Friday, April 05, 2019

Sincelejo to Montería

Garmin data and maps

Sincelejo main plaza

The hospitality staff see me off
I had a very relaxed stay at Hotel Arawak in Sincelejo. I explored a bit of the historic area of the city. For such a large city I was surprised there wasn't more to see. My hotel was almost next to a very big mall. There were lots of food options and I found a place that could accommodate my Keto diet easily. I tend to eat very simple meals and I only eat twice a day. For breakfast, I usually eat eggs with cheese and avocado and then for my late afternoon meal, I have a big salad or sauteed veggies with what ever meat the restaurant recommends. And, actually, for mall food, my meal was delicious. The biggest problem I'm having with the food in Colombia is there is far too much salt. I've been so focused on not eating sugar to stay on the Keto diet that I keep forgetting to ask the cooks to not add salt to the food. After every meal my right ankle and foot swell up with water retention. It takes a few hours for the swelling to go down. It is really crazy how much salt is added to the food. My system has so much salt in it my mouth always tastes of salt. Because there is so much salt everything tastes the same. In restaurants, I often see people salting the food. It is truly shocking. I've never been a big fan of salt and, clearly, I am quite sensitive.

Cycle tourists I saw on the road, they were headed the other direction

Beautiful landscape
This tour, as a whole, has been very tranquillo and much more relaxed than previous tours. I've done something different on this tour than I've ever done before. In fact, I've done a few things very different for me on this tour. On all my previous tours I have always set my start and end points ahead of time. Before I travel, I plot a route to make sure it is a reasonable distance and that I can actually make it to the end point in the time allotted. Often, there are particular points of interest and highlights to see along the way but not always.  It's important to pad the time for unexpected events like sickness or impromtu changes. I typically add 2 weeks on top of 2 rest days per week. I used the same formula before starting this tour as well. Originally, my idea was to ride from Bogotá in Colombia to the Caribbean coast just like I actually did but my plan was to continue on into Ecuador where I was thinking to end in Quito and maybe add a tour of the Galapagos Islands. Things changed very soon after I started riding while huffing and puffing in the mountains. Every day I was going so slowly that it took all day to go less than 25 miles. During these mountainous rides I decided to spend 2 nights at every stop. Mostly because I was tired but also because I didn't feel like rushing every day to get everything done that I needed to do.

I not sure what animal I'm being warned about

Cows under a giant tree
On a typical ride, I arrive at my hotel around 3pm. I have a hard and fast rule to never ride at night and enjoy getting to hotels around 2-3 pm. After getting checked in and settling in the room, I take a shower cleaning my cycling clothes at the same time using shampoo. This needs to be done first thing so I can hang them to dry and they will be ready to wear the next day. After plugging in all my electronics for charging, I go get something to eat. Another unusual thing I've done on this tour is I changed the way I eat. Along with starting the Ketogenic diet, I'm also doing intermittent fasting. I try to eat before 4:30 so I can fast for the recommended 16 hours. After dinner, I shop for whatever supplies I need. By the time I get back it is usually early evening and I start working on weeding out and processing the photos and video I took throughout the day. First thing I do is clean out the bad material and then organize what I want to keep into a folder typically named for the city where I ended the day's ride. Usually, a few photos get uploaded to Instagram and Facebook so my friends and family can see where I am. If there is time, I start working on a video or blog posting. In between all of this, I'm talking to family on Skype or responding to posts from friends and followers on email and Facebook. Within all of this activity, I've been so focused on what I need to do that I haven't been able to explore the town or learn anything about where I am. For me, I felt like I was missing the whole point of travel and decided I would have a much richer travel experience if I slowed down the pace. 

