Garmin Info and Map
Riohacha is as far south as I will go on the coast.
It very close to the border with Venezuela.
It was hard to pull myself away from Casa Roselia in Valledupar. This hotel was like an oasis or a little sanctuary. Especially after spending the last 2 weeks in dusty noisy towns where the hotels didn't have hot water, toilet seats or shower heads. Taking a hot water shower felt like a luxury. Every morning the kitchen staff made whatever I wanted for breakfast. I typically ordered scrambled eggs with cheese and avocado with lots of coffee. Perfect.
The owner, Josephina, was an absolute gem. She is very warm and engaging. I didn't really know where to go after Valledupar and she helped me plan a route. I explained that I would like to keep my daily riding to less than 50 miles (80 kms) and she plotted 2 stops on the way to Riohacha at the coast. It was exciting to see that I would be at the ocean in 3 more rides.
|Casa Roselia owner, |
Josephina, and los niños
While in Valledupar, I explored the city and learned about a new-to-me music called Vallenato. Valledupar is famous for this type of music and there is an international festival dedicated to it here every April. I went to a home showcasing the composer Diomedes Diaz and the Accordion museum. At the accordion museum I learned that the music is a fusion of Indigenous Colombian, African and European. The accordion comes from Europe, the percussion came with the slaves from Africa and it is fused with the local sound especially of the Arhuaco tribe. The owner of the museum, Beto Murgas, is an accordion master and he gave a short class on the different styles of accordion playing. My Spanish wasn't really up to understanding everything he was talking about but it was still very interesting.
|Los niños loved the trike|
The hotel I stayed at only has 7 rooms and it seemed like everyone else staying was a friend of the owner. I suspect they have all been coming to the hotel for so many years they are all friends. I can see why as the hotel really is lovely and very affordable. The last 2 days construction started on a new apartment and there was a lot of pounding going on. I took this as a sign it was time to push on. I have yet to stay in a hotel in Colombia that didn't have some extra noise. There are always lots of children playing, loud neighbors, music or construction. It never fails. Thanks God for earplugs.
There was a family from Bogotá staying and the kids loved the trike. There were 3 boys and 1 very young girl. They gave me a formal military style farewell complete with salutes as I departed. This was very adorable and I loved it.
I made my way to the Rio Guatapuri which is very popular for swimming. I flew my drone a bit and enjoyed watching all the action. There were people walking on paths, kids playing soccer and lots of people having fun in the water. Next to the river little cafes were set up. This is a nice place to hang out and stay cool. Everyday has been hot but there has also been a fresh breeze blowing keeping the temperatures more manageable. I have always heard that this area and the coast can get unbearably hot but the breeze made the heat ok.
|Lots of signs to respect cyclists|
Leaving Valledupar there were a few hills where the wind was blocked and I could really feel the heat. But they weren't very high and soon I was back in the breeze. In these conditions a light headwind is really appreciated and that's what I had today. The riding was very beautiful. I crossed streams and rivers and had a view of mountains in the distance. The road was also tree lined which kept the sun off me and more sheltered from bigger gusts of wind.
Video of my ride from Valledupar to San Juan del Cesar in La Guajira
|Crossing a river|
|Flying a bit on the Rio Guatepuri in Valledupar|
As I went through a check-point, the policeman asked me if I wanted anything cold to drink. I pulled over and they were really exited to get pictures with me. These guys were so much fun. One policeman took his scarf with the police badge patch, wrote a nice inscription and had all the guys sign it for me. What a nice gift and probably the gift of the trip. This I will treasure!
|Fun policemen gave me a wonderful gift|
|These guys were awesome!|
|San Juan del Cesar iglesia|
The road was mostly up and the riding was slow. I rode from the Department of Cesar to La Guajira. A new 'state'! The afternoon was getting late especially since I got a later start and spent some time at the river in Valledupar. But luckily, I only had 34 miles for the day. I arrived in the small town of San Juan del Cesar and was pleasantly surprised to find a nice looking normal hotel when everything else looked quite poor. The staff was very attentive and they all loved the trike. The guys were eager to find a safe place and I could see they really wanted to ride it. There was a restaurant and I was able to order a delicious custom meal. I was thrilled.
