December 10, 2011
The bells rang again this morning, the 5:30am bell woke me up and by the time the 6:00am bell rang I was awake enough to capture most of it on video. Will post the video another time.
I slowly gathered my things and took my time leaving this morning.
The morning was cool and easy to ride in. Most of the day I was surrounded by sounds of something that may have been cicadas?
I passed several of the miliatary checkpoints and they are always standing along the roadside about 50 feet apart holding their rifles. I'm sure it is no big deal but I get a little nervous cycling past all these soldiers fully armed staring at me as I cycle past. I can notice thier stares in my peripheral vision but I do not look at them. I just go about my business cycling straight ahead and they have never bothered me yet.
It was around 11am when a very large blue butterfly swooped down past my face. I stopped and watched it continue its way north and I felt like I had just been blessed by a beautiufl creature in nature. I decided to stop and perform a small ritual with the sacred water overlooking the Magdelena River. It was just a half hour later I was at the town of Garzon and decided it was too early to stop. The temperature was getting hot but thought that even if I cycle easy I can make it to Pitalito before it got dark.
In the early afternoon I was getting extremely tired and constantly thirsty, my water supply was almost gone. The sun was beating down on me and on my sunburnt arms. I stopped at a small place for some shade and checked the temperature, it was 102.6 F. No wonder I was getting so exhausted climbing these hills, I was pushing myself going uphill in temperatures over 100 F.
After a bit of a rest I continued further south and stopped at one of those stands that are set up along the road. They are usually grouped together and typically no more than 20 miles of road before I see some of these. It was a welcome site, I was very thirsty and a bit hungry. I ate to quesillos, drank 2 gatorades and drank 1 Pony Malta.
I continued on feeling a bit more refreshed now but soon the heat and the long uphills were really getting the best of me. I stopped frequently for breaks and tried to keep myself hydrated. I also reapplied sun screen but I'm sweating so much it keeps washing away.
The scenery is beautiful but I'm not motivated to stop and take many photos. The long uphills are grueling and I just want to get it over with. When I reach the downhills, I want to make up time and since they are steep it means braking hard to come to a stop so I don't stop on the downhills either. Although I did pass some great photo opportunities going downhill, instead I decided to just capture the beauty in my mind and keep going.
I am following the Magdelena river upstream and sometimes it is way below me and other times I am right by its shore.
I enjoy the downhills because they give a bit of relief and a nice wind to cool me off. The only problem is that the towns I'm traveling too are a higher elevation which means for every downhill, there will be a longer uphill to cycle.
A typical downhill ride
It was just starting to get dark when I reached the town, I was in time to hear the 6pm church bells ringing in town. I cycled around asking about a hotel, the center of town is like all the others I have seen, there is a park, and a very large church. Around the edges of the park are a lot of vendors selling food, candy, juice etc...
As I cycled aroung I did my best asking about a hotel, even when I try my hardest to pronounce these words in Spanish no one can undersatand me, I have to show them it written out in my book. After cycling up to the hotel an older man starts talking to me from across the street. I told him "No Hablo Espanol", he was trying to tell me something about this hotel and was pointing down the street. I was able to figure out that there was another hotel just down the road. Since we were unable to understand each other he finally just motioned me to follow him. I cycled slowly behind him as he walked to the next hotel one block away. The older man helped carry my loaded bike up a steep flight of stairs which took every last bit of energy I had in me. When we got to the top I realized there is one more flight of stairs so I took off the panniers, the older man quickly grabbed them in his enthusiastic way and carried them upstairs for me. Then returned to help me carry the unloaded bicycle. He then put the bicycle in my room for me. I said "gracias" and then he held his hand out rubbing his fingers together. I realized he was asking for a tip, which was well earned in my opinion. I did not know how much to tip so I pulled out two thousand pesos and gave it to him. He was very happy and had a big smile on his face. The owner shook his head as if I gave him too much, that amount equals about $1.00 USD.
I decided to stay here a couple of days so I can go to San Augustin tomorrow and then back into town same day. I paid for two nights and was able to get out "dos noches" and was understood. the cost was fifteen thousand pesos per night which is about $7.50 USD per night.
My whole body ached and I was the dirtiest and smelliest I had been yet. There were white streaks on my shirt from the evaporated sweat leaving the salt behind. I had nothing to eat today except for the little bit of food at the stand ealier and I was very hungry. After I forced myself thorugh the motions of taking a shower with all my aching limbs, I felt refreshed enough to keep going. I asked the owner where to eat and he pointed to a restaurant right across the corner. I went and had a very large meal for seven thousand pesos. Most meals cost between five thousand to seven thousand pesos, that is $2.50 to $3.50 for a very large meal. They are usually enough for two of my normal meals.
After eating I made my way over to the internet place to see if I can upload some files from my computer. While my video file was uploading I started asking the owner some questions using google translate. I inquired about a round trip bus to San Augustin for tomorrow and he told me there were no buses in this town, I needed to go to Pitalito. I was shocked, Pitalito! I thought I was in Pitalito. I asked through google translate, "what town is this" and he responded "Timina" and went on to say Pitalito was 20 km away. My first thought was that I need to leave in the morning and get to Pitalito but as tired and achy as I feel, I think a day off tomorrow will be good. When I get to Pitalito I will minimize all my weight to have bare essentials. I should be able to get rid of at least 1/3rd of my weight. the climbs are going to get steeper soon. In a way I look forward to the higher elevation so I can get out of this hot sun.
I tried to upload the video I made but the 3 minute video got to 30% after 1 hour and it was not going to happen tonight. It was late and I felt like I could fall asleep any minute. I have a lot of good videos but it seems to take about an hour per minute of video to load. My camera says "Full HD" on it so it must make very large video files for uploading.
I went to bed feeling muscle aches everywhere and for the first time my hamstrings were aching as well as my back muscles, calf muscles and many other places just ached. My butt was sore from sitting on the seat all day too. I was glad not to be cycling tomorrow!
Timana elevtion 3343 feet
The elevation of Pitalito is varied: 3,908
feet, max: 4,829 feet
So in two days I will be climbing 1,000 feet in about 12 miles distance. The 1000 feet will most likely translate to over 3000 feet of climbing with all the ups and downs.
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