(May 4 – written by Dave)
It’s Friday but it was our “weekend”. You are supposed to relax, do chores and catch up on sleep on the weekend, so that’s what we did today. For what it’s worth, “fin de semana” means the “finish of the week”. We thought about running around and doing tourist things but nothing on the Cali top 10 lists we found inspired us. The hostal/hostel has free salsa classes and there are various walking tours but we decided to just “have a weekend”.
We managed to get a few chores done. We got our phone sorted. To recap, we try getting a new SIM in each country that we visit (for more than a few days). Since entering Central America we have been using a carrier called Claro. They have pretty good coverage and for us a nice feature that a SIM purchased in any Central American country works in the rest with no additional charges or steps required. Our only issue with this plan was when the plan ended (we buy fixed short-term plans), we couldn’t renew the phone in the next country – mainly because the new country had a new currency making payments impossible.
Clario has good coverage in South America so we continued with them, getting a new SIM in Cartagena. With our 30 plan nearing its end, we visited Claro today to see if the phone would work in Ecuador. The short answer is “yes, but”. They are not as friendly as Central America here (well, it’s probably more that the countries are each more independent and do not consider themselves part of a ‘group’ like Central America) and getting a new SIM in each country is cheaper and more efficient. For the record, there is no technical reason phones don’t work at borders. More and more people are taking their “home” plans and SIMs on international trips. The bad old days of international astronomical roaming charges are thankfully nearly gone. Many of the travellers we meet now use their home country plans for little or no extra cost on long international trips.
We found a bank, got some more money – millions of COP or Colombian Pesos. It’s funny, here most prices are just quoted with the number, dropping the millions (which is really thousands, in English, just to be confusing). Even prices on menus, etc are usually noted as, for example 40, when the price is really 40,000 – it was a bit confusing at first, but we have gotten used to it.
After our success on the phone we found a grocery store and got supplies for lunch and dinner and the road tomorrow. We are planning on good old fried eggs, bacon and smashed avo on toast for dinner – must be something about the Australian feel of the hostel we are staying at. They even have a huge tub on Vegemite, which of course I used on my toasted bun (actually 2) this morning!
We are finding the hostal/hostel a fun place to hang out. We are definitely the “oldies” here but it’s safe to say we have the respect of anyone we talk with. We should be better asking about the other travellers trips but it’s hard when as soon as we say anything about our cycle trip, that’s all people want to talk about. I’m thinking that they are impressed that we’ve made it this far and that such a trip is even possible – not simply because two “old people” can still do such things – at least we can think that!
We got our bikes cleaned last night and they turned out great. Juan Carlos runs a small shop out of his home and finished both bikes in under 2 hours. He did a better job than I would do and only charged us $10 per bike. You could eat off the chains now, before there was so much grit that it was hard to tell they were chains. I’m sure the next rain storm will spell the end to the sparkle but cleaning makes everything work better.
I did some work on the bikes today, figuring out which tires I would take on from here was a big task. Nancy’s rear tire is on its last legs but we are riding it out of town. We have 3 relatively high quality spares for the ride to Quito. I hope we don’t need any of them but we’re ready one way of the other. It is hard to purchase really thick tires. Thick (not fat) equals fewer flats – we have thick tires coming in Quito with Nancy’s sisters.
We snapped a few photos out doing chores today. Cali is a gritty city, it feels very industrial and is not one of the historical cities that people might expect of other cities in Colombia. The neighbourhood where the hostel is located has some relatively large, nice houses and is pretty quiet. But here we go again, we’ve taken such a narrow path through the city, I’m sure that there are nicer places if you stop and dig below the covers. It just takes a little more curiosity than we could muster for our short one day weekend. Oh well, you can’t do everything.
Tomorrow we head south again. We have about 55k of the “Valley” to ride before we start climbing. We hope to get half way up the mountain tomorrow and finish it off on Sunday. We are heading for Popayan, which is back up near 6,000 feet. And from there we go higher. In two weeks we’ll be in Quito where it’s close to 9,000 feet. (Cali is about 3,200 feet) So we have some uphill in our future.
Happy fin de semana everyone!