Monday, 19 March 2012

BACK IN COLUMBIA












Back in Columbia, and I’m rather pleased to be in this country again. Certainly there are interesting and scenic places in Venezuela, and Leana and I enjoyed visiting some of those places as well. Since my last post from Caracas we travelled West via Maracay and Valencia back down to the coast. Nando from Spain, a fellow touring cyclist who we met along the way, has been on the road for 7 years (nowdays we seldom meet anybody who has been cycling for as long, or longer than us). We stayed over at interesting coastal towns such as Chichiriviche (how’s that for a name!?). On the way we crossed a wetlands nature reserve, where Leana took some nice pictures of birds such as the red ibis (I still don´t have a proper camera). We stayed over for a couple of days in the historic colonial town of Coro, where I managed to get my grubby paws on some half decent new tyres for a change (I’d had to sew up tyres with fishing line at the roadside – again!). Just before we reached the second largest city in Venezuela and centre of their oil industry, we camped on the deck of a restaurant over lagos Maracaibo (the largest lake in South America, where a lot of their oil is pumped from). The restaurant was busy closing up for the night as we took over, and before we could even pitch our tents amongst the tables we were presented with drinks and a big plate of fried fish each. There is a huge bridge over the mouth of the lake to the city, but bicycles are prohibited so the police put us on the back of a flat-bed truck with a maniac driver. Again, we risked our lives on narrow un-maintained and overgrown roads fighting for space with the ancient throbbing American monster cars. Soon after crossing the border back into Columbia we reached another scenic stretch of Carribean coastline. In the isolated region of Cabo De La Vela the local indigenous people grill goat meat and corn cakes at roadside stands, and we got stuck into that tough delicacy as well. I say 'WE' because after about 30 years of vegetarianism, Leana has become carniverous and she is rather keen to try all the things she has missed during that time. Amongst other places we stayed in a crazy roadside hostal in the bustling tiny village of Palomino, where the local indigenous people come and go together with budget travelers from South Africa (us), Iran, Canada, France, UK, USA, and so forth. We camped on the beach at a small sort-of resort after that, where I could lie and listen to the crashing waves and crashing coconuts falling around (we made sure not to camp directly under any of the coconut palms!). Now we’ve made our way a little further West along the coast to the so-called “backpacker magnet” of Taganga, a former hippie hangout (and before that just a very scenic little fishing village). The city of Santa Marta is just a few k’s away over the hill, and we’ll move that way tomorrow when we leave here, as I need to have some things done to my bike (poor old Saartjie is hanging in there by the skin of her teeth). Daily distances cycled since Caracas have been as follows: La Victoria 103 km; Maracay 49 km; Naguanagua 72 km; Tucacas 95 km; Chichiriviche 42 km; Mirimire 84 km; Puerto Cumarebo 97 km; Coro 43 km; Dabajuro 134 km; Santa Rita 137 km; Mojan 77 km; Maicao (Columbia) 90 km; RioHacha 82 km; Palomino 96 km; Buritaca 38 km; and Taganga 51 km. The total distance which I’ve cycled so far in South America is 25 762 km, and the total so far on this journey is 92 249 km.

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