Day 30: Ipiales to Ibarra (or not) – 143km

I have got hit by the gastro bug again. I have been really careful about hand washing and don’t eat the meat left over from dinner at lunch the next day, so not sure what else I can do. Apart from not eat any food that contains meat prepared at the small roadside cafes.

My plan was to ride half a day today, given that it was 143 kilometres and substantial climbing.  At breakfast Australian Jackie said a group of them were planning to go on to Quito that afternoon to get an additional rest day there, and did I want to come? I considered this long and hard, and a micro second later said count me in. I think I could do with an additional rest day, plus tomorrow’s riding is also going to be long – another 143 kilometres, and up up up.

The plan was we would ride to lunch in the lunch truck, and then bike to camp, get washed and catch a taxi van to Quito. However, we had to cross the border into Ecuador first. The border crossing took quite a while, not for any reason other than the logistics of 45 people crossing (including TDA crew). By the time we all got across, it was after 9am.

500m to the border with Ecuador (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

500 metres to the border with Ecuador (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

000km to the Ecuador border, on the Pan American Highway (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

0 km to the Ecuador border, on the Pan American Highway (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Filing in border cards in advance (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Filing in border cards in advance (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

The plan for going to Quito changed, it was decided that we would go straight from the border to Quito and not ride at all today. I was in with this plan, as I was still having gastro issues. Then we hit a road block – the TDA staff would not unload our daily bags for us to take. A couple of the riders got a bit heated and TDA were standing firm (to be fair to TDA, loading and unloading 40 bags takes a while and they had already lost a lot of time that day at the border). Luckily a reasonable compromise was reached – we would follow the dinner truck (which has the daily bags) to camp, get the bags there and then go onto Quito.

Our bikes were loaded also onto the dinner truck. Thankfully the taxi driver was obliging and agreed with this plan. Also thankfully the dinner truck does not move very fast, as the top speed of the taxi van was about 60 kilometres. It was nice to be riding in a taxi where I was not constantly terrified, although a few oncoming drivers cut their overtaking very close.

The beautiful countryside (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

The beautiful countryside (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Lots of agriculture (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Lots of agriculture (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Riding in the taxi I was very pleased not to be riding, as the hills were steep, and the temperature was hot. We were back in desert like conditions. The 143 kilometres to camp at 60 kilometres an hour took until lunchtime. Once we got there, we had lunch at the campsite cafe whilst waiting for the bags to be unloaded (which we helped with when the TDA crew were ready of course).

The camp was by a big lagoon and was very pretty, but there was no one swimming as the temp in the water was 11 degrees. Being a Sunday there were lots of locals and heaps of cyclists. After lunch we got back in the taxi van, and drove another 143 k to Quito. We finally got to Quito about 3:30 pm.

The driver thought he knew the way to the hotel, but after driving around for about 30 minutes he realized he didn’t. We flagged down a taxi, luckily a couple of the group speak really good Spanish, and it was agreed we would follow the taxi to the hotel (for $5 USA). We were about 15 minutes from the hotel.

The total cost of the taxi van ride, 286 kilometres from the Colombian/Ecuador border was USA $250, split between 8 people. Considering it had taken most of the day this is really cheap. A number of us also gave him our Colombian Pesos, and we bought him lunch. It would be interesting to know what he made of us, following the dinner truck to get our bags and not cycling etc.

The Plaza International Hotel sounds pretty flash! It is not. It may have been in the early 19 hundreds, but is now pretty run down. Australian Jackie and I shared a room which was very basic – no air conditioning or heating. The shower had missing tiles, and you have to run the water for 10 minutes before it became hot. But there is plenty of hot water, the staff are very friendly, the beds are comfortable – we have one each, and have an ensuite. Plus the hotel does laundry for USD $1 per 1/2 kilo which is pretty cheap. My stack cost $7 which is about NZ $10.50 NZ. Also the prices are cheap – it was USD $43 for 2 for the night.

Hotel plaza international in Quito

Hotel Plaza International

On a Sunday not much is open at night. All 8 of us, plus Ruth (who is the wife of Henry, the TDA owner, and had been here for a few days) set off to find something to eat. We went down to an area that Ruth said was popular with tourists. On the way we got talking to a lady Sabrina from California, who joined us for dinner. Sabrina imports hand made goods from here. We found a nice looking place for dinner. Reasonable looking menu, and as my gastro had settled I decided rather unwisely to have red wine and filet mignon, which was really nice. A few of the riders were heading off to a bar after dinner but I joined the group heading back to the hotel. It was nice to go to bed knowing I did not have to get up at 5am.

