Mountainous trepidations, present thoughts and future ramblings

By Emma

(WARNING, this is not your usual blog)

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The mind is a powerful place.

If you can’t control it, your body is at the mercy of your fears with your future being driven by your worst anxieties.

Which is precisely why it is important to keep your thoughts in the present and not dashing off to the past or whizzing off to future possibilities.

With majority of our days being spent pedaling, I am aware, perhaps for the first time in my life, of the exact moments when my thoughts start to wander. I have a lot of time to think, so I can track my thoughts back to where they started and consider the reasons for their sauntering. It’s a confronting practice.

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So I try to keep my thoughts in the present. But here in Colombia, it is hard not to notice the looming mountain ranges that grow bigger every day. It’s the start of the Andes, so I believe. And I have noticed it is increasingly difficult to keep a hold of my roving mind. My thoughts quickly fill with dread and those pesky demons creep in. The noise of my thoughts sound a bit like this;

“Those are HUGE mountains, Em” the demons tell me. “We know you have ridden some hard stuff before, but this is gonna be chaos girl! Are you sure you can do it? Aren’t your knees already aching? Seriously, look at those mountains? There is range after range after range! It’s endless! It will be like this all the way until you get to Chile you know. Do you really think you will be able to ride up to 4000m above sea level? We think you should catch a bus.”

As if riding wasn’t hard enough without having to deal with these pessimistic loiterers!

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But I know that somehow, we will be able to do it. It’s true that some of the craziness we have already ridden has simply appeared without any advertisement. Those are probably the best times because the mind doesn’t have any expectations. You can trick it into thinking “well, this must be over soon” and you just keep pedaling through the unknown. But when there is a clear visual obstacle and plentiful promotion of the difficulties ahead, well, it’s just plain harder to manage. Those niggling doubts need constant surveillance and maintenance to keep them in check.

 

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So clearly in order to cope, this section of riding has to be chopped into smaller bit sized pieces. The kind of size that I can section my thoughts into, only allowing them to wander within these strict borders I set.

So it’s like this. We are currently in Popayan-Colombia; 1,760 m (5,770 ft) above sea level. Our next major goal is to Quito-Ecuador 2,800m (9,350 feet) above seal level. It’s roughly 600km of climbs and descents. It’s the descents that piss you off the most as a cyclist on this kind of mission. We will climb up to 2000m several times in this section, and of course, then go down to under 1000m and have to climb all the way back up again. You tell yourself you do it for the views and cut your thoughts off right there.

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On an average day with mostly flat terrain, we like to ride 70-80km (with average speeds between 25-35kmph). It gives us time to rest well and enjoy the riding, stopping to chat, eat ice-cream and not having to feel rushed in order to make camp before nightfall. Also, we usually don’t know where we will stay. So we like to arrive in a good location with an hour or so to suss out a safe place to spend the night (when I say ‘suss out’ I mean convince someone to let us camp for free on their property. This can take some time.)

But climbing steep mountains? Well, bring the km average down to 40-50km a day with speeds between 5-12kmph. And that reeeeeally depends on the gradient and the length of the climbs, the condition of the road and of course, the heat & wind.

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So getting back to our next goal of Quito-Ecuador, 600km. If it was mostly flat, we could smash it in about 8 days. But flat it aint. We don’t know the exact gradients and altitudes, but we are planning on being realistic, and we reckon it could take us nearly 2 weeks. We HOPE to make it before September 4th….perhaps we are being overly cautious with time? Perhaps not cautious enough? Only time will tell.

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We arrived in Colombia on 1st July and have ridden roughly 1200km in 7 weeks. Which is a long time for a short distance. We have enjoyed Colombia immensely and have adapted easily to the pace of life here. The classic Colombian saying “El tiempo es demasiado corto. Quédate!” (the time is too short, stay longer) has rung true with us and instead of our usual 2 nights maximum in 1 place, we have found ourselves falling in love fast and staying for weeks at a time in one spot. Colombians can come up with an incredible list of  reasons to stay another night; ‘tomorrow is the festival, you can’t miss it’ (FYI there is ALWAYS a festival, everywhere), ‘you haven’t tried this special food yet’, ‘my friend is a cyclist and he is coming tomorrow, you have to stay to meet him’, ‘the best arepas are made here but they are not open until tomorrow, you have to stay another night’, ‘you must rest more, the hills are too much for you tomorrow’…..its hilarious and we are easily convinced. And it really IS always a better idea to stay another night.