Coming into Tolú

After I finished riding in the mountains, I decided to keep this schedule of staying at each hotel for 2 nights. It was at this point that I also decided to make this tour solely in Colombia. Another reason for staying in Colombia had to do with learning Spanish. One of my big reasons for starting my ride in Colombia is the Spanish is said to be clearer and easier to understand. I'm hoping by the time I get to Peru, I'll have a good grasp of the language. You can probably see how having another day has been very valuable. Giving myself time to explore each town has had the added benefit of feeling like I now have a relationship with each place I've stayed. I've met many people and had lots of simple conversations. For me, it's always the people I meet that make a place memorable. Each town truly is unique and I've had the time to discover it's character. This has made the tour so much richer, more relaxed and a lot more fun. I'm considering adopting this slower pace for all my future tours as well. Especially now that I'm doing video, I really need extra time.

Watch for monkeys

After a relaxing stay in Sincelejo, I got packed up taking my gear back down to the parking garage. While I was loading up the trike, the hospitality employees all came over and wanted pictures with me.  The garage is underground and the driveway to the street level is very steep. One of the guys, Eliese, helped push me up the steep drive while I pedaled. Wow was that nice! When I got out to the street I saw that it was blocked to motor traffic. I quickly understood that there was a Ciclovia happening where the streets are free of car traffic and open to anyone for biking, walking, skating or running. Ciclovias are a special event that happen in many big cities all over Colombia every Sunday. Street are blocked to motor traffic for a few hours so the locals can cycle, walk and jog, often with pets and kids. What great timing. I decided to ride it and enjoy the traffic free streets. This turned out to be the shortest Ciclovia ever. It was only on one street and only a few blocks long. If my hotel hadn't been on this street, I would have never known it was going on. From here I made my way to the historic area where I wanted to fly my drone around the main cathedral.

Sincelejo plaza

While I was setting up the drone, a walking club came through Santander Square. The procession was lead by 3 ladies in very colorful skirts.  This club was mostly older women, some very old. One woman stopped and chatted with me for a bit. She gave me a kiss on the cheek before rejoining her group.

You can see the crowd while I'm flying

Whenever I fly the drone in cities, there is an audience. Today I had a huge group of people surrounding me. I really need to concentrate when I fly and it's hard when so many people want to see the screen and have questions and I'm trying to get a particular video shot. I didn't fly as much as I wanted but I got some decent shots and wasn't totally disappointed. The group of people were very animated. It was a group of young and old and everyone wanted to know my story and who I was. When I told them where I was riding to, Tolú, they all started arguing about the best way to get out of Sincelejo. Fingers were pointing in all directions - this was very comical.

Video of ride from Sincelejo to Tolú

Eventually, I said goodbye and started out of town. For all the directions the crowd of locals gave me, I ended up doing what I always do, pulling out my phone and following the route Googlemaps plots. Since it was Sunday, there wasn't much traffic. It's possible the locals gave me better directions. Google always plots the shortest route, not necessarily the easiest. Soon I was climbing a fairly substantial hill closing in a guy who was pushing a giant cart filled with plastic containers. When he saw me gaining on him, he stepped up the pace. Next thing I knew we were in a race to the top. He was determined to get there first - and he did. We both had a good laugh while cresting and then I quickly passed him on the way down.
Peaceful Tolú

Tolú beach
Today's ride was out to the coast. When I left Cartagena, I really thought that would be the last time I would ride on the Caribbean coast of Colombia for this tour. But, since leaving Cartagena, many people enthusiastically recommended visiting Montería. And so, today I was taking off of the main road, Hwy 25, to take Hwy 90 back to the coast. At first, Hwy 90 was in terrible condition but within a km, I was greatly relieved when it improved dramatically to become a very nice smooth road. There were gentle rollers through ranch land and the ride was quite enjoyable. It seemed everyone who passed was extra friendly and I felt energized from all the lovely interactions. Soon I was in the sweet beach town of Tolú looking for a hotel.  There were many directly across from the ocean but one on Google caught my eye. It was on the far end of town and, quite oddly, had the words opera and pizzeria in the name. This was the highest rated hotel and that's where I went. As usual, this was not a fancy hotel. What I liked was the hotel was just a bit away from the busiest, most touristic part of the town. The beach area of Tolú is very, very noisy. There are lots of people playing music very loudly and drinking. I wanted to be removed from this scene and I found the perfect hotel. My room had everything I needed for $13/night.

