10 December 2010


It was good to be out of the high mountains. From La Pintada I hoped to make Irra or Trespuertas or further. The road out of the pueblo followed the Rio Cauca, muddy and running high and fast from the rain. There was one big climb out of the river bed and then a long descent. But mostly it was a gradual climb upriver. My head hurt from the aguardiente from the night before but my legs felt good.

Cauca River, high and muddy

There was much evidence of mudslides and falling rock from the rains high in the mountains. Pairs of men dressed in yellow suits on scooters and carrying shovels would pass me and I would find them ahead clearing the road of mud and rock. The mountain was falling all the time. The road in places was deep with mud and in other parts it was underwater. The bike was quickly a mess and the drive train noisy from the mud and wet, the panniers spattered. Despite the mudslides and falling rock the roads were good and well surfaced with wide shoulders for the horse drawn carts which are also good for cyclists. Though many autobuses and trucks will pass you, and you will often suck exhaust up some of the harder climbs, the camions handle themselves well around cyclists and I have had no problems.

In the late morning, the climbing began, more gradual and easy compared to what I had accomplished from Medellin to the Alto de Minas, but I could feel I was still not recovered from those climbs. I stopped at a pleasant restaurant outside La Felisa for lunch and had a pescado robalo, a fish lightly cooked with fresh lime. It came from the Rio Cauca and it was delicious. It was my first good Colombian meal. I had had only a mouthful of milk and cereal outside La Pintada and I was hungry. The girls at the restaurant were very helpful and I stayed there a few hours and talked with them and they refilled my water bottles as I rested.

The older girl said Irra was ugly and that I should continue to La Manuela, where there was a hospedaje. La Manuela was not on my map and was some distance past Trespuertas. It would be more than 30kms and a steepening climb from Irra. My legs were heavy and though there was time to make La Manuela before nightfall, I did not want to do it.

I rode ahead thinking I might try for it but when I entered Irra and saw the sign for the hospedaje I stopped. Irra was an old gas station and a rundown restaurant with 10 rooms attached to it. I paid an old lady 12,000 pesos for a room just big enough for the bed and bathroom and shower. From my doorway I could see down to the muddy Cauca River.

These rooms are without keys and I did not want to go through the trouble of bringing my bike to the restaurant. I didn’t want another plate of fried meat anyway. I washed my shirt and underwear and socks and I laid down. I ate all my crackers and a little of the cereal I had. I was more tired than hungry. I had 2 bottles of water, one for the night and the other for the morning climb to Trespuertas. I would be okay.

I watched a movie in English on the tv and picked up some new Spanish from the subtitles. Then I fell asleep. I awoke in the night to the groans of a trucker having sex in the room beside mine. Later the television somehow turned on and woke me. Then I awoke again to mosquitos buzzing in my ears. My room was full of them, along with spiders and some other kind of fly. They had come in though the tiny partly opened windows above the door. If I get the river blindness or the dengue I know where it came from.


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