SOUTHERN COLOMBIA

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DAY 566 NEIVA – HOBO

START 9:30 FINISH 14:30 (20/09/16)

DISTANCE 51KM RIDE TIME 3H19

It was a hot morning while I continued to cycle South on the 45.I reached Campoalegre and stopped here for  some freshly squeezed sugar cane and lunch.

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I had the normal complete menu. It was only 4000 Paso. Extremely cheep. By the time I left the restaurant I was feeling unwell. I wasn’t to far down the road and I had to make a emergency stop to duck under a bridge. As the afternoon went on I felt a lot better. I got another bloody puncher today. Number 32. I pulled out a whacking piece of metal.

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By 2:30pm I had reached the small town of Hobo. I found a cheep room for 13000 Paso at the local gas station. After showering walked into town. To my surprise I came across a cyclist Yannis from Luxemburg also making his way south. Talked bike with him for a while. The main road ran through the centre of town . There was a long row of food stalls selling to the passing traffic. I called in for some tomales to take back to the room. It was a hot night even with the fan.

DAY 567 HOBO – GARZON

START 7:30 FINISH 16:30 (21/09/16)

DISTANCE 51KM RIDETIME 4H31.

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Straight away it was a climb out of Hobo. It soon revelled a beautiful pictures landscape with a large river running through a valley with large sharp jagged mountains in one direction and in the other, mountains made up of red rocks.

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After 15km I found Yannis stopped at a restaurant. I joined him for a cold drink.

We cycled on together. High up in the mountains with the help of a dam. A large man made lake had been created. The old road was now under water.

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The new road ran high beside with great views. We stopped in Gigante for lunch before cycling on in the hot afternoon sun. We were stopped by some young guys from Bogota who wanted to film us.

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 On the outskirts of Garzon we negotiated 15000 paso for a cheep basic room. We were the only guests and when we ran the water for the shower it came out brown. For $5 with wifi it was still good value. There was actualy a swimming pool as well. We didn’t have time to use it.

DAY 568 GARZON – PITALITO

START 9:00 FINISH 17:00 (22/09/16)

DISTANCE 77KM RIDE TIME 5H32

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This stretch of the 45 has been really enjoyable. Sure there are lots of hills. After a little bit of hard work there is always a reward on the down hill. The scenery was again awesome today as at one stage we were cycling through a gorge.

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It was again hot and hard to cycle up the hills. It was nice to reach Pitalito. We looked at some over priced hotels and all with stairs. So a pain to get the bikes up. We found a spot in a car park before deciding to find the bomberos. Good result. With a spot for our tents under cover.

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DAY 569 PITALITO – SAN AGUSTIN

START 8:00 FINISH 11:15 (23/09/16)

DISTANCE 34KM RIDE TIME 2H54

I cycled with Yannis for the first 8km. Before we went our separate ways. Yannis South and I am heading up, up, up to the Archeologically site of San Agustine. It was a tough climb. With nice views of the valley. On reaching San Agustine I sought out a hotel that had been recommended to me by the Germanys. Camping for 6000 Paso with shower use of kitchen and wifi. Chilling out today before a big day at the archeologically park tomorrow.

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DAY 570 SAN AGUSTIN REST DAY

Last night was horrendous………..late afternoon I started to feel unwell. It started off by needing to visit the toilet at regular intervals. Then the stomach cramps arrived with esuating pain. I hadn’t felt this bad since Uzbekistan in 2011 when I was stuck in bed for 3 days. I felt so sick I considered going to the hospital. After about 4 hours I only just got out of my tent in time before I started throwing up.

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I felt a lot better after this. In the morning. I wasn’t 100 percent, after going into town for some tomales. I got the colativo up to the archeologically park where I spent the morning exploring the site full of carved statues, burial tombs and a ceremonial fountain where small pools and channels had been carved out of the rock.

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Last night coming back from dinner. I was talking to a guy who offered to take me on a Cocaine tour for something different. He said just 1km out of town they are processing the coca. I declined his offer.

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Sunday

This morning I continued the Archalogical tour of San Agustin. I started by getting a colativo 15km up the valley to Obando. Small mountian town with a museum in the centre containing Anchiant berial tombs. One of the toumbs you were able to enter.