View from the road today (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

View from the road today (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

On the way down to camp (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

On the way down to camp (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

More cyclists! (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

More cyclists! (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Small Ecuadorain town (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Small Ecuadorain town (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

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

Day 29: Pasto to Ipiales – 72km

2,296km down: 11,345km to go. 1,400 meters up, 1,600 meters down

I decided “I can do this, I am going to ride the whole day”. I got dressed really warmly as the start was a 25 kilometre downhill. I have never gone down 25 kilometres in one go. I stopped halfway down to give my rims a rest, as the last thing I needed was a tyre to blow out from overheated rims. At the bottom of the hill I removed a few layers before starting the climbing.

I am taking much better care of nutrition and hydration. I got up the first climb alright with only one stop just before lunch. I got to the lunch spot and felt ok, so decided to carry on. The first 10 kilometres was ok but then not sure if it was the altitude or what, but my legs turned to jelly and I was breathless. I ended up walking up a 7 kilometre hill! It just kept going, up and up and up! Every time I got on my bike I lasted about 100 meters before having to get off each time!

At 60 kilometres I had worked out that at this speed I was nearly 3 hours from camp! Thankfully we then got some downhill, and after that I managed to ride most of the rest of the way.

Patchwork fields (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Patchwork fields (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

About 4 kilometres before camp I came across the distressing sight of a young motorcyclist who had been knocked off his bike. Unfortunately he won’t be going home again. About 1 kilometre before the camp I then saw a dog nearly get run over. I was quite upset when I got to camp.

The camping site is a restaurant with grass where we can put up tents. They have hot showers! With pressure, and not too hot, bliss! TDA generally gets a couple of rooms when they are available so we can use them as well for the shower queue. I was standing waiting in line, and the housemaid took me into another room they had not yet cleaned and let me use that shower. Heaven! I could take as long as I liked without waiting in line.

As I had got to camp by 1:30, I have washed a couple of things, hopefully they will dry before it gets cold. I have caught up with the blog, had some vegetables and noodles, and a cold beer. Tomorrow we cross the border into Ecuador. It’s four weeks today since the bike ride started. We certainly have gone up and down in altitude and temperature.

Chicken for dinner tonight.

View from today's ride (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

View from today’s ride (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Categories: Columbia, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Day 28/164: Sibundoy to Pasto – 78km

2,224km down: 11,417km to go. 2,525 metres up, 1,322 metres down

I decided to go in the lunch truck for the morning and ride from lunch. The gradient was really steep in the morning with some quite big climbs. In the truck at the first town I saw a dog who looked like BenBen trotting along, I got hit with a huge wave of homesickness, missing my children, grandbabies and Ben. I had a few silent tears which thankfully no one noticed.

As well as being steep, there were also road works and it had been raining and the road was wet with thick mud. It started to pour down and I was very pleased that I was in the truck!

There were quite a lot of policia and military around. There has been a spike of rebel activity. At a number of places they had 44 gallon drums set up in a zig zag that you had to drive through. I guess these would slow any speeding vehicles down. Plus there were a lot of trucks being searched and road blocks.

We found a space for lunch at about 50 kilometres and pulled over. We had to go right to the other side of town to find a space. We set up the lunch, which was difficult in the pouring rain, but we managed to get everything under the awning.

I have a brand new riding rainproof jacket, but the zip is not working properly, and it has torn from the seam twice. I spent about an hour trying to get the zip up, I finally got it up by using a fork! I just have to remember not to undo it, which is very frustrating. Equally frustrating is my new cycle shoes – the sole is separating from the shoe! I will try gluing on the rest day if I can get it dry enough, but suspect I will have to get another riding jacket. I will certainly be complaining about it when I get home as it was over $300 dollars so I expect better quality.

The rain cleared and I was just thinking about asking for my bike to be got down when the first riders arrived, they were frozen! Phil from New Zealand did not have nearly enough warm clothes on. I ended up giving him all my warm gear, including my riding jacket. So no riding today for me! Another rider came in and I covered them up in my Kathmandu jacket. Most of the riders did not have adequate wet weather clothing with them. As well as the rain, being up at higher altitude also makes it cold.

