2,146km down: 11,495km to go. Up 2,920 metres, down 1,500
We had to go on a road known in Colombia as the Trampoline of Death. It is a 70 kilometre dirt road, with slippery gravel, with some steep gradient. Most of the way it is only wide enough for one vehicle . There were places where there is a 400 foot sheer drop, with no barrier. When two vehicles meet going in different directions the smallest vehicle has to back backwards to where there is a space to pass. It was pretty scary watching some of the backing, especially when they were going back round a bend with a sheer drop.
The first 15 kilometres of the ride was paved, then we got onto the Trampoline of Death and onto the slippery rock. My bike and tyres and I are not good on this stuff. I don’t know if it’s because I am not strong enough or lack confidence, or both, but I slip and slide all over the place. Going up a 15% gradient is one thing, but going up over slippery rocks and sliding adds another level! There seems to be more off road than was advertised on this trip so far, hopefully it is just this and the last section, as otherwise I would have bought a mountain bike!
The road went on and on, up and up, you could see another 5 switchbacks above you, no matter how many you had done. We were told if we were not at the lunch truck by 1pm to hitch a lift. We had been walking for a while, and we stopped a ute with a family in it and Aussie Jackie went in that (Jackie went first as she had carbon cleats which are really hard to walk in). Jodi the sweep and I discussed vehicles that we would stop. We decided not the buses or vans, as they drove really fast and looked the most unsafe. Not a truck as there was only one lane, and having to back when two vehicles needed to pass each other. We thought a ute would be the best bet.
The first ute was a Red Cross vehicle, which did not stop or make eye contact. We think that must be protocol as Jodi said in South Africa they never stopped or made eye contact, ever.
The next vehicle was a ute which stopped for us. There were four locals in it, so I squeezed in the back seat, and Jodi went in the tray at the back with the two bikes. I was a bit concerned but she was happy, she said it was better than a lot of the vehicles she had been in in Africa.
The driver was safe (in my view). I think they were surveyors, as they had to stop a couple of times and one of them would jump out with a clip board and then jump back in a minute later. They dropped us off at the lunch truck, and were just about to drive off when they realized Jodi had left the sweep pack (mainly first aid) in the ute, and came running back with it.
On the road were a number of river crossings where the water was up to half a meter deep and sometimes running very fast! The river crossings were rocky and often had a sheer drop. The good thing is Colombians don’t seem to suffer from road rage and the backing up and pulling over etc was all done without any angst. There were a lot of crosses by the side of the road which I guess gives the road its name and reputation.
We started across the road at 7:30 am. Even after the summit whenever the road went down it always then went up again. Four of the riders did not even start the day (one had gastro, the others weren’t keen on the road). I wanted to ride across it, as I was more worried about being in a truck, but relented and got in the lunch truck.
Sue had got a lift part of the way up the hill with a guy in a cattle truck. To work his clutch he had a stick and piece of string, and a couple of times he had to get out and adjust something under the truck!
A couple of other riders took the truck from lunch and we picked up a couple more on the way down the hill. The lunch truck was packed. Halfway down the hill the lunch truck got a flat tyre – what a mission! We all had to get out, the wheels had to be blocked with boulders, and the spare had to be got down from the top of the truck. However to get the spare all the bikes had to be shifted and then shifted back. The whole thing took about an hour. By the time we got off the highway it was 5:30pm. As we got to the camp where we were staying three riders – who are really good riders – had just got there and they were stuffed! I am pleased I made the decision to stop at lunch.
The campsite was quite small, a bit of grass at the back of a building, plus we could sleep inside on either level. Human nature being what it is, some riders had staked out large amounts of the building for themselves. Late comers ended up stacked alongside each other like sardines, on their sleeping mats in every nook and cranny.
I found a space under the eaves which was fine so long as I remembered not to sit up! There was no window so I was worried about being cold but it was warm enough, as I slept in my jacket, hat, and sleeping bag.
I was a bit worried about waking people up when I had to get up during the night, so I did not have anything to drink from when I got to camp and only had to get up twice, but was dehydrated in the morning so it was probably not the best idea. There was only one shower with cold water and a large queue, so day two with wet wipes instead of a shower.
Dinner was chicken, pasta and beans.