Posts Tagged With: Slacker

Day 41/164: Yantzaza to Loja – 104km

2,732 up and 1,537 down . 104 k

I enjoyed getting up and not having to get dressed in the tent.

Out of the past 6 riding days I have ridden 3 full days, but today I decided with a 2,732 metre climb that I was only going to ride to lunch, which was about 60 kilometres. The first 40 kilometres were rolling hills. I was pushing myself to go as fast as I could. Two riders, Jos and Jason, who are faster than me came past and I decided I was going to stay with them till 25 kilometres. A few times they got away on me, but I managed to catch up each time.

At 25.7 kilometres I let them go, caught my breath, had a drink and carried on. At 40 kilometres we started to climb. When I got to lunch I decided I had done enough and was going to stick with my plan to stop there. I am really pleased I did, as the climb went on for another 28 kilometres. It was steep, it got overcast, then it got misty, then it poured. A couple of the riders flagged down a ute for lift. Others arrived at the hotel wet and cold. A number of the riders were chased by aggressive dogs. One was bitten, and one had her saddle bag attacked!

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

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

There were some treacherous bits on the downhill, and one bit where the road dropped at one point about a foot. Sadly one of the riders – Phil from NZ – came off his bike here at speed. Thankfully one of the other riders was just behind him and made sure Phil was not moved, and organized the ambulance and contacted TDA staff etc. Phil has facial fractures and some swelling on the brain, and had to have burr holes (small drill holes into his skull) to relieve the pressure.

Phil’s condition was listed as serious but stable. Thankfully Loja, the town we were going to, was only about 10 kilometres away and has a pretty good hospital with a neurosurgeon etc. As you would expect, we were all pretty shocked and subdued, but relieved that it looked pretty definite that Phil will make a full recovery. However we are thinking that sadly it is unlikely that he be re-joining us on this tour. Phil is well liked and well known for wearing brightly coloured bike clothing, including stripy socks and a hats. Just this morning we had had photo taken as we were both wearing our NZ riding tops (Editor’s note: unfortunately the photos were of terrible quality due to “it being misty”, but luckily I managed to at least get a pic of Phil from Sue’s blog).

Picture of me and Phil in our NZ riding tops.

Picture of me and Phil in our NZ riding tops

Phil modelling a new outfit today (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Phil modelling a new outfit today (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

In the town where we are staying, it is the night of the annual religious pilgrimage where locals walk 70 kilometres carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary. This pilgrimage has gone on for over two centuries. When they get here they will gather in the Centre Plaza to have speeches, fireworks and other celebrations, and a church service tomorrow.

The first thing when I got to the hotel was to find my daily bag which had been unloaded from the truck but was missing in action. Luckily I located it. For some reason the hotel staff had put my bag and 3 other riders bags separately in a different space – they must not have realised how many bags were being off loaded and when they realised they would not all fit in the original space they put the others somewhere else.

Next step was a shower and to get my laundry sorted, and then a snack and a beer. The laundry place a couple of blocks away is much cheaper than the hotel, and assured us our laundry would be back tomorrow.

The hotel we are staying at is called The Howard Johnson Hotel, which is part of a chain internationally, but is not one that is in NZ. It’s very nice, but the service is patchy, although friendly. We have a rest day tomorrow 😀

Heading off to have dinner with Sue and Jackie (Oz), we realised when we tried to get a taxi that they were all full of locals heading off to the square for the festivities. We did manage to flag one down eventually and went in search of a restaurant that served wine. A lot of the smaller places just serve food. We all had fillet mignon which was nice but I did not manage to convey “rare” successfully. The desert menu looked tempting but it turned out all but one of the deserts were not available.

We caught a taxi back to the hotel and had desert in the hotel restaurant. They served the most amazingly delicious chocolate soufflé . Then off to bed, with no further news re Phil.

Tomorrow the plan is to have a look around the town, and buy more riding glasses. I lost a pair a few days ago, and the next day broke my spare pair.

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

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

A local tourist spot on the road today (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

A local tourist spot on the road today (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

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

Day 33/164: Quito to Papallacta – 65k

2,633km down: 11,008km to go

The route for today is 65 kilometres – 1,858 metres up and 1,550 metres down. It does not sound like much but we are already at 2,800 meters and the plan is to go up to 4,050 meters, and camp at 3,900 meters! We are staying at Termal Santa Catalina.

