The distance between Cartagena and Puerto Valdivia was quickly overcome and we started to conquer the mountains. On our the first day we were to ascend over a distance of 60 kilometers from 130 meters above-sea level up to 2400 meters. But at that day not only the surroundings changed …
We woke up before sunrise, having guessed logically, that the ascending won’t be an easy task. It started right after the bridge, which divided the city from the mountain. Racing bicycles left us behind again and again. We were later told, that they overcome the distance between Puerto Valdivia and Medellin (about 300 km one way) in just a day, which put us to doubt, taking into consideration the relief. In general bicycle sport is very popular in Colombia and we met lots of trainees everywhere.
Our road as well as other roads of Colombia was excellent. Mountains created majestic scenery. Little by little vegetation changed. Certain parts of the road were crossed with clouds stuck on the slopes. In general it was a pleasure to ride and tough also. Periodically trucks drifted by, for which it was also difficult to ascend. Misha clutched at them, and, after riding a short part of the way stopped, to wait for me, slowly crawling at the speed of 5km per hour, using my muscles only. In order not to waste time during the stops, he took his trumpet out and blew it.
The higher we ascend the lower temperature became. Fluffy and white clouds changed with big and dark ones. As we crossed the halfway point it started raining. Misha clutched at a truck and rode up. Being already tired of the ascending, I continued to pedal, because I still didn’t learn how to clutch at “slow walkers” passed by. The rain became stronger and I noticed something, that looked like a bus station — oilcloth roof, supported by a mountain from one side and by two sticks from the other — , and decided to wait there till the rain is over. Considering the rain, riding a rising road wasn’t an easy task.
In the beginning it was fun, I put on warm Berghaus clothes and, being pleased with it, took pictures of the downpour, which, obviously, wasn’t going to end, but became even stronger. The water started to leak through my shelter. It began with one flow, then the second, the third emerged… On the bottom they joined the stream, which already formed on the road and rushed past swiftly.
It became clear that nothing is clear. The only question running through my head was “What am I supposed to do now?” Even though I stood on the small hill, which was relatively dry, the spatter of rain, flying from everywhere, made the shoes wet, and my legs got frozen.
Colombians, who used to such weather, were slowly going by, wearing rubber boots and costumes, which looked like chemo-protecting suits. They were continuing to do their daily job — carrying milk churns.
After half an hour, which lasted a long time, a small truck stopped near the station. A group of 10 people with bags jumped out of its body. I smiled and simultaneously sympathized with owners of the refrigerator, watching them trying to drag it out, which wasn’t quite convenient to do, while it was raining so hard. There was also a cow in the car. A driver sat already back to the car, when I heard the voice inside of me, saying, “Blockhead! What are you smiling at? This’s your chance to escape! Run, noodle!”
“Blockhead! What are you smiling at? This’s your chance to escape! Run, noodle!”
Having forgotten about the rain and puddles, I jumped after the truck, “Wait! Wait! May I go with a cow you? I’m heading to Yarumal!” We put my bike and a bag near the cow and I jumped in the truck’s body as well. The only thing left to do was to find Misha. I guessed, that it’d be easy for both of us to recognize each other owing to the bright Berghaus raincoats, told the driver about it and watched behind the truck myself.
The cow was set down in 10 kilometers and still there wasn’t any sign of Misha… We reached the entrance of Yarumal and the driver said that he had to continue his path outside the city. The rain finally stopped. I guessed that Misha’s already came to the city and rode to the center.
People, wearing warm clothes, ponchos and hats, sat in a numerous cafes and drank coffee. A boy ran up to me and showed the direction to the center. He also showed three hotels and told me about the prices. I chose the cheapest one.
— Mate, look, here’s a 1000 pesos, should you notice a tall guy riding a bike, wearing a bright raincoat, bring him here! — said I, hoping that he could find Misha.
— Do you want a tinto? — a women working in a hotel asked
— Wine? Now? It’d be nice, — thought I, having recalled only “vino tinto” (which in Spanish means “red wine”), but decided to specify anyway, — What is that?
— Coffee. We like coffee very much and drink it in an enormous amount!
— Yes, thanks. May I ask you to call to the police station? I lost my colleague.
Without having any means of communication (we haven’t bought local sim-cards and Misha’s Russian sim-card didn’t work), I got really nervous. It was getting darker and colder outside. We called the police, they promised to look for him in the city and tell us in case of finding him. Half an hour passed, Misha didn’t appear.
— It’s better to ride back to the place where you lost each other. I’ll pick you up in a moment, — said another hotel employee and gave me a paper bag with fat stains on it, — Do you want empanadas? There’re with chicken, meat and potato.