It’s just been too wonderful, and the time has slipped away from us.

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As much as we would love to stay with Family Ochoa in Popayan for another week, the road beckons. And without letting our minds wander too far ahead of us, here is a look at the TotallyTandem road ahead;

After making it to Quito, the upcoming goal is to make it to Cusco-Peru (approx 3000km from Quito) before the end of Oct so we can try to beat the rainy season for our hike to Machu Pichu. It looks as though that won’t be a problem, but to make it to the  Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia (Salt Plains 1500km from Cusco) before the rainy season is another task. And we reeeeally want to ride the salt plains, so we have to get a move on.

So trying to stay present is getting much harder these days. The last few paragraphs involve around 5000km of tough cycling ahead…..Now, deep breath, try to remain in the present and turn those pedals, one crank at a time.

As always, some pictures from the road;

Leaving Medellin & saying goodbye to our familla de ciclistas; Manuel & Marta

Leaving Medellin & saying goodbye to our familla de ciclistas; Manuel & Marta

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The police pulled us over & bought us lunch

The police pulled us over & bought us lunch

Gracias Sergeant William for a great lunch and for making a hilarious docco on Falkor

Gracias Sergeant William for a great lunch and for making a hilarious docco on Falkor

 

Camping with the military in Santa Barbara

Camping with the military in Santa Barbara

Hot & Hilly. Oh Colombia!

Hot & Hilly. Oh Colombia!

A campsite in an orchard ticks a few boxes

A campsite in an orchard ticks a few boxes

Twisties, Colombian style

Twisties, Colombian style

A new lunch favourite, tortillas with boiled eggs, avo and cheese tris!

A new lunch favourite, tortillas with boiled eggs, avo and cheese tris!

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The full moon from our campsite at a dairy farm

The full moon from our campsite at a dairy farm

No way! Really! Another broken spoke?

No way! Really! Another broken spoke?

Coffee for days

Coffee for days

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Look who we bummed into on the road to Salento – English cyclist Chris!

Jorge gave us a moto escort out of the city

Jorge gave us a moto escort out of the city

With legends Jorge and Humberto in Pereira

With legends Jorge and Humberto in Pereira

With Andre at Specalized in Pereira where they rebuilt our rear wheel

With Andre at Specalized in Pereira where they rebuilt our rear wheel

Thermal baths in Santa Rosa

Thermal baths in Santa Rosa

In Santa Rosa, the home of Chorizo with Yasmine & Jorge

In Santa Rosa, the home of Chorizo with Yasmine & Jorge

And everyone tells us we need a mobile phone

And everyone tells us we need a mobile phone – pfft!

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The steep streets of Salento

The steep streets of Salento

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This was the hike, lord no we did not ride on this road!

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A hike through the Valle de Cocora....and some seriously rickety man made bridges

A hike through the Valle de Cocora….and some seriously rickety man made bridges

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The hummingbird sanctuary was worth the hike

The hummingbird sanctuary was worth the hike

Colombia's national tree - the wax plan, growing up to 60m high!

Colombia’s national tree – the wax plan, growing up to 60m high!

Camping in Salento

Camping in Salento

With the wonderful Roberto in Salento! Thanks for the super retro riding top!

With the wonderful Roberto in Salento! Thanks for the super retro riding top!

In Australia., we love a 'big roadside attraction'. Dunno if we have a big cow though....

In Australia., we love a ‘big roadside attraction’. Dunno if we have a big cow though….

With hosts Hernando & Elisabeth in Calarca. A wonderful rest, HOT shower and awesome food.

With hosts Hernando & Elisabeth in Calarca. A wonderful rest, HOT shower and awesome food.

