From San Agustin we make our way to Mocoa, on the edge of the Amazon. The jungle claws at the edges of the city, trying to reclaim what it has lost. Somehow, it doesn’t seem as hot here as I thought it would be. We decide to spend an extra day, knowing we won’t be this low in elevation again for a very long time.
Fueled by papas rellenos and banana bread, we climb on el trampolín de la muerte. Not all have bounced back, so to speak.
Sometimes, it’s a squeeze.
We’re all going up to the mountains. Water is everywhere. There are no bridges.
Halfway up, we find refuge at El Mirador. The rain comes down. Even the animals are unenthused.
We drink agua de panella and eat bread and wait. There’s a military checkpoint just down the way. We ask about a flat, dry place to sleep. I’m shown an old telecom building. It even has two rooms, one for us and one for the bikes, he says. I am given a broom to sweep out the dirt and trash. The roof is sturdy. It doesn’t leak. Perfect.
The police are just as curious about us as we are them. What music is there in Alaska? What fiestas? How do you like Colombia? They spend one month at a time up here. After dark they tell us not to go wandering about by ourselves. They might mistake us for someone else. Noted. We’ll stay here. We don’t ask who the someone else is.
The clouds blow off and the valley spreads out before us. I trace the winding path of a river, imagining it flowing to the Amazon, to the Atlantic. Latin pop music blares from the tienda up the way. I’m not sure what we stumbled upon, but there’s nowhere else I can think of to be right now. There’s so much to take in, so much to think about.
It’s a day of rain.
I keep thinking it will let up, but it does not. Those rain pants we bought in Bogota are worth their weight in gold. Even if I don’t ever use them again, I’m happy to have them today. Mountains play peek a boo as we climb through the mist and rain. Waterfalls pour off every mountainside. I am happy to have my health, happy to be out in the elements. This is better than sweating through the lowlands.
In San Francisco there is one Warmshowers host. Felipe sends his aunt to meet us, and she brings us to the family finca. A hot cup of mint tea thaws us out. A bit of sun dries out our things. A broken zipper means my dry bag with electronics was sitting in a puddle of water all day. The bag wasn’t up to the task. I take everything apart, wait for it all to dry and hope for the best.
The best doesn’t hapoen.
We ride away from the finca through a lush verdant valley, bursting with produce. Men lead horses carrying milk. A lady mountain biker passes in the other direction. Up at 10,000 feet pockets of paramo peek out of the mist. I try and capture it all with my smartphone, but mostly take photos with my mind. You will have to use yours, too to imagine all the green and all the food. Tyndall says if he had a finca in Colombia, it would be here.
Being without a camera is like missing a friend. I realize how much the photos help to process the journey. Without it, I’m lost. Pasto is a city of half a million, a day’s ride from Ecuador. I hope to find a new one here.
Where we rode: San Agustin – Mocoa – San Francisco – Pasto
Shortly after Mocoa the pavement ends. It’s a rough road, but doesn’t turn to muck in the rain. From San Francisco to Pasto is paved, with the exception of a small portion near the top of the first pass past Santiago.