When I went to bed I was planning on riding from lunch. Given the altitude there is no way I can do the whole day. I can only walk two steps and then stop for a breath, it would take me a week. As it turns out I did not need to worry about the ride, as my gastro returned with a vengeance during the night. So the truck for me again!

The riders did not have to convoy out of Quito, and the first 20 kilometres was on paved, reasonably flat, road and then the climb began. At 30 kilometres they had to turn off the highway onto a dirt road which was rocky, slippery, drizzling, windy and cold. We stopped for lunch 7 kilometres before the summit. Everyone was cold, and a number of riders still do not have enough cold weather gear. Yesterday I lent my rain jacket and rain pants, arm warmers and two hats!

Leaving Quito in the sunshine (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Leaving Quito in the sunshine (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Looking down at the main highway (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Looking down at the main highway (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

The rain, mist and cold arrives (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The rain, mist and cold arrives (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I was pleased when the dinner truck stopped at the lunch stop, and I was able to go in that straight to camp, as it is boring sitting in the lunch truck especially when you can’t help.

I was not so pleased when I got to camp! What a bleak cold place. It was overcast, drizzling and cold. And of course no rooms! (Just our tents). One of the TDA staff suggested I go into the restaurant and get warm. Ha! That was just as cold as outside, there were no windows and I could not get the person who worked there to come to the counter, so I could not even get a hot drink (apparently there were problems all day with getting any service).

I slunk outside again and decided to put my tent up. Once that was done I decided I should put up the tent for one of the other riders who puts my tent up for me if it is getting late and I am not yet in camp. So those who know me, and my ability to put up tents the first time by myself, will already be smirking!

First of all I got it out and laid it out on the ground . . . Hmm, where do the poles go?! I turned the tent over a few times and finally found the channels where the poles go in. In they go, or not! as it turns out. I got one half way in and it came apart and I tried to put it together still inside but no success. I took it out again. I got both poles in but the tent was inside out or something – both poles were about 10 centimetres apart. Start again, this time I got them in the right way and the tent looked almost like it should. I put the tent pegs in and left the mallet for if it needed a bit of tidying up, and decided it was as good as it was going to get.

Cold and wet camp tonight (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Cold and wet camp tonight (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I slept most of the afternoon and then got up for the riders meeting and dinner. I didn’t not eat very much and was back in bed at 6:50pm. Fingers crossed my gastro has cleared up by morning as I would like to actually be riding some of this section.

I was very cold in the tent and had on long johns, ice breaker tops, hat, and jacket! I need to get a bivy sack and a thermal liner for my sleeping bag.

We get to over 4,000m again today (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

We get to over 4,000m again today (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

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

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 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.

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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.

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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 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!

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

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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

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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.

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

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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

Day 19/164: Bogota to Anapoima – 85km

1,356km down: 12,285km to go

Three new riders have joined the group:
Franzwar (not how you spell his name but that’s how it sounds, he’s from France) he has done sections of other rides and is doing a couple of sections of this one (Editor’s note: I’m assuming Mum means “François”)
Mario – a young German guym this is his first TDA ride doing the whole ride
Rosa – from the Netherlands here for 3 weeks has done the South African ride before.

Rosa at the market lunch stop (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Rosa at the market lunch stop (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

We are staying at El Molino camp in Anapoima tonight.

We left in a convoy of course, as we were coming out of a large city. It was threatening to rain, and would you believe there is a public transport strike happening.

We had a police escort. I decided to ride in the the lunch truck until lunch, which was meant to be at 29 kilometres, and then ride the rest of the way – about another 90k. The convoy took over 2 hours through the crazy traffic.

The police escort then dropped us off at the Terpel petrol station as planned and the instructions for riders, regarding distance and turning etc started from there. Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans! The problem was it was the wrong Terpel station and the person who had mapped out the route was not with the convoy. So chaos ensued as the directions and the road were not matching!

Trying to figure out which way to go (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Trying to figure out which way to go (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Luckily the riders realized pretty quickly and re grouped and contacted Christiano, and they were redirected and it only added another 10k to their ride. The truck however went really wrong, and by the time the TDA staff realized and back tracked, the riders had already passed the 29k mark.

The lunch truck was following the riders, and trying to overtake riders going down a narrow steep dirt road. It was not till we got to 52 kilometres that we had passed enough riders to make it worthwhile stopping for lunch.

