11 December 2010

Chinchina

I was up early with the truck drivers and had the complimentary coffee and got on the road. It was cool and cloudy and the ascent steepened noticeably out of Irra and I was soon again busting it in my lowest gear. I was hungry and needing water I found a fresh goat’s milk stand to stop at. There was a counter and a wooden corral behind it that housed around 20 white goats. There were two kinds of goat’s milk, as I understood it, one for mental capacity and the other for sexual capacity. I choose the sexual but declined to purchase any of the array of sexual stimulants and books that came with it. The fresh goat’s milk was good and I hoped that its stimulative effects might also assist me on the climb ahead.

By late morning the sun broke the clouds and it was humid and very hot. After more climbing, much of it in my lowest gear, I arrived in Trespuertas soaked with sweat and out of water. The town was just two roadside snack stands. That was the town. There was nothing to eat other than a bag of chips and a coffee. I noticed there was no running water at the coffee stand. To make coffee they used water from a jug. I asked about refilling my bottles anyway and was told no. The water was for making coffee.

There was a mining operation beside the snack stand and I spoke with one of the workers at the gate. Did they have any water? Beyond the town my map indicated the grade steepened and if La Manuela, which was not even on the map, had nothing I would need to ride another 17kms without water to Chinchina. In this heat it would be very hard to do. The worker smiled. Yes, they had water. It was a special water with coca. I thought at first he meant Coca Cola and then I understood. But was there enough coca in the water to stop my heart if I drink these two bottles in the next hour? He smiled. He did not think so. I needed the water and after he filled my bottles I thanked him and started the climb out of Trespuertas.

I passed La Manuela which was a pleasant town with a couple restaurants, a gas station, and the hospedaje the girl at the restaurant had told me about. It would have been a fine place to stay last night, but it would have destroyed me to make it. I climbed higher and higher and I hated the descents because I knew they would need to be climbed back later. I quit braking them. I took the descents as hard and fast as I could. I was earning them on the way up.

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The water flavored with coca leaves did not seem to be doing anything to me. I thought my heart had fluttered once but that was probably from the riding. Descending again a bug flew into my hair, and trying to wipe it out it ended up in my ear. Braking with one hand and not knowing if it would sting me I tried to crush the insect and ended up crushing it deep inside my ear. I stopped and tried to pick it out and I couldn’t. He was in there deep but he was dead. I fashioned a cue tip from a twig and a napkin and dislodged what was left of the bug. It didn’t look poisonous.

The road left the river bed and traveled up into the mountains. This climb would peak at Santa Rosa de Cabal 17kms above Chinchina. In Santa Rosa de Cabal were the famous thermal springs. It was a popular destination for the people who lived in this area.

I arrived hungry and with little water in Chinchina. I stopped at the first restaurant I saw and had a spaghetti Bolognese and a limonada ranchera. The spaghetti was delicious and would be good fuel for the last part of the climb. It was good to finally have the right food for the work I was doing. I sat and digested awhile and had a café tinto. Up until this meal I had been bothered by the quality of the food I was putting into my body--too many fried meats and snacks.

The servers at the restaurant insisted I stay the night in Chinchina. There was a basilica which was very special. It was not to be missed. I thought about it and figured if I stayed the night here I would have nearly a whole day at the thermal springs at Santa Rosa de Cabal. It made little sense to pay for a more expensive night in Santa Rosa de Cabal and only have a few hours to enjoy the thermales. If I left in the morning I could spend an afternoon at the hot springs and then descend into Pereira, only 13kms from Santa Rosa de Cabal and downhill all the way.

I was given the names of 2 hotels in the center of the town. There was a short but severe climb from the restaurant up to the centro and I rode into the plaza dripping with sweat, and choose to stay at the first hotel. It was 30,000 a night and being on the second floor the ladies who operated it took up my panniers. I carried the bike up and took the room. They were very friendly and introduced me to their daughters and asked if I would teach them English. Did I like to dance? Salsa? Yes. I did a few of my salsa moves and they were very impressed. Did I have a novia? No? Not even in America? In Colombia I would surely find one, they said.

I went out for a walk through the town but did no go further uphill as the ladies had said it was dangerous. I stopped to see the Basilica, white-washed with navy blue accents in a Gothic style. It was a fine church and stood out brightly against the beaten-up town. It was clearly its centerpiece.

The streets were crowded with people shopping in the little shops and cars and motorcycles sped through the narrow one way streets. There were bars with billiard tables throughout the town with what appeared to be very serious players and I stopped in one and had a beer and watched the action. Then I continued through the town hoping to see a pool table in one of the bars. Watching the men play had made me want to shoot a game of pool with a beer. But billiards was the only game in town. At a supermercado I bought some milk and cookies for my breakfast the next day and had a tinto before I returned to the hotel and took a nap. I awoke, and finding no restaurants open, I had an awful pizza for dinner that was served as a pancake filled with a mustard-tasting sauce and sliced sausage. Then I went back to my room and went to bed.

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