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After the toumbs I walked a few km down to the Magdalena Narrows. This is the point the Magdalena river is at its narroest. One and half meters at most and the water was terring through.

 

 

After the Narrows I had to start climbing back up. I was now walking back in the direction of San Agustin. The next site was El Purutal 3km up a dirt track. Here are the only two remaining statues that still have colour.

La Chaquira was my last stop. Here A statue is still connected to a rock high above overlooking the Magdalena river.

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DAY 572 SAN AGUSTIN – SAN JUAN

START 9:00 FINISH 17:00 (26/09/16)

DISTANCE 90KM RIDE TIME 6H35

Just as I started cycling out of town. I was meet by a peace march coming the other way. All the marchers were wearing white and they were celebrating the signing of the new peace deal between the Farc Gorillas and the government after 50 years of conflict.

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The days cycling started well with a quick 9km decent. I meet a French cyclist coming the other way. He had just started his trip in Bogota and is also heading to Argentina. Once I got the 30 km back to the main highway. It became a day of climbing. Mostly it was nice and gradual……..some of it was steep. It was very scenic as usual.

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At one point I saw a jeep hanging from a wire in the middle of the valley. On closer inspection it was a carriage made to look like a jeep to take passengers across the valley. A bit of a local tourist thing.

Closer to the top I got rain and at 2200 meters it was cold. I stopped off and chatted to the soldiers manning the cheek point. They kindly gave me A pineapple to take with me.

img_0015 The day finished with a nice 30km down hill run to San Juan. I stopped and asked the police if I could camp with them and they said no. I have only once ever had any luck with the police and that was in Guatamala. I managed to find a reasinible room for 12000 pasos. While having dinner I watched the peace signing in Cartagena on the tv. It is quite cool been here in Colombia duriin such a monumental event.

DAY 573 SAN JUAN – MOCOA

START 9:00 FINISH 15:00 (27/09/16)

DISTANCE 67KM RIDE TIME 4H38

My start was slightly delayed when I meet to cyclists from England and Spain. We had both stayed in San Juan at other ends of town and only meet as we were about to leave. We shared some information before cycling on. I thought I was going to get a easy day, dropping down 800 meters in altitude. I did. But I still had a lot of ups, some of it steep. I got caught out in a heavy rain shower………only to find I could have found sanctuary of a house if I had gone another 100 meters. Sheltering under a tree left me drenched. At least it wasn’t cold. It was very humid.

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The road looks like it is plauged with problems with lots of wash outs where parts of the road have gone. One point the road was completely blocked by a slip. When I got into town I found a cheep basic room for $4.

DAY 574&575 MOCOA REST DAY

I am having two rest days in Macoa. One to do the hike to the Casade fin Del Mundo. Also known as the end of the world and the other day to rest and get ready for cycling the trampolin de la muerte or also known as the Colombian death road.

It was raining overnight and I waited for it to stop before catching the Colotivo 6km out of town. From here I started the hike up into the jungle. Soon as I started walking I saw nice big bird with a bright yellow tail. It took just over a hour to hike up to the first major waterfall. There were lots of smaller waterfalls along the way.

The condition of the wooden structures were poor. The steep wooden stairs and wooden walkway were all rotting and you needed to tread carefully. The trail came to a end at the river below the first waterfall. I was a little fearful crossing the river with water up to my shorts.

Then it was a short walk down stream to the next waterfalls, before another river crossing. At the next waterfall we needed to cross back again. This time there was a large rock bridging the gap and you could walk over while the water was tearing through underneath.

Then I finally reached the end of the world as you watched the water disappeared over the edge and you could see for miles down the valley. I got on my stomach to look over the edge and it was a huge drop, dropping at least 30 meters. Looked spectacular with a good amount of water pouring over the edge. Shortly after Elise from France arrived. We were able take photos for each other stand on the edge. Afterwards we hiked down to the bottom of the waterfall to take some more photos and got drenched from the spray.

At the second waterfall was a restaurant built under a huge overhanging rock. We called in for lunch. Business must have been slow because the steak came out as though it had been cooking for days.

It was a lovely setting overlooking the waterfall and large pool in front. Elise went for a swim. The best I could do was watch.