I decided to still ride as there was approximately another 40 kilometres so I hopped on my bike. The first 15 kilometres was down and up the same terrain as before lunch – windy, narrow, dirt and occasionally rocky. This certainly was part of the 15% of the time I knew I would wish I had bought a mountain bike.

After this was about 10 kilometres of uphill, reasonably steep gradient. It was boiling hot and I was huffing and puffing. I am still not coping with altitude, and generally not being fit enough. I finally got to the open road with a reasonable down, and then some rolling hills.

Just before camp I came across Paul, one of the other riders, walking his bike down the hill. Paul’s brakes had failed quite a while before but luckily he was not harmed. Paul commented that it was a peculiar brand of torture having a bike you could only ride up the hills.

I got to camp and set up my tent, but did not realize I had put it on too steep a slope. I didn’t realise until I went to bed, and then I did not want to try and move it in the dark, which as it turns out would have been a better option. I kept waking up uncomfortably hunched at the bottom on the tent. Between the roosters that started at 2 am, the heat, and the trucks, I did not get a lot of sleep.

We had Spaghetti Bolognese for tea.

Tonight's campsite (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Tonight’s camp-site (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

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Day 16/164: La Vega to Bogota – 60 kilometres

1,271 km down: 12,370 km to go (End of Stage 1)

We had to get up at 4:30 as getting into a large city is always difficult. Having been awake most of the night with the music and with the puncture issues, I decided to forgo riding 60 kilometres, including a 2,000 metre speed trial up hill, and the convoy into Bogota.  A convoy is difficult enough anyway when you are one of the slowest riders, without an almost 100% certainty of a flat tyre or two. So, I decided to ride in the truck.

We got to the lunch spot and set up lunch, by the time we had finished it was about an hour before the first riders were expected. The road we were on is a main road into Bogota, and one that the local cyclists use for training, and it is Sunday. Cycling is big in Bogota and there were hundreds of cyclists out that morning.  There was a constant stream of pelotons (groups of cyclists) individuals, dads and sons etc. Most were brightly dressed in cycle gear, but some were in jeans. The bikes ranged from top of the line to old.

The 30 kilometres ended up being 27 kilometres due to parking availability. I wandered about 500 metres down the hill. I was watching one cyclist with a very old bike that had a rusty chain, and it broke twice within a couple of hundred metres. I tried to convey to him that there was a bike mechanic just round the corner who could help, but it was lost in translation.  As the riders were expecting to do another couple of kilometres I stayed where I was, letting them know the finish was just around the corner.

After they had all come in and rode off again to the convoy spot I was helping clear up lunch, watched by a couple of hopeful local dogs. As we were going into two rest days and left overs needed to be chucked, they became very happy local dogs, with a big bowl of shredded chicken tipped out for them.

Once we got the truck packed we headed off to the convoy spot. The constant stream of local cyclists continued. Outside every cafe and coke stop there were dozens of bike. The convoy start was by a big café, inside were about 40 cyclists as well as the TDA riders.

Amazing atmosphere at the cafe (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Riders congregate at the cafe (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

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Amazing atmosphere at the cafe (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

We had three cyclists from Bogota to help led the convoy. We had a TDA truck at the front of the cyclists, and another TDA truck behind. The traffic, as you would expect in a city of over 7 million, was crazy but much more tolerant than Wellington drivers.

One of the riders got a flat and him and his bike had to be hauled up into the truck. Then another rider’s bike broke – he is still on track for EFI, so the sweep gave him her bike and then the sweep and the broken bike had to be hauled into the truck.

The riders got to a bike only lane (Bogota shuts off inner lanes on Sundays, the same as Medellin, for public use, only Bogota started this). There is a complicated one way system in the city and we ended up going around one part twice, taking about an hour due to traffic.

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Convoy into Bogotá (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Finally we got to the hotel which is Hotel IBIS. The riders got there well before us. We collected our daily and permanent bags and set off to get into a warm shower. Warm shower – the joy! Then into my only remaining clean clothes. Just as well Sue and I get on, as we have a really small room. The beds are two twins pushed very close together, and not a lot of other space.

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The hotel room Sue and I are sharing at the Hotel IBIS in Bogota (Photo credit is obviously Kaye, as it is blurry again)

A group of us went to an Italian restaurant just around the corner called Archie’s – found out later it was a chain. The food was good, I had a medium pizza with jalapeños and anchovies, it was delicious. I also had some red wine.

My plan for the next two days:
Monday – laundry and sorting bike and bike gear
Tuesday – a tourist.

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