Nothing quite starts a day like backtracking 4 miles down a road to resume a ride, getting a second flat tire (through our tough marathon tires we had hoped would be the end to, well, flat tires), with a thorn the size of my finger, then finding one of our spare tubes has a slow puncture or leak I just cant find because it’s so slow.
Welcome to day two of the big ride. It started with a bang. Cool air for the first hour before the sun spiked through, then a few short climbs. We cycled a nice 52 miles into Barranquilla and decided to take the bypass to avoid the center of the city. The bypass was a terrifying mix of high speed traffic, honking horns, and pick up trucks cutting us off to pick up passengers from under the shade of bridges in the heat of the day. I noticed the buses didn’t use the bus lanes so as to avoid having to rejoin the traffic seconds later, which added to the congestion. As I rode I imagined all the fumes and dirty air lining my lungs and wondered, if I were cycling here permanently, how long I would last before I collapsed into a heap? Would it be before running head on into a motorcycle coming 40mph the wrong way into traffic? Or perhaps being sandwiched under a diablo bus? I am glad we will have only a few cities like this over the whole trip.
Figuring today’s flat gave us an alarmingly high frequency of days riding to flat tires, we booked into a hotel room, then spent a hour walking through a downpour trying to bolster our supply of spare tubes. To my alarm, I discovered every tube in the stores we visited had a new type of valve I had never before seen. It never dawned on me that Colombia might have a different set up to the schrader or presta valves which I am used to, they had an in between hybrid. O well, patch ups it is. Giving up the search we went and bought more sunscreen (shockingly expensive and later discovered to not be sweat resistant) followed by a restaurant stop involving a whole chicken, with potato and curious garlic dip, and a bowl of soup to start. Stuffing our faces to capacity, we discussed the days events before heading back to our room with A/C.
Today we cycled 36miles from Barranquilla to just outside Santa Marta making for a very short day on the main road by the sea. I will point out for the first two weeks we plan on taking it nice and easy like this to avoid getting over excited and damaging ourselves and the trip. The road followed the coast barely rising creating a very flat run. Its impressive just how good the roads here have been. Also Impressive is how much space cars give bicycles. Around towns though it is still a mystery. A well choreographed stunt show how so many vehicles can make it through so many gaps that appear for a split second without upsetting one another. Horns are to say hi, for taxis to try to attract the next customer, or just for a beep-a-thon and never seem to be used in anger. I felt I almost upset the natural balance when a motor cycle came flying towards me and I hammered my brakes on loose gravel, only for the weight of the trailer to keep me sliding forwards. The motorcyclist, in response hit his brakes, only to change his direction to more over the side walk and throttle off again. It’s almost good fun.
Pulling into town nice and early we booked into an 8 dollar per night hotel including A/C. In this luxury accommodation, water having a 50/50 chance of being off or on at different times of day, as well as lighting cutting out early evening gives a homely/family feel when a knock on the door tells you the power is back on. But the A/C has always worked. Its best not to think about whats under the bed sheets. There are no keys for rooms, but the owner unlocks the main door for anyone coming or going, and unlocks the room when you arrive back.
We went for the closest food to our accommodation which gave us both a bad feeling on account of having no way to chill food, or to wash plates but it was cheap and we didn’t care too much. We sat down in the plastic seats and ate. Karli spent most the night in the bathroom.
Cycling 20 miles down the road at a slow pace, and having eaten no dinner or breakfast, Karli was crippled with stomach cramps, so our day is over early. Knowing that there is a pass to climb we are having the day off sat in another hotel room for $15 with a/c. this time a cleaner hotel, and a friendly owner who has let us put our bikes and trailer in his courtyard. Its nice to know the only way out is through a locked gate down a slim passage, and our bikes seem safe in his sight. We are starting to plan the ride to the most northerly point today as we know in another 50 miles the towns become very thin and supplies even thinner. At which point we will be loading up and really going for it.
Interesting things to note- picking helmets for this trip was a choice between taking both a cycling helmet and climbing helmet, or just one that can kind of do the other job too (even though they are designed for very different purposes and to take impacts in different ways). We settled on a couple of black diamond vapour helmets and while is is a climbing helmet, it has some side protection (though not a lot) and good venting which we knew we would want and is certainly better than no helmet by quite a wide margin.
NOTE-some pics a repeats, there is a cyber gremlin at work!