest stop, two of the riders were sitting with the grey dog from the camp – it had walked about 40 kilometres at this stage. I was worried about how it would get home, but they told me it was actually a stray and the camp owners had shooed it away. No wonder it craved attention, but at least where it was it was surviving ok, not sure what will happen now. I turned my attention back to breathing and walking.
Luckily I have altitude sickness pills so will take them next time we are climbing up to 4,000 meters (you have to take them the day before, so there was no point taking one at this stage).
I finally got to the lunch truck, and was starting to feel pretty stuffed. I decided that even though the rest of the day was downhill I was too cold, and too stuffed. Plus it was slippery and rocky. There were a couple of riders in the lunch truck who had decided not to ride today at all.
The lunch truck took ages to make its way downhill. There were some bits were the road had fallen away that were quite scary. One of the riders Jessica put her helmet on, if we had gone over the side it would not have helped. Luis the driver is an excellent driver with many years of driving trucks and got us down safely.
When we went through the town it was like a Wild West town with one main street, guys with hats (not quite sombreros), lots of horses and dogs, and there people standing in most doorways watching everything go past.
About 10 kilometres out of town we passed the grey dog again! She had walked over 70 kilometres! I was really torn, I wanted us to stop and pick her up but it would not have been in her best interests as we can’t take her across the border. I was very sad thinking of the poor dog, following along thinking it had found some humans to look after it. I only hope that it finds a safe home this side of the mountain, and I hope her paws aren’t shredded and she gets something to eat. Right, I have to stop talking about it, it makes me too sad.
I got to camp and had the usual riders meeting, dinner, set up my tent etc. As I was locking up the bike I noticed another flat tyre! And again the back tyre! Decided I was too tired to do anything about it, and it could wait till the morning.