(May 3 – written by Nancy)
Well, sleeping in a pub turned out to be quite all right last night! There’s something to be said for having a couple of nice IPAs, some pizza and then strolling to your room at the end of the hallway. Fortunately for us, on a Wednesday night the pub was pretty quiet so we weren’t bothered by noise from the pub area at all. There was a bit of traffic noise but it quieted down enough that we were both asleep before 10pm.
We knew we had a relatively short ride today, only about 60k to Cali, so Dave agreed to set the alarm a bit later – all the way to 5:30, wow what a treat (ha ha)! As we were getting things ready Dave noticed my back tire looked a bit low – oops, I had forgotten to tell him about the tire feeling low yesterday at the tail end of the ride (that’s what 140k will do to you). So, even before getting to eat breakfast Dave had to change the tire, finding three of those pesky wires from exploded truck tires. We cleaned up, ate our cereal (and toast – first time we have had a toaster or toaster oven in ages) in the pub and then finally left between 7:30 and 8.
Rather than continue on the PanAm highway today we took a short jog west and got onto Highway 23, which also runs directly into Cali. This was in part to avoid the town of Palmira, which is in the ‘orange – reconsider your need to travel’ zone on the travel advisories issued by the Australian government. We had also read a couple of cycling blogs where cyclists were advised by police not to stop near the town. Who knows whether these things are real or not, but we decided to try a different route and see something other than the PanAm highway.
The valley from Buga to Cali is filled mostly with sugar cane fields and as we saw in Central America there were lots of sugar cane truck crossings and folks working out in the fields. It was quite hot again – our bike computer thermometers were measuring 38C by 10am, with humidity up as well. Traffic on Hwy 23 was pretty light so we felt like we were really out in the country. We stopped for a nice-looking restaurant for fresh juice – Dave had a lulo juice and I had a maracuyá juice, both fruits we tried on our fruit tour in Medellin. Very tart and refreshing, just the ticket to get us going in the heat.
As we started to leave, Dave noticed a strange bulge on my back tire – uh oh… We couldn’t really tell what was happening with it, so decided we needed to pull the tire off and see. Well, it turned out it had nothing to do with the tube but instead the tire seemed to be delaminating and what looked like an air pocket had formed on the side. We ended up poking a hole in the bulge to let the air out and then put some patch glue in to try to get the two pieces back together. We added some gorilla tape on the outside and on the inside of the tire to try to give it some more strength and decided to see how it would hold up.
The last 15k into Cali was pretty busy with hectic traffic coming from all directions – not surprising for a city of over 2 million people (Cali is the third largest city in Colombia). At some point we picked up a rider behind us on a one-speed city bike. This turned out to be Eve (I think that was his name), who was a very spirited advocate for cycling in Cali. He ended up riding with us all the way to our hostel, pointing out interesting things, watching traffic for us, ringing his bell frequently to make cars aware of our presence. Eve didn’t speak much English and between the traffic noise and his very fast Spanish we were struggling to understand a lot of what he said but he was certainly being a good Cali citizen, helping us along the way. We even stopped at a bike shop along the way to check out some more tires and ended up buying another tire (pretty soon we’ll be carrying more spare tires than we have wheels to put them on!). The bike shop owner came out with a couple of free gifts for us before we left – nice.
We arrived at our hostel, formerly known as the Drop Bear Hostel but now known as the Oasis Hostel Cali. There is an Australian connection – not sure what it is exactly but they have Vegemite available at breakfast so Dave is excited. It is a nice little hostel, relatively new so things appear to be in good shape so far. We arrived a bit too early to check into our room so we parked the bikes and went across the street to a little Mexican food restaurant and had a great ‘menu del dia’ lunch. It absolutely bucketed down for about 15 minutes after we had lunch, with thunder and lightning, but that seemed to be it for the rain today.
Dave found another bike shop on Google that was not far from our hostel so decided he would go see if there were other tire options available. He came back about an hour later having purchased two more tires (!), though he is sure these are better ones (at least he knows the brand) than the ones we have. Apparently the guy running the shop doesn’t stock much but he called the distributor, who agreed to deliver the new tires this afternoon. We have now taken the bikes over there to be cleaned as well – the muddy mess of the last several days riding in the rain and road construction is pretty hard to clean off well without a hose.
And as for my tire, well the patch effort seemed to work well, as there now is no bulge. For now we will just continue to use that tire as it still has lots of life left in the tread and just watch it closely. And, Dave will have to figure out what to do with all of these tires – we cannot carry 6 spare tires all the way to Quito! Actually, I think we will end up giving two of them to the bike guy when we go pick up our bikes – we don’t want to just throw them away.
We are off to pick up the bikes now, hopefully spanking clean, at least for a day (or until we get rained on again). We are staying two nights here so tomorrow will do some exploring and relaxing. We have a little bit more flat riding after we leave here but then we head back into the hills and I think we have some tough climbing ahead until we get to Quito (where we will get even more tires)!