Video of ride from Tolú to Santa Cruz de Lorica

Lots of tourists in the water

I stayed for 3 nights and really enjoyed Tolú. This is a touristic town that only Colombians visit. Every time I walked around everyone kind of stared at me. This town doesn't see a lot of gringas. I, of course, tried to act like it was normal.  

Bicycle fish vendor

Tourist area on the beach

Looking ahead, I needed to be mindful of the time I had left in Colombia. My visa expires
Small restaurant
on April 23rd and I want to spend 2 weeks in Medellin before flying out. With less than a month to go, I decided to buy a plane ticket. I found a good flight to Los Angeles for less than $500 with only one lay over. Unfortunately, there are no direct flights from Medellin to the US. When flying in or out of LAX timing can be critical. The crazy LA traffic can make a trip to the airport a nightmare. The flight I found arrives on Saturday the 20th at about noon. Unfortunately, this meant I'll need to be at the airport in Medellin around 3 am. I think the sacrifice will be worth it.  It's also easier to ask friends to pick me up if the timing is better and my friend Mary accepted my request, woohoo!!

Tolú beach

Fishing boats

Lots of fishing in Tolú
After 2 quiet days in Tolú, I got packed up and rode along the beach. The ride would leave the coast through ranch land. I had so many fun interactions with people walking and on motor bikes. Santa Cruz de Lorica was much bigger than I expected. It's funny how Google will make the font of one city bigger than another implying that it is bigger. Here, the opposite happened. Google made the city appear very small. There were many hotel choices and I found my way through the busy streets to an area close to the Rio Sinú. The hotel staff were very nice, Daniel Luis quickly found a perfect space for Myrtle under the stairs next to the reception desk. My room was on the second floor and he helped bring up my bags. This was a room without windows which is always odd but it also means the room will be quieter. I had everything I needed for $14 - not including breakfast. 

Fishing boats on the beach

Water toys

Beach art

Santa Cruz de Lorica
In the morning, I walked around town taking pictures in the mercado publico and along the river. There were some very nice scenes. After returning to the hotel, I worked on a blog posting and then I also finished a video. This was the 1st time I finished both in one day. It takes many hours to do each and I was impressed at my productivity. Lately, I've been feeling much better about my videos. For a long time, I was making my videos and felt like something was missing but I couldn't figure out what it was. I wondered if it was simply feeling insecure since making videos is new to me. But then, a few weeks ago, I understood what was missing. It was so obvious that when I saw it I was a bit embarrassed. I didn't have an introduction. In most of my videos I didn't even tell viewers what my name is. I didn't explain what I'm doing, why I'm doing it or give anyone a reason to watch. I've been so focused on working out how to make the videos I forgot to include a bit of my story. Once I realized this I had to think of what I wanted viewers to know about me. This was more difficult than expected. There were so many things I could say about what I'm doing and my history. Knowing how much people like numbers, I ended up with a brief sentence of how long I've toured, how many continents, countries and rough estimate of miles traveled. This is something I have never given much thought to. Every year, I finish a tour and go back to Portland for the summer and then come up with the next one. I had no idea how many countries I have visited or the number of miles I've traveled. It was fun to take stock of where I've been and how far I've come. In each video, as I said my new intro the accomplishment set in a little bit more. I started to get feedback from viewers as well. The thing I love most about making my videos is having a short documentary of where I've been and then the interacting with the people who are watching. There are quite a few Colombians watching my videos and they have lots of good ideas for where I should visit and things to see along the way. 

Main church in Santa Cruz de Lorica

Rio Sinu

The next morning I headed out of Santa Cruz de Lorica to Montería. Today's ride would
Getting a ride
follow the Rio Sinú. This area of Colombia is very hot and I was sweating buckets. I had a very interesting ride today to Montería when I approached a group of men working in a field. They had long sticks and where were hitting the water with great force creating a lot of noise and big splashes. All of them were also yelling something I could't understand. I had no idea what they were doing and found the scene fascinating. Soon I understood they were hunting turtles. One man was standing in a small creek that had a net strung down the middle. As the turtles were forced into the creek, the man collected them. Once I understood what was happening, I became very sad for the turtles. Turtle hunting is illegal in many countries but, apparently, not in Colombia.