The little shop next to where we were parked was selling coffee to the riders, then they lit a fire out the back of their shop. There were a number of riders huddled around the fire. The family had a number of photos taken with the riders. When we left they were all smiles and shook lots of hands.


The family that looked after the riders

There was a wee boy (about 2 and half) who gave me a hug and a kiss. I love the way small children meld their whole body against you. Sue and two of the other riders were caught in the rain and were given shelter by a local family until the downpour stopped. The locals continue to surprise and impress with their kindness.


The toddler that gave me the hug and kiss

Seeking shelter

Seeking shelter till the rain stops (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

We are staying a place called Restaurant Cobra. The camp was interesting, there was a big room like a hall where we could put up our tents. Most riders did this but a small group headed off into the nearest town to a hotel.

Camping "inside" (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Camping “inside” (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

The camp had a restaurant and had some amazing braziers with charcoal in them dotted around the restaurant. These were very popular, each one had a group of riders huddled around it.

Huddled round the fires to warm up (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Huddled round the braziers to warm up (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

The restaurant sold a very nice warm red wine, that tasted like mulled wine. It hit the spot on a cold overcast day. It was really cold during the night, hopefully because of the cold concrete floor. I had my jacket and hat on and it was still cold!  There were four showers and they were hot but they were too hot! Is there no pleasing us? But it was too hot to do anything but try and grab handfuls of water to sprinkle on yourself.

Dinner was pork stew, potato and boiled zucchini. These was a chat at dinner about making sure that people had correct clothing, and a comment that a couple of the riders were on the brink of dangerous hypothermia.

Camp tonight (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Camp tonight (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Categories: Columbia, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day 27/164: Mocha to Sibundoy – 85km

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.

No protection, a narrow track with long drop offs (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

No protection, a narrow track with long drop off (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

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 Trampoline of Death road starts (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The Trampoline of Death road starts (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

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.

Lots of crosses by the road (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Lots of crosses by the road (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

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.

Looking back down the hill at the road (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Looking back down the hill at the road (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

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!

View from the cab Sue was in (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

View from the cab Sue was in (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

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.

My sleeping space under the eaves

My sleeping space under the eaves

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.

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

Day 26/164: San Augustine to Mocoa – 161km

2,061km down: 11,580km to go. 2,250 meters up and 3,450 meters down.

We had a bit of a slow start leaving the hotel as the breakfast was at the hotel, and the staff are not used to feeding a large number of people, especially all in one go. A number of people left early – probably about a third of the riders – without breakfast. There was some bread and spread put there by the TDA staff and people made sandwiches.  I decided to ride in the truck to lunch then ride the 80 kilometres and 1,000 meters remaining climb.

Today's route profile (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Today’s route profile (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

The day was drizzly and over cast when we left, and rained on and off all day. It was not quite heavy enough to put on a jacket, and when the sun came out again you soon dried out. Rolling hills but some good descents, but like previously you don’t want to go too fast as there are a lot of pot holes in the roads. This area must get a lot of rain as there are a lot of landslides, water pouring down from the hills, and the rivers are full and fast flowing.

Road detour due to massive landslide (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Road detour due to massive landslide (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I stopped at about 35 kilometres to get some lunch as it was too early when I left where the lunch truck was parked. I went into a road side cafe and one of the truckies was eating soup which looked quite nice. I asked how much and said I would like some. 6,000 pesos seemed reasonable, so out came the soup followed by a huge plate of beans, rice and chicken! Inadvertently I was having the day special again.

I got to camp about 2:30, it was a nice feeling to get here and know that I still have plenty of energy
and could have gone further without any trouble. The camp is basic, you have the choice of paying extra for a room in a dormitory (my idea of hell) or tenting. There is one shower with no door, facing two toilets, also without doors! One way of getting to know your fellow riders really well.

Wet and muddy ground at camp (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Wet and muddy ground at camp (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

We are back down to under 1,000 meters so bugs galore again. I bought some different bug spray in San Agustin so hopefully it is more effective, as I am only just getting over the last feeding frenzy in Anapoima.

Tomorrow we are on gravel again, sealed until 15 kilometres then 70 kilometres is meant to be hard packed dirt/gravel. Hopefully it does not pour tonight!