 

 

The walk back didn’t take long. After a rest I went to Park central. Always something happening. There was a parade marching to the church and on one side of the square was a stage and hundred people doing a fitness routine. Again the Best I could do was watch. Next to the squre a guy was lighting off sky rockets.

 

DAY 576 MOCOA – EL MIRADOR

START 6:00 FINISH 14:00 (30/09/16)

DISTANCE 33KM RIDE TIME 5H38

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This morning I started to cycle the trampolin de la muerte.Also known as the Colombian death road That runs from Mocoa back over the Andes to Pasto. It is a long narrow gravel road that winds it way high up in to the mountains with huge drop offs. Since been built in the 1930’s it has claimed many lives.

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Then were many Crosses and plaques along the way. Everyone I spoke to told me it rains a lot and don’t bother waiting for the rain to stop.. I was really lucky, I started off from Mocoa on a lovely clear sunny morning and had a clear view of the mountains I was about to start climbing. The first 10km to the Junction at El Pepino was easy along a sealed road. I stopped here for a good breakfast to set me up for a big day. I was surprised to see two other cyclists from the Cheak Republic. Ramon and Kathy were also about to start the Death Road. We didn’t cycle together, we did meet up a few times through out the day.

It was a tough first day. 23Km of only up on a lose gravel road. In at least half a dozen places we had to cycle throw water crossings. It was slow going.

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High up in the mountains you could see the road ahead as it switched back and forward, I caught up with the Checks at lunch time. They had stopped to have a swim in a small pool beneath a waterfall. Been a hot day I was happy to join them.

In the afternoon as we climbed higher and higher we were soon in the cloud.

We started the day at 600 meters. Come the end of the day we had climbed 1795 meters to 2142 meters. Here was a small Police base, a restaurant and a shop. Probly built here because of it commanding view over the area I asked the police if I could camp with them. Friendly enough……..but no. I even asked if I could sleep in one of there bunkers.

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I asked at the restaurant and was able to put my tent up on the porch of one of the building. A hour later I was joined by the cheks. They had had some trouble with there bikes. It was cold up here and I had soon changed into all my thermal gear. We had all made it just in time because the rain soon arrived.

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Less then 100 meters from the restaurant are 4 communication masts. One of these got struck by lighting……..there were sparks coming out of the wall sockets of the restaurant.

In the evening the sky cleared and we had a perfect view of the lights of Mocoa.

 

DAY 577 EL MIRADOR – SIBUNDOY

START 8:00 FINISH 18:00 (01/10/16)

DISTANCE 48KM RIDE TIME 6H26

We were lucky this morning. It wasn’t raining and the sky’s were clear.

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And we had a good view of the surrounding mountains. It was only a short 3km climb to the summit, where we stopped to take photos and take in the wonderful view.

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We then had a bit of a bumpy ride as we descended for a while. So bumpy that I discovered after it was too late my brand new bottle of chain oil had fallen out of a side pocket on my handle bar bag.

After a nice decent it was then an afternoon of slowly climbing. There were many slips on the road. The road is used by some large trucks. They crawl there way along.

 

Mid afternoon I lost the Czechs. Roman had a problem with his bike and they had to hitch a lift. At 4pm I reached the second summit. In the distance I could see San Francisco below. When I reached the towns only hotel. I got the bad news they were full. I was hoping to meet the checks here. Only option was to cycle on 5km to the next town. Found a good old hotel for $4. Went to check out the town. For the first time I visited a town square and didn’t feel very safe. It was dark and not many people. Not at all welcoming. Usually they are a place of activity with food stalls and other vendors.

DAY 578 SIBUNDOY – SANTIAGO

START 8:30 FINISH 10:30 (02/10/16)

DISTANCE 15KM RIDE TIME OH55

I gave myself a pretty easy day. Cycling only 14km to the next town before checking into a hotel for a bit of a chilled out Sunday. Santiago is a pretty small basic town. With a high number of Indudiues people in the streets with there ponchos and distinctive hats.

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Today is also the day Colombians go to the polls to vote on the peace agreement with the Farc. I watched a bit of the elections on Tv. It was very close all day. In the end the peace agreement wasn’t accepted. Which was a bit of a shock. The vote was 50.23 % to 49.77 % Who knows what will happen in Colombia now.

