Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Colombia day 19: Ups and downs, lots of downs!

Today has been dominated by Nevada del Ruiz. Last night we were staying in a hotel with hot springs provided by that volcano and this morning we cycled up over the closest road pass to it before descending almost to sea level where we passed through the ghost town of Armero. This poor town was destroyed in the the eruption of the volcano in 1985. Unfortunately we didn't get to see the volcano today due to there being a lot of cloud this morning. 

We started out a little late having been unable to resist spending some more time feeding the hummingbirds and mockingbirds at the hotel. That was one of the most amazing and unexpected pleasures we've had on this trip. After a 500m climb taking us over 4000m altitude while cycling for only the second time - the other time was on our previous South America trip. We then had to descend before climbing to the Letras pass which was 300m lower than our highest point. There were a number of other climbs of 100m or more on the first half of the descent. Overall, it was definitely a day of descending though.
Due to our ever changing plans, we departed from our originally planned route on the descent and then turned South at Mariquita. This town marks the official start of the Letras climb 'the longest climb in the world'. There were plenty of bike shops in town which enabled us to pick up an spare chain in case of more failures. It took a couple of attempts to find though as the first shop we visited didn't carry anything so old fashioned as a 9sd chain! This road also took us through Armero. I remember covering a little bit about the tragedy there in Geography in school. A disaster which claimed 20 000 people out of a population of around 29 000, and occurred through a tragic combination of circumstances, miss-communication and lack of resources. There were several more thousand killed elsewhere in the same eruption, most notably in Chinchiná close to the coffee farm we visited a couple of days ago.

Our target destination for today was Cambao, a distance of 152km. A long day, but we made it into town as the sun set behind the mountains behind us. Tomorrow we start the long climb up to Bogatá.

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