Jorge from Argentina adding a Myrtle the Turtle sticker to his bike

Friendly faces along the way

Video of my ride from Santa Cruz de Lorica to Montería

Montería is a big city. It is the capital of the department of Córdoba. Many, many people had recommended I visit this city. As I pulled into the city and found my way to 'el centro' Montería, I couldn't immediately see why this city was recommended so enthusiastically. The first hotel I picked had fabulous reviews but when I pulled up I saw there was a crazy steep driveway up to the parking garage. I sat in front of the driveway for a while and then came to the conclusion that this is a big city with tons of hotels and I didn't need to suffer. I pedaled away and went looking for the Hotel Santorini Loft which was just a few blocks away and bit closer to the historic area. The Hotel Santorini had an entrance on the ground flood and a parking lot across the street with a 24 hour guy and lots of security cameras. This was a fairly fancy hotel. In fact, my room even came with an elliptical machine. I also had hot water for the shower. It had been a long time since I took a hot water shower. It's funny how something so normal in the US is a real luxury here in Colombia. This room was also much more expensive than most of the rooms I stay in. Originally, the front desk woman quoted me $45/night. I asked her to lower the price and she gave it to me for $30. I always ask to lower the price unless it's already super cheap. I don't think I can remember a time when the difference in price was so much. Sometimes all you have to do is ask. This room in the US would be well over $100 and $30 was a real bargain. I felt like I was living large! I got checked in for 3 nights. 

Welcome to Montería

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Thursday, March 28, 2019

Santa Cruz de Mompox to Sincelejo

Garmin Info and Ride Maps

Mompox to Magangue
Magangue to San Pedro
San Pedro to Sincelejo

Santa Cruz de Mompox, main plaza

My driver, not especially happy with
how much room the trike is using
My 2 week stay in Cartagena was outstanding. I studied Spanish 4 hours a day, explored the city and neighboring islands and did many extra curricular activities with students or my lovely housemate, Aisha. Cartagena will always have a special place in my heart. I love where I lived, Yahara, the house mom and especially the 3 ladies, Luz, Isabel and Beatrice, that worked in the house everyday. With the help of my house mom, Yahara, a truck was scheduled to pick me up with Myrtle and my gear. A small pickup arrived at 4 am on Sunday morning. Brutally early but I was grateful for the ride. Originally, I had planned to ride to Santa Cruz de Mompox. In fact, Yahara had spent a good deal of time with me going over maps and making sure I had a safe place to spend each of the 4 nights it would take to ride there. But, after putting in so much work, I learned from my friend AnneMarie, who recently made the trip by bus from Cartagena, that the road is currently under construction. She explained that the shoulders of the road are being redone. The road is a busy 2 lane road with lots of traffic that was now extra narrow. This was no place for a trike. Getting a ride was right thing to do.

A trike is under a mountain of luggage and cargo
I can't remember the driver's name but, even though Yahara had explained about my trike, when he saw the trike he wasn't very happy. But he loaded Myrtle up and that's all I cared about. Lucky for me, I was his 1st passenger. This meant the truck bed was empty and I could sit in the front seat. He ended up stopping for 3 more passengers as well as making a few cargo pickups. This worked out great because everyone's gear could fit on and around the trike. The logistics of this trip couldn't have been better.

My hotel
It was dark when we left Cartagena for the 7 hour drive. We only made one stop for breakfast. I paid for the driver's meal, a whopping $2.50 with tip, hoping to cheer him up. It worked. Suddenly, his attitude improved immensely.  When we arrived at Santa Cruz de Mompox I decided to stay at the same hotel my German friend, AnneMarie, had stayed at. I got very lucky again when I was his last stop. This meant the truck bed was empty and we didn't need to remove everyone's luggage to get to the trike. 

