Date: December 3rd, 2021
Distance: 67 Kilometers
Song of the Day: Misty Mountain Hop - Led Zeppelin
The road from Pitalito went up, and just kept going. It wasn't that bad a grade though. Just a gentle uphill climb. Even Scarlett seemed to be having a good time. She even asked me when the road was going to start going over the mountain. I told her we were already on our way. As the day went on though and morning dragged into afternoon she was less optimistic about things. She complained that "it just keeps going up". It was more than that though, the road was getting steeper. Our gentle grade had become a pretty good climb. Scarlett was running in some of her lowest gears. I also started getting a lot of questions about when will it end. I tried to explain the hydrology of the situation. The road we were on was travelling up a long valley with mountains on either side. The creek below us was getting smaller and smaller as we climbed. Eventually it would disappear all together and we would cross a sharp ridge to the next valley. From there we could follow that creek down and out of the mountains. This explanation didn't seem to be that comforting though.
We did eventually get to the top, much to Scarlett's relief. The water ahead of us all flows east into the Atlantic through the Amazon river. The water behind us all flows out into the Caribbean through the Magdelena river. It is cool to come to these places where just a few feet seperate the water flowing across the continent.
The way down was better. Initially steep and curving. Lots of patches where the pavement had been worn away by water and heavy truck traffic. These mountain roads will keep you on your toes. Soon that had leveled out and we were travelling at a nice even pace down the mountain. It did start raining on us pretty good though. I hate riding in wet shoes, but what can you do? The broken road continued to be a problem. There was one area where a landslide had covered most of the road. One poor guy with a shovel was trying to keep the one lane open. Good luck muchacho.
Scarlett and I did eventually make it down to San Juan de Villalobos. Not much of a place really, but good enough. It will be just fine to rest in while recovering from all the climbing.
Date: December 2nd, 2021
Distance: 102 Kilometers
Song of the Day: Chevy Van - Pernice Brothers
Got out of the hotel early for once. Had a lovely breakfast with Scarlett, then took off down the road. It was good to be up and moving before it got warm.
Lots of ups and downs and twists ands turns. The road is following along the reservoir here. I have to say it is all just gorgeous. I don't think Scarlett likes the uphills so much. Around noon she was getting hungry and decided we should stop at the next restaurant. That turned out to be almost 10 miles down the road. She was not happy about that. We were pretty slow going the last little bit there.
After lunch things picked up pretty well. We ended up marching up this hill and into the canyon along the river. I thought the road would stay at the top of the cliffs here, but I was wrong. It dove right down to the river, twisting and turning down these narrow roads. The whole time I am just amazed by all the views. Cliff walls towering above, a brown river roiling to my right. What a place this is. As always I feel so lucky to be out here and to be able to experience this.
The last few miles to Pitalito were also a struggle for Scarlett. She was getting tired and we needed to take more frequent rests. That is all fine, this is her first week on the road. I just worry about the mountains coming up. These little hills are nothing compared to what we will be encountering. It won't be much more than a week from now. I hope she is ready to climb over 13,000 feet. I imagine those days are going to be slow.
Still we make it to Pitalito before dark, which is perfect. Another one of these lovely little towns I have come to know and love through Latin America. A large plaza bustling with activity. A large church dominating the east side. It is more than that too. City workers are putting up Christmas decorations. I will be interested to see what that is like along the equator. It is all very cute.
Date: December 1st, 2021
Distance: 87 Kilometers
Song of the Day: Waterloo Sunset - The Kinks
Left Neiva today feeling good. Scarlett was riding with more energy than before the rest day, which is great to see. She was worried she might not make it. That the effort would be too much for her. Turns out that isn't the issue. She just needed some time to relax.
The morning was perfect. The land is mostly flat. No great climbs or descents. The roads here are lined with deciduous trees and it reminds me a lot of New England oddly enough. There were even a few places with loose stone wall delineating the fields. It was strange to see something so familiar and yet so out of place. Also, New England doesn't have the giant mountains as a backdrop.
The route here takes us along the Magdelena river. I have already crossed this once before arriving in Bogota and it is shocking how much smaller it is. It is probably less than half as wide here as it was then. Still, it is every bit as impressive and gorgeous. Maybe even more so. The brown waters cut through the valley of spiky hills set below blue mountains. The color of everything around is amazing. What a world to live in. These adventures are always lots of work, and there are tough times but this makes it worth it. Being able to see the world and experience to joy of a special place like this.
The afternoon was much more of a challenge. The road began to climb into the hills away from the river. It was a lot of up hill. I am used to this but Scarlett is not. I could tell she was struggling a bit. I did my best to keep her distracted. Tell stories about random things, like the Battle of Agincourt. By the time we came to the top it was obvious why we had left the river. There is a large dam here holding back the water. So the road needed to climb up to match the new elevation of the water, and even more than that. It did make fore some incredible views but was quite taxing as well. By the time we arrived in Gigante it was time to call the day. I had wanted to get to Garzon but we only had an hour to do 30 kilometers and that was never going to happen. So ending the day early was fine.