|"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.
|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.
|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!