Dinner tonight was beef stir fry.

On the road outside the hotel this morning (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

On the road outside the hotel this morning (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Three pups watch us cycle by

Three pups watch us cycle by (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

All downhill to begin with (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

All downhill to begin with (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

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

Day 25/164: Rest Day Two in Agustín

It was nice sleeping in a bed and waking up, and being able to have a warm shower. I had better make the most of today as there are six days riding before the next rest day, with four days riding until we cross the border into Ecuador.

Today a group of us had organized to go to St Agustin archaeological park. The park opened in 1936 and is constantly being improved. It is based on the site where statues from previous inhabitants of this land have been found.  There is no known name for these people so they are referred to as the early culture of San Agustin. There are two schools of thought:
1. That it was one people who evolved over a few thousand years to following different practices and customs (such as how they bury their dead)
2. That there were 3 separate groups of people during this time (approximately 3,500 BC to 100 AD).

At some stage they have organized an elaborate irrigation system for the hillside to grow crops.

The earliest inhabitants had the practice of burying their dead under the floor in the middle of their houses. Further on the rich, or high standing, had tombs with statues depicting various significant animals and things such as water and people guarding them. There was one bit of hillside that over 700 years they flattened – bit different to now where it is a project we undertake over a long weekend. The earliest evidence uncovered at this stage dates back to 3,500 BC.


Statues at the cultural village in St Agustin


Cultural village in St Agustin


San Agustin archaeological park


Statues at the cultural village in St Agustin

The walk around the park took about 3 hours, and we stopped at a cafe where one of the riders – Erwin – asked for a drink of cane sugar, and we got to see how they feed it through a flattening machine about 4 to 5 times, and it produces enough for a glass. It is a greeny colour and tastes really sweet, but is meant to be very good for rehydration.


Sugar cane and machine that grinds them into sugar cane juice

Editor's Caption: And now for a photo where you can actually see the machine (Photo credit: Of course, Sue's blog)

Editor’s Caption: And now for a photo where you can actually see the machine (Photo credit: Of course, Sue’s blog)

The cane sugar drink is in the plastic cup next to Erwin

The cane sugar drink is in the plastic cup next to Erwin

We caught a bus back down to the town and four of us stopped at a restaurant for lunch. We got the special of the day, which was a really nice meat based soup with beans and carrots in it, plus I think spinach as was quite dark for cabbage. Also a main of chicken which is sliced so thinly they must have a special machine to do it (as this is common way of presenting cooked chicken here), rice, and my favourite – fried plantain (not), some type of peas, and chunks of potato with avocado (which sounds pretty strange but was actually very nice).

Erwin and Sue at lunch

Erwin and Sue at lunch

Couple who own the restaurant we went to for lunch

The couple who own the restaurant we went to for lunch (Editor’s note: classic Kaye photo)

Then I went off into the town to get a haircut. I was pretty nervous about this but I can’t go 6 months without a cut. And having done it, I don’t have to worry about it again for a few months. It turned out ok, and was the grand sum of 6,000 pesos (approximately $3 NZD). The last time my hair was cut for 3 dollars I was probably about 2.

On the way back to the hotel I stopped to try something I had seen for sale in the village. Not sure what you would call it. The lady making it was slapping it round and round on a stick, it looked like it had golden syrup or molasses in it. You got a small pottle of it, after it had been dipped in brown or raw sugar. I’m still not sure what it was, it was thick and sticky and sweet. I am not a convert, but the locals were lining up for it.

The lady making toffee like stuff

The lady making the toffee like stuff

Then I went back to the hotel to check on the instructions for tomorrow, and to sort my bike and bags.

A group of us went to a restaurant in town, and ordered the special of the day again, which this time was a thick soup, and chicken, rice and beans. After that I went to the supermarket to get more water.

I got back to the hotel and tried to get onto the wifi – it was ok to send an email but not any photos.

