After leaving Suesca we have started making terribly awful but fun decisions. The first was taking a tiny mountain road the locals said might not be advisable. We were warned as we camped at a horse ranch where we ate dinner the evening before, that even though the FARC situation was over, the road our satnav chose was an un-policed road and until a year or two ago was risky. But, was probably OK now. The owner of the ranch also admitted it would avoid all traffic and we would probably see no cars.
The road started with a climb to 9000 feet then plummeted down. Our presumption was we would be at 1200 feet before lunch with little to no pedaling. The dense cloud forest at the top was, I will be honest, scary. It was unpaved road with concrete at the steepest points on hairpin corners and some very large drops to the side. I quickly found going down such a steep road on a bike with a 50kg trailer is a terrifying ordeal where either my brakes were fully applied but the bike would accelerate into the whiteout with no idea if it was a cliff edge or road ahead, or my back wheel would lock up and trailer try to jack knife me. It had me ready to jump off the bike if needs be in a few places. The hideous squeal of straining brakes and fast repeating sound of spokes creaking and twinging under strain. I even put on my helmet in fear of a wipeout. After descending a few miles and settling into the descent as much as one could, there was a smell permeating its way through the air to us. It was not just a passing smell, it was strong and went on for miles. The forest stank of Cannabis. We didn’t see any people, but we couldn’t see much of anything. I remembered watching documentaries a few years ago about the remote mountain areas in Colombia and imagined just what was hidden up the hundreds of small mountain valleys departing the road side. The owner of the ranch may have been right about the road. But we descended down unhindered.
the picture doesn’t ever do justice .
At about 5000 feet and with great relief we were spat out onto a paved road above a town, and quickly joined a main road we could have taken around the mountains. We followed the road and expected to have brunch at around 3500 feet. Unknown to us, at some point on this road, for this day, the traffic was changed from two-way to one way. It was bizarre, one second we had cars going our way, we rounded a corner, patched a tube on our trailer and suddenly to our confusion the traffic was flying uphill in both lanes. We couldn’t work it out, all the signs were in our direction and we were told at the next town down the traffic would be normal again, but there was no other way to the valley bottom. It started raining heavily. We decided we were in as much danger trying to cycle up in the rain as cycle down so carried on down the narrow shoulder. The shoulder soon gave way to road works and excavations, a crazy barrier hopping operation ensued. We were sprinting from one gap to the next between zooming cars. The next town was less than a mile but in heavy traffic it took hours. On reaching the town it was chaos with officers trying to direct the overwhelming number of cars. We found out this redirection would last until 7pm. Deciding it was enough danger for the day we booked a hotel and rested. The next day was easy and far less scary.
A couple of easy days riding and 150miles brought us to the edge of the Tatacoa Desert. Ahhh, deserts, the hot dry places that support a disproportionate amount of flies and cause untold amounts of saddle sores. Fortunately this one is small, more a dry valley bottom, but at 32c (90f+) and Cacti about, I guess it qualifies as Colombia’s second. We had the option of a beautiful straight paved highway or a dirt road off to the side. Being bad at decision making we took the desert road. What could have been an easy mornings ride to town turned into a hilly sandy gravel slog. I am thankful this desert was not as big as Colombias’ Northern desert and would be over quick. A lot of the road was covered in small river stones on hard base, which cause a lot of wheel spin problems cycling uphill. Imagine a hill of marbles and a trailer trying to pull you backwards. This results in frustration and after grinding to a halt then attemping to push the pile of steel and climbing gear up hills, with feet then in turn slipping back down. There were some cool tunnels near the start of the road in which light did not shine and I presume gave the overhead bats a nice home. Towards evening we reached the touristy part of the desert (there is a paved road in from the south) and decided to reside the night at a mud bath and spring. This was a nice break but in the morning while we packed, I was eaten alive by tiny flies. My legs speckled all over like some form of chicken pox that went into over kill.