Cycling through the desert

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

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Flag of Colombia  , Nariño,
Friday, November 30, 2012

It definitely wasn't the most relaxing sleep I have ever had as there were cars and buses coming and going all night. We were woken up by the sound of cars arriving at 6am and the fire-officers cleaning the floor just by our tent.  Time to get I suppose.  It did mean that we were on the road early though, which allowed us to get some pedal time in before the sun got too fierce.  The first two hours were rolling hills, which were slightly more down than uphill, so we managed to get 42 kms done by the time we stopped for a second breakfast at 9.30.  As we pulled into a roadside restaurant we saw that Rasmus had had the same idea as us and was just finishing off a meal.  He was also pretty pleased with the morning so far, as he hoped to cycle a 120km day, and make it a further 20km on from our intended destination.    

As we continued on the landscape was changing again; the soil had become dry and red, the air was hot and humid and there were hundreds of cactus.  We were cycling through a deep valley, and it felt like we were in a desert.  There was still some vegetation amongst the cactus but no cattle or agricultural land.  Did I mention that it was hot?  Other than the huge hills that we have to climb, I’m looking forward to getting to Pasto and on towards Ecuador and Quito.  All of those places are at an elevation of around 2000m or more, which will provide us with drastically cooler air temperatures.     

As we cycled a couple of guys in a pick up truck crawled along beside us and chatted to Kory for a few moments.  He must’ve approved of our mode of transport as he handed Kory a cold bottle of Gatorade out through the window and told us to enjoy it.  We immediately pulled over and guzzled it down, with an apple each, and reflected that it was 12.45 and definitely time for some lunch.  Thankfully the next town was only about half an hour or so further along and we easily found a place with lunch meals prepared. 

The towns were much more few and far between along this road, and we didn’t see anywhere in the 40km between our breakfast and our lunch spot, so we knew that we had to plan the rest of our day carefully.  We have also noticed that the roads have become less well maintained and although generally paved, they have numerous potholes.  In addition to this, the dogs in the past few days have been the worst that we have encountered throughout all of Colombia.  They look happy enough or even pretend to be asleep right up until we cycle right next to them, and then they chase after us and bark ferociously.    We don’t care too much about the barking but occasionally they bare their teeth or snap at us and give us a bit of a fright.  On the plus side, the locals here are the friendliest that we have met along the way, and regularly shout out greetings to us as we cycle past.

Following a standard set lunch of soup, with rice, steak, salad, beans, and a banana all washed down with a couple of lemonades  we were ready to get our last 20km done.  Rasmus had changed his plan and decided to stay in Remolinos, and make the push to Pasto over another two days.  However, we decided that we wanted to get to the next town along, and leave only 70km for the following day, knowing that the majority of that would be climbing uphill.  So off we headed at 2.30pm, our bellies full and our muscles beginning to ache, to complete 18km of what we hoped would be rolling hills, but what would in fact be all uphill.  The road twisted and turned up, up and up, and we crawled up it at a snail’s pace for just over two hours.  Thankfully the views were amazing, the road was good and the traffic was quiet.  The valley opened up and we could see green hills for miles; we had moved out of the desert area and were back in green vegetative areas again.  As we cycled we saw numerous old women sitting by the side of the road, under little put together shelters, 500m or so apart.  We haven’t seen it previously, but they would pull up a string across the road that would slow the traffic and then put out their hands for money.  We saw different women do it numerous times to the passing trucks and cars, but never saw anyone stop to give them a donation.  It seemed like a desperate situation for them, and we think they may have been indigenous tribal people.

We arrived into a tiny village perched on the side of the hill, with panoramic views up and down the valley.  It had a petrol station, a couple of fruit stalls, selling almost all watermelons, and a couple of pineapples, and thankfully it also had a hotel.  As we approached we noticed that it had a big swimming pool, with amazing views and a big restaurant area.  So, of course, we presumed that they would want big money for the resort style hotel.  As the really friendly lady showed us around, she smiled and chuckled at our horrendous Spanish but appeared not to notice how relieved we were when she said a double room with private bathroom was only 25,000 COP ($15) for both of us.  We were immediately greeted by a teacher who had a school group at the hotel for the afternoon and we felt like quite the "tourist attraction" when his students started taking photos of us and giggling.  We naturally didn’t help matters when we both came out of our room moments later with our bathers on and jumped into the swimming pool, for a few relaxing, cooling lengths of the pool before the sun set over the mountains.  What a great way to end a long, hot day!
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Grandma, on

I find it very interesting, reading your blogs. Sure is different customs in other countries, eh!!!Keep well and have fun!!! Love and hugs, too.

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