Tomorrow is a 161 kilometre ride, with 2,250 climb, so lunch truck to lunch for me 😀

By a statue in the cultural park (not long before the $3 haircut)

By a statue in the cultural park (not long before the $3 haircut)

View of country side San Augustine

View of country side San Agustin

Coffee place in San Augustin - riders Peter from NZ and Anna Greta from Denmark

Coffee place in San Agustin – riders Peter from NZ and Annegrete from Denmark

Same coffee shop in San Augustin ( Asha from USA and PHil NZ)

Same coffee shop in San Agustin (Asha from USA and Phil from NZ)

Type of bus that the locals catch around the country

Type of bus that the locals catch around the country

Side view Of the type of bus locals ride in around the countr

Side view of the type of bus locals ride in around the country

View of back street in San Augustin

View of back street in San Augustin

Street in San Augustine

Street in San Augustine

Modes of transport range from horse and cart to trucks

Modes of transport range from horse and cart to trucks

Coffee beans on a plant in Columbia

Coffee beans on a plant in Columbia

It's a dog's life (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

It’s a dog’s life (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Categories: Columbia, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Day 24/164: Timana to San Agustín – 86km

1,900km down: 11,741km to go

A few locals came past in cars and on cycles during the night to see the novel sight of a bunch of foreigners camped by their local pool. One of the riders was up at 4am showering! There are a small number of riders who get up about an hour before the others, and you get woken up by their tent pole noise as they get clipped together and their tent fly opening. I have no idea why they get up so early as 5am is plenty of time if breakfast is at 6am.

I woke up with neck pain and a pounding headache and decided that a 45 kilometre ride with 1,200 meters climb I could live without, so decided to go on the bus. After the last trip (the trans Europa) where I rode the whole ride and did not get in the lunch truck at all, it has been hard mentally to adjust to not riding whole days. However, the mind may be willing but currently the body is not capable. Since I have made the decision to relax and to ride half days I have been enjoying myself again. This is what I came to do right! Enjoy myself. My day of half riding can still be 6 hours, which is not a bad effort for the day. Since I decided this I have been riding about the same but waking up without feeling the pressure.

In the lunch truck were a couple of riders taking the day off riding due to gastro, general weariness, or tenderness in the seat area. One of the riders who is continuing to ride has a boil on his butt that has had to be lanced ouch. This is where the focus on achieving EFI (doing every bit of the whole ride) can be dangerous I think. On a previous ride one of the riders ended up in hospital due to complications from boils, because they persisted in riding.

Interesting countryside today, quite steep again with every patch of hillside cultivated. Took a couple of photos of waterfalls coming down the hills.

Through town for a kilometre before the uphill starts (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Through town for a kilometre before the uphill starts (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Views from the road (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Views from the road (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

The hotel is an interesting place, it is called the Hotel International San Agustin. It is either very old or has been built to look very old. They have a number of different blocks where they have rooms, each one has a different international theme. Sue and I are in the Asian themed block, which is like a rotounda (round) and each room is a wedge with high ceilings and bamboo pools and green walls. The grounds are lovely.

The building we stayed in known as the Asian house in San Augustin ( it's not as nice as it looks rooms and beds were musty and walls paper thin)

The building we stayed in, known as the Asian house, in San Agustin
(It’s not as nice as it looks, the rooms and beds were musty, and the walls were paper thin)

Luckily being up in altitude again (1,900 meters) it is cool, as there is no air con.  Not sure what happens if it gets much colder, as there is no heating. Due to being up at high altitudes one day and then back at sea level the next, it is hot one day and cold the next, so you have to have gear for both temperatures in your daily bag.

As soon as we arrived, I headed into the hotel to log onto the Internet to send away the five blog updates I had ready.  Many of the riders send huge numbers of photos once they get onto the Internet, you can’t even send a two line email. I am pleased I did as it took 20 minutes to log on. A number of the riders have not been able to get onto the wifi at all. Tomorrow I will go to one of the Internet cafes in the town, which starts about 500 meters away, and see if I can send photos. Although it may be you can only use their machines, which won’t help with sending photos.

I really enjoyed having a warm shower. Next on the list was to sort out the laundry. The white board said the hotel would do the laundry, so without thinking about it I handed mine in. One of the other riders said afterwards that they were taking theirs to look for a place in town, as the hotel was really expensive. Oh well, too late now.

I went off into town to explore with a couple of the other riders. We stopped at a cafe on the corner where a number of the riders had gathered. I had a strawberry soda, and what I thought was going to corn bread, meat, and mushrooms. It turned out to be my good old friend plantain! It was fried and hard, and was ok for dipping into the shredded meat, guacamole and salsa. I managed to eat about half of it.

