Day 341 – The Tatacoa desert

Day 341 / Natagaima-Villavieja, Colombia / 40 miles (Total 8170)

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I feel so alive while touring. Words cannot describe the feeling of being deep into a new country and never knowing whats around the next corner. Always expecting the best and accepting the worse.

Today we crossed over Colombia’s largest river (the Magdalena river) and rode through the Tatacoa desert. The Tatacoa Desert or “Sadness Valley”, is the second largest arid zone in Colombia. The headwinds were strong, the road was rough and it was hot as hell. It was inspiring to ride a road so untraveled and secluded. What would take an hour on a smooth road to ride, took us all afternoon in the desert. 

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Anja riding ahead, while Marko and I drop back to enjoy the morning and some photo time. This was a perfect morning where I wish all my friends and family were riding beside me. Nothing beats a morning ride like this. Wish you all were here to experience this moment. Miss you all.

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I’m sure your all sick of the mountain photos by now, but their just to surreal not to be in the blog. Enjoying the green mountains while it was still around today.

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Always sad to see.

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These hawks are everywhere. Throughout the day you can hear them screaming high in the sky. Siting still long enough for a photo.

We made our detour off the highway and onto a nice back road where we would catch a boat to ferry across Colombia’s largest river. We made it just in time for the next crossing. We loaded the bikes, paid the .50 cents and made our way across the fast-moving river.

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I was out first and grabbed the camera for an action photo. On this side of the river things changed real fast.

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A sketchy bridge to cross before the fun begins

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Always a few funny looks from the locals, but most of the time it’s thumbs up. There are moments on this trip where it really hits me hard that I’m in new lands. This was one of those moments. A fun dirt road that led us through a tiny little village.

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More cotton fields with some hard-working Colombians. No machinery to do the hard work for them. They are out in the blazing heat with no complaints.

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Even small empty fields caught my eye today. 

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This gave me a good laugh. Colombians love their faith and cerveza. Poker beer and Mary hanging out on the same block.

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We turned the corner out of the small village and the landscape opened up. We started far back where the mountains start. No signs or signs of life out here. Mmmm which road to take?

 

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Changing the music for something that fits the scenery. The road was rough enough to knock my panniers off every once in a while. The wind blow hard enough to hold us back and kick dust into our face all afternoon. Did it bother me? Not for a second. Loving every moment of this adventure.

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Mountains far off in the distance.Camera fully zoomed in to grab the details.

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Everyone should ride through a desert once in their life. Something fills you up, yet empty’s your thoughts at the same time.

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A shrine in the middle of nowhere. I was ahead of Marko and Anja and didn’t notice that they eventually disappeared  out of my view. I sat here for a while and took in the silence till they showed up as little specks far away in the distance.

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The heat was getting to them, so they took a break for a while to gain back some energy. It was fun to watch them slowly make their way through the desert road.

The road, heat and wind beat us down all afternoon, but we pushed on to the town of

The road, heat and wind beat us down all afternoon, but we pushed on to the town of Villavieja.

We made it to Villavieja late in the afternoon and it felt like I was hit by a truck. I was starving and dehydrated to the point I was almost sick. We had another 5 kilometers to ride to the campground and the thought of pedaling onward made me quiver. The best part of riding with others is you feed off them and vise versa. I wanted to call it a night and grab a hotel room in town, but I saw how determined they were to push on. A quick snack and I was back in the game. Back out-of-town and we head east into more of no mans land. More hills to climb and wind to fight all the way to the campground. Once we were in view of the campground the views turned into a completely new world. Amazing!

A hot dog like this will give you the boost you need to put on another 5 kilometers after a hard day. For .70 cents it filled me up and was delicious.

A hot dog like this will give you the boost you need to put on another 5 kilometers after a hard day. For 0.70 cents, it filled me up and was d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s.

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We turned a corner and I had no clue this kind of view was involved. Kind of took me by surprise. Almost a miniature version of the Badlands. Even better, we could camp at a locals house just a few feet from this place. For $2.50 we received a chunk of land, an incredible shower and unreal views for the night.

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Good to be out camping again

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Marko and Anja’s home for the last 10 months when the’re not in a hotel. Hilleberg makes a great tent.

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We made it to the campground and I was dehydrated to the point of being nausea. I filtered my water bottles and ended up drinking almost 4 litters of water and a bottle of Gatorade in two hours.  That did the trick, I was back to my normal self. I set my tent under a little shelter, so I didn’t have to put my fly up. Had some good ventilation and a perfect spot to do some star-gazing at night. A great spot to put the tent up. Made up some egg,cheese and tomato sandwiches for dinner and watched the sun go down.

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The locals from Mexico to Colombia have no problems drinking their own tap water, but a foreigner will more than likely get sick. This is probably one of the best purchases I made for touring. The Sawyer water filter has saved me more money then I could imagine. If I were to buy my water, it would run me around $3.00 per day. Plus you’re not wasting plastic bottles day in and day out. It’s as simple as it gets. Fill the bag, add the attachment and squeeze the bag. The process is simple, but time-consuming. Filling 4 litters of water will take around 20 minutes. Here I came up with a simple solution. Grab a plastic bag, punch a few holes and let gravity do the work. By the time I’m done filtering, I have all my photos uploaded and sorted through for the day. More multi-tasking.

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Goodnight


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Day 340 – Frolicking

Day 340 / Chicoral-Natagaima, Colombia / 50 miles (Total 8130)

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Early in the morning, I was frolicking through the open cotton fields of Colombia. (frolicking, frolicked ). [ no object, usually with adverbial ]. Play or move about in a cheerful and lively way.

