Spinning South: Yotoco to El Bordo
The Pan-Americana Highway is the longest network of roads in the world. Leading from North America across Central America and ending in the most southern tip of South America.
If the Darien Gap would not be in-between it would give you 30.000+ km of mostly good roads in one stretch. Now mainly used for heavy traffic. You can imagine that we were hesitant to go on the Pan-Americana, especially after all the remote riding. Will it be boring? Too flat? Can it ever be too flat? Too much traffic? We are now on it and there are stretches we would love to avoid, mainly when it is passing through cities, where there is hardly ever a shoulder, but other parts are very quiet with stunning landscapes. More spray from passing vehicles than from rain. As we are still carrying the saddle we bought as replacement for Frank’s broken saddle and he cannot sit on for a full day, we check all bikers that we pass if they have a good saddle or not. We pass a young guy on a bike and only when we stop we notice his rear tire is flat. Frank can’t resist to fix it, big piece of glass, wondering if the fix will hold. Miguel has tattoos and ear & lip piercings, but is very polite. He is answering all my questions with “si senora/no senora”. Working in a truck wash shop down the road. He is moved when we give him the saddle and we don’t want to accept payment for repairing his tire. As he does not have any luggage and needs to go to work he speeds off and we cannot keep up. It is only after 10 km we finally pass the place where he is working.
Sunday is an uneventful day with almost no traffic on an almost flat road arriving at Cali early afternoon. Just before arriving in Cali we meet Austrian Daniel, on the road for more than 2 years. He left his home on his bike and traveled through Europe, Asia, Australia, New-Zealand and crossed to Patagonia. Now eager to get to Medellin to meet a friend. He is biking only asphalt, as his bike can’t stand the beating of gravel roads. But he will return to some of the countries to do back road riding on a suitable bike. Being on the road for such a long time and having seen so many beautiful things also urges him to speed up and see friends instead of making another detour.
Entering Cali, the fastest growing economy in the country with 2.3 mil people seems to be quite relaxed as we enter by the North. We try to find a good, clean place to stay for the next two nights, as tomorrow evening we will meet an old colleague and friend of mine from my old Atrium/Getinge working days, she is visiting her mother who lives here. Cali is renowned for salsa and great food. We have the best pizza in a real up-scale Italian setting, good music and great wine.
Next morning does not start good, as we fail to find one of the keys of the bike locks. We think we maybe have lost it in the pizza place and wait until it opens, but they have not found any key. We call a lock smith and have to wait 2 hours before he arrives, in the meantime it is already 13:00. He tries to open it in the old-fashioned way and gives up after 15 minutes, the 8 pin Abus lock can’t be opened! That gives us a secure feeling, but now we need to use the heavy tools from the hotel: a grinder which Frank uses very professionally. Hotel handyman Jonathan is fascinated on how Frank is solving the problem of liberating my bike. My bike was not only locked with the chain to Franks bike, but also to the metal frame of an old jacuzzi bathtub.
We leave the flat valley plains covered with sugar cane behind us and move up to a cooler climate. In Santander Frank repairs his front tire for the 3rd time . We miss the ruggedness of the Schwalbe Marathon MTB tires, as it seems that the replacement Specialized Fast Track tire is puncturing the inner tube,…grrr.
This week was great for distance and culture. Even with 3 days not biking we still covered the needed average of 40 km per day. It was a great week because we met Claudia but we are also both saturated with busy towns and traffic. We long for the solitude of Ecuador! Still quite some kilometers to cover!