T – The Devils Trampoline. Death Road. Goodbye My Life. These are the three common names for todays ride. How could we not be excited by that?! We were up early as we weren’t sure as to how long the gravel section might take us. We had heard of anything from 3 hours to 8 hours.
C – I have read a little bit about this road and was somewhat nervous about the traffic conditions. What I have read seemed to indicated that it was a super busy road – knowing how the traffic behaves on highways here, I thought for sure the traffic on this road would be no different. Except it was reportedly a mostly single lane road, in poor condition, with few barriers and a VERY big straight drop to certain death if one makes a mistake on a small, red Honda motorbike. Adios, mi vida!!!
T – We rode out of town and soon the bitumen ended and the rough rough gravel road started. It was damn rough. Massive rocks poked up through the surface of the loose gravel and dirt. The road began to wind back and forth and climbed and climbed. At some points the road narrowed to just one lane and we had a few heart stopping meetups with other vehicles on some of these. Generally we were able to squeeze up against the cliff face so the car could pass. The taxi buses though drove like maniacs. Never slowing down, never giving an inch of space. Many of our encounters with them on this road left us shaking our heads.
C – The road started out super rough, our little bikes bouncing, slamming and jamming across the rocks. But after some time, it smoothed out a little. I was also pleasantly surprised at the behaviour of the traffic. Firstly, there wasn’t nearly as much as I expected – there was occasional traffic, not the constant stream I expected. Secondly, all but the taxis and buses were very well behaved. Waiting patiently for others in the single lane bits and allowing plenty of room for others to pass. The road too was in far better condition than I expected – far better than most of the gravel/dirt roads we have done in Colombia so far. It was such an enjoyable experiences and the scenery… my, oh my.. Colombia sure knows how to make your heart ache. The beauty is indescribable.
T – The road was gorgeous. The views were endless and the scenery to die for! We splashed through river crossings, saw countless waterfalls and rode into gigantic valleys like I have never seen. A truly remarkable experience!
We had been expecting the worse on this road as it has quite the reputation of being dangerous. Even the Australian Government has put a “Do not travel warning” on this whole area, bandits, drugs, the FARC etc. Which meant we had to be extra careful as our travel insurance didn’t cover us for a while today.
It was totally worth it though. There was a heap of police checkpoints on the road and we saw 4 ambulances travelling back and forth, presumably business is good at times here. Definitely a drive worth doing!
C – It was an adventure bikers dream! Enough risk to to meet the adventure component, a great dirt road complete with mandatory water crossings and scenery to die for. What more can two incompetent wanderers ask for!
We hit bitumen in the small pueblo of San Francisco where our tummies told us it was definitely lunch time. It took us nearly three and half hours to ride the 70km from Mocoa and we spotted a little cafe where we gorged on the famous Comida Corriente, today it was vege and pasta soup followed by fried chicken, rice, salad, yukka and tomate de arbol juice. Yummo!
T – Once we returned to bitumen we resumed our march towards Ipiales. The road here was every bikers dream. Sharp twists back and forth. Alot of heavy use of the front brakes, even on our little posties, as some of the corners came fast and sharp. There wasn’t a straight section for about 10 kms and Mabel and I raced along having a blast!
C – Todd and I were laughing at the nature of todays ride. Such a wonderful dirt section, followed by every bikers dream bitumen road. Amazing. The only down side for us, is we climbed, climbed, climbed. We reached well above 3000mtrs before we started our descent.
T – Then the rain came down. Hard. We could barely see out of our visors and then to add to that we had a light hammering of hail. Nice. It was at this time that Mabel again got a flat tyre. Again Mabel? So after dismantling the whole thing, patching the tube and putting her back together we rode on. Again I was unable to find anything that had pierced the tube. Nothing. There was no jagged bits on the rim, nothing.
20 kms up the road and it was Rosies turn to have a flat tyre. Sigh. So we pulled her apart where I fould a slim sliver of steel poking through the tyre and into her tube, plus the tyre valve had snapped in half. I went to pump the tube up so we could find the leak to patch it but our 12volt pump suddenly would not pump any air. Luckily we have a backup manual pump but it is almost useless and takes about an hour to get air into the tyre.
We had just passed through a town about 5 kms back though so we figured that maybe we could strap Rosies flat tyre onto Mabel and Chantelle would ride back to the town and get it fixed. As Chantelle got onto Mabel we noticed Mabels rim was flat on the ground. She too had another flat. What the hell! So we had two bikes with flats, no pump that would enable us to fix the leaks and we were 5kms from a town.
In the end we put about 20psi into each tyre with our very shit hand pump and rapidly rode the 5ks back to town where we had new tubes put into each wheel and our holed tubes patched up. It was starting to get late by now, 6pm, and we really wanted to get to Ipiales which was only 40kms away.
C – It was getting dark and cold (we were still at 3000mtrs) and we had been riding for 10hrs. We were hungry and ready for a hot shower!! We just couldn’t believe having 3 flats in the space of an hour! We figured we must of run through a patch of something on the road?
T – Finally we were back on the road as the sun went down. But we were again making forward progress. Yay! That was until Mabels rear went flat again. We had travelled a mere 20 kms. This was a brand new tube and the tyre guy had checked her over. Something really seemed amiss here. We crouched on the side of the road in the dark, using a head torch between us we pulled her tyre off and put one of the patched tubes back in and pumped it up to around 20psi with our pump. Oh I was so over this. I had a really good look at her tyre and rim and again could find no reason for the flat. I was at the end of my patience with this now.
We limped our way into Ipiales in the dark and to our hotel. It was the longest ride of my life.
C – We arrived at the hotel at 7.30pm and thankfully they had a room and secure parking. We both noticed the elevation when walking our gear up what felt like a million sets of stairs! We finished checking in and asked about where to get food. The hotel told us under no circumstances should we leave the hotel now, it was too dangerous outside, so they ordered us food to the room. What arrived was delicious vege soup, roast chicken, rice, salad and chips. We downed the food and drifted off to sleep after a day filled with extreme delight and extreme frustration!
T – Tomorrow I will be taking Mabel to a tyre place and having them try to find what is wrong. I taped the inside of the rim up with silver “Go Fast” tape just in case there was a sliver of rust or steel that was slicing the tubes up. Hopefully they can fix whatever it is. Also her rattle in the top end is getting worse but it is only there when she is really warm. Anyone have any thoughts on what that might be?