Turn back. Prohibited area. Turn back.

T – I was a bit sad to pack up and say goodbye to Zapatoca. I could easily have spent another week here, but I want to visit another heap of cool sounding places yet. So I packed up and wheeled the bikes out into the street and soon we were off, to the coffee guy.

I had an amazing iced coffee. It is easily hands down the singular best iced coffee I have ever had. Loved it and it wasn’t long before I drank the whole thing.

C – I tried the cappuccino this morning and again, it was amazingly delicious! I am going to miss this little bar in the middle of the square here – great coffee, friendly staff and a wonderful place to sit and watch the world go by. But, the show must go on!

T – We wanted to visit the big lookout that was just out of town and overlooked a huge valley with views that went on until next week. So we set the GPS and within 10 minutes we were there and looking out at……clouds. The whole thing was a white out and we could only see a few spots as the cloud rolled back occasionally. Oh well. We set our GPS to take us to Barichara the back way which as luck would have it actually went down the mountain from the lookout and was only 50 kms away.

C – Despite the clouds, it was actually quite lovely at the viewpoint, and the fleeting glimpses we got of the valley between clouds was pretty special.

T – We followed the bumpy hard packed clay road along for a few kilometers before we were accosted by a barbed wire gate with a sign that said please leave closed. Now this should have been a clue for us to turn back right? Nah. We went through and shut the gate behind us and continued on.

The road got steeper and rougher as we descended. But the views. Oh the views! Every new twist in the road opened up the valley below us. The road snaked back and forth with super tight hairpin bends. The mountain was sure steep here. We bounced down postie bike deep ruts and climbed up rocks. Cliffs loomed over us and we saw many area where there had been rock falls. The more we descended the hotter the air became until we were riding in what felt like a furnace.

Both the bikes were boiling hot. The heat coming off them was super intense and I started to worry about them a little. However we were just plodding along downhill so they didn’t have to work too hard.

We could see a mine in the distance but saw a few tracks crisscrossing under it so we figured we wouldn’t have to get in the way. Eventually the track turned nasty. There was fresh rock falls every 2 meters and the road was severely undercut. Neither of us felt comfortable here and we rushed onwards.

C – This was definitely the most uncomfortable I have been on a track. There had been some significant landslides both above and the below the track, and in places, the undercutting had left the track less than 2mtrs wide. It was certainly not somewhere we wanted to hang about! Then, just in the right place, I obviously hit a patch of loose rocks at the wrong angle and Rosie slid out. Whoops. Thankfully, I was left standing, as quite often happens on these bikes when on slippery surfaces! I had her up in no time (record time I think) and was back on the way to get off this very dangerous section of road!

T – Finally the track dumped us out onto what appeared to be a haul road for the mining trucks. One way led towards the river and away from our destination some 20 kilometers away now. We turned right and then we saw a massive sign. Mining area ahead. But it didn’t say we couldn’t go through so we thought we would follow it along for a while and hope we could go through.

As we approached a front end loader the driver told us very clearly that we could not pass and would have to turn around and go back. Noooooo. There was another town a little way away that we figured we could get to and then head east and maybe hit the main south bound highway. But we were looking at 54kms to maybe get through. Ah what the hell. We went for it.

We cruised along the nicely graded haul road back past the track back to Zapatoca and down to the river. We passed a huge sign that said in big red letters Unauthorised Entry PROHIBITED. Whoopsy. We followed the road along for a bit and soon we were parked in a line along with about 5 mining trucks. The only way across the river was a barge. Owned and operated by the mine. And they were only taking one truck across at a time. We looked to be here for a good hour or more and that’s if they would let us on the barge. So we decided to go back the way we came.

C – I really did not want to ride that section of road again, and I too was feeling for the girls, having to climb up from 800mtrs to 1700mtrs in a mere 20kms. It was really hot and we were both feeling the heat, given the physical nature of the riding.

T – It was a hard decision and one that neither of us was happy about. But we seemed to have run out of options. So back past the no entry sign and back up the haul road to our track. Sigh. Uphill we went. First and second gear only as it was that steep and rough. The bikes screaming and howling. Mabel was very unimpressed and soon she had developed some nasty sounding rattle in the valves anytime I put her under load. It was hot. The bikes smelt so badly of burning oil and metal. I felt we might kill them. Still we pushed on. Working harder and harder as the track became its steepest. The heat coming off of Mabel was insane! Then Rosie decided to have a nap. It was a tense moment as both of us were frustrated and our tempers boiled over and we snapped at each other. We rode in silence for a while after that.

Finally we made it to the top. We had a quick chat and put our spat behind us. Both bikes were at the point of boiling. They sat there and stank and let off heat like small suns. Our poor bikes.

C – Not one our finer moments on this trip so far!!

T – We pulled back into Zapatoca where we filled up on cold drinks and some of the locals came over for a friendly chat. That helped lift the mood some and then we were back on our way to Barichara. The normal way this time.

The road was rough and bouncy but to us it felt like the smoothest tarmac in the world after this mornings track. We zipped along and even managed to get up into 4th gear for some of it. The rough track today had taken its toll on Mabel though. She had oil down her front left hand fork boot. Poor thing. And Rosie had burnt out her rear brakes. Chantelle now basically just relying on her front one. We are hoping that we can find some replacements in Medellin in a few days.

C – My rear brakes recently started squealing with every use and after the long, steep descent this morning, where my rear brakes were very important, they seemed to have decided they are worn out! Thankfully there we no more steep, rocky descents ahead!

T – The ride to Barichara was a dusty one. We bumped over rotten old bridges where the concrete had fallen away leaving big holes that could swallow an unsuspecting postie whole, through to rivers that flowed over the road.

Then we popped out onto a bitumised road. Oh it was blissful. And it was as curvy as you could ever hope. We screamed along and Mabels pegs managed to scrape around some of the sharp bends. It was fun.

We pulled into Barichara and found a hotel where we could park the bikes away behind closed gates. They offered us an upstairs room saying that no downstairs ones were available. We were the only guests in a thirty room hotel…..weird.

C – The girl at the reception desk was adamant that we could not be married, because we shared the same last name. In her eyes, only birth relatives share a surname. I explained to her than in Australia, and some other countries, it is traditional that the wife takes on their husbands surname. She was absolutely horrified by this and then launched into a speech about the inappropriateness of this tradition. I was happy to hear her point of view – which was very valid – but I could have done without the reproachful glares!!

T –  She really took an instant dislike to me and I was the recipient of many stares through narrowed angry eyes. I felt very uncomfortable and had I been more energetic I would have looked for another place to stay.

We had a short wander into town which has a gorgeous little square with an old church dominating the skyline. We were both buggered and after a short walk and after some food that was it for us.

Tomorrow we shall start the trek towards a place called El Penon which is near to Medellin. It will probably take us a good two or three days to get there.

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6 thoughts on “Turn back. Prohibited area. Turn back.

  1. Dar

    Wow that sounds like quite the wicked adventure!

    • tncpowell

      It was a hell of a day for sure!

  2. Simon Roberts

    What an adventure that was, enjoying your words and pictures. Stay safe and enjoy.

    • tncpowell

      Thanks Simon! It sure was something else!

  3. Jax

    The road might have been crap but the photos look amazing!

    • tncpowell

      It was gorgeous scenery! Looking back now, it was worth it

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