Thursday, 13 July 2017

Onebear cycles now too! First 150km on the bike!

For those who haven't realised yet, I've bought myself a bicycle in Cali, Colombia about a week ago and intend to use it to get to Ushuaia in Argentina. Got hit by the cycling fever in Colombia and decided to join in too! Considering I've never done anything more than the occasional night cycling, this will be quite the challenge! Touring bicycles and associated accessories are pretty much non existent and so I ended up buying a really old Trek mountain bike to use instead of the Surly Disc Trucker I originally wanted. Having zero experience, I really wanted to catch up with a Swiss couple, Martin and Sabine, whom I'd met a fortnight earlier in Bogota who were also doing a bicycle tour along the PanAmerica down to Ushuaia. By the time I had bought my bicycle and had it all set up (at least I believed at that time the parts would last me until Quito, Ecuador), they were already a week and a half ahead if I had tried to catch up by cycling!! As such I decided to cut the distance by taking a bus to Neiva which was 500km away and easily a week of cycling to get to Tatacoa Desert which they were at the last time i managed to contact them. I have to say Colombians are really friendly and pro-cycling too! While making my maiden journey on my overloaded bike to the bus terminal, a cyclist chatted with me and then decided to show me the best way to get to the terminal. Definitely a boon considering that my bicycle when fully loaded with my belongings weighs about 50kg with over 30kg of that on the back wheel which makes my bike really really imbalanced!
All ready to roll out of Cali!

Andre, the friendly cyclist from Cali, Colombia.
After getting of the bus and getting my gear set up at the Neiva bus terminal it was all systems green to get to Tatacoa Desert. Being a Sunday, there was also a lot less cars for my maiden journey on the bicycle! Just a short 48km which really is easier said then done. I ended up only reaching the entrance to Tatacoa after 4.5hours including a lunch break.
1hr 20mins is only if you're driving.
Of course Murphy's Law would have to be present on my very first journey on my bike and I had a leak in my rear wheel tube before I even got onto the road between Villaveija and Tatacoa. Being a Sunday, the bike shop was closed and having made the assumption my bike would not fall apart til i was in Ecuador where parts were supposedly cheaper, I didn't actually have any spares. Fortunately, a police officer was on hand to help me out. Turns out he was an avid biker as well and had met the Swiss couple I was trying to catch, they had left three days before I arrived! He gave me a lot of help in getting the bike usable including using the patch from his own spare kit when the one I bought didn't work.

Miller Correa helping me check where the leak was.
Anyway after I got it sorted, I picked up my bags from Hotel Dunas, where the friendly owners had offered me a drink and a banana and also topped up my water bottles, and carried on to the actual desert. For those who are planning to cycle just be warned though, there is a lot more climbing than descending... But it is all worth it for the amazing views






There are 2 trails which you can walk along. El Cusco which is near the observatory and Los Hoyos which is 9km further along. I was totally beat after making it to Tatacoa plus walking around Sendero del Cusco and after realising that it was cloudy that first night, and that there was no water pressure in the showers, I just went straight to sleep. Got up early the next morning and cycled to Los Hoyos as I really wanted to beat the sun and chill in the shade in the afternoon. The views were likewise amazing. But as I noticed that it was still cloudy, I decided that there was no point staying a second night as originally planned since it would likely remain cloudy at night and there would be no view of the stars. So in the afternoon, I decided to head back to Neiva to catch a bus to San Agustin, which I knew the Swiss couple were heading to, and try and get the bare minimum spares for my bicycle too.
I ended up changing both tires as well as the front and rear shifters in addition to the tube and patches which I'd originally wanted. Being the cheapskate I was I asked the owner if he had reconditioned derailleurs. Something I'll never ever do again as it lasted me a grand total of 5km before dying in a different part of Colombia.
Servicing on day 2 of my bike trip

Dead derailleur on day 3 morning. 

Getting a brand new derailleur this time.
Currently I'm still in San Agustin so I haven't really had a chance to work out if the new setup is good but I'll find out tomorrow when I head from San Agustin to Pitalito!
Stay tuned for more adventures!