16 December 2010


That morning my experience on the toilet confirmed my return to health and I decided to leave Pereira. I was anxious to get back on the bike and wanted to travel south to a smaller city called Armenia. It was on the way to Cali and I had heard it would a be a fine ride to get there through beautiful country and it would be mostly flat and then downhill. I said goodbye to Thomas and the owner of the hostel, who had been a fine host, and I got back on the road.

Sweet Home Hostel

The day started with a tough climb in heavy traffic out of Pereira. It was sunny and hot and I thought the road would level out after but I continued to climb, rarely leaving my smallest chain ring. What I had been told would be a pleasant 40km ride was turning into a brutal morning ascent back up into the mountains. I could see the cloud covered range in the distance and I hoped I wasn’t going there.

Pereira from above

I didn’t eat much in the morning and I was feeling it now, and I was digging deep for energy. There were forested hills and pastures and it was good country to ride through but I kept hoping around every turn would be the descent. But the descent didn’t come and it was cool now and I was riding near the clouds.

I had ascended 25kms when I pulled into a roadside restaurant soaked in sweat, my water bottles empty. I was feeling only a little hungry but I knew I needed to eat. I ordered the almuerzo along with a freshly pureed banana jugo natural. The lunch menu was soup, beans, rice, salad, and a piece of meat, which I did not touch. I ate the rest though and had a tinto and sat awhile digesting and drinking water. A workman came in with his dog and we talked of the bike and then the server and the woman who did the cooking came out and we stood around the bike and I gave a lecture on bicycle touring.

Then it began to rain. It was not coming down hard but it was dark and I did not see a coming break in the clouds. It was too bad, because I had just cleaned the bike during my stay at the hostel. I took out my rain jacket and pants and booties and put them on and said goodbye. The server said there were a couple more kilometers of climbing before the descent to Armenia.

It was chilly and my stomach full of food I felt nauseous as I worked my way higher in the rain. Then I hit the height of the land and started coasting down. A sign said 20km to Armenia. The descent began slowly in a gentle rain through rolling country, but then it steepened and I was flying down, feeling warm and dry and cozy in my rain suit, the rain pelting off my face like tiny pebbles, bombing down through pine forests and pasture as the road cut down the mountain.

Then it was into a dense fog and I could see less than 100m ahead of me. I was as alert as I could be for anything in the road, but Ruta 29 is a good road, clean and well surfaced all the way, and despite the limited visibility it did not feel dangerous and I did not slow down. The fog broke lower and I could see Armenia below me and soon I was in the higher part of the town where the wealthy lived and descending on the main road towards the centro.

I arrived at Bolivar Plaza and got off my bike and began to look for the Hotel Toscana that Thomas had recommended. We had planned to meet up there if he came to Armenia in the next couple days, but there was no hotel at the carrera and calle he had given me. I asked but no one had heard of it. I walked the bike further and talked to an old man. He said a hotel just up the street was barato and nice, with hot water. It was a fine accommodation and I took a room. It did not have internet and there would be no way to let Thomas know I was staying elsewhere.

It was getting late so I found a supermercado and bought some food and returned to my room. I was tired from the climb and would explore the city tomorrow when it was light.


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