Saturday, July 2, 2011

Segment 38: Salento, Colombia to Pitalito, Colombia (May 29 - June 7, 2011)

WARNING: this post features some of the best dirt road riding to be found anywhere on the planet!  From Salento, still with Growler (who was to be along for a few more days), we headed up towards La Linea, which is Colombia's highest road pass, at 3200 meters-plus (over 10,500 feet).  This was to be a delightful dirt road:

(photo: Craig Caparatta)

we had great weather out of Salento (image by Wil Weldon)

...Growla's stomach wasn't feeling well as we started up, but the tremendous scenery dominated the early part of the climb...

looking towards el Valle de Cocora

trogon seen on the slopes of the climb

...great forest features...
...including various wax palms, rising surreally above the forest

Jeff getting somewhat close to La Linea

Growla apparently got food poisoning from a creamy trout dish the previous evening in Salento.  As we approached the pass, his condition deteriorated, going from...

... to anguish...

... to barely suppressed pessimism

Sonja on the other hand was in high spirits

A temporary refuge from the rain near La Linea.  Growla holds his head; Jason, Sonja and Craig prepare hot water for Growla.  (Unfortunately, at this very spot, Jeff's camera broke... )

(following 5 photos: Sonja Huber)
starting to descend, we encountered various landslides on this side of La Linea...

... a lot of pushing through mud and unstable earth...

in fact, we had to negotiate no less than 26 landslides, due mostly to cattle-grazing on very steep slopes, in combination with historic levels of rainfall.  Colombia, over the last year or two, has experienced what can only be described as tragic levels of rain: landslides, flooding, ruined crops, road closures, etc..  The whole country seems to be enveloped in a permanent rainstorm.

taking a breather as we descend further; at this point, neither Growla nor Sonja had functioning brakes, as their brake pads had already worn out.

(following image by Wil Weldon)
We came upon this abandoned house shortly before dusk, and decided to rest here for the night...

(photo: Sonja Huber)

mud everywhere (image by Wil Weldon)

the house came with a supply of firewood! (image by Wil Weldon)

the surrounding hills (photo: Sonja Huber)

early morning relaxing (photo: Sonja Huber)

Question: do these guys know that they are mostly responsible for the ongoing landslides? (photo: Sonja Huber)

(photos by Sonja Huber) the wax palm, of which many were planted in this vicinity, are quite useful in construction:

this campesino came by and checked up on us (photo: Sonja Huber)

leaving the cabin, we had more amazing dirt track to follow (photo: Sonja Huber)

this was to be one of our favorite routes in the whole trip, which is saying alot.  No traffic, mostly wild landscapes, great riding surface, very challenging, mud, super fun descents, overall unpredictable.  (image by Wil Weldon)

(image by Wil Weldon)

more landslide crossings (photo: Sonja Huber)

(photo: Sonja Huber)

stopping to rest at a finca, still far from Toche (photo: Sonja Huber)

Jason got stuck in a mudhole (photo: Sonja Huber)

impressive turkey (photo: Sonja Huber)

(photo: Sonja Huber)
finally, a view of Toche, tucked in this wide valley (photo: Sonja Huber)

(photo: Sonja Huber)
a few more stretches of rugged descent, and we arrive in Toche:
one-horse town in the middle of nowhere (photo: Sonja Huber)

Growla, still ailing, makes his getaway here in this Willy's, to Cajamarca and on to Bogotá.  (photo: Sonja Huber)

old-school construction techniques in Toche (photo: Craig Caparatta)

We had the fortune to be hosted in the Toche village school.  Here a student changes the lightbulb for us. (photo: Sonja Huber)

our digs in the school (photo: Craig Caparatta)

on towards Cajamarca, amazing mountain scenery everywhere (photo: Craig Caparatta)

(photo: Craig Caparatta)

approaching Cajamarca (photo: Craig Caparatta)

having left the area of Ibagué, we camped in a dirt quarry: (photos: Sonja Huber)
we were to experience a torrential all-night downpour here, unfortunately.

the following day, we took over the pueblo of San Luis to dry out our gear: (photos: Sonja Huber)

Now just east of Guamo in the Magdalena River valley (the Magdalena is Colombia´s largest and most important river), and nearly 3000 meters lower than La Linea, we camped in rice fields out in these hot humid flatlands.  For the second night in a row, we were the victims of outrageous rainfall, completely soaking us and all our gear again. (photo: Craig Caparatta)

we met this cyclist from Curaçao here, some 60 km east of Neiva, and all the kids came running to check us out (photo: Sonja Huber)

about to cross a swollen and wild Rio Magdalena (photo: Craig Caparatta)

(photo: Sonja Huber)

about 50km east of Neiva, we rode through a surreal desert-like landscape that reminded us of our riding through northern Mexico (photo: Craig Caparatta)

(photo: Craig Caparatta)

a truly amazing dirt road  (photo: Craig Caparatta)

(photo: Craig Caparatta)

our killer campsite in this arid area (photo: Craig Caparatta)

the locals have constructed a shrine here, which featured broken car and motorcycle headlamps among other things, to bring drivers good luck (photo: Craig Caparatta)

the next day the incredible riding continues...(photo: Sonja Huber)

(photo: Craig Caparatta)

(photo: Craig Caparatta)

arrived at the "Desierto de Tatacoa", which resembles a very small expanse of badlands, somewhat out of place in this tropical country. (photo: Sonja Huber)

in the town of Gigante, which takes its name after this amazing tree (photo: Craig Caparatta)

this local boy had lots of questions about our bicycles (photo: Craig Caparatta)

... and we had refreshing frozen berry sorbet popsicles (photo: Craig Caparatta)

scenes as we follow the Magdalena upstream (photos: Craig Caparatta)

arrived in Pitalito, we found these bizarre cemetaries, which are kind of like urban housing projects, the coffins in tight cubicles and stacked vertically and horizontally (photo: Craig Caparatta)

1 comment:

Doug Steury said...

Thanks for sharing, sorry about the food poisoning...