December 13, 2011
My altimeter has an alarm on it so for the first time I used an alarm to make sure I could get up. I was up showered and ready to go at 7am. I met Felipe in the lobby and he said that we were to go have breakfast first. We walked over to a restaurant that is very traditional and has the best quality food in town.
Again Felipe knows everyone here and I think
some of them are his family. Other customers come in and join us at
the table to talk to Felipe, one of the men had a bracelet with Che
Guevera and I asked him what Che represented to him. Felipe wrote
the words down for me:
The breakfast lasts for about an hour as the conversations go on with lots of enthusiasm. Everyone seems genuinely interested in having long discussions and I have yet to see anyone get upset about anything being discussed. I think that most agree to disagree and its okay to have different opinions.
After breakfast Felipe borrows a relatives truck and we load up my bicycle in the back to take it to the terminal area where the taxi's, buses and transport trucks are. As soon as we get there we are bombarded by people asking where we are going. Felipe helps me find the correct transport to Mocoa and talks to the driver who agrees to make sure I get the right transport from Mocoa to Pasto. Felipe also makes sure I pay the correct amount and he tells me that this is a good person driving me. He knew I got taken advantage of yesterday and confirmed the fee to San Agustin was 5000 pesos not the 10,000 pesos I was charged.
After we get the bicycle loaded, I say my goodbyes to Felipe. One thing I don't think I've mentioned yet is that goodbyes are usually long and slow too. It can take ten minutes to say "see you later" and then once all the goodbyes have been said someone will say something else. I've even seen it where the 10 minutes of goodbyes are done and then after walking away 10 feet someone turns around and starts talking again before finally saying the last "see you later".
Anyway, this was not one of the normal long goodbyes that is custom because the bike was loaded and the driver was ready to go. I hopped in back with two other women and their children. One woman had one child and the other had two children. After we were loaded the driver hands us small plastic bags, I look puzzled. The women try to tell me what its for and all I could say was "no entiendo" and then one of them made a gesture imitating throwing up. We set off and I quickly realized why these little bags were important, the road is very rough and the driver drives very fast. He would take off throwing me back, go over lots of bumps causing me to bounce, swerve quickly around obstacles as I go side to side and when there is a very large bump he waits until the last minute to slam on the brakes as I fly forward, then takes off full speed throwing me back. I held onto the steel bars and doing my best not to think about vomiting, just thinking about it might make me toss my cookies. It was at this moment I thought that it might have been a good idea to just skip breakfast altogether. I tried to communicate with the woman who was using my phrase book to try to talk to me but I really needed to look out at the scenery, by trying to read something I felt very sick. Somehow looking outside helped keep me from getting motion sickness,
This road ended up being heavily guarded by military everywhere. There were outposts, there were large military vehicles and equipment in this area because of the guerillas. I felt like I would have been safe cycling with the amount of military on this road. I also would feel better physically, I was getting a bit dizzy and nauseated from this ride. It did not take long for me to realize that it is impossible to cycle this section of road in one day, it is two very long days of cycling which would mean staying the night along the side of the road somewhere.
By the time we got to Mocoa I was very much ready to put my feet on the ground. It took 3 hours of all out speeding to get us there in that time. Several times he would take corners so fast the tires would screech and on one turn not only where they screeching but the truck was leaning very far over and was at its limit any faster in that turn and we would have gone over. While pulling into the parking lot area, men started hopping on the back looking inside and asking us where we are going in order to try to get our business for a connecting taxi.
At Mocoa it took 4 of us to carefully unload my bicycle from the roof and the one woman with two small children stuck around to assist me, she was there when Felipe was talking to the driver and knew what I was needing to do. We used my little phrase book to communicate the best we could. I am very impressed with how much people will go out of their way and spend extra time to assist a stranger. It ends up this driver decided to make the Pasto run so she helped me pay the correct amount and she went on her way. I believe her name was Yubely and she gave me a piece of paper where she wrote something in Spanish that I could not understand. The email address on it did not work. If she is reading this feel free to email me at email@example.com
After loading up the bicycle, I am accompanied on this trip by two older people who look to be of native origin a man and a woman who were not together. She wore handmade native beaded jewelry that was beautifully done. When we reached "the road of death", the driver stops the truck and gets out. I hear a hissing sound and look out to see he is deflating about half the pressure in his tires.
Then he took off in his usual manner and I did not think anyone could drive as fast as this on such a bad road. If the tires had not been deflated I'm sure the truck would have skidded sideways on several occasions. This road is the absolute worst road I have ever seen, in places there were men on the road moving large rocks and filling holes here and there while the driver kept speeding past just missing people on this narrow road. We ascended up a very steep climb entering into the clouds and the mist started getting thick, it had been raining and the road was not only very rocky but in places very muddy. After awhile we descended below the fog and mist and I got a better view of the spectacular scenery.
It was impossible to attempt to compose photos of any of the scenery, my body was being thrown around as I held on tightly to the steel bars, the road was extremely steep in places and very rough. When I took some photos it meant I could only hold on with one hand and I felt like I was a cowboy riding a bull. It was difficult holding the camera with one hand to take a photo because it wanted to bounce out of my hand. I gripped it tightly and kept hitting all kinds of other buttons like the menu button, the record button, many times hitting the off button, and all kinds of settings were accidentally getting changed as I bounced around one hand holding onto a bar and the other hand waving in the air trying to point the camera toward the scenery outside. I hit my head several times on one of the steel bars and that was not very much fun. I could not look at the camera when I took photos, I just pointed it in the general direction and pushed the button.
The scenery along this road was stunning, the mountains were beautiful and this is the most beautiful area I have seen yet. It was difficult to spend much time enjoying the view when I was being tossed around and all my organs getting shook up. This looked very much like the amazon rainforest area and there were ferns that looked the size of palm trees. I wish I could have cycled this area to spend more time here but it was not meant to be.
Upon reaching Pasto I was very thankful I did not throw up along the way. I got on my bicycle and road to the first open hotel I saw. After checking in, I laid on the bed and fell into a deep sleep, I was exhausted. The entire trip was about 6 hours and the Mocoa to Pasto road could not be done by bicycle in one day either.
When I woke up, I walked down the street looking for a good place to eat, there are always lots of places to eat but some serve some of the fast food type which is pretty nasty. The fast food places always cover their food with a nasty tasting ketchup and mayonnaise mixture which is not the same kind of ketchup and mayonnaise I'm used to.
I found one that looked very traditional, it was empty and there was a woman in the back preparing food. I just motioned eating and used the Spanish word for it. She tried to tell me what it was but all I could say was "no hablo espanol" which I have finally learned NOT to pronounce the "h" in hablo.
It was a very good meal with very good juice, I'm beginning to really like the food here and the fresh juice.
For the first time I am in a hotel with more than just a sheet. It has been so hot that everywhere just has a sheet and no hot water, here I have two blankets on the bed and there is actually hot water in the bathroom.
My altimeter says that I am now at 7065 feet and hit a max altitude of 9179 feet between Pitalito and here.
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