Bogotá to Neiva

by lwsaville

It’s been ages…. I’ve missed yall… (I don’t think anyone even reads this thing). I’ll once again try to be better. I’m going to continue telling about the trip from Bogotá down although I’ve recently crossed the Argentinian border. Someday I’ll catch up to the present I swear.

Coming back from the salsa-spectaculo in Cali we had trouble remembering how much time we had spent in Bogotá. It begin to dawn on us that we’d better get moving as I have a permanent fear of the dreaded “rainy season” and perhaps between my being a “couchy” and Heidi’s nerves derived from starting a long bicycle trip we had been in Bogotá a touch too long.

One day out of Bogotá and Heidi received her first flat. Fixing it we set off anticipating the long downhill that awaited, Bogotá sitting way up high at ~2,600 meters and Neiva down low in the central valley at 442 meters. On the way down a dog jumped out at Heidi and she experienced a semi-explosive flat, resulting in some swerving, her deflating back tire skating and a big fall. Luckily she rolled away with only bruising and nothing permanent! Heading on once more she experienced 4 more flats, the tire sliding contrary to the rim and the tire valve cutting at it’s base against the valve-hole in the rim. I had never experienced any tire failure similar and it became very exasperating towards the end of the day and the end of our tire supply (my having repaired a couple, special tactics included). We ended up walking into the next small town and catching a ride to the next bigger one in search of a mechanic.

We got more tubes and I started marking the tire in relation to the rim to monitor its travel and the problem continued. Finally we made a trip back to Bogotá, thinking that the only thing it could be was the rim. Nobody having ever heard of the problem we were having, we left the city with a new wheel (we had originally considered building her a new set of wheels in any case for the trip). A few more flats and a broken spoke later (how much can go wrong in so short of time? I had traveled thousands of kilometers trouble free) had me out of tricks (swapping tires around from my bike to hers etc) and I went on my bike to change the spoke (my spokes are  different length and we neglected to bring extras for Heidi). Some time-trial cyclists in the plaza took me to a good mechanic and he did wonders on the wheel but didn’t know anything about our problem either. In the end he prescribed more pressure in the tires and pumped the tire up to a suitable level with a floor pump. Crossed fingers and we were off once more.

And it worked.

Not sure why, having my tires pumped in the same manner for a long time, hers didn’t work the same. We’re now sure to keep them pumped up especially in steep down-hill sections and have been flat free for a long time.
We went relatively without trouble from then on into the heat of the desert and were able to enjoy the beauty of the valley and the the trip arriving to Neiva.

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Heidi flattens out her first hill with an intimidating level of traffic for company.

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Seems like shes coping pretty well.

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Lots of fixing flats that day. Wishing for a coke?

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Off for a spoke repair to the nearest town.

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Heidi with her new wheel having reached Patagonia?

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After the most ridiculous tire on wheel sliding action, a series of explosive flats, a dramatic fall and a trip back to Bogotá for a new wheel, she christens it with a bit of our favorite boxed wine and a lot of hope that the problem is solved.

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Workers wading through a lush crop.

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The lower valleys of Colombia make a happy home for lots of birds.

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More valley floor.

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Heidi eating lunch with a little friend wanting a bit of sandwich (he actually stole a bit right from my hand after the photo was taking and my guard let down).

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A lovely side-road takes us away from the main drag and towards a river crossing.

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A man with a boat makes the trip back and forth most of the day earning a bit each time. It’s easier to cross here than take the long way around from a bridge much nearer to Neiva.

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The bikes loaded up and the man pushing off the bank with a long pole, all the while chatting with a local.

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A bit from the crossing we cross another little bit on a rickety board-walk.

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We’re spit out on a quiet back-road, except for a bit of construction. The men were quick to shout encouragement for Heidi as she went through the soft stuff.

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The better surface we received after with the shade of some tunneling trees.

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Another good looking crop growing alongside the road.

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The foliage begins to thin out as we wind into desert “La Tatacoa”.

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Heidi Villatoro riding a bicycle.

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Riding past some cactus.

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Great desert scenery.

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Heidi enjoying a quick breather.

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Broken shrine leaves the saintly figure looking like a creepy futuristic robot.

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From the top.

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I like cactus quite a bit.

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We had read about one place along the stretch to Villavieja that sold drinks and were excited in the heat to partake in a break and cold refreshment.

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La sonrisa de gallina. Now a classic.

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Hiking that bike up a really steep bit.

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And the victory.

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Stopping to take a photo of the perched bird I lucked out as another came in ready for a fight.

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And they’re both off.

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A really big cactus-hydra.

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The last bit was paved from Villavieja to Neiva and was bordered by tall dry grass. Finally we were on the road minus the troubles.

Highs:

-Off on a bicycle trip again.

-Beautiful desert scenery.

– Tire solutions (after tire problems).

Lows:

-Nightmare bike troubles resulting in: a semi-permanent equipment distrust for me and a more permanent fear of dogs for Heidi.

-Lots of heat after the coolness of Bogotá.

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