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The view out of our hotel. Another early start to beat the heat. We are usually out the door by 6:00 am and heading to the bakery. The blood starts pumping early in the morning after carrying my fully loaded bike down a flight of stairs.

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I have been getting a little sloppy on the road lately. In 11 months of traveling, I have forgotten/misplaced 2 items. My cooking knife and a T-shirt. In the last two days, I have left behind my water bottle somewhere and my bag of change ($3.00 worth). Time to get my head back in the game, cause it drives me nuts when I do something stupid like that. Have to start living by my own rules. When I leave a spot, check, then double-check for items left behind.

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I might need an intervention when I get back home. Every morning we make our way to the panaderia to see whats behind the glass. For $1.00 you can get a plastic bag full of some incredible yummy’s. I have not once bought something I didn’t like. Marko, is 10 times worse than me, he will eat here for breakfast lunch and dinner.

View from the road. Rainbows seem to pop up everywhere in Colombia

View from the road. Rainbows seem to pop up everywhere in Colombia

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An open field of cotton grabbed our attention in the morning. Cotton is big business out here.

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An old train bridge not in use anymore. It makes for a good photo though.

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Big dump truck stuck in the river bed. They were shoveling the truck out in this ridiculous heat. Colombian’s are not scared of a little hard work.

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Free high-five for anyone that knows what this sign means. Since riding in Colombia, I have seen these signs everywhere. Maybe – Stay awake? There is another sign with that symbol, with two other full white circles above it. Dumbfounded and bugging me. The locals don’t even know what it means.

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Just the other day, I was riding in lush green mountains with waterfalls and rivers. Now the landscape is a dry-barren desert. Loving Colombia’s landscape.

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You don’t see it, but the heat is there. A lot of it! Back to the hot-sweaty-stinky ride.

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Natagaima was a few miles away and this cotton truck was tempting me to hitch a ride. I sped up and grabbed on for 3-4 miles leaving Marko and Anja behind. I know Marko is tempted to grab on, but doesn’t want to leave Anja behind. I have been egging Anja on to try the easy-fun ride. Shes a little timid and scared to try. I think with enough peer pressure from me, she will grab onto a vehicle one of these days. It’s just to fun to pass up.

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Long distance bike tours might not be for everyone. I think it takes a certain kind of person with a few nuts and bolts loose in their head to do it. We found a hotel just before town for $12.00 with AIR CONDITIONING! Yes, $12 a night seems expensive now. Tempting , but we kept searching for something cheaper. We rolled into town during the peak heat of the day and scrambled to find a room to get out of the scorching heat. We ended up with a plain-jane, $5.00 hotel room. For that price you get a small room with a bed, light and a fan. With this kind of heat you have to wash your underwear and socks daily, or you can get funky real fast. Everyday I have the ritual of jumping into the cold shower, wash myself and do laundry all at once. Multi-tasker.


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Day 339 – Dreaming of the road ahead

Day 339 / Cajamarca-Chicoral, Colombia / 50 miles (Total 8080)

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A great part of touring new countries is trying new things to eat and drink. This is a salpicon and it is fantastic! Mango, coconut, apple, wafers, ice cream and other fruit that I have no clue. Doesn’t get any better then this on a hot day.

Well, i’m starting to sound like a broken record here. Once again, another great ride in Colombia. After meeting Marko yesterday, we made a plan to leave town by 6:00 am and make it a 50 mile day. That 50 miles came way easier then any of us expected. We started the day with smiles on our faces and ended the night with even bigger ones. A great descent, awesome food and friendly people left us with another great days memory of this fantastic country.

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Making my way down the 5000 foot descent today. It felt great to be back on smooth asphalt reaching 40+ mph.

We made it to Chicoral by 1:00 pm and had plenty of time to find a cheap hotel and to check out the town. In the late afternoon, I made up a giant plate up noodles and filled my belly till I couldn’t move. Spent the rest of the night talking with my German buddy’s and practiced a little Spanish, something I have been slacking on lately. Called it an early night and fell asleep dreaming about the road ahead.

Always smiling and having a good time.

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Heading towards Neiva. Just look at that flat, smooth road with a great shoulder. A lot different from the other days ride.

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And just like that, the mountains were behind us.

Found these at the panaderia for .10 cents each. My handlebar bag was full with these delicious treats. I have been spending around $8-$10 a day with lodging (about $2-$3 when camping). Living pretty good and cheap each day in Colombia. A bikers paradise.

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We scored a perfect bike path for miles. Mostly downhill and things were going too fast, so I decided to get a flat tire to slow things down. I had it fixed faster then a nascar pit crew. Marko and Anja barely finished their afternoon snack by the time I was done. After 45+ flat tires on this trip, I think I could change a flat blindfolded by now.

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A whole new view today.

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Still descending down, we stopped for a few random photos. 10:00 am came and we could tell we were down in the lowlands. The heat kicked in fast.

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Some major construction going on.

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After seeing too many of these posters of Salpicon, We had to stop and try one.

A few bikes, mango's and a Colombian flag

A few bikes, mango’s and a Colombian flag

Two happy bikers. The smiles say it all. Delicious!

Three happy bikers. The smiles say it all. Delicious!

The owners of the little shop were pretty excited that we stopped and tried their drink. Before we left they handed us all a giant mango and asked for a photo with us and the bikes. I just noticed how short the lady’s are.

One last mountain photo of the day. I was all smiles  with speeds up to 40 mph on this stretch of road.

One last mountain photo of the day. I was all smiles with speeds up to 40 mph on this stretch of road.


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