Locals playing a fierce game of cards

Santa Cruz de Mompox at sunset

The Hotel Villa de Mompox is 2 blocks out of the busiest area and is very quiet. Once I got settled in my room, I could tell how tired I was. Not only because I awoke this morning around 3 am but also because my time in Cartagena was so busy. The area where my homestay was is in was very, very noisy area called Getsemaní. The house was directly across from Plaza de la Trinidad which is probably the busiest plaza in all of Cartagena. All day and night there was music, buskers, food cart sellers and sometimes hundred of people singing and dancing. It was 'the place' to simply hang out and drink beer in Cartagena. Even with ear plugs I had trouble sleeping. After 2 weeks, I was exhausted.

Santa Cruz de Mompox is a pueblo blanco

Santa Cruz de Mompox at night

Beautiful Santa Cruz de Mompox
Santa Cruz de Mompox is a very sweet pueblo blanco where most of the buildings are painted white with red tile roofs. The town is on the Rio Magdelena, one of the biggest rivers in Colombia. The town is historic and quaint. It is also an UNESCO Heritage city. There are many, very beautiful churches and they were all busy. On Thursday night, some of the churches were so busy people were spilling out into the street listening to the services. It was also incredibly hot. This was the 1st town I had been in so far on my trip that was too hot. Many days it was 100 degrees and some days temps rose to 103. While I was in Mompox I spent a lot of time in my room. I took a mountain of photos and video while I was in Cartagena but I was too busy, at the time, to go through it all. It took days to go through. There is so much I'm not exactly sure what to do with it. Certainly I'll have to make more than one video, at some point. My week in Mompox was spent mostly recovering from my time in Cartagena, organizing photos and video and escaping the heat. 

Cathedral Santa Barbara

River boat colors

Our river boat - the blue one.

Young boy waving in the setting sun
Santa Cruz de Mompox is quite small and it doesn't take more than an afternoon to walk through. There's not a lot to do but there are 2 boat trips offered, each in another direction. The 1st trip I went on, I boarded a small covered canoe type boat that steered down the river for 20 minutes and then docked. There were probably 10 people aboard and we all got off to take motorbikes to another river and continue on in another boat. It was very beautiful and I enjoyed the experience a lot.

Taking a motor bike from one river to another

On the 1st boat tour

Street life, Santa Cruz de Mompox

Santa Cruz de Mompox on the Rio Magdalena

Sunset on the river cruise
The next boat trip was a sunset cruise on a larger boat. This boat had rocking chairs to sit in, there was music and a disco ball provided colored lights. The boat also served beer and wine. I met a fun group of ladies from Barranquilla and Santa Marta. They were dancing to the salsa music and having a great time. This boat just went up the river and then at sunset turned around. I love taking boat trips and had a great time.

Tranquillo river cruise

Fun ladies from Barranquilla and Santa Marta on the river cruise

Mompox cathedral at night

I kept looking at the weather apps hoping for a break in the high temps. The heat was unbearable and much too high for cycling. Luckily, the heat wave broke. The temps came down to the lower 90's which is still very hot but temperatures that I can handle. After a week in Santa Cruz de Mompox, I was finally able to get packed up. It was a good week and, for the most part, I got caught up on sleep and organizing my photos and video. 

Leaving Santa Cruz de Mompox

Video from Santa Cruz de Mompox to Magangué

The ride out of Mompox through the narrow streets was fun. I had to go around so many vendors riding trike carts, cars and motos while people were yelling out enthusiastic comments. Soon I was on quieter roads going through ranch land. Wow was it hot. Luckily, I didn't have far to go. Today I was taking a ferry from La Bodega to Magangué. La Bodega is only about 20 miles from Santa Cruz de Mompox. But, in this heat, 20 miles was far enough.

