(May 8 – written by Dave)
Luck smiled on us today. We had a gorgeous ride through the foot hills of the Andes AND we managed to do the whole ride without getting wet. That’s not to say it didn’t rain today, rather, our riding hours were done mostly with sunshine and distant clouds. This afternoon just as we were moving our bikes and bags into the hotel room, skies quickly darkened and heavens opened. We watched the rain with a wee bit of smugness – not too much mind you, we have to ride tomorrow and the rain gods don’t take kindly to cyclists being overly smug.
Back to last night… We managed to find a place to eat but as we described yesterday, it was slim pickings in El Bordo. We ended up eating the daily meal special at one of the ubiquitous chicken roasters that you find everywhere in Latin America. Getting the lot mean that we received the chicken soup starter. While you may be tiring of hearing about chicken soup and our daily meal specials but this one deserves additional coverage here. See the photo below for the obvious reason why. And yes, we ate the soup but skipped the extra bits. We needed the liquids.
Back to today – It was dry in the morning with only high clouds – we were hopeful. From the start we could see a small blue patch of sky. Eventually the patch became bigger and bigger, to the point at around mid-day where we were happy we’d applied sunscreen. Clouds hung around on the mountains but we were riding full sun for a good part of the day. Wow, what a treat that was. There were zero complaints about heat, too much sun or anything else weather related. In fact at our morning tea stop, I started to mention “no rain…” and was given “the look” by my senior editor – as though talking about it was going to somehow change the weather (if only it were that easy!).
We had a good downhill from town and then mostly flat roads to the 40k mark. Our route took us down the Turbio River all day but it was far from flat or downhill after the first 40k. We had a number of steep ups and downs as the road went away from the river and came back. The Turbio River eventually drains into the Pacific Ocean, which is somewhat interesting in that until reaching this river yesterday, we’ve been riding along the Cacua River which drains into the Caribbean. Ok, maybe that’s really only interesting to geography nerds.
Regardless of where the river drains, the valley it carved through the foothills of the Andes made for nice views for us today. That and the sunshine – did I mention that yet?
The road surface was pretty good for most of the day but deteriorated with about 15k to ride. We were riding through a bunch of soft dirt or rocky looking road cuts at this point and it seemed that every one of them had slid onto the road at some point. When they send in the big trucks to clear the road, they make a mess of the road.
Well, that’s what we thought anyway until we came upon the latest landslide and the crew trying to clean it up. They were keystone-cop comical in their approach – matching yellow rainwear (it was 38 degrees and sunny at this point), shovels and a sledgehammer as their main tools and of course, branches from a tree in the middle of the road before the slide to warn drivers that there was something happening in the road ahead. They were making good progress on the left-hand side of the slide but there was a large bolder in the road that had them stumped. It appeared that they were using the sledge hammer to break it into pieces small enough to move in the wheelbarrows. We got a photo, just to prove I’m not getting overly creative with my post.
The pavement improved just before the town of El Remolino – we were happy to call it a day here. Dry and ready for lunch. We rode the length of town looking at all of the hotels before settling EL Balcones. They had ground floor rooms and a nice looking restaurant for lunch. I’m happy to report that our chicken soup contained only edible bits of chicken and that the rest of lunch was good also. Our room is tiny but the folks running the place are very nice so everything is good.
We had a bit of party in our room when we couldn’t get the TV going. The woman running the joint, what appeared to be her sister and mother all came in the room and gave the remote a play. The mother was in her purple raingear having just arrived on a scooter. No one had any luck with the TV but we didn’t really care. The three gals each telling the other what to push on the remote, in rapid Spanish, while Mom dripped all over our room was more entertainment than we needed for the afternoon anyway.
Once the rains abated, we headed out for a snack and found a bakery where a couple young lasses decided to practice their English on us. They were 10 and 11 years old and take English in school. They didn’t really know much English but once again school kids helped us with our Spanish – it really is great the way kids have no fear and want to play along with us when we try to speak their language.
Tomorrow we climb. No predictions on the rain. But for sure we go up. We are heading in two days time to Pasto. Between here and there we have one 1,000 metre climb and one 2,000 meter climb. It’s only 85k total distance but that’s too far to go in a day when you are riding uphill at 6 kph for most of the day (Senior editor’s note – and hopefully not in the rain…).