Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Colombia day 12: Rolling Rio Cauca

Hot, long, still, rolling gradual climb. I think that best describes today. Although it's reassuring to recall that even on an easy day following along side the river, Colombian road builders have no fear of throwing in the occasional 10% climb to keep the legs warm.
Our Santa Fe Antioquia hostel had breakfast served promptly at 8am as promised. We'd already packed up so were on the road be 8:20.  Even so we only had an hour or so before the temperature went over 30. Thankfully it didn't get much higher than that all day, and we had a few pleasant stretches in a small gorge beside the river that were cooler and also took the edge of the humidity.
We were following Rio Cauca all day, upstream towards its source. We won't get as far as its namesake department, but that's fine as that's one of the less stable parts of the country. In fact tomorrow we branch off of the valley and start our climb back over the Andes again, through coffee country. Tonight we spotted that road contains large sections of unpaved gravel, so it's going to be back to slow and tough compared to the last few days.

Dobbin had admirers as we feasted on pop and a bag of crisps.

The first 75km today was very quiet riding, on generally very good quality roads. We had a latish lunch near Bolombolo, stopping in the first restaurant that unfortunately just did drinks and crisps. Around the corner we discovered two very large restaurants feeding a small army of road construction workers. They were a clue as to what awaited us on the next 40km stretch.

The after lunch stretch was significantly more "lumpy" in profile, this is where we hit several steep grades even though still beside the river. But it's getting a major upgrade so for all 40km we were among construction lorries and regular temporary stop signs to allow access to the work areas. It looks like the old road won't exist when they're done, but the new one could change the feel of this ride quite a bit. Certainly they're straightening corners and flattening out the dips and rises. Possibly cutting past some of the small communites that provide all the handy food and drinks services; I'm not sure if they'd relocate to the new road or just wither away. Certainly the culture of regular roadside stops seems very strong so maybe they just adapt to this sort of upgrade work.
Odd to say but we felt strangely lucky to have ridden it before this big change.  But still, I'm sure those Colombian road designers will find a way to sneak a few 10% grades into the new road anyway.

La Pintada old bridge, from the newer bridge.

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