I went off to have a look around. Because San Agustín is a place for tourists, there were heaps of shops selling souvenirs, which due to having no space in my bags, stayed on the shelves. So far I have yet to see a post office anywhere since I arrived in Cartagena.

We ended up spending a couple of very pleasant hours having a couple of cold beers, sitting in the corner bar on the square, watching the town life. It is a most delicious feeling to have nowhere you have to be and no jobs to be done, just the rest of the day to spend how you please.

The town square

The town square

We then went to a pizza place for dinner. I got a margarita pizza, which was clearly adapted to local taste as it bore no resemblance to any margarita pizza I have ever had before (apart from that it was pizza).  It was loaded with cheese, so when you picked it up you had to hold the whole slice otherwise the weight of the cheese caused it to collapse. I had some Chilean red wino (vino tinto) – Cab Sav seems to be all the red that a lot of Colombian places sell. The owner was a German lady that had lived in the town for 35 years. The pizza place suddenly got busy so I did not get a chance to have much of a conversation with her.

I stopped at the supermarket on the way back and got some yoghurt and cereal for breakfast (they have a combo of cereal and yoghurt you can combine into one). The yogurt here is all liquid, not quite the consistency of milk but not as thick as custard. Apparently, it is like this in most countries?

I got back to the hotel and the washing was back already – 72,000 pesos (about $45 NZ) so not as bad as it could have been. Some of the clothes look brand new and have been ironed! Even my Hospi riding shirt, which was starting to look pretty manky, is looking respectable again.

Tomorrow a number of us are going off to do some site seeing. There is an archaeological site about 3 kilometres out of town.

Categories: Columbia, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Day 23/164: Hobo to Timana – 112km

1,814km down: 11,827km to go. 1,880 metres up, 1,520 metres down

I was awake a bit in the night – a mixture of dogs barking, gastro bug, and truck drivers coming in and out and their trucks idling for a few minutes to warm up. The trucks here don’t seem to have sleeping compartments in the cabs. There are rooms attached to a number of the restaurants and petrol stations for the drivers to stop. This place has about 18 rooms, and with the attraction of air con and en-suites, I am sure it will soon become a favourite spot for the truckies.

I was pleased I had a room with an ensuite and did not have rush to and from the tent in the dark.

So my revised plans for today are to hydrate really well, and focus on making it to lunch. I set off into a bit of a head wind, but it was nice and cool – the top temp was 30 degrees 😀

On the road today (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

On the road today (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

I had a nice warm up with a few rolling hills, before the 7 kilometre climb at 13 kilometres. I got up the hill with only stopping and walking once. At the top I stopped for a freshly squeezed orange juice. After I had drunk it I thought that maybe it was not the best idea with my current upset stomach, but it was too late.

Juice stop at the top of the hill (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Juice stop at the top of the hill (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

There were amazing views at the top – I even took a couple of photos!


Editor’s Caption: Photo credit: Kaye! (And it’s not blurry!)


Editor’s Caption: Photo credit: Kaye! (And it’s not blurry!)

Today’s plan is basically follow the main road, and not even I should be able to get lost. All went well until I got to Giganto, where there was a choice of directions and no flag, and the turn did not marry up with my notes. (I must get my speedometer re calibrated). When it doubt I think it’s best to choose the one that looks most like the main route. 100 meters along I was stopped by a couple in a car who stopped me and shooed me down a side street. They then followed me in their car to the end of it to make sure I turned left. I was pretty confident they knew what they were doing as they were pointing to my rider number plate.

I followed the road out of town – but still no flags! I checked my maps and it said I was heading in the right direction. I got to a hill at 37 kilometres and started to doubt it, as according to my notes the climb was actually meant to be a reasonable downhill. Just then Britten, who was the sweep for the day, arrived and confirmed we were on the right road.

Soon enough the climb arrived but it had lots of downs and the gradient was not too steep, and it was not too hot. I managed to get through the climbs on my bike – progress finally, while the lower temperature, asphalt, and not being at high altitude all certainly help, overall I am definitely getting better at sustained climbing.

I decided not to push what was an enjoyable ride, and stop at lunch. There were two policia sitting watching the whole time. Luiz said when he arrived he asked the lady who was running the shop next to the big parking lot if he could park the lunch truck there, and she refused. One of the two policia, who overheard, shouted “I am Horrace, and I say they can park where they want”. No wonder she was stony faced when I went in to buy a cold drink.

