Thursday, 17 November 2011

LA LINEA







I´d had a nice 2 days rest in Cali, South Western Columbia, where I had enjoyed the hospitality of Miller and his family at their Casa De Ciclistas (the morning I left Miller wasn´t there to see me off, and the girl in picture is an Argentinian cyclist who arrived the day after I did). From Cali most touring cyclists head roughly North via Medellin to Cartagena on the Columbian Carribean coast. However, I took a major diversion, heading East towards the Andes Range again, and to the capital of Columbia, Bogota. Before reaching the Andes I cycled through the picturesque coffee-growing area around the town of Armenia, where I camped in the rain in a field close to a farm house (and the people came out with supper for me, as well as breakfast the following morning). Then it was the mean steep climb in the rain up the Mountains again - called La Linea in these parts. As if the hill wasn´t enough, I has some trouble with punctures, going through all my spare tubes in the process. Just after the summit at an altitude of 3 300 m I had to repair a tube, and I took shelter in the simple house of some mountain people in order to do the job (they were very friendly and excited about this chance visit, they called me ¨SeƱor¨and kept offering me coffee). But that wasn´t the end of the mountains! Typically the road went way down again past Ibaque, and then I had to climb up to Bogota which is situated at an altitude of 2 600 metres. It was raining again as usual, but I found refuge at the wonderful La Candilara branch of the Fire Brigade (they moved one of their trucks so I could camp in the garage, they gave me food, and when I left the following morning I was presented with an official Bogota Fire Brigade T-shirt and cap). After another climb out of the city, the road dropped from 3 000 metres to an altitude of 100 m in about 100 km to the city of Villavicencio. From Villavicencio I had a wonderful new flat road of about 200 km to the bustling river port town, called Puerto Gaitan. I knew that my good-road experience was about to end, but nobody could give me any decent info on what lay ahead to the East. I bought 2 off-road tyres anyway, because I had a feeling that I would need them. (Cycling distances are included in the following post).

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

CROSSING THE LINE











Regardless of all the lines which I've crossed which I shouldn't have crossed, I've now crossed the EQUATOR for the third time. The first crossing was on my way North in Kenya, and the second crossing going South in Sumatra (I actually missed the line and didn't even get a photo). Anyway, in this case my North-bound route crossed the line a number of times as the road snaked through the hilly Ecuadorian landscape, and I was so keen not to miss it again that I found myself taking pic's of the bike in the middle of nowhere (the GPS indicated 0 degrees). However, eventually there was a monument and a large sun-dial laid out in stone, and all the paraphanalia that goes with it. Other lines which I've crossed on this trip have been the Tropic of Capricorn (3 times), and the Tropic of Cancer (8 times). Anyway, my last report was from Quito where I was staying at the Casa De Cyclistas in the city (Carlos, Daniel, and Santiago, with dogs in pic). From there Hannes, Annelies, and myself did a short hop down to Tumbaco where we stayed at another "Casa" owned by another Santiago (in picture still in his pajamas) - I was his first South African guest in the 20 years he's been hosting touring cyclists. The garden was spacious, so Hannes stoked up a braai (Argentinian style ASADO). From there we followed a cycle track which runs along a disused railroad for about 40 km (very nice, no traffic, beautiful scenery and even a number of nice dark tunnels). At Otavalo I said goodbye to my cycle companions, and subsequently crossed another line - the border from Ecuador into Columbia. In the hilly South of Columbia I met a number of other cyclists including Marta from Poland and her Argentinian companion in picture. I also met a group of 3 Columbian cyclists on the day when I reached Cali (2 days ago). I've been staying in Miller's Casa De Cyclistas in Cali, and although I was planning to move on this morning it was raining so persistently that I decided to stay and visit the Internet Cafe. Talk about rain, there is no shortage of it here with the daily (or nightly) thunderstorms. I've been camping all along, and in order to ecape the rain I've stayed in some interesting places such as schools, military check-posts, and road-work camps. On the first night after crossing into Columbia I asked to camp in a field next to a "village" farm house, and the family showed me to camp in the back yard which they considered to be safer. There I spent the night in close quarters with a barking dog, a grunting cow in labour, a goat, two cats, geese and chickens, and cages full of guinae pigs. The matriarch of the Baez family was in charge of the place, and in addition to doing farm-work, the grown daughters also did quite well in having children from foreign men (mostly South Americans). I was given a good breakfast the following morning, and although they may have been hinting at a South African addition to the family, I was feeling a bit too worn-out from a restless night amongst all those animals! From Cali I'll probably head off tomorrow in a North-easterly direction towards Bogota (over the Andes again!). Daily distances cycled since Quito have been:- Tumbaco 17 km; Quinche 44 km; Otavalo 76 km; Bolivar 95 km; Ipiales 84 km; Cebadal 57 km; Bridge Camp 73 km; Patia 102 km; Paraga 55 km; Popayan 68 km; and Cali 125 km. The total distance which I've cycled so far in South America is 17 760 km, and the total distance which I've cycled on this journey is 84 247 km.