10/17 Had a not so relaxing day off yesterday in Mompos and a pretty incredible day riding today. The problem with shifting was identified when I was cleaning the chain. One of the links was nearly coming apart and my handy chain stretch tool told me the whole thing was done anyway. Of course I found all this out after I spent a bunch of time cleaning it. The spare went on without a problem.
The other thing that happened was at a church/graveyard in town. I think it was Santa Domingo. Anyway, there were a line of benches right before you enter the graveyard area and of course there were a bunch of old men sitting there staring at me as I walked past them. One of them gets up and says hi, wants a handshake (which I hate because people get me sick more than anything) and goes into the where are you from, blah, blah. I could tell he was wasted so I kind of brushed him off, went in and took some pictures, told another guy no I wasn’t giving him money and then went to leave. The drunk guy didn’t like that I wasn’t handing over cash to his buddy so he says in English, “I feel sorry for you.” I just left but it annoyed me more than it should have. I tried to remember this was coming from guy who has nothing better to do than get wasted next to a graveyard on a Saturday morning (it wasn’t even noon yet) and harass tourists.
Today was just crazy. The flooding continued but for the most part the road was above water. That changed quickly in one area. Water was rushing over the road waist deep and the only dry way to cross was using some raised planks that the locals had fashioned. Trucks sat there unable to get through. Even motorcycles had to be walked across the planks while the driver waded through the water holding on to the bike. 2 guys took my bike and walked it fully loaded across. I walked behind them hoping my bike wouldn’t fall in. They were very sure footed and made it across. Of course I fell and soaked my shorts and shirt. That’s twice in as many days I’ve fallen in rivers.
At the next section of flooded road there were no planks so I had to unpack everything and carry my bike across. The whole time I’m thinking there are caimans, huge boa constrictors and anacondas living in the area. At some point I met a more agreeable resident of Colombia: a senorita. Alexandria is a chemistry teacher who rode like hell to catch up to me because I was moving so fast and didn’t see her. We rode for a few miles chatting away. She knew about as much English as I do Spanish which worked out surprisingly well.
This area of Colombia is very isolated even without the roads being impassible. This has actually been one of the most memorable parts of my entire trip. There was a section today where it was incredibly thick jungle/swamp on both sides of the road for a couple miles. Colorful birds and huge lizards were all over the place. The people living in the area were forced to build shacks next to the road since their homes were flooded. They were so friendly even though I probably gave some of them heart attacks when they saw me trucking down the road. You also really feel like you are in a not-so-traveled area when all day you see little bare brown butts running around outside playing.
At a certain point I realized that the road was leading me way further south than I expected so I asked a guy on a motorcycle and he said keep going. This ITMB map is way off or they changed the road big time. I finally came to a T crossing at San Martin de Loba and asked someone else how to get to El Banco. A guy pointed me to a dock and said take a boat– no roads. $5 later I was in the city. Taking the small river boats is about the scariest thing I’ve had to do. Everytime I get out I expect my bike or a bag to be missing. Dozens of Colombian Army guys in full gear were at the dock. Their stuff was laying all over the place and I had to ask one guy to move his backpack. He said go ahead so I went to slide it over with one hand. It wouldn’t freaking budge. It must have weighed at least 80/90 lbs. He moved it (two hands) but I don’t know how those guys lug those packs around.
El Banco is flooded pretty bad along the waterfront but the land rises once you go in a block and there are some decent hotels. Not sure how I’m leaving tomorrow. I think I might be on another boat.
My necklace is in my pocket now. It wasn’t the threat of theft. I put it away because it’s just too much for the area.
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Next to the docks in El Banco.
Most low-lying streets are flooded.
Walking across this to the boat to El Banco was not fun.
This one was easy.
This is the one where I fell.
The only dry spot was on the road so that’s where people built houses.
My new friend.