Keen to avoid the mistakes of the day before, I set off in search of a hearty breakfast. And I found one. Calentao, which literally means “reheated” is a popular staple in Antioquia, traditionally comprised of yesterday´s leftover rice, beans and whatever else. Accompany it with beef, scrambled eggs, cheese, a mini croissant, and a coffee (which was conveniently served in a handle-less bowl like a soup) and you’ve got a mighty fine breakfast. Even the chili that came with it was near Mexico-level spicy, which is a rarity in Colombia.
After a brief chat with some locals in the Fredonia town square, who reassured me that my destination, Tamesis, was an easy ride away, I set off. I put on the new Japandroids album – their last record was one of the defining albums of my last bike tour – and roared off into the sunshine down the smooth road out of Fredonia.
After 20 minutes of freewheeling downhill and feeling shit-hot, there were some hills and I had to get off and push, rendering me just really hot.
Soon I could spy the Cauca river snaking off in the distance and before long I’d descended over 1,000 metres (down from Fredonia’s 1600m to around 500 at Puente Iglesias). All was well in the world.
Then, as I turned onto ´La Oculta´, a rarely-used unpaved path that cut through to Tamesis, I was brought back down to earth with the sudden realisation that those 1000 metres I’d just descended would have to be climbed. So off I went, sweating, struggling, pushing and wolfing down the pears and chocolate bars I’d bought to keep the energy up.
Much like the day before I found a little river and went for a swim.
Pre and post swim.
Running a little later than intended, I pulled into Palermo at around 4. A family of Paisas baulked at my story and offered me a beer, but I had to rush on my way to grab a late lunch. Their, presumably visually impaired, son told his mum that he wanted to have hair like mine.
I was back on the road by 4.30 and everyone I asked told me that Tamesis was an easy 45 minute ride away. As it turns out, nobody knows anything.
2 hours later, with barely any light left in the sky. I inched my ragged body into Tamesis which turned out to be 400 metres in altitude higher than Palermo. Apparently Sunday is market day in Antioquia and in the town square I was pleasantly greeted to a thriving evening scene: children roaming, old men crowding the bars watching football, rows of stands selling empanadas, fritas, arepas and blood sausage. Unfortuntely I was too tired to take any photos and, after a greasy dinner of street food (for a costly 50p) I went straight to bed.
I optimistically set my alarm for 5.30 with the intention of being on the road by 6.30 but after some quality snoozing I loped out of bed at 8 only to be greeted with my first puncture. A few Youtube tutorials later (I hadn´t fixed a flat in 5 years) and I was back on the road, only 3 hours later than intended.
I steadily made my way up the mountinside climb from Tamesis, my legs feeling stronger than before. At around 2000m I went through a pass and suddenly everthing changed. Tropical Colombia was replaced by Alpine river country, replete with pine forests and horses grazing in the fields.
By 1.30, having dipped back down into the realm of coffee plants and banana trees, I was lunching in the colonial town of Jericho, labeled The Athens of the Southwest for it´s “topography, republican style and striking panoramas” (thanks Wikipedia).
I asked some older gents if I could take a photo of their chess game and they obliged. One of them, Julio Ivan, engaged me in conversation and before long was telling me how Jericho is the greatest town in Colombia, how I simply must view the panorama from the hill and about some kind of futurist art collective…thing (he lost me there). I bought a bean bracelet from him.
With dusk swiftly descending I reached Buenos Aires (no, not that one) near which I had been realiably informed was a school field where I could camp. At the school the jobsworth old watchman told me I needed permission to camp, but with darkness mere minutes away and no way of contacting the owner things were looking dicey. As I pondered the logistics of bribing an octogenarian, Jaime appeared from nowhere. He owned all the other houses in the vicinity and invited me to camp on one of his patios. What a lovely bloke.
The family who lived in the house were lovely too, and soon I was being fed sancocho (a Colombian stew) and lemonade. I offered to wash up and the mum reacted as if I´d offered to shoot their cat. Their dogs Bruno (a bashful puppy) and Chici (a little shit who kept me up half the night) eyed me up, while the kids peeked at me through the window.
And so I snuggled up in my tent for the first night camping in unexpected, but heartwarming circumstances. Next stop: Jardin and Riosucio
Tunes: Japandroids – Near To The Wild Heart of Life, Parquet Courts – Light Up Go!, La La Land Soundtrack
Reads: The Disaster Artist – Greg Sestero, Cronica del pajaro que da cuerda al mundo – Haruki Murakami