Another long ride to accomplish today as we continue to try to get to Bogota for the 31st, in order to ship the bikes to Panama. There is a new imperative, as the Colombian and Panamanian customs are closed for the Easter holidays from April 1st to April 5th. That was a bit of bad news as it means we will not be back on the road in Panama until next Monday at the earliest. If we can get the bikes on there way to Panama tomorrow, we’ll at least make the best of the time and spend a couple days exploring in each of Bogota and Panama City.
We covered ground well for the first part of the days ride. The road to Bugalagrande was mostly divided highway with minimum two lanes in each direction. Beyond there, however, we were into very steep mountain terrain with many tight and steep switchbacks. What should have been a fun ride was made very challenging, first due to the incredible volume of trucks on the road (it’s the only significant road to Bogota from Cali), and secondly by a fairly constant rain.
The trucks have so much difficulty on the hairpins, they often require the oncoming lane in order to negotiate the corner, and coupled with the incredible grade they move at a snails pace of 10 to 15 kmh developing long lines of traffic behind them. We were able to benefit a lot from the acceleration and nimbleness of the motos in combination with our headset radios to keep each other informed about oncoming traffic – and with patience were able to get clear of the congested sections. It was a tough ride for many though, as we saw one bus on it’s side in a curve, two cars in a collision in another spot, and Petra had an oncoming motorcyclist drop his bike and slide across her path in a switchback!
We stopped in Armenia at a beautiful road side cafe (with wifi!) and enjoyed an excellent cafe tinto and snack – this section of road is known as the “coffee highway”. We knew that lunch was unlikely to be on the agenda due to our pace and distance to cover.
The rain eased between Armenia and Ibague, but was steady again from Ibague to Girardot where we left the main highway (unintentionally at first) and headed for La Mesa. Traffic dissipated to almost nothing, so we soon realized something was up – but after checking the GPS and maps we figured since the road was dry and less populated we would make better time, and we would be coming into Bogota from the north right past the airport where we need to be for 9am.
At La Mesa we had only 60km to reach Bogota, so we stopped for the night knowing that we could easily reach the airport on time with an early start the next day.