Thursday, November 30, 2017

Colombia day 20: from bogs to Bogotá

The trick with long distance riding in lumpy terrain is keeping in mind the total climb in the ride, not the absolute altitude you're heading towards. This is a mindset I learnt when randonneuring, but turns out it applies pretty well to cycle touring too.
Reason I mention this is that our day consisted entirely of climbing into the Andes for the third time, on the home stretch towards Bogotá. Our stretch goal for the day was Guayabal de Síquima, which sits at a sweet 1630m elevation, 1400m higher than we started the day. If that's all there was to it, we'd have reached it just after lunchtime. However, as the road topology works here there was a sharp 500m drop immediately after hitting that target elevation, and then we got to spend 2+ hours of the afternoon regaining that height sweltering meter by meter, in 28C heat. The Relive video actually illustrates this pretty nicely:
Had we just been focused on getting to 1630m we'd have had a shock, but fortunately we'd figured out today had at least 2000m of total ascent so keeping that in mind it's much easier to track progress to the goal. 

Anyway, the day could have gone very differently indeed. It started off at about 5mins past midnight with Emma rushing to the bathroom with upset stomach. Something we ate last night hadn't settled well. Possibly the impossibly large fruit salad hadn't been prepared with the cleanest of water. Or maybe just the long day of riding into the heat had unsettled things. Combined with the insanely hot and humid room we were sleeping in (drawback of being back down by the river at 250m - along with the bugs!) it wasn't a restful night. Fortunately come sunrise at 6am Emma was feeling more settled so we were able to get up and out for an early start - if only to get out into cooler air before the sun really got going. Breakfast was tentatively eaten by Emma, but she found eggs and rice went down we'll, and at 7.45 we started the riding - that is to say, climbing - for the day. The temperature was soon at 29C, but happily the higher we crept the cooler it got.
The climb went back through the layers of vegetation and fauna we're now used to seeing with elevation change. There's the coffee plants. Now butterflies - including a second sighting of a huge 6" wingspan electric blue Morpho butterfly. 

(Not our photo)

Cambao had also been awash with stray dogs, mostly docile but we had to deal with a persistent begger while we were breakfasting. Poor thing obviously had a litter of pups somewhere, but seemed wrong to encourage it in someone else's town. Anyway all the way up the climb we saw regular ferrel perros ducking in and out of the undergrowth. Majority were tame but occasionally a pack of 3 or so mught take too much interest in the strange double headed tandem beast passing by and come barking and chasing us. Happily Emma has finessed her loud "NO" with teacher quality finger point, which does wonders in stopping them in there tracks (if occasionally nearly causes me to leap off the bike in shock).

We climbed slowly in order to not stress Emma's belly, and it seemed to work as she got stronger as the day went on. We were rewarded with great views, and a great lunch.

Our hostal tonight is one of the more unusual arrangements. The first hotel we stopped at wad locked up and banging the door gave no answer. Same with the second, but this time a hand written note said to call a number. I have it a go and got through first time. The guy that answered seemed a bit surprised, got the gist of what I was trying to ask in Spanish, then thankfully realized English would be easier for us both and he could speak it. And then he got a friend to come around and open it up for us. So we don't just have a room but a whole hostal to ourselves, including the front door key to come and go as we like. It's a very nice building with a roof terrace overlooking the town square. Interestingly the rather eccentric chap who cooked a burger for us at the nearest hole-in-the-wall eatery also spoke great English. This is in no way a tourist town so I guess just a sign we're getting back close to Bogotá.

Speaking of which, only about 65km remains to get back to the airport, with about 1000m of climbing. So we should be there sometime tomorrow afternoon! Can't believe this amazing tour is coming to a close, but it will leave us a few days free for the next chapter of our Colombia adventure, which Emma might write a bit about tomorrow.

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