Thursday, October 11, 2018

Up, down, and up again

So much has happened over the past week or two I forgot to tell a short story that I figured was worth telling. So I'm gonna take you guys back in time, while I share this quickie.

"To care for and protect nature is the responsibility of all."

So this was back in Riohacha alomg the coast. I had almost left town when a group of three guys stopped to talk to me as I was looking up directions. One of the three goons grabbed my Bear Grylls survival knife and played around with it for a minute. I thought he just wanted to take a look, but then he stuffed it in his satchel underneath his arm. I asked him politely to give it back. He refused. I explained to him that I needed it. He said that he needed it and refused to give it back. I decided to take the high road and ask him please. He still refused. He was not budging and was attempting to bulley me. I don't know exactly what else he was saying, he was mumbling some sort of Spanish gibberish. I decided to ask his friend to get it for me. His friend pretended like he didn't understand, he was worthless. I was at a crossroads. Do I let him go or start something? I shrugged and reached out my hand to shake the bandit's hand. Laughingly he extended his hand as well. When our hands connected I grasped his hand tightly and squeezed hard. With the other hand I quickly reached into his satchel and grabbed my knife back. I accidentally shanked him a bit as I pulled it away. I hopped on my bike and quickly rode off. He looked a bit astounded that a Gringo actually stood up to him. I know it was just a knife, and not worth getting stabbed over, but sometimes you have to stand up to the sharks. It felt great to put him in his place. I cruised out of town feeling proud of myself.

Wouldn't want to crash into a capybara.

A few village houses.

Small alleyway in town.

Okay so now back to the present day occurrences. I finally started utilizing a commodity that has been available to me since I arrived. During a long straightaway the other day I spotted what looked like a big green fruit hanging from this little tropical tree. I decided to take a closer look. It was a Pawpaw, and it was nice and ripe. I plucked it and readied the machete. With a single blow, I sliced it right down the middle. I felt like a fruit ninja. I scooped out the black seeds which I find to be disgusting and dug into to the large meaty fruit. It was actually quite filling. Can't get any fresher than that.

The lucky find! A pawpaw to start off the day.

A mystery fruit that a happy Colombian gave to me. It tasted good, but had a strange taste.

On my ride yesterday I found myself in the citrus heartland. Every 15 minutes or so I would com across a roadside citrus tree. They weren't farms either, just a random orange tree conveinintly placed alongside the road. I dined on clementines, oranges, limes, and a large mystery citrus. I'm thinking it was a type of orange but it was very large and the flavor didn't match a typical orange. In any case they gave me the extra boost I needed to keep pedaling on a hot day.

Just like in Australia, oranges and clemintines here are not orange on the outside.

This was the mystery citrus. Maybe an orange that wasn't fully ripened?

This is Colombia's version of fast food.

Momma piggy.

Baby piggies, and daddy piggy.

That brings me to my next topic. Either I have gotten soft over the past year, or the Andes are insane. I woke up yesterday and pedaled up to my first Andean pass before the sun had peaked over the hills. The downhill was great, but I found myself at the bottom slogging my way up a second pass. For anyone that doesn't know, a mountain "pass" is on the spine of the mountain. Once you reach the pass it's all downhill on both sides. By 8 am I had already created my second Andean pass. It was exhausting.

Camping spot in the mountains. In an abandoned mining site.

Barbed wire fences everywhere.

After the second pass I found myself gently coasting down the mountain range alongside a river. It was not to last though. The road quickly diverged from the river and began steadily creeping up the Andes for a third time. This was not a nice meandering uphill filled with convenient switchbacks. No, in Colombia they use the straight up and over method. The faster you get to the other side the better. In a car the method is okay. On a bike it is a killer. It reminded me of a hybrid between the Rockies and Appalachions. Steep grades like Applachia, but massive heights like the Rockies. I finally smashed the third pass by 10 am.

Nice green pasture.

A bicyclist's best friend.

I was already beat. I took a long break alongside a river, while I washed off a few layers of sweat and gave my muscles some time to rejuvenate. My fingers were crossed that there would not be anymore climbing today. Again I was cruising down the mountain in the valley created by this strong muddy water. On my way through a little village I got a flat. It was actually a very convenient place for a flat. The road was not too busy, and I had a nice area on the shoulder to swap the tubes. New tire and new mountain. I began the push up the mountains for the fourth time. Just then the rains came. It wasn't too strong, plus it felt better than the blaring sun. At a snail's pace I trudged on. I was running out of juice and I had to take several breaks on this climb. These roads were either engineered by a madman or a drunk.

One of the many rivers I crossed in the past few days.

The views here have been stunning.

The local butcher.

Finally I reached my fourth mountain pass by 2 pm. I floated down the mountain and my body rejoiced in the adrenaline rush I got from flying down the mountain at 40 mph. It was awesome, but not to last long. I soon found myself at the foot of the Andes for a fifth time. It was early and I had not covered much ground, but I didn't have the heart to pedal up another mountain today. I wandered down to the banks of the river and found a great spot for camping. It was also a great spot for bathing. I rinsed off and enjoyed the soothing sound of the water as the sun set behind the rocky giants. It was a perfect way to relax after a tough day of riding.

A large mountainside house.

Morning view.

My riverside camping spot.

To put things into perspective I only crossed nine Rocky mountain passes on my entire cross-USA trip. In Colombia I crossed four passes in one day!


Had a few more massive climbs today to get into Bucaramanga, but I was pushing hard to make it to a new city. Heading towards Bogotá later today.

Let the good times roll!

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