Setting off from La Pintada we are warned of two things, actually three.
Firstly the road is under repair or is being widened so expect roadworks. Columbian road works tend to invilve some road closures but generally if yo cycle to the front of the traffic queue then you are waved through – you just need to be careful; bearing in mind all of the trucks, bikes and buses coming towards you are on a mission.
Secondly expect it to be busy with traffic as another more important road has been closed and this is the diversion.
Thirdly, expect the toughest hill climb of the tour.
Already hot and sunny as is the norm at least the roadworks and the traffic are on a gentle rolling road running alongside the Cauca River. Neither as bad as expected.
Coffee stop is in a busy roadside cafe at Puente Inglesias, Celia’s bike has a few bolts tightened on the headset so she can now steer and we cross the Cauca by an ancient looking iron bridge.
The climb starts at once. In a nutshell beautiful scenery in all directions, once again spoiled by a relentless 17 kilometre climb averaging 7 to 10% into Fredonia. What a great name! Think Marx Brothers and Duck Soup. Particularly beautifully decorated local buses as well.
Cycled this little beauty:
Into the market square:
Take lunch then descend and continue uphill as before for another 10 km but this time at between 10% and 16% for most of the way. I think there may have been one slight slope in our favour for a short distance. Other than that, sit back, enjoy the view and pedal. And keep drinking. Temperatures were in the high 30s in the shade so this was probably a tougher, if shorter climb. Did it though. Small village at the top, welcome drink, watched the team load up the bikes onto the vehicles and saw a Columbia aga in action – a brick kiln fed by unchopped logs from one end.
The reason for the transfer is Medellin. Approaching the city it’s clear that this is a smog trap populated by innumerable highrises which are dwarfed by a circle of mountains. The roads teem with vehicles vying for their precious bit of tarmac and slowly all nine lanes creep forward. We’re in the thick of it for an hour, maybe more.
Once in town the contrast between where we’ve been and this Babel of noise is just withering. Walking out later the streets are packed with Friday night partygoers though not as legless as their British counterparts – many Colombians seem to drink more than their weight in Coca Cola daily. From our 9th floor room we can look down on the endless movement of cars.