25 June 2012

Before Popayan

I was on the road by 6:30 and my knees felt good. It was 10 km from the hospedaje across the fields of sugar cane to Santander de Quilichao. A bypass route for Popayan allowed me to go around the pueblo through an industrial area. I did not see any of the dangers I had been warned about and the area was clean and did not look impoverished. I took two coffees at a roadside stand and looked up the road as it went up into the mountains. There were higher mountains behind them. The climbing was to begin.

There was a long climb that wound its way up from the river valley and from there the road rose and fell, but always climbing. My left knee began to hurt sharply. By adjusting me foot positioning on the pedal I was able to minimize the pain, but it concerned me. Popayan was another 75 km through the mountains.

The sun was now up and it was hot and sweat poured off me as I ascended in my lowest gear, trying not to put too much pressure on my knees. There were short descents, with not enough time to rest, before the climb back up. I took breaks during each of the ascents and though my left knee throbbed my cardio was good and I otherwise felt alright. 45 km from Popayan I stopped for lunch and began to wonder if I might find a hostal or hospedaje before I reached the city. If there wasn’t anything I promised myself a day of rest in Popayan. I needed rest for my legs to rebuild and strengthen.

Just as I was preparing to leave the lunch parador the sky went dark and the rains began. It poured down rain and along the road the motorcyclists were stopping to quickly put on their rain gear. I dug out my full rain suit, with jacket, pants and booties and got back onto the road in the downpour.

There was a long descent and then a very long climb but I concentrated on my form and my knee felt better. Then I saw a large complex with a gas station, restaurant and hostal, and though I was feeling better, I decided to stop and at least inquire what the price would be to stay the night.

The man at the desk told me it was 12,000 pesos. The place was newly built and clean and I took the room. Tomorrow I could make Popayan. Being 30 km away I would not be able to reward myself with a rest day as putting up such low mileage in the mountains would not get me to the frontier before my visa expired. But perhaps by traveling only 40-50 km in these mountains I could build my strength back up without destroying me knees. So I hoped. Past Popayan there were ascents that would take me still higher.


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