We spent three days in Santa Marta in a small hotel not daring to venture more than a few feet from the toilet. It seems the roadside chicken we’d eaten the previous day had been seasoned with E coli. Food poisoning doesn’t give the nicest day of riding so we decided to be smart and stay still.
The hotel in which we stayed was down a small corridor between two buildings protected by a sliding steel gate. Down the corridor was Guille, the owner, a happy man who seemed excited to see us. We explained we weren’t well and would be staying a few days. The rooms in the hotel were up a spiral staircase that seemed to be grasping on to the broken concrete mounts at the top for dear life. Into the room the walls were painted a mixture of yellow, blue, white, and the cutting of the paint giving a good 2 inch overlap where the roller had been extra zealous. we paid an extra dollar (totaling $15 per night for two of us) for air conditioning and found the hotel would run out of water each morning for a hour or two. If the toilet was used before the water came back on, it was a case of ‘do not go in there’. It was painful being this early into a tour and being so sick, but we still have a year ahead of us.
Dosing up on pepto-bismol we began convincing ourselves we were feeling better, and, three days after it started agreed the following morning we would chance roadside diarrhea, depart early and cycle up the pass that would take us along the coast.
The road would slowly rise up through thick tropic forest giving way to views down the valley. From sea level to 1300 feet, it was early, cloudy and nice and cool so progress was easy. I was ahead of Karli by a couple of hundred yards and had a short but interesting conversation at the top with two locals in which they asked me something, and I not understanding either nodded or shrugged my shoulders until her arrival. On coming down the other side we started hitting the tourist trail hard. Bus loads of backpackers were dispersing on their exciting adventures, signs were appearing written in English. Meals that would normally cost three dollars were costing ten. This was my worst nightmare, but with an advantage of knowing there would be accommodation in every town. We cycled round 40 miles with some beautiful coastline to the next tourist town. Again the nightmare hit, locals greeting us in English, shops selling trinkets for twenty dollars. We pulled up to a hostel that had no A/C and took a room in the back , in a more traditional style hut with a thatched leaf roof and rather large spring in the floor right were the bed was centered. Everywhere we go the locals are amazed by one; the fact we are cycling from one town to the next, and two; the bright yellow trailer on tow the likes of which they have never seen, but think is so cool.
Yesterday we cycled 56 miles into Riohacha. A terrible days cycling, which started on rolling hills with a headwind. This soon changed as we hit the flat lands, the temperature climbed to 95F and the headwind steadily rose to 18-20 mph with gusts undoubtedly beyond. It was rather like trying to cycle into into a giant loud hairdryer the whole day. There was no visible sweat, just crisp dryness and a lot of heat. It would be bad enough on a day out ride, but with the panniers and a trailer between us; aerodynamics weren’t great, this was little fun. We took breaks every 15 miles under the shade of the odd tree sitting carefully between the two inch thorny growths and cacti. (this gave the first of the trailer flat tires, carelessness on my part). Things are beginning to get barren, and as the land becomes barren, the homes and roadside shops stop. As we cycled my eyes were fixed on the paved surface looking for steel-hard thorns being blown in clusters by wind. There weren’t many locals cycling this road. Towards the end of the ride entering the town was a small shop selling cool bottles of pop.
The last leg of our northbound journey is towards Punto Gallinas (northern most point) with headwinds up to 26mph. Which will be a true grind test. It is nice knowing the prevailing wind will make the ride back South easier. This is averaging the smallest mile per day tour I have done. Normally 60 to 110 miles a day is pleasant- we are currently averaging 25 mile per day (though cycling around 45), but considering the heat, the lost days to food poisoning and the daily headwind dragging us down, it’s not too bad. Soon we turn south west and the wind should be behind us for a couple of months.
We do have the option of turning south right were we are now and going straight to Bogota, but what’s a tour without a little suffering? 😉