23 Aug – 56km to Santander de Quilichao
24 Aug – 50km to piendamo
25 Aug – 34km to Popayan
27 Aug – 81km to El Bordo
28 Aug- 77km to Remolinos
29 Aug – 19km to El Tablon
30 Aug – 38km to somewhere near Chachagui
31 Aug – 28km to Pasto
864km in South America
22,372 km around the world so far
August is the windy month in Colombia and they sell kites on the street. So when you add this to huge mountain climbs, we have had a very tough week. Similar to British counties, Colombia is divided in “Departamentos”. We started from Cali, in the “Valle de Cauca”, passing through “Cauca”, and into “Nariño”.
The only nice thing about the first town, Santander de Quilichao, was its name. We then climbed 750km Piendamo, which was even worse, and inspired us to start a competition for the ugliest town in South America, before we reached Popayan.
Popayan suffered a lot of destruction after the earthquake in the 80s but they have rebuilt the centre tastefully and it was well worth a rest day visiting the colonial homes, museums, and bridges. We learnt about Guillermo Valencia and his hugely influential family, including his son who was president. In fact many presidents have come from the Cauca region, and Popayan, its capital, had great political and religious importance. We stayed in a nice little hostel called Pass Home which was on Calle 5, right in the centre. Unfortunately the road is being dug up by archaeologists because they found some old stones. It made it a little difficult to move up and down with the bikes. But it was worth it. We enjoyed Popayan.
Fighting our way to Pasto was even tougher. After dropping back down 750m out of Popayan, there is about 40km of ups and downs to El Bordo, where we met some vets who invited us for beers. Cheers Jose and Camilo!
After a 300m descent there is about 80km of flat road (it’s not really flat, as you are always up or down) and then the road climbs 2000m to Pasto. This climb took several days to complete, including a day when we only did 18km because we had spent the morning getting Paola’s rack fixed. Before her rack really wasn’t up to the job but now she has a great rack.
The toughest part was after we dropped 700m into the Valle de Rio Patía. The subsequent climb was so windy that there were times when we stopped because we just couldn’t move. We passed through a few tunnels to be met with falling rocks and soil swirling in the air. One large rock fell less than a metre from Paola and we moved to the other side of the road to avoid further trouble.
As well as the cycling , the views during this part of the ride have been breathtaking. Green lush landscapes covered in forest or fields dotted with cows, and valleys with rivers winding through them, plus the grand volcano Galeras as we entered Pasto. We arrived on a Sunday and met many other cyclists who escorted us into the centre of town.
We are at 2800m now and enjoying another rest day, staying at the Koala Inn Hostel.
I’m also pleased to have met another Englishman cycling for Wateraid. His name is Josh and he took a boat across the Atlantic to the southern tip of Argentina, and is cycling with his guitar up to Alaska. Check out his blog at thighs and lows Good luck Josh!
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