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Once my bike is back in shape – wheel relaced and gears changing smoothly – I’m keen to get on the road.

Manuel tells me about a trocha* which drops below Armenia (de Antioquia, not to be confused with various other Armenias both in Colombia and beyond) down to the Cauca Valley, which he thinks I might enjoy.

I leave the sleepy** streets of San Antonio and after a hour or two of climbing on paved road...

... I'm on a fine stretch of gravel.

Ahhhhh.....this is it...

...mountain fincas...

... and mountains, mountains, mountains.

Clouds. Sky.

I love riding in the evening. It's my favourite time of day. I always have to balance the need to find a place to sleep before it gets really dark with my desire to ride as the light fades.

In this case, I more or less know where I am going, so I can push it a bit.

Manuel has told me to ask for his cousin, Patricia, in the village of Parmichal which is not far from Armenia. She will show me how to find the trocha which drops down into the valley. I arrive in Parmichal just as the sun definitively disappears and ask the first person I see sitting outside a house if she know where I can find Patricia. “I’m Patricia,” she says. That was easy.

Typically Colombian, there is no question Patricia and her husband will let me camp. So it’s another comfy bed for the night.

Patricia is up at 4AM, lighting the wood fire to make breakfast and coffee. The kids are up and off to school by 6AM.

The men don't have much to do, they tell me, during the dry season. They work on the finca*** but things are quiet until the rains start, leaving them with such minor tasks as collecting fire wood and other small domestic matters. It has been unusually dry this year and when it starts to drizzle they offer up prayers for some real rain. I sympathise but I'm less enthusiastic about a wet day than they are.

Patricia's husband and son lead me to the path which picks it's way along the ridge...

...way above the valley. That's the River Cauca down there - it's a different beast here than where I crossed it in Nechi over 300 kilometres away.

The guys send me on my way...

... leaving me with only cows for company. They are somewhat nonplussed by my presence.

The going gets pretty rough and I am certainly no bold mountain biker. I push. Or rather I stumble down the hill while trying to restrain the bike's descent.

All the hills are decorated with cow-made terracing.

At the bottom of the descent there is the river that needs crossing. The finca employs a cunning barge on steel cables that uses the river's flow to propel itself across to the other side somehow or other - don't ask me exactly how it works. It looks like it might be pretty hairy when the river is flowing fast. A couple of workers ferry me across the river asking about life in the US. I correct their assumption that I am from the States and we end up discussing television vs. reality. They wave away any suggestion of payment for the trip across the river.

On the other side of the river I’m on paved road for short stint but the map is a bit confusing and I overshoot my turn off the highway by about five or six kilometres. I am not pleased: it’s surprising hot in the midday heat – I’ve dropped 1400 metres since yesterday.

I consider ploughing on but riding on paved highway is a totally different experience to gravel roads so I turn back.

I manage to find the turn off which, confusingly, is on the other side of the river from where it is indicated on the map. By the end of the day I've climbed another 1000 metres and sunset finds me setting up my tent in a field with a couple of horse and a small herd of cows.

* trocha = something less than an unpaved road – a path, possibly passable by motorbike

** San Antonio de Prado seems – to a casual visitor – pretty sleepy and calm but, in fact, it has its fair share of urban type strife.

*** finca = a small farm.

{ 2 } Comments

  1. jueko | June 2, 2013 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Armenia is the capital of the Quindío department, south of Antioquia deparment.


  2. anna | June 3, 2013 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    Well, the Armenia referred to here is not that one. That’s the one that I was hoping people wouldn’t confuse it with.

    Armenia is also a country in its own right somewhere in Eastern Europe.


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