Beyond the church in the plaza in front of the hotel, there wasn't much to see in San Juan del Cesar. I noticed that some of the homes were very nice. They seemed newly constructed with small manicured gardens full of beautiful flowers. But, mostly, the town seemed very worn down. At the market, Olympica, there was a crush of moto-taxis fighting for position hoping the next shopper leaving the store would need a lift. It all seemed quite desperate.
|Iglesia at night|
|This guy fixes shoes and sells live chickens on the street of San Juan|
The Hotel Casa Murillo was very comfortable but, unfortunately, I arrived the day of a big fiesta in the plaza directly in front of the hotel. It was incredibly loud and went into the wee hours of the morning. Even with ear plugs I couldn't sleep. Again, every hotel in Colombia has been noisy without fail. Tonight was extreme.
|Hotel staff bringing Myrtle to the street|
|Saying goodbye to Casa Murillo staff|
In the morning, the hotel guys helped carry Myrtle out to the curb. I let them take the trike for a spin and then had a group photo with the staff. They all had a blast and then we said goodbye.
I really got a late start today. First, I woke up late and by the time I ate, paid my bill, got packed-up and then let the guys ride Myrtle it was well after 9 am. Looking at Googlemaps, I saw there wasn't much climbing and I had about 44 miles. It seemed very reasonable until I started riding. As I came to the end of the town I was greeted with a big headwind. The wind was really blowing. The trees were swaying all over the place. It was also very hot but the wind provided some relief.
|Town of Distracion|
The 1st town I went through was Distracción, which seemed like a strange name for a town. I met a very nice family when I stopped for coffee. While we were talking a very young kid rode passed on a strange 3 wheeled recumbent cycle. It didn't have a pedals or a chain. The wheels were like casters and he sat in a recumbent chair. The front wheel moved and he had his feet on a bar that he moved to the right and left to propel himself. I don't know what to call the thing but it looked to be new like maybe it was a Christmas present. It was painted a bright red. I yelled at the kid to come over to find out more. He rode over from a few houses away but I couldn't understand anything he said.
|Kid riding a crazy recumbent 3-wheeled something or other.|
|Fonseca is famous for Vallenato singers|
From there I went through the small town of Fonseca which is very famous for producing Vallenato singers. There is also a famous singer named Fonseca but he is from Bogotá. The town was good sized with a lot of trash in the streets. I saw 2 cows standing on a street island going through trash. Very strange. On the edge of town I stopped for soup and a salad. The waiters here were really fun and they helped me forget about the wind for a bit. They said that this time of year the trade winds kick up and it is always very windy in January. They also said when the winds die down the temperature and humidity will be stiflingly hot.
I'm seeing a lot more trash today. It feels like La Guajira is much poorer that anywhere else I have traveled, so far, in Colombia. There is poor and then there is poor where people throw trash everywhere. This is a place where people live in their trash. There are places like this in Guatemala and Mexico too. It is a very sad sight.
The wind was crazy strong. Every time the road turned I was hoping for relief but the wind only got stronger. The road surface was also very rough. It didn't affect me so much but the car drivers were going all over the road to avoid potholes and it was sometimes scary watching them drive toward me.
I missed a turn and ended up riding through the very busy town of Hatonuevo. I really wanted to stop to eat but I had less than 10 miles to go for the day and kept riding. The road was also turning here and I hoped the last miles would be easier. Incredibly, this was my 3rd turn in the road for the day and I still had a very strong headwind. I couldn't believe it. Somedays you just can't shake the wind. The last ten miles were tortuous and I was exhausted. This was turning into a very long and painful ride. At my slow rate of speed I wouldn't get to the hotel until after 5 pm which is very late for me.
|Iguana resting in a tree|
By the time I got the hotel I was completely spent and not feeling well. This hotel had been recommended by the hotel owner in Valledupar. I wish she had told me how expensive it is. Holy moly, I couldn't believe a hotel like this could exist is the middle of nothing. It was huge and had a lot of security. At first, I had to get passed the guard at the gate where lots of dogs were barking incessantly. I was in no mood for rude dogs and wanted to shoot them. Then I rode down to the reception building. At first, I was quoted $120.00 a night. This is a shocking amount to pay for a hotel room in Colombia. It would be like finding yourself at a $350 a night hotel in the US. I talked them down to $90.00 but they wouldn't go lower. In the US $90.00 isn't unusual but here it is still a huge amount. This is the type of resort place that caters to corporate clients and people celebrating important life events. If I had known I would have made other arrangements. But, there was nothing else around and I was completely exhausted. They had me. I was so exhausted I knew I would need 2 nights to recover. I wasn't even sure that would be enough.
