Feliz Navidad everyone. We are enjoying sunny days during this Christmas. After our hiking to the glaciers in El Cucoy we have been back in hotter climates. We doubled back to a village called Guacamayas which was a fun 13 km ride downhill on pavement. Our destination from here was Capitanejo.
Sometimes the road we take chooses us. We ended up on a road created for farmers and livestock and not vehicles. We were skirting the inside of a valley with a river at the bottom and coffee, banana and orange farms blanketing the mountainside. The road was steep and bumpy. As our eyes gazed down the mountain to the river and up the other side we saw a quiet paved road with cars gliding along effortlessly. We thought, ´´we could be on that side if we took a right instead of a left". As it was we were stuck on this side for the next few hours. Had we taken the paved road we would not have experienced talking to a few coffee farmers who were just bringing in their harvest. The hills that the coffee bushes grow on are incredibly steep and picking the beans and hauling their heavy bags up and down these mountains in the heat of the day would take a great deal of strength.
I also would not have heard Jacklin say, "hey a snake." and I saw a red and black snake slither in front of her front wheels and up the bank. We managed to get a few photos before it made its way in the bush. We googled the description of the snake later on and discovered that it was a Corral snake and its venom is supposed to be the second most lethal (second to what or where I am not sure). This snake sighting did give me cause for concern a few days later when I had to make a few pit stops in the bushes during our ride. No harm done though.
The snakes and hard working conditions gave me great new found respect for coffee farmers and I think of them whenever I have my mornng coffee.
We spent Jacklin's birthday pool side at a lovely finca (farm) near Capitanejo. We put our feet up for a couple days and indulged in doing nothing.
We pulled ourselves from the pool and got back on the road toward Malaga. This is a fairly big town and we experienced many kids dressed in costumes hitting each other with goat bladders. Maybe some explanation is needed here. The bladders are dried and stretched like a balloon and tied to the end of a stick with a rope and is swung to hit people. This is a tradition where kids dress up like folk characters and they line up in two lines, and for those that want to run down the middle to get pelted by the bladders. This went on for hours and was great entertainment to watch..... and no, we did not partake in running the gauntlet.
We discovered that some roads are less travelled for a reason. We were cruising along a nicely paved, relatively quiet road with a gentle downhill grade when we decided to take a short cut up this obscure dirt path. The sun must have been particularily hot that day and may have affected our decision making. This road went up, and up and up. Not only up, but it went up 20% grade in places. We did eventually make it to the top but were still wondering what possessed us to leave the comfort of pavement. We ended up in Piedecuesta which is a very large suburb of Bucaramanga. We slept well that night and we only rode about 20 KM the next day to Bucaramanga. We spent a couple of days here exploring this city of more than a million people. It seemed strange for us to be in such a big city.
We left a few days later and only rode 16 KM to Giron which is known for its Colonial architecture. It was nice walking along the narrow cobblestone streets.
There have been a lot of hills on this trip and the next ride was no different. We rode down a canyon to the Sogamoso river. On the way down we could see across the river and saw what we had to go up on the other side. We were not looking forward to the afternoon. The switchbacks seemed to go on forever. It took about 5 hours to go back up the other side in the heat of the day. The temperature hovered around 35 degrees. We drank a lot of water and stopped at a tienda whenever one presented itself to us. The one saving grace was that the road was paved. We camped that night on a finca amongst every kind of farm animal you could think of and orchards of oranges and limes. It was a noisy night but peacefull at the same time.
Christmas day was spent on the bike riding to San Vincent de Chucuri where we road up a hot and dusty and brown mountain on one side and down a lush and green and humid forest on the other side. Everywhere we looked there were either cocoa trees, coffee bushes, banana trees or orange trees.
We randomly stopped in this restaurant when we arrived and were lucky enough to meet the son of the owner, Fabian. Fabian is taking English and French at University and we had a fantastic couple of days with him as he showed us around town and talking about worldly topics. His mother’s restaurant, La Esperanza, was the best we have been to!
Our plan for our route changes direction daily but we are heading west and then south from here.
All the best for 2020.