Tourists for a few days ...and one of the most dangerous roads in the world!
We needed new tyres and after doing a bit of research we discovered they would be much easier and cheaper to locate in Colombia than anywhere else.
We located a couple of sets of a 50:50 tyre (good on and off road) in a town called Cali ...at least we assumed it was a "town". Once in the centre looking for the tyre shop it became apparent there were a LOT of people here, and a quick check on google later that night we discovered 2.2million people! almost half the population of NZ!
New tyres fitted, plus the lucky discovery that Nicks front wheel was slightly bent (he remembered hitting a rock quite hard in Nicaragua and thinks it was there). The guys in the shop soon had it fixed after taking it out the back and turning the music up really loud ...no idea what they were hitting it with but it worked!
We then headed out of town at rush hour trying to get to our destination of San Elena before dark.
The roads were full of bikes and riding along in VERY busy traffic surrounded by bikes was like riding int he middle of a swarm of bees ...it was awesome!
So many people asked where we were from and where we were going when we stopped (frequently) at lights ...these Colombians are SO friendly!
We did have "a moment" when at one point Bec went left and Nick went right in the middle of the city ...however by some complete miracle we ended up just cars away from each other 15 minutes later.
We eventually found our accomodation ...okay so the owner had to come and find us and lead us to it! The owner then went out and got us pizza so we could eat and flop into bed after a very long days ride.
We had stayed in San Elena as the plan was to meet up with a friend we hadn't seen for 15 or so years from Ireland who happened to be on a 3 week Paragliding holiday.
Unfortunately he never made it as the day he was meant to paraglide down to San Elena he got disorientated in a cloud and flew in the wrong direction!
Such is life! and we will hopefully catch up late on in the year after flying out bikes to Europe.
Nick made the most of the spare day and went for a tandem flight in a paraglider and Bec caught up on some much needed admin, so the day was far from wasted.
Next mission was to get to the Ecuador border BUT the main route down from Cali/San Elena to the border had been blocked by a massive landslide 3 weeks earlier that was literally 500 metres long.
This meant that all traffic heading south was having to cross the mountain through FARC territory and then head south and cross the mountains again on the notorious "Trampolin de la Muerte" road ...The Trampoline of Death ...listed as one of the most dangerous roads in the world!
So off we head through FARC territory must to the horror of our hostel hostess who told us to NOT stop under any circumstances, especially through this one town.
We passed through the terrible town ...it was like going back in time and similar to Nicaragua in that there were a lot of horses pulling carts for all kinds of things from sugar cane to junk!
We then headed through the mountains and had a terrible ride of 3 hours through dirt and gravel and dust where we were either stuck behind a truck or having to dodge them coming the other way.
When we reached our accomodation for the night in San Agustin we were exhausted but greeted by the most amazing views over the Magdelana Valley.
It was at this point that we realised that our next days planned ride over the "death road" was impossible as it was closed to all traffic on Sundays, also because of the increased volume of traffic (ten fold) it was on an alternative days travel route and not open our way until Tuesday.
Happy Accidents and all that! there couldn't have been a more beautiful place to stay, plus there was a LOT of activities going on, AND the place we were staying was run by the loveliest family ever.
On the Sunday we went white water rafting in the morning. 11kms down the Magdelana River. It is something neither of us have ever done before but will definitely be doing again!
Then in the afternoon we went on a 4 hours horse trek ...that due to our still limited understanding of the Spanish Language turned out to be a trek AND visits to 4 archaeological sights to see carvings, petroglyphs and some amazing views of the area.
It was a good workout as we would ride a couple of kms and then tie the horses up in the shade and walk a couple of kms to see the sites.
Our guide Andreas was a professor at the university during the week and he told us a lot of information about the different sites and their importance ...all in Spanish ...we think we had the information right in that these guys where governed by the sun and the moon. There were a gentle and peace loving lot who worshiped nature, and the carvings reflected that ...if you look at this one of the male "chief?" he is carrying a feather and a flower.
While we were doing this Sebastian the owners of the hostels son washed our bikes for us to earn some extra money (he was attending university).
They were spotless and we had seen him eyeing up the bikes, so the next day Nick took his bike and Sebastian took Bec's and they went for a ride to a local waterfall.
We don't think Sebastian stopped smiling for the rest of the stay!
We loved our stay at and could have stayed for a few more days ...even though we'd had resident creepy crawlies and toads visit us at night!!!! but as always the Southern winter was calling and we had to get a wriggle on if we were going to make it to Ushuaia before the snow.
The Trampoline of Death road lived up to its reputation of narrow roads, sheer drops, hairpin gravel roads (sometimes boulders!) and stream crossings.
There was a lot of traffic on the road due to the landslide ...but luckily only going one way. Most of the traffic was very slow moving trucks so if there was even a slip of a chance of passing one we had to gun the throttle and take it. I think both of us had a bum clenching moment when we were overtaking on loose rock and felt the bike slide towards the wheels of the truck!
It was a physically demanding day and our shoulders, elbows and knees all ached that night and ibuprofen were needed!
Our accomodation that night was the town of Pasto. We were not expecting a lot as border towns can sometimes be rough round the edges. We were however pleasantly surprised and it had a nice feel to it.
We will be very sad to say goodbye to Colombia and we will most definetly be back. But the road beckons and teases with delights and sites yet to be seen and discovered!
Ecuador and the centre of the earth tomorrow!