(May 12 – written by Dave)
We had another big day in the Andes. In fact, we had two days today. We were planning on riding 40k or so to a small town called Pedregal. The only trouble was that we arrived there at 9:30 in the morning and it was sunny. Too sunny to stop for the day. So we decided to push on anther 40k up to Ipiales. The only trouble was that little word “up”. The second 40k was almost all uphill and we ended up climbing a lot – 1,500 meters in the last 40k.
In first 40k we had a long climb for the first 15k but it wasn’t too hard. Coming out of Pasto on a Saturday day meant that we had quite a few local cyclists. Right at the top of the climb we were passed by an older roadie named Oscar and he pulled over for a chat. He didn’t speak any English but was super enthusiastic and in leaving he gave us God’s blessing – it was sweet. He asked that we send him the photo I took – which we have.
Speaking of photos, we had to pose this morning at the hotel with our bikes and gear in front of the hotel sign. The manager, Sebastian, who took such good care of us when we checked in, wanted to get a photo for the hotel website. He wasn’t able to make the photo shoot so he left two his guys in charge of the photo shoot – we felt like rock stars they took so many snaps with their phones.
Anyway back to the ride. After the uphill and our meeting with Oscar, we had a massive downhill. In fact we rode downhill for almost 25k. There were a couple places where flaggers stopped traffic for construction but we somehow managed to hit them all with green flags. We had to slow near the bottom of the downhill for a couple trucks, being neither brave or foolish enough to pass them like all the cars coming up behind up.
At Pedregal we took a short break sitting in the sun and made the call to ride on. While you never can tell, the clouds up high didn’t look too threatening. Sitting low in the valley sun and thinking the summit is clear has fallen many a mountain expedition but today it didn’t get us. We had sun and some high clouds for the rest of the day. The forecast called for rain but it didn’t get us!
The climb, on the other hand, was hard. It wasn’t as steady as the long climb the other day but it had some steep pitches. And it went on for basically the full 40k with only a few let ups. The scenery was amazing again but in a different way. While the other day was stark mountain scenery, today we saw a lot of crop fields flowing up and down the hills. It seems a little dryer here than say, 200 miles ago in Salento. That and the extra altitude may explain the lack of coffee plants – we’re not sure.
Anyway we made it. Given we were not planning on getting this far, we had to stop on the edge of town for a map/hotel check. We found a servo with a cafeteria and I ordered two bowls of chicken soup. Nancy just wanted to get to the hotel but boy was that soup good. We probably didn’t drink enough during the climb – it’s hard to when you are going 6kph. So having some extra liquids was a good idea, even if it delayed us.
We had one last steep pull up into the town square and started the hotel search. We had a couple picked out but none of them seemed right. We ended up getting an “apartment” right across the street from the first hotel we started at. The apartment is in budget and has heaps of space. The only issue is that they made us store our bikes in an office on a lower floor because, “there wasn’t enough room” in the apartment – there was plenty. Kind of a weird interaction overall but we’ve settled in and are happy we were able to get all the way here in a day. Ipiales is the last town in Colombia – we can see Ecuador out the window of our apartment.
We get another day off tomorrow. There are a few tourist things to do and we are looking into efficient ways to get through the queues at the border. More on both of those topics tomorrow. Right now we are thinking about an early night and no alarm in the morning – yeah.