We left Zapatoca with lumps in our throats. We knew it would be a long time (if ever) before we would see Sonia and Armando again, but we wanted to continue our journey. So onwards and downwards (and upwards again) we rode to the the picturesque colonial town of Barichara.
It was an easy descent from Zapatoca to La Fuente…
We passed Los Pozos, the finca of Pipo, an incognito WarmShowers host who Jenny sang to in the hospital of Zapatoca.
A long lunch and snooze in Galán meant we had the shadows on our side for the otherwise hot climb after the bridge…
Detour #1 – Getting Lost
Whoops! This was the first time it had happened. Lars was ahead and going a little faster than usual (he always does this when there are other cyclists around) but he didn’t see the split in the road. He went left and I went right. After about two kilometres downhill, manoeuvring myself over two river crossings, I started to wonder if Lars was ahead of me. I decided to turn around and as I twisted my body I saw Lars charging down the road chasing behind me. Another two cyclists followed. Luckily one of them had noticed the predicament and cycled after Lars to tell him, otherwise I might have been very lost indeed!
… the shadows soon turned to dusk and we found ourselves climbing into the darkness …
… arriving in Barichara in the pitch black around 630pm …
… the same interesting door the next morning.
Barichara certainly has character… and some steep streets!
Full of beautifully maintained old buildings, but also cycle friendly new cobblestones – a rarity in colonial towns.
Houses comes in mainly shapes, guided only by the contours of the land.
From Barichara, we rode an easy 25km to San Gil, where we crashed for the night…
Escaping the relative bustle of San Gil, we rode to Charalá – home of the famous guitarists Los Hermanos Lopez…
… a massive tree in the plaza looks like a Ceiba, but is actually known as Samán de Arabia …
… with branches so massive that they need proping up!
Detour #2 – Admitting Defeat
So, the big plan was to take a beautiful, three to four day scenic route all the way from Charalá to Villa de Leyva through Parque Iguaque. The winding roads on the map looked spectacular, a typical Lars route. In reality, the road was incredibly difficult and I became discouraged. After speaking to a few locals we realised we would be enduring this terrain for a long 120km!
As the sun was going down, we stopped at a house and to ask if we could camp. Elsa kindly kindly let us pitch our tent in her garage. That night, tucked up in our sleeping bags, I gently persuaded Lars that we should turn back in the morning.
NB: This could be a spectacular side route if you are hard as nails and bring plenty of food! Ask for directions in Charalá for Virolín.
We stopped for a quiet lunch across an old bridge.
Getting caught in the rain doesn’t dampen our spirits, as long as we have enough chocolate!
We’re becoming experts in finding shelter…
… and new ways of entertaining ourselves.
We turned off to the right before Encino on our way up to Virolín…
… the road became more rugged as we continued to climb.
… and we encountered lots of goats!
Our legs wouldn’t take us all the way to Virolín, so we camped in a garage with some peacocks…
It was the house of Elsa, who kindly let us camp and treated us to homemade queso, arepas and tinto.
Elsa’s parrot took an interest in Lars’ head!
Enjoying some fresh cheese Elsa made that same morning served with panela and hot tinto.
On our back track down to Charalá, we stumbled upon a cock fight training session…
… they were exercising these gallos for an upcoming fight in Bucaramanga.
From Charalá, it was a dirt road climb and descent to Confines.
Once we reached the top, the flats and descent were fantastic fun.
… fast rolling dirt tracks.
Freshly made cheese sold in banana leaves, free of plastic packaging, a perfect post ride snack.
Detour #3 – Mechanical Shmanical!
Well, not exactly a detour in our route, but rather in our daily routine. Lars’ rear hub began to disintegrate, requiring us to hunt down a decent bike shop. I’ll let him tell the story below…
What began as some metal grinding noises developed into a comically wobbly wheel; I took it apart to find that the ball bearings were shrapnel. Fortunately, I was carrying spare ball bearings.
Tiny shards of metal ground down to dust…
Re-packed with new bearings and ready to go!
Oh how amusing it is for the shopkeepers…
Unfortunately, the new bearings began grinding down to dust within a few kms. Luckily, we made it to Barbosa and found some friendly mechanics who were happy to help.
On closer inspection, I found a badly worn outer cone and dodgy freehub (again). Although only the freehub and outer cone needed replacing, the shop only sold complete hubs! I sighed and faced the realisation that I would need to rebuild my wheel … again!
Aaaaahh, yes! A complete wall of beautiful Park Tools!
A big thanks to the Bikeshop in Barbosa for my new rear hub. I also replaced both our chains and cassettes and my wobbly bottom bracket. It’s like riding a new bike!
We met Pantera, the perro bravo guarding our hotel… he was very interested in our coffee!
… Pantera kisses!
Our new drivetrains were not without a few ‘teething’ issues. Our slightly worn chainrings didn’t play nicely with the new chains. *sigh*
Another local guard dog offered his assistance with the bike maintenance…
… but couldn’t seem to keep his eyes open!
It was a steady, intermittently gravel climb from Moniquirá up to Santa Sofia, where we came across this bizarre church…
… and storm clouds loomed over the plaza. We asked around for an hospedaje and discovered some secret rooms owned by a local restaurant owner.
… with a morning view of Villa de Leyva, our next destination.