Dropless in Andes

Featured image is of a mountain range — but not just any — if you look in the middle, or better still, click on the image to enlarge it and you can see the road we travel in altitude.  We climbed up to over 9,000 feet often with no safety guard rails over mountainside — long drop down.

I’ll start with this post with an image of a car or motorcycle repair shop which is typical. Thousands of these shops exist around Columbia.  It is super industrial and I would say this one is nice as they go.

It has been a real long day of riding today, leaving from Cali at 8am sharp and headed to our hotel in Pasto, close to the Ecuadorian boarder.   We finally arrived at 5:30pm all in one piece and very high spirits after another fantastic days ride.  Not much more eventful to discuss except I did not drop my bike, nor did I even come close to drop my bike.  Having feet on the ground is a novel idea and it works —  Happy days.

I suppose the highlights of the day were the 6 or 7 hours in the Andes we rode switchback roads through absolutely incredible scenery.  Most of the time we were on the PanAmericana highway which is the route from top of north to the  bottom of South America.  Each country gives the route another number, but it definitely is a well traveled route mostly by huge trucks, busses, motorcycles and cars.  A bees nest of activity servicing the agriculture industry here.

The positive of taking the PanAmericana Highway is the scenery.  According to our Germain friends, the vistas are nothing like exist in Europe.  According to our Thai buddies, it is similar to northern Thailand.  The weather was grey on occasion and sunny at other times — the altitude and location of the mountain is everything.  We rode in 99 degree temperature inside the jungle type atmosphere at around 1:30pm — that is the bottom of the mountain.  We also rode in 59 degrees coming into Pasto.

The negative of the highway is that it is a highway.  Traffic congestion up and down the mountains are horrible although that said, the game of weaving and dodging trucks by passing on the oncoming lane is just a basic fact of life.  I probably passed stalled traffic or overtook moving traffic 100 times and I think you can probably double the number.  Its not safe at all and I watched Oliver today in front of me over take a monster truck slow in front of us and he was blinded by the oncoming truck  — which was not a great move.  Lucky he ducked into a small space while that truck barreled by.  I Watched the entire event go down and I’m sure rang a bell inside his head.

Hundreds if not a thousand switchbacks which means that rarely were we driving straight or vertical.  We were always leaning, turning and either climbing of descending.  My skills and confidence is back to where it was last April but it is no better than half as good as my companions.

I did want to include some images of the surroundings. I think you will agree that it is breathtaking.  I also included a house or persons living space.  Mostly made of brick and concrete but equally often a home could be made of corrugated steel or a combination, really anything goes.  Most often, if it rains, I am sure there is no protection on the roof — virtually always homes are hand made probably by the owner or their family and very much not perfect.

Entering into Pasto which is at the bottom of a bacon but for some reason, its pretty cold at around 55 degrees and dropping to low 40’s overnight.  Tomorrow promises to be about 50 degrees in the morning due to our altitude.  Remember, its summer time in South America so the cold temperatures are solely due to the hight of the city.  And further, my eyes played a game with me because from a distance looking down at the city, it seemed like for once, we were coming to a modern city.  I kept looking and could have convinced myself that it was nice — but entering the city and its center, I can say safely, this place is a giant dump.  Calling the town a dump is being polite.

Our hotel is probably a low rated place — or at least, the lowest rated if we are being honest and I’m sure that is no shocker to the managers, but its clean and has hot water, so thats all that matters.  I can’t get my WiFi to work, everything is managed by a few creepy people.  Only one main request to management — please turn on lights in hallways and stairs, its pitch black.   Anyway, who cares, its a room.  The bummer is that its the second night were I could not get WiFi.

Tomorrow we head to the Ecuadorian boarder to cross into our next country.  We will be in Ecuador for about 7 or 10 days.  Only bit of info we got from tonights briefing is that it could take unto 5 hours to complete paperwork for crossing at the boarder — meaning we need to bring a book.

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