(April 29 – written by Dave)
We had more rain today but mostly at the very end of the ride so it was not too bad. The hotel was kind of noisy overnight but I slept through it all. Nancy gave me the blow by blow this morning about all the comings and goings during the night. We early enough to wake the “nightman” at the front desk. We think he had a friend over and they were talking late into the night – thus the noise. So we didn’t feel too bad waking him this morning.
We left town to grey skies but no rain. There was a short climb up out of town before a ripping 13k downhill. The road had many sharp turns and was pretty wet so we had to really ride the brakes. We saw a few recreational cyclists out in Santa Rosa de Cabal and even more as we took the downhill. There were many coming up out of town, appearing to be heading towards the climb to Santa Rosa de Cabal. We got lots of waves from the other side of the road and even one massive shout out from a group of cyclists stopped at a convenience store.
Colombian riders have been doing very well in professional bike racing for years and currently they are at an all time highest level. I suspect that just like Lance Armstrong raised interest in the USA, these pros are doing the same here. A Colombian got second place in a race that just ended in Switzerland – results have been on the news every night – and I‘ve also been getting SPAM text from our mobile provider with daily results. Today’s text was funny, calling the Colombian guy the “subchampion” of the race – a nice way of saying second place I think. Whatever the cause, it’s nice to see so many cyclists out.
We had to ride through the big city of Pereira and we had the option of adding 10k by taking a bypass road. Being Sunday morning, we opted to head straight through. This was a good call as there was very little traffic. From town we had a 20k climb on mostly good roads with a big shoulder. Here we also had a lot of cyclists – mostly passing us on their fancy light bikes. Though I think we did pass one couple.
We stopped at nearly the top of the climb for morning tea. There were a few cyclists there when we arrived, with more coming and going as we had tea and cinnamon cake. Many asked about our trip and even though they were cyclists, they still had trouble getting their heads around how far we’ve come and how far we are going. We share a passion with them but they mostly only get to ride on the weekends.
After tea we had another stiff hill to reach the real summit. Somewhere in here it also started to rain. We knew that we had another 7k downhill and hoped that it would not be as greasy as the last one – rain was starting to make the road wet as we turned off the highway on the side road to Salento. We thought we’d have to climb all the way to town but to our surprise, we had 5k of down and only 3.5k of up. Not exactly good news for our ride out of here in a few days but that’s not a problem for today.
The last 3.5k was steep and there was some muddy road construction again. Traffic was polite and otherwise we had no issues on the narrow mountain road. Rain was threatening to turn to showers the entire time but it never really happened until we rolled into Salento.
We were too early to check into our hostel so we headed for a restaurant called Brunch. They serve brekkie, lunch and dinner, but no brunch – funny. A man who we think was the owner came out to make sure that we secured our bikes well as we were parking them, even offering us a loaner lock. It turns out that he was from Bend, Oregon but has lived here permanently for 6 years and 25 years on and off before that. The food was great and our new friend very helpful with knowledge of what coffee tours we should do while we are here. It rained the entire time we ate – poor bikes had to sit out in the rain.
We had a small lull in the rain and made a dash for our hostel – Plantation House. We booked a room because we were worried about rooms but we didn’t really need to. There are some folks about in Salento but it is not busy. It might be the season or just the rain. We have arranged a coffee tour tomorrow with the “most informative” tour guide (rumour has it). We’ve spent the afternoon on the deck of the hostel, watching it rain and working out our schedule from here to Quito, Ecuador.
We are hoping to take a second day off here to trek into the mountains and see the famous wax palm trees, purported to be the tallest in the world. More on that later as it’s time to get dinner started – the hostel has a nice kitchen but there may only be one or two other guests. We are hoping to talk with them later – to see if they’ve “met their travel goals” (inside joke for Nancy’s nephews and nieces).
Tomorrow we’ll post all of our new found coffee knowledge – hoping the rains let us get out on the tour and not too wet…