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back to the rio magdalena

I can leave Murillo with the promise of a straight downhill run into the next town, Libano, and, if I want it, all the way down to the Magdalena Valley. A easy way to cover a lot of ground but it will shoot me out onto the central highway. Another option, sticking to the high country, will take me through a landscape of wax palms. This sounds promising until the idea is nixed by the director of Casa Murillo – too ‘hot’.

Eventually a compromise route is cobbled together, the plan is to drop down to Libano and then follow the mountains around to Santa Isabel and descend into the valley from there.

Murillo sits at almost 3000 metres and Libano at 1500. So far, so good.

From Libano, I drop down to a hot and steamy river valley at 800 metres,...

...and then start to climb...

...and climb;...

... the road snaking up the hills, until I'm at around 2200 again.

And then I swoop all the way down to 400 metres and a place where mountain roads are a distant memory...

...and I can say hello to the Rio Magdalena again.

I maintain an endlessly hopeful attitude towards river and other watery crossings. I figure there will always be a way – despite, it has to be said, ample experience to the contrary.

A delightful dirt road leads me to a hacienda on the banks of the Magdalena. The senora thinks it will be no problem for me to get a ride to the other side but I must wait for her husband to return for lunch at midday.

No problem.

I do some washing and hang it out to dry. Read my book. Chat to the kids.

The kids...

...are fascinated by my...


People have little compunction about taking young wild animals as pets. I'm not sure what this beastie is... a racoon, of some sort?

However, the senor, when he arrives for his midday meal, puts a damper on my optimism. The canoe is too small, my bike too heavy, the river too wide, the water too fast. In short, no way. He sends me off with detailed but unclear directions to some other point where things might work out more favourably.

I’m soon lost and hauling my bike over electrified fences and through boggy marshes but eventually I come across another group of buildings where I find a man who leads me to a ford. This is not the River Magdalena but some smaller tributary; the water is above knee deep and fast, the bottom slippery, rocky, treacherous.

On the other side, the man tells me, I will find a road that will take me to Gautiquisito where there are motorised canoes that can ferry me across the Magdalena to Guataqui. And although it took longer than the telling, it turns out he was right.

I end up riding through oil fields on the other side of the ford.

I feel this sign is overstating the case.


It doesn't look so different to the last river side scene but here there is no problem getting to the other side.

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