13 December 2010


I felt good enough in the morning and I said goodbye to the ladies and I left the hotel. They were sad to see me go and I thanked them for their kindness. I rode slowly out of Chinchina and it felt good on the bike and the road quickly ascended and I left the town below. It continued to steepen and I was back in my lowest gear, head down, eating handlebar, pouring sweat, and trying to hold my line on the shoulder as trucks and autobuses wound around me. The sun came out and it was hot. I stopped a few times on the climb to drink water and eat crackers but my appetite had not returned. Still I wanted to make sure I had the fuel to make it.

I stopped at a snack stand halfway to Santa Rosa and had a café tinto and water. I was starting to feel hungry for some fruit or nuts or bread but like all the roadside stands there was only coffee, fried things and junk food. There was chorizo too, for which Santa Rosa was famous, and which I had hoped to try, but I knew I could not eat it.

Riding higher the dogs developed an interest in me. Until now the Colombian dogs had not cared for a fully loaded cyclist, but now they ran out howling from the little homes, barking and vicious and they would easily have gotten me on the slow climb up the mountain had it not been for the fences and their chains.

The road continued higher until it joined a larger two-lane road towards Santa Rosa and Pereira and from here it was rolling country and a gradual ascent. Two dogs chased out of a gas station after me and I sped down the road. Further ahead a dog tore out from behind a restaurant pursuing me. I was just able to outrun him and now I was on the lookout for dogs around every corner.

Then ahead, with passing trucks squeezing me to the shoulder, I saw a 3 legged dog on the roadside. He looked friendly and harmless and seemed uninterested in me, but when I got just close enough he transformed, baring teeth and growling he lunged at my leg, banging his teeth off my ankle and getting a hold of the heel of my shoe. My sock protected me from a wound but my ankle was bruised and ached for the rest of the day. It was a 3 legged dog’s best shot at getting a cyclist and he didn’t waste it.

I passed Santa Rosa de Cabal at the height of the climb and starting to descend I saw the valley below and the city of Pereira. It was 15kms down the mountainside to the city and I started down, dropping and hugging the road, tight to the bike, keeping pace with the camions and autobuses, back and around and down, down, feeling light and wonderful, the city coming closer below me.

Descent to Pereira

After 30 minutes of descending and in heavy traffic I crossed over the Rio Otun on the Viaducto Cesar Gaviria Trujillo into Pereira. I had the address for a hostel there, the Good Sweet Home Hostel--the only one in the city-- but could not locate where it was on my map. I stopped and asked and kept getting more specific directions as I rode closer to where I thought it was and finally I found it. Until then I had not understood that carreras run east and west and numeros run north and south--the Gui de Rutas map of the city did not indicate enough of the carreras and numeros for me to figure this system out.

Viaducto Cesar Gaviria Trujillo

Alejandro greeted me at the hostel and I showered and changed. A friendly young guy from Portugal who went by ‘Z’ offered to show me around the city and get something to eat. Z was leaving that night back to Bogota and then flying through New York back to Lisbon. He was a veterinarian and was seeing the world by setting up short-term jobs for himself doing veterinary work in places he wanted to go. Z had an advanced outlook on things and he was doing it right and I liked him. We had a sandwich and jugos naturales at a fast food spot in the centro and admired the statue of the naked Simon Bolivar on horseback.

Z with Simon Bolivar

He had worked 5 months at a Bogota veterinary clinic before traveling and told me what he had learned about Colombia and its people and how things worked and didn’t. It was all good information and there are mistakes I will now avoid making. I was able to eat only a little of the sandwich and we returned to the hostel. I drank some coffee and more water but I wasn’t feeling any better. I went to the bathroom and what happened there confirmed I had the turista. My insides gurgled and rumbled. I talked for awhile with Z and Alejandro and a British guy who was also staying at the hostel and then I went to bed.


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