A new chain for Falkor. 3 chains in 13,000km

A new chain for Falkor. 3 chains in 13,000km

Your machete, don't ride without it

Your machete, don’t ride without it

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Spooky clouds making an awesome back drop to this beautiful road-side cemetery

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In Andalucia, the view form the Bomberos

In Andalucia, the view from the Bomberos

We rode for 2 days from Calarca with Welsh Nick

We rode for 2 days from Calarca with Welsh Nick

Flat lands means sugar cane fields. The smell is awesome.

Flat lands mean sugar cane fields. The smell is awesome.

"Crema Crema Crema! Rica Rica Rica!" Have you ever seen e=anhone this excited about ice cream! 25cents a pop. We had 2 each.

“Crema Crema Crema! Rica Rica Rica!” Have you ever seen anyone this excited about ice cream! 25cents a pop. We had 2 each.

The sugar can trucks are immense

The sugar can trucks are immense, sometimes up to 5 trailers long

In Cali with Alejandro & his family

In Cali with Alejandro & his family

Wish we had room for a fridge

Wish we had room for a fridge

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Guess which one is the police bike?

Guess which one is the police bike?

With Fabio the cyclist  and Wilmar the policeman. Thanks for lunch Wilmar!

With Fabio the cyclist and Wilmar the policeman. Thanks for lunch Wilmar!

Seriously. Look at that truck up ahead holding up traffic. A wardrobe and a fridge on the back, and the roof covered in cases of beer!

Seriously. Look at that truck up ahead holding up traffic. A wardrobe and a fridge on the back, and the roof covered in cases of beer!

Squeezing Falkor through some tight spots!

Squeezing Falkor through some tight spots!

With our host John and his wonderful family in Santander

With our host John and his wonderful family in Santander

Me thinks those gloves are knackered Bren

Me thinks those gloves are knackered Bren

Oooh! An icy-pole with a snake in it!

Oooh! An icy-pole with a snake in it!

Falkor hanging out with the big boys

Falkor hanging out with the big boys

Check out the dude on his BMX hanging onto the back of the truck. Well jel!

Check out the dude on his BMX hanging onto the back of the truck. It may very well be ‘peligro’ but we were well jel!

The gorgeous city of Popayan

The gorgeous city of Popayan

Jaime lives in Tokyo. We never met him but a good friend connected us and Jaime sent us to visit his friends and family along the route. This is his wife Claudia and daughter Maria

Jaime lives in Tokyo. We never met him but a good friend connected us and Jaime sent us to visit his friends and family along the route. This is his wife Claudia and daughter Maria

A day off in Popayan with Claudia and Maria. BBQ and ice-cream galore!

A day off in Popayan with Claudia and Maria. BBQ and ice-cream galore! Wish you were here Jaime!

A late night interview with  upcoming star journalist Maria.

A late night interview with upcoming star journalist Maria.

And my latest hobby is taking photos of people taking photos of us. Colombia has provided a bountiful booty of snaps, and this is not even half!

Check out the guy hanging out of the window of the red car. He was whooping all the way down the road.

Check out the guy hanging out of the window of the red car. He was whooping all the way down the road.

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The awesome Sebastian who connected us with his pal Jorge in Pereira. Cyclists rule!

The awesome Sebastian who connected us with his pal Jorge in Pereira. Cyclists rule!

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9 responses to “Mountainous trepidations, present thoughts and future ramblings

    • Thanks Rohanso! Indeed we do feel like we are on top of it all! Shame its so bloody cold up here! Makes for less stinky cycling though and rugged up snuggly nights. Saludos amigo!

  1. Some really DEEP wsdom at the beginning of this post – LOVE it…..will pass it on to our teen starting Matric soon. THANKS and God bless….JAMM, POLAND

    • Thanks Andy M! Its a bit tricky to not be intimidated when you climb from 600m to 2000m over 2 days, then go downhill for 15km (5min) and end up at 1000m, while knowing you still have to get up to 3000m and are surrounded by walls of endless rocky mountains. Thanks to the musk lollies though, we have made it so far! We are on a rationing system; 1 lollie each per day. They will be lucky to last to the border of Ecuaqdor! Thanks for all your lovin xxx

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