Posts Tagged With: Rebels!

Day 7/164: Caucasia to Ventanas – 138k

568 km down: 13,073 km to go

Christiano told us at breakfast that the plan was to continue to Medelin. So off to Ventanas take two.

It had rained quite heavily during the night so I had to pack away a damp tent. I must buy some water proof bags on the next rest day to store it in.

So off (again!) for 102 kilometres of rolling hills, then 36 kilometres to climb 2,000 meters. Not sure I will do it all, as my legs are still very tired from the 12 hour ride on “mud day”.

We had been asked to ride in at least pairs due to the rebel and military activity. I started off with Sue, but was holding her back so then teamed up Nelson who was having a slow day.

There were military and policia everywhere, and all trucks were being searched. About every two kilometres there was a solider with a rifle standing at both sides of the road.

We got to about 90 kilometres and came to where the sewer pipe under the road was blown up, it had done quite a lot of damage. They must have had a large workforce to get it reopened overnight. It was just before a bridge. If they had blown the bridge this would have caused much longer delays to the traffic as it would not have been able to be fixed overnight, it would have been at least another whole day. The general feeling is that it was a statement by the rebels to be noticed, but not cause total chaos.

There were three tanks parked at the side of the road – first time I have ever seen tanks in actual use!

Lunch stop with a tank (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Lunch stop with a tank (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

As you go along the road the locals have washing drying along the paddock fences, as well as the front of their houses. Even at the most modest of the houses the paths are swept and there are flowers out the front. Not all the houses have water, and we saw a number of woman walking along the road with water.

Washing hung out to dry

Washing hung out to dry (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

The temp got up to 32 degrees, so we stopped for more water a few times. There are still endless dogs, cats, chickens and livestock. I am a bit wary of dogs standing at the side of the road in case they rush out, but we came round a corner and there was a cute little puppy trying to break into a rubbish bag. Well, he must have thought I was interested in it, as he rushed out at me very ferociously. I was half nervous and half laughing.

The locals were still mostly smiling and waving out at us but as we got to closer to where the explosion had taken place we were greeted with total silence. Must have been really scary for them, and no doubt they are worried by the really heavy military presence.

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A typical sort of home in this part of Columbia (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s Facebook page)

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And next door a ‘richer’ house (Photo credit: Sue’s Facebook page)

Along the road there are hoses with water coming down from the mountain, and they have holes in them with water spurting into the sky. This is where the locals wash the passing trucks and cars for a fee. Turns out they also wash foreigners on a bike unasked and for free, but with delightful smiles whilst doing it.

Hundreds of water pipes spraying water out (photo credit: Sue's Facebook page)

Hundreds of water pipes spraying water out (Photo credit: Sue’s Facebook page)

I went through a couple of towns where there were lots of locals on horseback. I saw a couple of horses along the road carrying two milk urns one on each side. I have seen a number of cows being milked by hand.

I got to the lunch stop in good time so I decided to have a go at the hill. The gradient was not that steep, only 6 to 7%, but my legs were very tired and there were trucks constantly going up and down.

I saw two local boys latch onto the back of a truck to ride up the hill – very dangerous, but not as dangerous as the family going up sitting on top of the trucks with their toes tucked under rope!

The traffic is totally crazy, they pass on blind corners with double yellow lines. How the road is not littered with wrecks I don’t know. There were also two trucks broken down, and a couple just stopped where they had nipped across the road totally blocking the traffic, leading to even more crazy passing.

After 5 kilometres I decided enough for the day, what with tired legs, scary traffic, and I had a big sting/ bite on my legs so I decided to sit it out and wait for the lunch truck. Just after the lunch truck picked me up, it got foggy and you could barely see where we were going, so I was pleased I had called it a day. It took over an hour to go the remaining 33 kilometres to camp.

The mist descends (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

The mist descends (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

When I got to camp the choices of where to put up the tent were a soggy paddock or tarmac by the side of the road. I chose the swampy soggy paddock.

Just after I got the tent up it started to rain. All 35 riders were cramped under an awning for the rider’s meeting and dinner. Even though the temp was 17 degrees it felt chilly. I had dinner and went straight to bed. I had a choice of an open shower with a main road passing, or wet wipes – I chose the wet wipes.

Cramped under the awning watching the rain (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Cramped under the awning watching the rain (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

We were not sure what the plan was for the next day as we had lost a day and had to be in Medelin in two more days riding. The rain started to pelt down just as I got into my still damp tent, but it was cool enough to tuck up into my sleeping bag.

We were about 2 kilometres from a military base and they had advised they were going to be doing a practice exercise that night, so not to be alarmed if we heard gunshots etc. We did check they knew where all our tents were. As it was I heard nothing, but the sound of the trucks going past would have drowned most things out.

The place that we camped was where the owner had put in toilets especially. He and his family were very hospitable and were bringing out small cups of coffee to the riders as they arrived.

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

Day 6/164: Caucasia to Ventanas – 138k (or maybe not!)

After a wash and an oil I hoped the bike would work better. I decided that I would keep riding with my old shoes and tape them at lunch time when they had dried a bit, to give my new shoes a few more days to break in.

My panniers are now tied on with cable ties and my speedo has lost its magnet. However it was basically a straight road today, so rolling hills until 102 kilometres, and then 36 kilometres with a 2,000 meter climb.

I set off with my legs feeling a bit weary from the day before, but once I got going it was ok. I got to about 35 kilometres and a bunch of riders came back and said we had to go back to the town 9 kilometres away, as there was a skirmish between the military and the rebels up the road and no one could go through.

We went back to the town and waited at a roadside truck stop cafe for an update. It turned out the rebels had blown up a sewer line under the main road. This is the main road from Cartagena to Medelin. There is no railway, so this caused chaos with trucks backed up for miles.

Trucks backed up (Photo credit: Sue's Facebook page)

Trucks backed up (Photo credit: Sue’s Facebook page)

We were not sure how long the road would take to open, plus Christisano and Henry (the company owner) had been advised not to go through the smaller roads as we could run into rebel groups. So it was back to the previous night’s camp in Caucasia.  At the place we were going to stay tonight, the guy had built 4 toilets especially for us!

We will get an update at the rider’s meeting tonight about the plan for tomorrow – whether we are riding or bussing to the next stage. At one point there was talk of riding back to Cartagena and flying to Medelin.

Henry and Christiano are very confident that we are in no danger as the issue is between FARC (the rebels) and the military. There has just recently been a break down in the peace talks and the feeling is this was the rebels telling the government you had better get back to the table. Even so, Henry has recommended we stay together in a group. Henry and Christano will reassess the situation tomorrow morning and make a final decision then.

Tonight we had a whole bunch of locals show up with a floral float and the priest and a lot of villagers on motor bikes. They blessed the hotel and sung some songs. I think they were doing this at all the hotels.

Tonight one of the tour leaders started Spanish lesions for the riders. I went along for 30 minutes, after which my general level of tiredness caught up with me and I went to bed.

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