I put wet trousers on and sat in a car. Two kids of the hotel employee went with us.
— I’ll look to the left and you look to the right! — a little girl ordered to her elder brother.
Gradually descending from the mountain, we stopped over every military post, asking people if they saw Misha. Nobody saw him, but everyone promised to be more attentive. We finally found him in 20 km from the city, Misha was pedalling uphill in the darkness. The rain ended here also.
MishaI clutched a truck and rode 5 kilometers uphill, stopped near a military post and sat under the shelter to wait for Vova. Weather wasn’t very nice, there was no rain but it was wet outside, everything was shrouded by mist, the field of vision was no more than 30 meters. I put on clothes and decided to eat, because I was hoping to meet Vova in about 2 hours.
Then the rain started, strong and cold. I didn’t suffer sitting under the roof of the shelter, but without being able to move I almost froze. I have 2 tinned tunny but didn’t have cutlery, only bicycle spokes and the ability of eating with chopsticks. It impressed locals very much.
Two hours passed away, sunset was to start soon, but still there was no evidence of Vova. I decided to go back. I descended to the place where we parted, but haven’t found anybody and started to ride uphill. I got to the post where I was waiting for Vova in the dark. Tunny was digested, I have no cash, and only three gulps of water left in my flask. I continued to ride for another hour, until a car stopped on the other side of the road.
We stayed in the city center, the windows of our hotel opened on the central park and a big beautiful cathedral. The whole city is situated on the slope of the mountain, and people had to move in a zigzag manner because of steepnesses. There was no point in looking for evidences of some sort of a bicycle movement here. But nevertheless we had to linger in the city. When looking for Misha I got cold, the next day I had the temperature and started to cough.
The sun was shining every morning and rains usually started in the daytime. Unlike the clouds in other cities where they normally fly up in the air, in Yarumal they literally walk on the streets of the city.
MishaOnce I decided to ride uphill till the highest point of the city. Some streets were easy to overcome but the others were just insuperable. Trying to pedal on the low-low, and standing on the pedals I crawled down, because the wheel began to slip. Can’t imagine who could build a city in a place like this.
In two days Klaus and his colleague caught up with us. They stayed in the city for two more days because of the problems caused by acclimatization. During our conversations we learned about the site ridewithgps.com, which creates a route on a GoogleMaps, shows the graph of altitudes for a given part of path, and also allows to save a necessary part of a map as .gpx file in order to download it on GPS-navigator later.
In a week we left Yarumal, and we already knew, which uphills and downhills we were to face. There were not so many downhills, in fact, there was just one. The slope on which the city stands, continued for 100 metres down to a valley. And then there began a rising road again. It was a promising fact that at the day we had to overcome a path of a short distance.
On the road we got wet again. But we decided not to stop. Berghaus jackets protected us from the wind and shower, legs were working all the time and therefore they didn’t freeze. The only thing, which annoyed me, was my wet shoes. Misha acted smarter — he was pedalling in rubber slippers.
Santa Rosa de Osos
We really liked the city’s atmosphere after a short walk in the evening, and therefore despite of the fact that we arrived before darkness, we decided to stay there for another day. Huge cathedrals, beautiful central square and people, wearing interesting clothes.
On our first walk a local guy run into us, proposing to go to his place to try “local strong drinks”. We refused, and for that he gave us a T-shirt with a symbol of the city, which he took off right in the middle of the street.
We hadn’t been in a hurry when leaving Santa Rosa. We knew that there will be a very long descent, and we’ll be able to restore the time we spent for a sleep. We left the city in dry weather, but in about ten kilometres, we’ve reached a rain strip. And that’s where Misha had a hard time. His bike didn’t have wings. It rained earlier, but the road went up-hill and his speed was quite small, but here the surface was more even. Misha got splashed and things in a bag became wet as well.
By the afternoon we came to the beginning of a downhill. In just 15 kilometers we were to descend for 1000 metres.
Before the descending we stopped near the place from which it was possible to fly down to the valley by means of a hang glider. The flight cost around $50… We refused, took a few pictures and flew down the road on bicycles. It was really dangerous to increase the speed because of frequent tight corners and wet road covering, but we almost reached 60km per hour from time to time. The most incredible thing in that mad descending was the overtaking of trucks, slowly crawling down on brakes :)
The last 15 kilometres to Medellin were a dusty vast road. It wasn’t quite satisfying to come back to a hot valley after the fresh air of the mountains. In the city’s suburbans we run into a bicycle lane, but there will be another story about bicycle infrastructure.
That evening we were pedalling to San Javier metro station. As we found out later this district is considered to be the most dangerous in Medellin. We spent there a week.
Translated by Erik Maker.
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