Ok. Left Medellin yesterday, heading south about 400 kilometers to Cali. Brian, Patrick and Damon went to Bogota, the capital of Colombia. So, now I’m on my own. There are definite advantages and disadvantages to riding alone. Now I can stop whenever I feel like it without holding up everyone else. And, I generally like to stop a lot to take pictures. I’ve also taken to riding slower these days just to enjoy the view. And I like riding off the beaten path although this has gotten me in trouble before.
I was using my GPS to navigate and found that it was quite accurate for a change. And it took me up thru a very interesting route along a ridge with some pretty incredible views. At one point I turned off the main highway onto a dirt road. That took me thru a small town and then across a small one lane suspension bridge that I could feel moving under the weight of my bike. I talked to a couple guys at the bridge and they told me that it would take me to where I was going but it was a bad road - exactly what I was hoping for.
The road was pretty torn up and it split off at numerous points. But, the GPS kept me going the right direction. Until… I came across a questionable turn that led down a very narrow gravel road running down a very steep hillside. Hmmm… what to do? Of course, I took the road less traveled. It was quite steep but it was gravel so it was fairly easy to ride… for a while. Then the gravel started thinning out. And , there were spots that had no gravel. This would not be a problem if the ground was dry - but this is the rainy season in Colombia. So, the spots without gravel were muddy and very slick. When I hit the first slick spot, down I went. Hmmm, these street tires don’t work very good in the dirt. I’ll go a bit further and just see. By then the gravel had nearly disappeared and it was now steep and slick. And, to make things worse, I had street tires on my bike. What was I thinking? At this point, the GPS also showed that this was the wrong way. So, I tried to turn around and go back up but it was just too muddy and too steep - my rear tire would just spin. Ok then, down we go. But, the further I went, the worse the road got. I was questioning my decision to go on but didn’t know what else to do. Eventually I reached the end of the road, it literally dropped off into nothing. Apparently there had been a rather large landslide and it completely took out the road. Great! At this point I had ridden down so far into the abyss, that I was sure the only way my bike would be moving from that spot would be to airlift it out with a helicopter. My South-America ride was over! Wow! How could I be so stupid? But, after a few minutes I started thinking that perhaps I was over-reacting… NOT! But, what did I have to lose. So, after 2 hours of blood, sweat, and tears, I managed to move my bike about 50 yards. Not good! But, better than I had anticipated. But I still had about a mile to go and was stuck on a slope that had taken all I had… I was completely exhausted! And, it was getting dark. So, I pitched my tent, on the side of a mountain, amidst the banana fields of rural Colombia.
As I lay there appreciating the incredible view, I realized that this was actually one of the things I had wanted to do during some of my previous adventures but had always struggled with - stealth camping! Just pitch a tent wherever you are at the end of the day - no campground, no picnic tables, no showers, no toilets, no fire rings, no fees… nuthin! Wow! I just wished it was under different circumstances.
I was stuck in the mud, down a steep mountainside, a mile from the pavement. But, if it didn’t rain, the ground could dry out a bit, and I could possibly ride out of there the next day. Wishful thinking! Unfortunately, an hour later it was raining like crazy and it didn’t stop until morning, which should be expected - this is after all, the rainy season in Colombia. It could be months before the ground dries out.
The next morning, I woke to the sound of workers in the banana field. So, I asked them if there was another way out and they confirmed that there was not. But, they did help me push my bike up the slope I was stuck on. After that, was the beginning of the gravel and much easier going. Then while I was packing my gear onto my bike, one of the residents of the area walked down and started talking to me. After telling him of my ride and my adventure the night before, he invited me to have breakfast at his house just up the path. So, I accepted and found myself having a meal with Henry and his wife. Henry is a coffee grower and he has a huge plantation. After, eating I headed up the road about a quarter mile where I fell again. This time it was near another house where 2 men and 2 boys were working out front. They walked down and helped me lift my bike and then pushed me up the hill to their house. They offered me a cold drink which I gladly accepted. They said it was mostly gravel from there on up. However, my battery was now dead from all the falls and subsequent restarts. And, they had no jumper cables. But, they did have a rope and a 4-wheel drive jeep. So, they tied my bike to the jeep and started pulling me up the hill. Unfortunately, there was one section with no gravel and the jeep could not pull my bike up thru that section. “No Problemo” they said as they untied the rope. Then they drove the jeep passed that slippery section, and pulled/pushed my bike with people power, up past the slick spot. Then they used the jeep to pull me the remaining half mile to the top of the road where it joined the pavement. I got the impression that this family could use a little help financially. So earlier, I offered them some money for coming to my aid. Of course they said it wasn’t necessary, but I insisted. And, as I lay there on the pavement at the top of the hill, exhausted, looking to the sky, thanking whatever higher power there is out there for the help, I could see the man I gave the money to going thru a similar experience. What a day.
This was an exciting trip for a number of reasons. It was over 30,000 miles thru Latin America and the Andes mountains, and I didn't speak much Spanish. There was also the small detail of the Darien Gap. And, then there was "Death Road" in Bolivia - supposedly the most dangerous road in the world.
Anyway, I blogged about the entire journey right here.