Cow eating in the trash

Barber on the ferry
The ferry was a fun experience. There are many lanchas, small covered canoe type boats, that go up and down the Rio Magdalena all day. You pick a boat and wait for it to fill up. These boats will take the small scooters type motorcycles and I'm sure would take the trike as well. These boats are covered offering shade for the hour long cruise down the river and are probably faster than the bigger ferry. The big drawback is there is only a plank of wood to get on and off these boats. If this was the only option they would make it work but I felt more comfortable taking the real ferry because it has an actual road for boarding. I don't know what the cost is for the smaller lanchas but the big ferry is free. I arrived just as they allowed boarding. There was a long line of trucks lining the road. One by one the ferry loaded up. Each truck had the turn around on the ferry to make getting off at the other end easier. 

canoe with fishing net
While I was waiting and watching the ferry load, a man who sells water and cokes came over offering to get me a plate of food from one of the road side restaurants. I asked if I could have just meat with a salad. Sure, no problem. I gave him $10,000 pesos (about $3) and he came back with a plate of delicious chicken with a salad and a bottle of water. I never even got out of the trike. 

River traffic

A woman driving a smaller truck full of appliances came over and offered to show me where to sit out of the sun. We walked to the back of the ferry and boarded a tug boat that would be maneuvering the ferry down the river. It felt good to be out of the sun. 

Rio Magdelena

The ferry ride was about an hour long. I love boats and really enjoy slow cruises down any river. Aside from watching the river traffic there was a guy giving haircuts at the back of the ferry in the shade on a truck. This barber had been very helpful to me guiding Myrtle to a safe spot and making sure she was secure for the ride. He also helped me board the tugboat which was a bit precarious. 

Lots of watermelon
The ferry actually goes to a town called Yeti and I still needed to ride 3 miles to Magangué after debarking. This was on a lovely tree lined road. The town of Magangué wasn't at all what I was expecting. A few people had recommended this town and I was surprised that it wasn't touristic. It was another busy, gritty, dirty, noisy town where everyone is hustling for a buck. I really think I misunderstood the name people were saying and they were actually suggesting a completely different town, haha! There is something about towns like this that I really enjoy. To me, even though they are louder than I wish, these towns feel authentic. Because it's not a touristic town, I'm not bombarded incessantly to buy stuff I don't need. Mostly, I really enjoy seeing how people live and there is a lot of life in these towns.

Secure parking in a space next to the stairs

It's always interesting to see the hotels that get recommended on Google. The ratings don't have anything to do with the quality of the hotel, only the hotels that people use and rate the most. A highly rated hotel can be a 5-star but mostly they are more moderate hotels where people find value. The hotels in Magangué were less than moderate in terms of aesthetics. The first and highest rated (4.4 out of 5) hotel was on the 2nd floor with only a narrow stairway to the reception desk. This wouldn't work because getting Myrtle up and down the stairs would be too difficult. Sometimes there isn't a choice but since this town offered many hotels options, I went to the 2nd highest rated hotel (4.3 out of 5). Hotel Magangué Plaza had a space next the stairs up to reception that was a perfect fit for Myrtle. I locked her to the bannister and got checked in for $13, not including breakfast. I was worried about the noise level since my balcony overlooked a busy street but I actually slept well. In the morning, the owner offered to order me breakfast. In 10 minutes I had a plate of scrambled eggs, 1/2 avocado and 2 thick slices of cheese with a huge cup of coffee for $5,000 pesos ($1.65). Amazing!

Main cathedral, Magangué
I got packed up and did a quick spin around the area along the Rio Magdelena. I stopped to fly my drone in front of the main Cathedral St. Francis de Assisi and along the river. There were so many small lanchas busy loading and unloading people and cargo. It was so interesting to watch. Then I pushed on riding through town following the throng of scooters. At a light, sitting in the middle of the pack, I reached over and shook the hand of scooter driver. After that, everyone wanted to shake my hand. It was hilarious and very fun. As I continued on, posse of scooters developed that followed me for quite a while. They were having a great time. Eventually, I made my way out of town and into the country side. Wow was it hot, hot hot! Not far out of town the road surface turned into awful chip seal. This is the type of road surface that is very rough and feels like it grabs your tires making it more difficult to ride. I stopped a couple of times to see if I had a flat tire because I was going so slowly. The surface was so rough that everything on the trike was vibrating.  I also had to stop to tighten my fenders. This road surface is hard on the trike and very frustrating to ride on. The landscape was quite barren which is very different for most of Colombia I've visited. As I crested a hill, I decided to fly the drone to get a better view of the area. The trike drew the attention of 3 young boys from a shack of a house. They were very shy and I had to coax them repeatedly to come over. One boy was riding a small burro. It's really fun for the kids to see the view from the screen of the drone while I'm flying. I'm sure they have never seen what the area around them looks like. They assured me San Pedro, my destination, was very close.

