What would you do?

Trip Start Oct 16, 2012
Trip End Apr 20, 2013

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Flag of Colombia  , Caldas,
Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Neither of us were in a fast moving pace this morning, even after a couple of coffees, we could easily have just gone back to bed and called it a "rest day". It was 8.30 by the time we got ourselves ready, over an hour later than we normally set off.  We immediately hit a set back and realised that Kory had a puncture, which took a bit of time to repair.

The scenery was beautiful, as we cycled through a long valley, beside a river.  The first few hours were rolling hills, but relatively flat, so we covered some kilometres quickly.  We stopped for a second breakfast at 10.30, and practiced our Spanish with each other as we waited for it to arrive.  Then set off again, on the quiet road with lots of energy for the day ahead.  We were hoping to make it to a coffee plantation by the end of the day, but knew that it was about 70-80km away, so it may be a long day, depending on the hills.

As we crossed over the river to the other side of the valley, the rolling hills became steeper and took a bit more puff to climb.  We still felt good though, and stopped to refill our water bottles and eat some fruit.  The sun was out, and the landscape was lush, green hills, with lots of cows in the fields and brightly coloured birds flying in all directions. 

As we continued on we started to get tired and realised that we had already cycled 80km, with no sign of the intersection that we needed to make the final turn towards the coffee plantation.  We knew that we were on the correct road though, but our distances were not accurate.  We continued on and pushed past the tiredness, to eventually arrive at the intersection.  Kory was really tired and had scraped his leg on his pedal, which was bleeding and probably stinging from the blood, sweat, sunscreen mixture.  So, now we arrive at the intersection, we have cycled 100kms, we are both exhausted and it's 5pm.…we have one hour of daylight left….there is a hotel room at the petrol station at the intersection that we could sleep the night in….or we could pedal on for another 4-5kms and make it to our destination, which would be a nicer, quieter place to spend the night, and would enable us to take the coffee tour in the morning that we had planned to take.  What would you do? 

We decided to carry on, as we were so close to our destination, we could almost smell the coffee.  Immediately the hill climb started, it was a long, steep, uphill climb towards the town of Manizales.  We had to tell ourselves that we would stop after each 1km pedalled to have a drink and rest for a few moments.  It was hard work and Kory was really flagging, I had to be the team support crew or else we would never make it.  As we plodded on up, the darkness started to set in and we cycled after sun down for the first time ever, only to realise that our lights are painfully inadequate.  We kept plodding and looking out for our final turn off; 4 kilometres past the intersection is the village of El Rosario, and then take the farm lane down to the coffee plantation.  The directions were the same on google maps and the coffee plantation’s website but it’ll be signposted right?      

After a further 10km of uphill, which took two hours, with no sign of “El Rosario” or the coffee plantation we gave up.  It was ridiculous and just too hard.  I pulled in and told Kory that I was asking the next person we saw, if we could camp in their garden.  We saw a young girl doing her homework on a porch veranda, and after she ran off to get her brother, who spoke a little English we muddled through our request.  I asked him where El Rosario was….he had never heard of it!  Great.  When we asked if we could sleep here the night, in our tent in the garden, he went off to ask his parents who refused our request!  Great!  He told us it was a further 7km uphill to a hotel, but it was still steep, so would take us another couple of hours.  Hmmmm….not too appealing.  He then seemed to realise what our first question was and told us that we had just missed the turn off to the coffee plantation by 500 meters.  He gave us good directions to where the turnoff would be, 500m back down the road, then 2kms down the farm lane, but unfortunately the next place to cross the road was 2.5km up the hill.  Or he could call us a jeep to drive us either to Manizales or the coffee plantation.  Again, which would you do? 

Thankfully, Kory and I were instantly unanimous, “Don’t call a jeep, we’ll cycle there!”  So, that is how we came to find ourselves cycling the wrong way down the road (thankfully it was quiet, with two lanes, so cars could easily move over into the other lane, we also had a good, shallow ditch that we could cycle into if needs must), with my torch held between my teeth (as I realised it wasn’t showing enough when positioned behind my handlebar bag), in the dark, at 7.30pm, after cycling 112km, with no lunch or dinner.  It was an unfortunate situation; we had inaccurate distances and didn’t realise how steep the hills would be in the end, but we also made some bad decisions and it’s a position we do not want to repeat.  However, we can both be a bit gung-ho and hate failing to meet our target, so watch this space to see if we do it again.

Thankfully the guy’s directions were spot on and my interpretation of them weren’t too bad; we easily found the turnoff and coasted down the farm track to the coffee plantation.  We arrived in, to a surprised looking coffee tour worker, who instantly showed us the way to a hot shower and put beers in our hands.  We must’ve looked horrendous, covered in sweat, dust and in Kory’s case blood, and I’m sure we didn’t smell too pretty either.  We made up a quick dinner and feel straight into deep slumber.
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Natalie on

WOW!! I have been reading every time you post Gemma. Thanks for sharing your journey with all of us :) Glad you guys made it safely. I hope that coffee & tour were worth it! LOL

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