Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Colombia Trike Tour - Curumani to Valledupar

Garmin Maps and Info

Current Location, Valledupar, yellow stars are recommended places saved to check out

Myrtle locked to a post outside my room in Curumani

Curumani really didn't have much to offer. This is a fairly big town and it didn't even have a public square or a park. Again, I tried to find a way to the water area but with no luck. One guy suggested I ride my trike on a unpaved road for 20 miles. When I got to the water there probably wouldn't be a town or village but I could see the water. It's possible I could ask a fisherman to take me out in his boat but that seems pretty sketchy. An unpaved road would take me 4 hours to ride and then I would have to ride back because there are no towns or hotels. And it has been very hot, like 95 degrees everyday. That seemed like an awful lot of effort just to stand on the water's edge.  I could see doing this if I had a car or even a scooter but on the trike? Maybe with someone else but not alone.

After 2 nights, I got packed up. The ride today was to a town I didn't even know the name of. With the heat I wanted to ride a reasonable distance. Every day since leaving the mountains has been at least 95 degrees. On the map there were 2 hotels listed about 30 miles down the road. 2 hotels but no town. Since I started intermittent fasting, I don't eat until 7:30 am which still meant I could get a early enough start to reach my destination before the heat of the day.  All the towns here cater to the truck traffic and finding a restaurant open early is surprisingly easy. Some restaurants even open at 4 am! 

Colorful dead butterfly

As usual, the riding was lovely. The landscape between the towns is lush green with lots of trees and animals. This is a sharp contrast to the towns which are all dusty, busy and not at all attractive. I saw some beautiful birds today. As I was riding I keep noticing a cloud formation that really looked like snow on a mountain. I must have seen this cloud formation for an hour before I realized it is snow on top of a mountain. Where I'm riding it's 95 degrees but those mountain tops much be very cold to have snow. What I was looking at is the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains which are 18,000 ft in elevation. Incredible.

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

All day, as usual, I got honks and thumbs up. One thing about Colombia is everyone honks, a lot. Busses honk at each other to say hi. Cars honk to let people know they are close. Motocycles and taxis are constantly honking at everyone they pass looking for business. The honks are quick and constant. I typically ride with music to drown out some of the noise. When I'm walking about towns, the honking is really annoying. It is something I haven't been able to get used to and I often yell at motos and taxis when they want my business.

Video of rides from Aguachica to La Loma

Coal mine sign

Empty coal train
I arrived to the spot on the map that had 2 hotels listed on Google maps. Actually, there were 4 hotels. The spot is called La Loma and it caters to some coal mines that are close as well as truck traffic. The hotels were much nicer than I expected. I checked in to one that had a big pool and was quite comfortable. There was also a huge restaurant next door. After getting settled and having a shower I went to have a late lunch. With the intermittent fasting, I try to eat lunch before 3:30 pm. They had a grill going and I asked for a salad with carne asada. Asking for a salad in Colombia takes some doing. I always assume a salad means lettuce as a base. I don't think of lettuce as something you need to ask for. For a long time, I would only ask for the toppings on a salad and that is all I would get because, in Colombia, you have to ask for the lettuce too. Today, I forgot to ask for the lettuce and got sliced cucumber and avocado. This is also delicious.

I had a good night's rest and went to the same restaurant for breakfast. Another thing I've learned is when ordering coffee it's important to be very clear if you don't want sugar. Often the coffee is pre-made with sugar and poured from a thermos. Sometimes I forget and have to ask for a new cup. I have never liked sugar or anything else in my coffee but now that I'm eating Keto, sugar is prohibited. Before Keto, I probably would have drunk it anyway but not any more.

Puma or panther warning?

Soldier asked to get a photo

The ride to Bosconia was beautiful, long and hot. There were some significant climbs and I had a stronger head wind than the past few days. When it's hot I don't mind a headwind because it will keep me cooler but it also slows me down. There was a military base on the route and lots of soldier all along the road. A few of them asked me to stop to get a photo.  On the map, Bosconia looks like a good size town with options. There are a number of hotels listed on Google maps.  In reality, Bosconia is really ugly. It is junction town where traffic either goes to the coast or to the capital of Cesar department, Valledupar. The semi truck traffic was incredible.  The intersection of the actual junction of the 2 highways was practically gridlocked. What a mess! Even with police directing traffic it was completely congested and very loud with the trucks, people yelling and, of course, the honking.

