When Dan mapped out our route through Colombia on google earth it looked like we would be on paved roads and highways a lot of the time. We were able, however, to deviate from this route for the most part by finding networks of small roads by looking at satellite images in Gaia and MotionX on our iPad. There were sections we were not entirely sure about but asking around (in particular the police is always very helpful) certified some roads’ existence. A great part of the roads were dirt, some in the process of being paved, and some already paved but still with only very little traffic with scenic views.
We found a way to ride to San Augustin, which many people had recommended us to check out, from Neiva on small roads. Avoiding asphalt and highways doesn’t only mean treating us and our bikes to dirt but also to a more challenging ride. Cycling from Tarqui to Saladoblanco, for example, turned out as a rather tough day; while only 50k, we had to cycle from 800 up to 1300, down to 900, back up to 1400, back down to 1000, just to climb once again to almost 1500. We were fortunate to have clouds covering us a number of times and even some light rain to wash our sweat away. Our muscles were sore and our bodies exhausted. Dan had been having something what we believed to be heat rash and I had developed rather painful saddle soreness. We got ourselves a room and ate until we were bursting. While I slept like a rock despite a rather uncomfortable bed, Dan had a terrible night feeling hot and having cold shivers, his bones and muscles aching. We feared it to be Chikungunya fever (transmitted by mosquitoes – ironically I have like 99% more bites than Dan and since the incubation time varies I am a bit worried…) and went to the hospital in town. It was tough communicating and understanding everything in Spanish but we somehow managed. They excluded malaria after looking at the route we had taken and took a blood sample to test for Dengue and infections, although in the end it turned out they couldn’t use the laboratory until later and we didn’t want to wait. We wanted to go to Pitalito as we might be able to find accommodation with wifi to wait for Dan to get better. However, facing cycling back down to the river we came up from the day before and climb 400m made us hesitate and we pondered what to do. The police pointed us towards a municipal finca where we might be able to camp. Just pushing the bikes uphill to get there was draining for Dan and made clear that cycling was out of the question. The family who lives at the finca and keeps up the place was very friendly and happy to have us there so we set up camp. Dan could hardly move, only after our second night there he started to feel better as the fever had stopped. We were very certain that it was Chikungunya, not just because of the symptoms but also because apparently there is an epidemic in the lower regions (around Neiva, for example) at the moment. Dan felt a lot better and wanted to leave the day after and so we started to make tracks again. We thought it would be a short day, especially because Dan was still not feeling like himself, but it turned out to be a long day with lots of ups and downs. What made it worse was that Dan had only one working brake, the other one had broken and due to it being a “special kind” of brake we had not yet been able to find a replacement. Eventually we made it to San Jose de Isnos and continued to San Agustin (this time really not far) the next day. Funnily, we met the cyclists that we had stumbled upon in the desert again on the uphill to the town, and ended up finding a camping place together.
Route info: See/download gpx file here on RideWithGPS