I helped clean up lunch and rode back with the lunch truck.

We are staying at the Municipal pool complex in Timana. Where we are camping there is a pool and a large grass area and a couple of soccer fields.

The municpal pool ( (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

The municpal pool (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

There is the choice of camping in an area under a thatched roof with loud pumping music or on the grass where small children are playing soccer and riding bikes. I chose the field. There are three showers, but only one of them works, and three shared toilets. At least the shower is so cold no one is interested in staying in it too long.

The thatched roof many chose to sleep under (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

The thatched roof many chose to sleep under (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

It is Sunday today, and the local village has a few stalls. A couple quickly clicked on to coming here and selling to a hungry bunch of bikers. There was one very cute wee girl going around sharing her small packet of what tasted like very small bread sticks, but bite sized.

Two Columbian girls (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Two young girls at the markets (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

I think I am not hydrating properly – too much water and not enough rehydration drink. I have concentrated today on two bottles of water followed by a bottle with half a sports rehydration tablet and feel better for it. I suspect I also need to eat more as generally am not eating between breakfast, lunch and dinner. This is ok when it is two to three hours, but not if it is six – the problem is I don’t get hungry. I will buy snacks in San Augustine and trial them on the next segment.

Tonight for dinner was chorizos, a cabbage based stir fry with cooked radish (which was actually pretty good) and pasta.

Hobo t

Hobo to Timana


Hobo to Timana

On the road today (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

On the road today (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

On the road today (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

On the road today (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

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

Day 22/164: Tatacoa to Hobo – 105km

1,702 km down: 11,939km to go. Up 1,230 metres, down 1,010

I was feeling very weary after being kept awake by roosters and being itchy, so decided to have an easy day and go in the lunch truck to lunch.

The white lunch bus setting off in the morning (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

The white lunch bus setting off in the morning (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

There was great scenery going through the desert. We then went through a couple of small villages and a large town, before heading back to the country side.

Scenery this morning (Sue's blog)

Scenery this morning (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

We stopped and set up lunch by a Tepel petrol station. We started to set up and were asked to move further back. We had been setting up (includes getting out the table, chopping up stuff for lunch, organizing water etc) for about 45 min when the petrol station attendant said to Luiz that his boss wanted to talk to him. We all thought “What now, do we have to move again!?”. Turned out the boss was just interested in what we were up to, and wanted a chat.

On the road today (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

On the road today (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

There was a small dog lurking around who was most happy to eat the scraps. He had a mangled ear which was a bit raw, and a raw spot on the top of his head. I thought about getting a bowl and some salty water but was not sure if that would do more harm than good to only do it once. My list of dogs I would have adopted is growing!

On the road today (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

On the road today (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

After everything was done I set off on my bike with only 40 kilometres to ride and no dirt roads. I had a great ride. When I went through the town of Hobo I decided to stop at a Terpel petrol station for a drink, but I didn’t see the gaps in the concrete about the size of railway tracks until it was too late – over I went. Luckily the pannier saved me from too much damage, just some minor bruising and discomfort.  I got back onto the bike and rode out the other side of the town to where we were staying.

On the road today (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

On the road today (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

We stayed at a place called Restaurant el Aeropurto. I got there at mid day, almost like winning a rest day 🙂

The place was only a month old. There were grounds out the back where we could out up tents, plus they have a complex of rooms with ensuites and air con for 25 pesos for the room. So far I have tented every night except rest nights, but this was too good to pass up, and I was in like a rat up a drain pipe.

New buildings at camp (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

New buildings at camp (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

There were two beds in my room and my plan was to tell Sue that I had a room and she was welcome to the other bed.  I had not had lunch at the lunch truck as it was too early. I had a plate of fish soup and then a shower, and then I fell asleep until nearly 6pm, by which time Sue had already put her tent up.

One of the staff at the place was a young girl who had a wee one month old baby. She worked all day whilst the baby slept under the counter, getting breastfed as required. She was still there at work with the baby when I went to bed at 8pm. Long day for a young mum.

Dinner was beef stew, mashed potato, and really crunchy green beans. I am feeling really refreshed and am planning to ride the whole day tomorrow.

On the road today (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

On the road today (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

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

Day 21/164: Prado to Tatacoa – 95km

1,597km down, 12,044km to go – 1,000 meters up, 850 meters down.

