|Distance||43.25 kms||26.72 miles|
|Climbed||914 meters||2,999 feet|
|Ride time (hours)||5.58||-|
|Avg speed||7.7 kph||-|
|Distance||14,111.29 kms||8,768.17 miles|
|Climbed||170,131 meters||558,173 feet|
|Ride time (hours)||1,114.05||-|
Sunday, September 15th, 2013
I was up early to get everything packed up and ready. I said my goodbyes to Manuel and Marta then started dragging my bike up the staircases leading from Candela to the road to Armenia. It was a brutal start to the day – the stairs were steep as hell and slippery. I fell a number of times, especially when the stairways gave way to a muddy path with 20 percent grades. The muddy path was in turn followed by cement two-track roads with equally brutal grades until I finally reached the pavement 2 kilometers away. It turned out to be 200 meters of climbing in the first 1.5 kilometers, not including the staircases.
When I passed the first town I discovered that the back tire had gone flat – I was furious! 4 kilometers back on the road and I already had a flat! I had had enough of this back tire which has gone flat a ridiculous number of times so I just threw on one of the folding Schwalbe Duremes that I had brought with me from the States. While I was changing the tire a guy and his daughter on bicycles stopped to chat for a while. They said they would see me at the top. Lots of cyclists out for a Sunday climb on this road. When I got up there they were sitting at an outdoor table at one of the eateries and they called me over and ending up buying me an orange juice and an empanada. We talked for a while about 9-11 because the daughter had been given an assignment at school to write a report on what happened and how many people died. As they were leaving the father gave me the lowdown on the road I would be following for the rest of the day.
From the top of the ridge came a long decent on ripio down into a valley with great views. The climbing started up again about 5 kilometers outside of Armenia. I arrived in the pueblo soaked with sweat from climbing in the heat and humidity. I asked around for directions to Palmichal and ended up getting into a long discussion about my travels with a bunch of people in a little store. The girl working behind the counter was flabbergasted that I had ridden from Argentina even though no one was paying me to do it… she said she wouldn’t even ride to the corner for free.
The road to Palmichal got a lot more chaotic, a Bolivian style road that was hewn from rock that left lots of obstacles to manoeuvre around. In Palmichal I asked again for directions to the path down to the river that Manuel had told me about. The people I asked ended up inviting me to have a popsicle and talk about coffee. They are growers and said that this had been a very bad year due to an insect infestation (I didn’t recognize the Spanish word for this particular bug) and lots of rain. I continued on through some cow pastures then by some little houses where a woman came out and flagged me down. It turns out that she is a cousin of Manuel’s; he had called her this morning and asked her to look out for me. She invited me in for some cold water, a bowl of frijoles, and a cup of ground corn mixed with milk. We chatted for a bit while I played with their adorable puppy and kitten, then she and her daughter and son walked me down to the start of the path that led to the river.
From there to the river I had to walk the bike the whole way – for the most part it was just a really steep, muddy, and rocky cow/horse path that descended 700 meters over a short distance down to the river. I fell a bunch of times and kept banging my shins on the pedals and the chainring but I thoroughly enjoyed the views of the river canyon and mountains beyond. I went through a bunch of cattle gates and was pretty much just guessing which track to take for most of the time, but I eventually did arrive at the right place on the river not too far from where the pulley-ferry was located. As I pulled up the ferry was just coming in with one guy and a motorcycle on it. He told me that he couldn’t take me over because the farm manager had let him borrow it, when I asked him if I could camp somewhere nearby he told me to come with him to the finca that I had passed so I could ask the manager. The manager is Gabriel, he lives on the farm with his wife, two daughters, and brother in-law. They are super nice people. They said I could sleep on a bed they have set up under the porch of one of the houses. Then they invited me to share a delicious meal of fried steak, rice, potato, and salad. We talked for a couple of hours about cattle ranching. I could hold the conversation because I once worked a stint as a cowboy on a ranch in Arizona. They wanted to know all about how ranching was done in the US, hopefully I enlightened them a bit but I'm no expert.
The trip has kicked back off on a good note: a strenuous day with hardly any cars, good weather, great scenery, generous people, and it all ended in a real bed… what more could I ask for.