DAY 579 SANTIAGO – PASTO

START 8:20 FINISH 15:30 (03/10/16)

DISTANCE 50KM RIDE TIME 5H43

When I woke up this morning. In my mind I was thinking a nice easy day only 50km to Pasto. As soon as I left town I started to climb. By the time I had finished I had cycled 18km to the summit and was at 3200 meters. It had been a nice ride. Good to be back on a sealed road, Everything was very green. Lots of little farms with Cattle and crops. I didn’t stay long at the top. It was a bit cold and I was back in the cloud.

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The mornings work was rewarded with a 10km down run to the Laguna De La Cocha. The Laguna looked really nice from high up. I was tempted to stop for a night at the Laguna……….I had already set my mind on getting to Pasto. So after lunch I started another 10km climb to the next summit. It went pretty quick. In no time

I was looking out into a green valley full of farms. Then it was all down hill to Pasto

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I got a hotel just short of the centre…….$5 pretty basic. Still with Bathroom, tv, Wifi, Towel & soap provided.

DAY 580 PASTO REST DAY

DAY 581 PASTO –

START FINISH (05/10/16)

Pasto is a big city I went out early this morning to go and collect my new Panniers Vaude have sent to me from Germany. I had them delivered to a friend of John who I meet in Nive. I got a little lost trying to find the place. I started walking through nabourhoods……I thought I probly shouldn’t be in. Every shop had bars across the entrance and everything was exchange through the bars. In the end I found the address I was looking for and was so happy to see my panniers. Wasn’t at first sure if it was all going to work out.

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DAY 582 PASTO – SAN JUAN

START 7:30 FINISH 14:45 (06/10/16)

DISTANCE 67KM RIDE TIME 5H52

Cycling over 3000 meters is no longer anything special, becouse it is becoming so frequent. This morning I left Pasto and once I found the Pan Americana. The next two hours was all up hill for 14km. These always a reward. That was 25 continus km’s of down hill fun. With beautiful senery. Tall mountians with crops growing on the slopes

When I got to the bottom you cross over a narrow gorge. I got hastled by the army for taking photos In a miltary zone as they are guarding the bridge, Yesterday Got chased by the police in Pasto………..they thought I was taking photos of the police station……………I thought they were coming to practice there English. I showed them some photos of the church and they were on their way.

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Only a few km up the valley was a bustling town. I stoped here for some lunch, before slowly climbing for the rest of the day to San Juan

DAY 583 SAN JUAN – IPIALES

START 8:30 FINISH 14:00 (07/10/16)

DISTANCE 28KM RIDE TIME 3H11

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I am only 20km from the Ecuador Border. Before I cross tomorrow, I went and did a small D-tour to Las Lajas. A beautiful cathedral built across a gorge. The 8km cycle down to Las Lajas was well worth it even tho I had to cycle back out. photos I had seen. I had the impression in 1906 it had been built in the middle of nowhere and I’m sure back then it was. I should have known it was really touristy. With a large tourist town built right beside it. Been so touristy it surprised me it was free. I cycled to the town and left my bike outside a restaurant and then walked down to the Cathedral. Along the way. The bank was covered with pluqes remembering peoples loved ones.

Its a very sacred place. They must have a service every day. The church was full.

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I crossed over the bridge which was lined on both side with white statues of Angels playing instruments.. Great view up and down the gorge. You could then walk down to the river below and get a great side view of the cathedral. Really pleased I made the effort to visit. Afterwards I stopped off in the small town at the junction. Outside every restaurant were Guiana pigs on spits. Must be the local delicacy here. At $10 for a whole guenia  pig…………it was a bit out of my price range today…………there’s always Ecuador.

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DAY 584 IPIALES REST DAYS

I very easily convinced myself to stay one more day in Colombia. It ment having to make a trip into town to visit the bank so I could pay for tonight and some meal as well.I got a bit extra and visited the suppermarket as well. The plan was realy to get in and get back as quick as I could so I could enjoy the room. I hear Ecuador is a lot more expensive………so there wil be a lot more camping. I got the colotivo in for 0.30 cents.

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There was a strange scluptur in one park. I had a quick look around the city. It was pretty busy. Good to get back to the hotel to relax.

 

 

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