(May 7 – written by Dave)
Today we spent most of the day looking out at the views of the Andes we’ve all seen in tourist brochures. We had a lot of uphill and a lot more downhill. The views were fantastic nearly all of the time. We rode through the fog, above the cloud, below the clouds and no surprise, got rained on for the last 10k. We had wet feet on arrival in El Bordo but there was no need for the “wet feet = hotel” rule to come into play. We were already planning on a hotel.
We left Popayan about 7AM and had a bit of traffic to navigate getting out of town. In keeping with yesterday’s theme of friendly Popayan, we had several folks stop and ask us if we needed help. We eventually made it out to Highway 25, the Panam Highway. We were warned by Christian (the cyclist we met yesterday) that there would be limited shoulder past Popayan and he was right. Where there was shoulder, it was often 2 layers of new road and a steep drop off to reach from the highway. It worked out fine however as there wasn’t too much traffic.
We had about 25k of up and down to ride to reach the first big downhill of the day. It was harder work than we thought it should be – the stop/start nature of the up and down was hard on our legs. We were pretty happy to reach the downhill. We were above the clouds now but the road way down below us made a few appearances out from the clouds. The downhill was steep and we couldn’t really let the bikes go – no point in riding off the side of the road in the Andes after all.
We reached the bottom and had to go 8k back up the other side. It was an easy grade at the bottom, harder at the top. A road cyclist passed us near the top and invited us to stop for coffee with him, given us directions to the shop in the town of Rosas. Or at least that’s what we thought he did – he may have just been telling us about a good place to stop for food. Even though Rosas is small, we couldn’t find him or the shop. We picked up some cheese croissants and bunuelos at the panaderia – stopping to eat then at a restaurant on the way out of town. We ordered coffee and chicken soup as well.
The way out of town was the next big downhill – it was a good 10k downhill and a bit chilly at the top. We were stripping off layers by the bottom – and having to ride slowly because trucks in front of us were riding their brakes on the decent. We waited patiently. Most of the cars passing us and the trucks didn’t. But at least everyone made it down safely.
At the bottom, we had one more long climb up to a saddle and what we thought was mostly downhill to town. It wasn’t. We were kind of racing a rain cloud at this point but still managed to pull over and meet a couple cyclists coming up the hil. We blew it and didn’t get their names but learned that they were from France (him) and Germany (her). They had recumbent bikes with sails – yep, you read that right. Crazy looking rigs but they made it all the way from the bottom of the continent so good on them.
We departed with rains just starting. We peddled hard and got soaked over the next 10k. We really thought we’d burst out the other side but this never happened. It was just starting to let up when we reached the Euro Hotel – it’s nice but a little more upmarket than others in town. When you have wet feet, looking around is not much fun. We have a big room but no WiFi in the room and a cold shower (remember we were soaked – boy a hot shower would have been nice).
We made a right mess of the Euro’s fancy white tiles getting the bikes and bags in the room but I found a mop and cleaned up best I could after wiping down the bikes. The owner has been nice to us the rest of the arvo so I think we didn’t get put on her bad guest list.
We’ve had a bit of back and forth on how far to ride tomorrow. We have some days ahead with lots of climbing and we aren’t really sure how many days to keep up our sleeves before Quito. We’ve decided to stick with the original plan and head towards El Remolino. If we get nice weather, we may make a game day call and ride further. It would be nice to arrive without a rain shower but some things we can’t control – life could be worse.