Emanuel helped me find a good hotel

With many hotels listed on Google maps I was confident of finding a nice place for the night. As I rode into town each hotel I passed was really awful. They all looked poor, dirty and not safe. I didn't know what to do so I asked a random young man on the street to help me. He was more than happy to help. He wanted to know my price range and I said it didn't matter. I was only looking to be safe for the night. The first couple of hotels we looked at were horrible and they didn't have a safe place for Myrtle. He took me down many streets and we finally found the Pacific Hotel which, at first, didn't look promising. The hotel was actually on the 2nd floor which would be impossible to bring Myrtle up. But the hotel lady showed me a huge supply closet that had 2 locks at the bottom on the stairs. This closet was a perfect fit for Myrtle and I was sold. The room was actually much nicer than I was expecting and it was at the back of the hotel which was also much quieter. The people were super nice as well. I gave the young man, Emanuel, a tip for helping me and I'm sure the hotel gave him a finder's fee too. This is a common practice especially in Mexico. I've had young men follow me to hotels to ask for finder's fee even though they didn't help me find the place at all.

Myrtle parked in the hotel supply closet for the night

Bosconia has lots of colorful trici taxis

I was hoping Bosconia would have more to offer but it was so noisy and ugly I got packed up in the morning. This would be 3 days in a row of riding because there simply wasn't a reason to stay in any of the towns. I was eager to get to a town with something touristic. The next town was Valledupar, the capital of Cesar department. Today's ride would be my longest but I was motivated to be in a more beautiful place. 60 miles is a big day for me and I got started at 6 am after breakfast. The ride started with a couple of good hills. I was happy to get them out of the way earlier in the day. Today I turned off highway 45. I have been on highway 45 almost the entire trip from Bogotá. I was now on highway 80 and this was much quieter than highway 45. Sometimes it was in great condition and sometimes it wasn't. Not long after starting, I noticed there half the highway was under construction and closed to traffic. The road looked to be finished but just not open. This is probably because a bridge hasn't been finished. As I was contemplating taking it a couple of cyclists appeared. I stopped them to ask about the road and they said I could take it for 4 kms. They said something I couldn't understand about why and would need to get back on the traffic road but that I would be able to get back on the unfinished road very quickly. Wonderful. I would just need to figure out when to get off and then look for the obstacle to get back on. They said I would be able to stay on the unfinished road for another 14 kms once I got back on. Wow, was this nice! I had the whole road to myself. Just before the obstacle which I never figured out what it was, I was passed by 2 motorcycles and saw them get off. Just like the cyclists said I got back on very quickly and enjoyed a wonderful down hill on a perfectly smooth road. 

Cyclists who explained the road ahead

Even when I had to leave my unfinished road, there wasn't nearly as much traffic as I had been experiencing on highway 45. This really was a wonderful ride. It was just long. I stopped in Aguas Blancas for a delicious lunch and when I started riding again it felt like someone had turned a heater on to full blast. Holy moly, it was hot. For sure, 100 degrees. I went through a toll booth and asked if there was any water from some of the venders. A young guy selling cold drinks from a cooler came over. I explained that I just wanted cold water for my head. He opened the cooler poured ice cold water into my hat and then let me soak my neck scarf. That was fantastic. I did that one more time in the next town of Valencia de Jésus, the last town of the day. By the end of the ride I was feeling like a tuna seared on the grill. The sun is so strong here. I reapplied sun screen many times but I really think I need to find a long sleeve shirt to wear especially for the longer rides. 

Welcome to Valledupar

Finally, I arrived in Valledupar. As usual, I looked for the best place in town. I saw there was a hotel that had a 5 star rating, the Hotel Boutique Casa Rosalia. What a sweet place. There are only 7 rooms. It was a family home that had been converted to a hotel. This hotel is like a little sanctuary in the middle of the big city with lots of places to sit or swing peacefully in a hammock. I was shown a big lovely room with 20 foot ceilings that had lots of windows and done completely in white. With breakfast, it was $50 a night. I checked in for 4 nights.  This is what I was looking for and exactly what I needed. I'm looking forward to relaxing this beautiful hotel and exploring this capital city.

Myrtle has a parking pad outside my room

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