Go Granny Go!
Date: 10th June – 14th June 2012
Where: Medellin – La Pintada – Tres Cruces – Pereira – Valle de Cocora – Salento
Distance: 3010 to 3199 miles
This part of the trip was where we really started to feel the foothills of the Andes. Climbing up 1000m most days, only to lose most of it almost immediately. On the newly introduced Snowdon scale, that is 1 Snwdn/day! It all started with the ride out of Medellin. Medellin is truly an advanced city. Shutting down half a dual-carriageway so that it can be a bike-lane on Sundays, brilliant idea! Thousands of residents use this opportunity to walk, run or cycle along the valley bottom, and it gave us a safe and peaceful exit from the metropolis. Soon we were going uphill, and after a climb of nearly 1 Snwdn we said our final goodbyes to Hernando and Isabel who had accompanied us to this point (albeit a bit faster on their motorbike). The ensuing descent took us down over 1 and 1/2 Snwdns and across the Cauca again at a small resort town called La Pintada.
A long day following the Cauca took us to the road to the coffee triangle of Manizales, Pereria and Armenia. On the way we passed two cycle tourists from Argentina on their way round South America. We anticipate meeting more cycle tourers now we’re in South America.The road went up for a long time and for the first time in Colombia we found ourselves struggling to find a place to stay. Eventually we reached a cheap motel at a crossroads just as the light was going down. We started riding on the aptly-named ‘Autopista de Cafe’ early the next morning and climbed up to a stunning view down over the enormous town of Pereira. It caught us off-guard how big it was, but some large supermarkets stocked us with provisions for the days ahead.
The next two days, first riding up 1 and 1/4 Snwdns to the Valle de Cocora and the next day hiking up into the valley before returning to Salento were fabulous! Quiet, good roads, amazing views, wildlife, midday snacks by streams, sleeping in our down bags, eating delicious trout…ahhhhh heaven.
The hike up the valley was certainly adventurous criss-crossing the river via old bridges missing slats and felled tree-trunks made slippy by the mist that accompanied us for most of the day. Eventually we reached the little house at the end of the trail we walked and were disappointed not to find a view, but over the moon to find hot chocolate and humming-bird feeders to sit and watch. Not wanting to return the same way we took a detour up to the La Montana ranger post and on the track down from there had the views our height gain deserved. Views all the way down the valley opened up with the sun illuminating different parts as we went, until finally the grand finale opened up before us…a whole field of wax palms standing solitary in a grassy field. It was truly magical to see.
A perfect dinner of trout with delicious Maracuya juice set us up nicely for the long downhill back to Salento. We planned to camp again, but were so taken by the town that we ended up staying the night in a cheap room conveniently located next to a panaderia. Now we must return to the Cauca again as we head for Ecuador.