Day 60 – Mocoa to Neiva Colombia

The morning was uneventful save for one thing. We got breakfast, retrieved or bikes from the parking lot across the street, started putting our bags on them, and then, checked the tires because my rear looked a little low, and turned out to be just as low as it looked.

So, I dug down to the bottom of one of my panniers for the CyclePump, pulled it out, filled it and the front up (Dachary’s didn’t need any) shoved it back in shoved the other things back in, squished my toiletries bag back in and pressed against the blade of my razor with the crook of my thumb, slicing open the toiletries bag (now no longer a dry sac) and the crook of my thumb.

It was raining, we were about to set off, and now the most flexed portion of my hand was bleeding. Wonderful.

I went in, convinced it to mostly stop bleeding, put on my jacket, wrapped toilet paper around the base of my thumb, then shoved it in my glove and hoped I wouldn’t have to take it off for a long time… also hoped that it wouldn’t start bleeding on the ride and give me a blood caked glove, because as OJ proved, leather gloves that have become soaked in blood have a tendency to shrink.

So on we rode, back up route 45, with comments like “Oh poor us, having to spend more days riding nicely paved roads with beautiful curves winding through the incredible Colombian landscape. Woe is us. ” Honestly the only thing we mind about all this is that it’s eaten up a week and by the time we finally exit Colombia we’ll probably only have six weeks left for the rest of the continent, which, frankly, sucks. We’re going to have to spend more time than we wanted on main roads, but there’s no way we’re skipping Bolivia and the Salar De Uyuni.

Smiling guard

So, on we ride, until we get to one of the rare police checkpoints where they actually want to pull us over. I tell them we’re heading back to Bogota to get a plate and point to the paper the police gave me when I declared it lost. He wanted to know something else, which I wasn’t quite getting, and then he got interested in the GPS, looking for Mocoa (the town we’d just left) for some reason. Then a woman walked up and started chatting in English, not about what the cops wanted, just… chatting. Eventually I ended up telling her that out of all the places we’d been so far Colombia was absolutely our favorite, that the people were great and the country was gorgeous. She said how much she loved to hear people say that, that it made her feel proud of her country, as well she should.

If you need help in Popayan

She said that if we ever needed help we should just stop and ask the police as they were good. We’d employed this tactic before on a number of occasions, but it was good to hear a local suggesting they were good too…. and “Do you know Popayan?” It was ringing a bell…. then Dachary, who was talking with the cop, who’d moved over to her bike, heard me over the headset and reminded me where it was… “oh, yes, We turned just before that when we went to Inza and Tierradentro.” I said, “we’ll probably be passing through it when we head back towards Equador. “Well, if you’re in Popayan and you need anything give me a call… well, give my husband a call, as I’ll probably not be back yet.” And she wrote down her and her husband’s cell phone numbers. I gave her a card, took her picture, and thanked her greatly.

An offer like that really means a lot to me. I hope we never have to call her, but it’s good to know we can. So, Adriana, Thank you. From the bottom of my heart.

At a military checkpoint

As we rode off Dachary informed me of what had been happening over at her bike. While the guys were gathered around my GPS another had come and asked to look in her panniers. This was the first time anyone in Colombia has asked to look, and the first time anyone at all has asked to look at Dachary’s. She opened one up, and he seemed somewhat disappointed that everything was bagged up and not visible. He picked out almost everything in her left pannier, opening some of the bags, and a few bags from the right, but in the end it was too much trouble for too little return. “Oh look, wodged up clothes.” “Oh look. cords” Dachary was secretly waiting for him to look inside the bag of tampons, but alas, he got bored just before.

After not quite finding what he’d wanted in the GPS my guy wandered off to her bike, noticed the map on her tank bag, and asked if it was of Colombia. “Yes”, and set about finding Mocoa, again, and then tracing the route northward to roughly the current location, asked for a pen, which she didn’t feel like digging out, but pointed to the one I was offering to Adriana, which he didn’t feel like asking for. We’re still not sure what he wanted to do with it, but soon thereafter we were back on the road.

Around lunch time we made it into Pitalito, where we went into town, to find food, passed a restaurant full of people, circled the block (one way streets) passed through the moto-everything block of town, and pulled up alongside the restaurant. There were no empty tables, but the guy behind the counter motioned us to squeeze in at a six seater that only had two. So we did.

The wife was very talkative, and like many Colombians, willing to work around our limited vocabulary. When I asked what you called the lentil soup thing her hubby had on his plate she said “lenteah” (or something that sounded like that) and hollered for the waiter guy to get us a bowl of it. I didn’t stop her because we’d had it elsewhere and it was freaking delicious. Turns out, the whole meal was delicious. Dachary ordered pasta and beef and i’d ordered pasta and chicken. We’d gone for the pasta because he mentioned it and I think we’re both sick of carne asada. The pasta was awesome. Big wide linguini strips that had been cooked in some delectable chicken broth. So good. The chicken, beef, and lenteah were also delicious.

While we sat there she asked if we were going to see San Agustín and we said no, because, whilst it was on the way, last night we’d both commented that we had absolutely no desire to go there. It just wasn’t calling to us. But as we sat there she kept going on about it, how beautiful it was, how it was only thirty minutes down the road, how easy it was to get too, oh you’ll love it… She, like everyone else in Pitalito and the surrounding area, seemed so proud of it. They loved it. They thought everyone should see it. It wasn’t the “oh we have a tourist attraction that people come to see” kind of feeling. People around here really love San Agustín, and as we set out on the bikes we both felt a little guilty for still not having any interest, and continuing northward.

The riding continued to be spectacular. The Andes have been to our left all day, rising up like giant dark shadows behind the mountains we can make out. Frequently I didn’t even realize they were there. I thought it was just darker skies behind the mountains until I’d notice that one part of the darker sky had a cloud curling around it. Dachary says that one of the peaks to our west is nearly 6,000 meters.

Colombian Panorama
(click through for the full panorama)

We covered nearly two hundred miles today, and as we approached Neiva we were drained, and not looking forward to dealing with finding a hotel in a city this size, or the price. A sign came up, Hotel 500m. Hmm…. We found it. We pulled in. It’s a nice place. I have no idea what it’s called, it has a restaurant on site, and the guy wanted 100,000 pesos (about $50). Nope, not paying *that* much. I told him so, figured he wouldn’t come down enough, and asked him to recommend a place. He did, the semi-tourist town we’d passed a turn-off to 8k back. And by the time I was walking out the door he’d talked himself down to 70,000. Still more than I wanted to pay, but tempting because we were so tired, and really, really not wanting to deal with a city….

I talked to Dachary. “If it means not having to deal with a city….” We took it. In the end they got their 100,000 because the food was pricey (no surprise there), but it was fairly good. As we were putting on normal pants to go out to the outdoor restaurant and eat it Dachary asked what that sound was, and wondered if it would be going on all night. I hypothesized that it was cicadas, but that I’d never heard so many as to make a chorus affect. We stepped out the door and, as if they’d been waiting for precisely that moment, they came to a whining crescendo that sounded like fifty weed-whackers grinding their metal plates into submission.

“That can’t be cicadas.” she said, but it was.

It’s 10:29 and the temperature has dropped enough that they’ve shut up. But their droning tone has been replaced by the screams and yells of children playing in the pool.

Some parents need to be seriously bitch-slapped.

Side note: Dachary’s been picking at her sunburn since she took off her shirt. She’s obsessed with it.

About Kay

An old-school geek, addicted to travel, with a love of programming, writing, Esperanto, and starting businesses. -- @masukomi on Twitter.

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