Video for ride Magangué to San Pedro

Young boys loved the drone

Fast traffic
By the time I arrived in San Pedro I felt like had fought a battle for every mile. I was exhausted from riding the horrible cheap seal and the heat. I checked into the highest rated hotel which was on the main highway for $9.50. This hotel offered what I call an 'authentic experience'. Authentic experiences are where things are not the most comfortable but I get to experience another aspect of Colombian life. This hotel was family owned and they are building it as they get extra money. It looks like this project has been going on for at least 10 years. The trouble with these types of hotels is the owners need to make the money go as far as it can. They don't always know what they are doing or hire qualified people. You can almost see where the infusions of cash start and stop. Tile and can be mismatched because they buy only what they need and the cheapest they can find. The mattress in my room was on a platform made of concrete. Luckily, the mattress was comfortable. The bathroom shower didn't have a shower head or a shower curtain but I did get a toilet seat. The hotel was set away from the street and the rooms faced a courtyard where chickens roamed freely and cats lazed around. There was a open air palm frond covered palapa where the family had a television playing very loudly. Myrtle had a space in front of my room surrounded by potted plants to rest for the night. In front of the hotel was a simple restaurant where I ordered dinner. For many months now, since leaving Bucaramanga, I have been following the Ketogenic diet and I'm surprised how easy it is to follow here in Colombia. I tell everyone before I order that I can't have any sugar, rice, potatoes, bread, arepa or fruit. Right away, most people ask if I'm diabetic. They really understand what diabetes is. I'm not diabetic but I always say yes because it assures that they take my request more seriously.

It's watermelon season

Very flat straight and rough road
In the morning, I had a good breakfast of eggs, cheese and avocado with coffee, again, for $5,000 pesos. This area is remarkably cheap.  And then I pushed on. After 15 miles, the road surface changed to a newer paved road on my way up a particularly big hill. Wow, what a feeling. The road was so much smoother. The shaking stopped and the ride was much quieter. The joy of cycling was back. I crested and flew down the quieter road with a big grin on my face. I was so happy about the smoother surface I didn't even notice how how it was. And it was hot! Today I was going to the bigger city of Sincelejo. The road into Sincelejo was on a toll road and there was a fantastic separated bike lane for about 8 miles into town. This was so nice. It also rained on this ride. This was the 1st time on this tour that I had ridden in the rain. The rain felt great and it didn't last long. Soon it was hot and even more humid.

Policia at a check point asked me to pull over to get a picture

Dad and son on burro

Bike Lane into Sincelejo

Video for ride from San Pedro to Sincelejo
I looked on Google to see about a hotel. The reviews were interesting. Most of the hotels are in the 'historic' area with good reviews. But most of the reviews also talked about the area being very noisy with bars and music all night long. This is something I'd like to avoid. I kept looking and found a hotel that was a bit further out of 'el centro'. This hotel had a 4.3 rating and almost 500 reviews which is a lot. With that many reviews I knew this hotel would be great value. The Hotel Arawak was much bigger and has a parking garage with lots of security cameras. I locked Myrtle to stair bannister and with the help of hotel staff took the elevator to the 4th room. My room had a balcony and everything in it was newer than most of rooms I've stayed in. This room was a step above and the price, $30 including breakfast, reflected that as well. I like bigger towns and got checked in for 3 nights to explore and rest.

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