|Beautiful songbird perched in the hotel restaurant|
I got to my room and the luggage guy turned on the tv to an 80's music station. I lay on the bed unable to move for a long time even though the music was driving me nuts. I was feeling very nauseous like I could throw up but I didn't. Eventually, I got up and had a shower. A wonderful hot water shower. I went to the restaurant and had a bowl of soup which made me feel better. Wow was this a tough day.
|Hotel Waya is in the middle of nothing|
The next day, I didn't do much of anything. I was feeling better but still wasn't feeling great. The nauseousness improved but didn't go away. I decided to stay another night because I am expecting the next ride to the coast to be equally as tough as the ride here to Albania. Riding when not feeling well didn't seem like a good idea. Once thing about this hotel that was very surprising is the walls in the room were paper thin. I could hear every conversation in the room next door.
|Boganvilla against the setting sun sky|
The next day it occurred to me that I am probably low in electrolytes. I drank down 2 glasses of water with added salt and this helped immensely. By the time I went to bed the nauseousness had lifted and I had more energy. That was a huge relief. In the morning I felt good enough to ride. I talked to the front desk people about the road ahead. They said I had 2 options. The better road to Riohacha was 75 miles and there were no hotels. In fact, there wasn't much of anything. The shorter route was 44 miles but the road is much busier and is in horrible condition. The way the front desk people talked about the road they had me concerned for my safety but 75 miles is too far for me to ride in a day especially not feeling 100%. I packed up and started out early expecting the wind to be a big problem again.
|Ready to leave the Hotel Waya|
|Parrot type bird|
I don't know what the front desk people were so concerned about. The road surface for the 1st 15 miles was fine and the wind had shifted to almost a tailwind. Woohoo!! I was cruising. This road is lined with people selling gasoline from jugs. I also passed a few real gas stations but it seems everyone buys gas from the guys with the jugs. There were also groups of women selling honey, jam, cheese and other food stuffs from little huts. Maybe because I got such an early start the road was much quieter than I expected. The road from the hotel meets up with my old friend, highway 45, that I have ridden all the way from Bogotá. Here the number has changed to 49 but it is the same road. The last 5 miles before the junction had some rough patches but there really wasn't much traffic. I also started to see beautiful bright green birds. Some looked like parrot type birds and others looked like little song birds. The parrot type birds flew in flocks and there were a lot of them.
|CocaCola bottle tree|
Before I knew it I was at the junction. I was hoping there would be a cafe for coffee but there was nothing. I turned onto the road and found a beautiful wide shoulder. My old friend didn't disappoint. Since this road went directly to the coast I was worried about a off-shore headwind but it didn't materialize. From here, there would be a gradual downhill all the way to the ocean. I was making really good time. What a difference from the last ride. This was fun.
As I rode on, the amount of trash all over everything was simply astonishing. There were fields that were completely covered in trash. I wanted to fly my drone but there were also lots of kids everywhere riding bikes that made me nervous. The amount of trash strewn all over everything would have been something to see from the air. But bored kids make me nervous. Sometimes the kids would ride with me but they quickly got bored of that as well. Packs of kids can be trouble especially when they are bored and there are no adults around. Luckily, there was enough traffic that I felt safe. I can remember times in Morocco where groups of kids were really a problem.
The closer I got to the ocean, the stronger the wind the became. Soon the wind was too strong to consider flying my drone. But, luckily, it was still at my side. Coming into Riohacha I was expecting a tourist town but this was another very dirty, busy, poor town with a lot of trash in the streets. The motorcycles were driving everywhere. There didn't seem to be any rules to the traffic. Once I got through the market area the traffic quieted down and the town started to look better. A couple of blocks from the ocean the area became more touristic. I had a recommendation for the Hotel Taroa which is considered the best hotel in town. I found it quickly and couldn't believe how expensive it is. They were asking $140.00 a night and they were full. Wow. The front desk people recommended a lovely hotel just over a bridge outside the touristic area. It is called Hotel Gimaura and the rooms are $40 a night. It has a very nice pool, a huge grass area with lots of flowers and is directly across the road from the ocean. This is more like it. I had a showerhead and toilet seat but no hot water. I checked in for the 2 nights and may stay longer.
This is a momentous occasion on my tour that I want to celebrate. I have ridden a tricycle from Bogotá to the Caribbean coast of Colombia. How about that?!?
|Welcome to Riohacha and the Caribbean coast of Colombia|
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