We were woken early by the usual resident early rising roosters.

Today we had to first ride a 30 kilometre dirt road, then catch a ferry over the river – where have we heard that before? Thankfully it did not rain during the night, so the dirt road was not a quagmire! It was steep in places, and rocky and slippery though.


On the road today (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)


On the road today (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I thought I was the last along the road, and got to the ferry just as it was about to go across. Ray, who was on the ferry, said he had just missed it and had to wait about half an hour for it to return.

The river Magdalena was quite fast flowing, and the ferry used a series of cables strung across the water to get across. When we spoke to the TDA staff on the lunch truck they said when they took the truck across there was a tiny little lady who got to the other side and stood there looking lost. Luiz can speak Spanish so he asked her what she was doing, and it turned out she had to get 15 kilometres up the road so they gave her a lift. She was so tiny they had to lift her up into the truck, as she could not manage the steps.

The ferry (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

The ferry (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Over the other side I stopped for more water and then rode off. It was a bit disconcerting as I had not heard when lunch was. It was really hot riding, the heat was reflecting off the tarmac – 44 degrees, and rolling hills, with barely any shade. It just seem to go on and on, with a bit of a head wind.

I got to 48 kilometres, I had stopped a couple of times in the shade and had stopped again and realised I was almost out of water. It was too hot to go on, and I had no idea where the sweep was, as I still thought I was the last rider. I sat there “thinking I can’t do this”. I had a wee sob and then thought “Well, no water, 44 degrees, best thing is just sit in the shade and wait, eventually the lunch truck will come back”.

About 5 minutes later I saw a riding coming and it was one of the younger guys, John, who gave me some water. John encouraged me to get moving. John was also nearly out of water. We rode about another kilometres and stopped at a house. John, who speaks some Spanish, asked for Aqua, which the family happily gave us from their boiled supply. We offered money but they would not take it. We decided to drink it if we needed to before we came to a drink shop.

About another kilometre later we came to really nice drink stop, with a lovely thatched roof to sit under. Just as we pulled up so did Aussie Jackie. Between us we drank about 10 drinks, plus bought water to refill our bottles. It turns out one of the other riders Rolf had had a tyre problem which took an hour to sort. A couple minutes later Rolf and then Erin the sweep rolled in. We sat under the shade not wanting to leave. A group of locals were there drinking whiskey and were encouraging John to have some.

Erin thought the lunch truck was about another 10 kilometres away. Off we went on one kilometre of asphalt, then off the main road and back onto a rocky, slippery, gravel road. Some school children yelled out cheerfully “Muchio loco” (very mad) – if I had the Spanish to I would have said “Yes I agree!”.

Local school children (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Local school children (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Jackie and I got to lunch to the relief of the crew, who had just packed up the truck to come back to find us (they were in a cell phone dead spot). Then Rolf arrive, but no Erin and John.  Time passed and we started to get concerned then we heard them starting to cross the metal bridge (it had metal plates onto top of each other and when you ride over it makes a noise when you go from plate to plate). It turned out that as Erin got onto the asphalt her seat snapped off its pole, and she had had to ride the last 7 kilometres seatless!

By this time it was 1:30 pm, 44 degrees with 35 kilometres of gravel rocky slippery road, and 550 meters of climbing. I decided to catch the lunch truck to camp. I am pleased I did, as the riders who rode the whole day said the section from lunch was very tough.

The desert was stark but beautiful. There were really large cactus plants, trees and dirt. There were hills with dirt in patterns, and a few cows here and there.

Becoming more desert like (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Becoming more desert like (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Fantastic views in the desert (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Fantastic views in the desert (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Giant cacti (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Giant cacti (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

We are staying at Saturno in the desert. I got to camp and had the usual stuff to do: set up my tent, do some washing, cold shower. I was feeling really itchy so at least the cold shower helped with that. I went to bed quite early and woke up really itchy and feeling dehydrated, so had a rehydration drink and some antihistamine.

The finish flag at camp (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

The finish flag at camp (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

They say that you should love all of God’s creatures, but I think roosters could be an exception. If I was making a list for the ark there would be no roosters. One starts, and then another, and then they have competition for who can go the longest at 2am!

Dinner was chicken, boiled beetroot and rice, and fruit salad.

A tunnel on today's ride (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

A tunnel on today’s ride (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Categories: Columbia, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments