Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Longest Day

Leaving Rio Claro at a very sprightly 7.30am (which trust me, is very good for us- the benchmark for leaving a place being 4.30pm at Rio Gallegos) our aim was to do a long day and get up to the Carribean coast in time for a rum and coke on the beach. This meant 3 hours backtracking via Medellin again and heading north all the way. We were told that it would get cold on one mountain pass then start to heat up as we got lower on the other side so I was a little jealous of Michelles new ventilated and armoured mesh jacket. The road was increadibly twisty and there were loads of gun-toting soldiers all over the place so we stopped for a couple of photo shoots with some looking cheerier than others.

Some cheery soldiers

Some not so cheery soldiers- I`ll just get me coat

At one point I lost Michelle when she´d stopped behind me to take her jacket´s outer layer as it was stinking hot and the road was chock-full of slow trucks. I stopped a little futher down the road past a bridge and checkpoint to wait for her so I removed my jacket and helmet. While I was taking a drink of water and chatting to a local who kept offering me her cheesy wotsits, I could just see michelle´s right pannier sticking out from behind a line of trucks coming my direction, but she hadn´t seen me and started overtaking the line of trucks as they were going past me. Fantastic thinks I, so its back on with my gear, locking the panniers and cheerio to the local. Trying to catch up with someone who thinks that you are in front of them isn´t easy and i had to put aside any thoughts of riding with fuel economy in mind and ride like a loonatic, which is a little tricky as all these little towns have speed bumps everywhere.

Just when I think I must be getting close, I get pulled in to a check-point where I´m asked the usual ´where are you from/going/thats a big bike isn´t it?´questions. This really isn´t helping my cause and I try asking the soldiers if they had happened to notice another large motorcycle heading in the same direction. They mention something which sounds like ´antiquo´(old- ha ha) and ´roha´ (red) so I make my excuses and leave them in a cloud of dust. Further down the road I get caught in yet another set of roadworks (they´re everywhere) but luckily the signal is green so at the other side I ask the sign-holding woman the same question to which she mumbles ´si´. Finally, after about 20mins of manic riding and bouncing over speed bumps at not-very-town-friendly speeds, I catch sight of Michelle in the distance weaving to the front of yet another peaje queue so a few minutes later I manage to get her to stop by the roadside and she told me she was just beginning to wonder why I hadn´t stopped to wait for her. Strewth! It turned out though, that Michelle had also asked the same roadworks woman if she´d seen a big bike in front and she´d said ´si´too.

I knew it was going to be around 6.30pm at the earliest before we´d hit Coveñas, our target on the coast which would mean riding in darkness for a bit in Colombia, something we´d been warned not to do. Fortunatelly, once off the hills and on to the hot plains, the roads straightened out a bit allowing us to make up some time. The scenery at this end of the country is really pretty nice with lots of open farmland and even some leafless trees giving a somewhat autumnal feel to the route. The roads were quite busy in places though, which was a bit of a mixed blessing as although it slowed us down a little, at least it gave us some peace of mind as the sun quickly started to set. Finally and completely knackered, we hit Coveñas (actually we´d already driven straight through it as there´s helpfully no sign) by about 7pm in the pitch dark, and after taking the first cabañas we found, it was straight to the beach (the first time we´d seen the ocean since northern Peru) and to get that drink.


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