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7th-8th February – Mocoa
We’d already stayed in Mocoa 2 nights due to JoJo being ill, and we were all set to leave we met up with Jose, a contact we had found through another cyclist’s website. Jose offered to put us up in the house he shared with his brother Wilson and his family. This led to us being delayed a few more days, the reason being that we ended up taking part in a sacred indigenous ceremony. The brothers were from the sacred Valle of Sibundoy but worked in Mocoa, their father was a Taita (Shaman) and the brothers worked hard to retain their indigenous roots, the language, culture and food. We shared some really special memorable days in their home before we hit the road.
9th February – Mocoa to km95 on the Trampoline of Death
Wilson was keen to join us for the rid, from where he lived in Mocoa to the Valle of Sibundoy and his parents home. Wilson thought we could manage the ride in one day, we weren’t so sure but we set off at 5:30 that morning to give ourselves a good chance. The road goes for around 10km of flat then up hill on a paved road out of Mocoa, before it ends, then it’s just you and the dirt for the next 66km. I read a brilliant account of what was ahead here. We climbed slowly up hill, getting stranded in a cafe for an hour whilst it tipped it down, then off again for constant switch backs and thick foggy forest for the next 4 hours. There was a steady flow of traffic, mainly small trucks and collectivos passing through, but it mainly quiet apart from the sound of bird song. It was lush and damp, stopping to fill out bottles in the waterfalls and having to walk through the rivers they’d created. The fog made it difficult to take the dramatic pictures that I had seen in other blogs which was a shame.
The military checkpoint and a row of shops signaled 2km before the top of the hill. We finally got to the top at 1.30pm 8 hours after we had started, at a cafe known as Filo de Hambre. We filled up on arepas de harina, which were just like hard pancakes, with cheese, and plenty of sugary drinks before we ploughed on. If you’d left at a normal time like a normal person then this would be a good place to stop, the guy who ran the place said cyclists sometimes spent the night there.
10km of down hill doesn’t necessarily mean you can go fast. Being on ripio means you have to constantly be paying attention, and one wrong move could see you off the edge of the mountain. This road used to be lethal, hence it’s name, but now with the addition of the barriers and the improvement of the road conditions it is apparently much safer. Wilson had gone ahead, he wasn’t carrying any weight and this was his home turf after all. The road then became gradually up hill or flat but the views of the amazon mountains in the late afternoon sun were something I will never forget, this is my favourite time in the day to ride.
The steepness of those mountains make it impossible for people to exploit with logging, and is the reason for the road remaining unpaved for so long. We met up with Wilson at km95, a small road side restaurant called Buenos Aires was our oasis in the jungle.
Wilson was happy to continue, he was in his home territory and but Jo and I knew it was an hour before dark but still several hours of riding, it was 5.30pm, it was time to call it quits. Wilson decided he wanted to get to Sibundoy to see his parents, so he got a lift with a passing collectivo. The woman owning the cafe was incredibly nice, she cooked us up our usual plate before we passed out.
10th February – km95 to Sibundoy
The woman was so nice that she let us cook our own porridge and coffee on her wood stove in the kitchen, her sugary tinto wasn’t going to give me enough caffeine and we just didn’t want to eat more rice and eggs. We waited a while for some rain to pass before hitting the road at 9.30pm. It was 15km more of up hill which took us a few hours, but was as equally beautiful as the previous day; we then reached the next sign of civilisation, a café called la cabana with some amazing catholic pictures and family portaits covering the wall. Here we ate a bowl of beans and hot sugary coffee, it had been raining, we were cold and damp, both in need of better clothing for this sort of weather.
The joy I felt when we finally reached the ascent is was like nothing. We wizzed down, the road becoming paved again and although it had only been one night it felt odd to be on paved road and in civilization, the world seemed like a different place. We made it to the home of Wilson’s parents in Sibundoy, Taita Benjamin and Mama Charo. The Valle of Sibundoy is known to have special sacred energy, and it definitely felt good to be there. The home of the Aguillon Chindoy family was like a museum, traditional wood carvings, stone work, and then a wall dedicated to the coronas (crowns) of the Taita, adorned with feather and following trails. It was really interesting to experience staying with a family with such a rich and proud culture.
11th Sibundoy – Pasto
Everyone in the village was preparing for carnival at the beginning of March, making costumes, and preparing a fermented maize alcoholic drink called Chicha. They asked us to stay or come back for the carnival, we thought really hard about it for a few days and would have loved to stay, milk the cows each day and help make costumes, but we also wanted to keep going. This day of cycling was tough, around 15km of flat before beginning a gradual ascent, the road then became unpaved for around 20km of up, at which point it started to rain, I was totally freezing I only had sandals to ride in, and progress was slow. We passed some nature reserve and I could just about make out some beautiful fields of plants, but the mist and the rain meant I didn’t really care.
Eventually the road became paved and I sped down hill. I thought a lot about Britain, when you go on a hike or bike ride in this sort of weather at home you can guarantee you will come to a cozy pub where you can warm yourself on the fire and drink a pint of cider to feel better, or a cafe with steamed up windows where you can drink hot chocolate and eat millionaires short bread. Not here, we continued for ages until we came to an old lady selling cuy (guinea pig) and a collection of other dishes outside he house. She let us change indoors before we stood warming ourselves and our toes on her stove, and drinking hot agua de panela (sugar water) with cheese tamales and arepas. Finally warm, and almost able to feel my toes we set off, we hit another 15-20km of up hill which wasn’t too painful, it warmed me up at least. We knew we’d made it to the top when we came to a viewing point of a Laguna La Cocha before we sped town hill in to Pasto.
Here we stayed with Carlos, a warmshowers host. In true Colombian hospitality he came to meet us to show us to his home, and when we got there he had arranged a ‘welcome’ banner, wine and cake for us, amazing!
12th February – Pasto
The following day we were invited to the birthday dinner of Carlos’s teenage daughter, it was so kind to be included. That night I had to get on an overnight bus to go back to Medellin and meet some friends who were coming from England to visit, so exciting!
- Riding in the slip stream of kindness
- Pan American Highway and Quito