February 14th Wednesday 

Could I just say that it seems that many of you who have read my hurried writings seem to have enjoyed doing so and have either left a kind comment or told Celia – thanks for being so thoughtful. I do this primarily to help my own recall, but if others get a little bit of fun from it, then that’s a real bonus.

Ash Wednesday / Valentine’s Day starts early and it is already our last day of riding. In some ways these days away from the mountains feel tougher than up there. The heat is remorseless, there’s none of the thrill of the descent nor the huge views and the miles just seem longer. Still fun riding through the countryside, building up this layer upon layer of a constantly evolving and changing country. The grind actually means there is more time to look at and take in the detail.

More scrambled eggs for breakfast, not too rubbery but a very nice fresh orange juice. On the road by 7.00. On paper it’s 178 km – over 100 miles but I think we’ll loose 30 or 40 in a transfer to avoid the temperature. Wherever and whenever you enter a building there seems to be a tv inevitably showing football, in silence, from around the world. In the morning it is interspersed with news of drug busts, a refugee issue with Venezuela which also causes problems with petrol smuggling. I think I’m right that in Venezuela it is still a few cents a litre, here it’s $6 a gallon so on an average wage of $250 per month the temptation to make easy money must be irresistible. And the weather forecast. If I could understand it, I’m sure she’d be saying ‘Scorchio’ and getting hotter. Another day well into the upper 30s in the shade.

The ride is initially flat, fast and smoothe tarmac, becoming bumpy and a little hilly before becoming persistently very bumpy. Hard, thirsty work but once again the land is our salvation. Quite a few birds in these flat, very dry plains. Pretty tame unless theres a juggernaut bearing down on them.

These cattle with floppy ears and a long wavy crop, like a cockerel, are a regular companion.

We have a transfer then a final 30 km group ride into Cartagena, encouraged by a brisk tail wind. We say goodby to our driving support team, Tito and Oscar,  who’ve had to feed and water us, wait for us, carry our kit and did great jobs.  There are mangrove swamps which we cross on very modern roads but there are still people who work and live off them and use them as a way of getting about. 

The ride in is along a corniche, following the waterside and revealing a formidable forest of skyscrapers in the new town and looking a bit like this:

Not quite as handsome as the old walls.

And this is us on the walls, a few drinks consumed, at the end of a terrific ride and experience, a little tired and frazzled but accident free. I haven’t  counted up the miles or the climbing but a decent amount in both categories particularly taking into account the altitude and the heat. All in all, as I’ve been sitting on my perch for the last two weeks I think this has been the most rewarding, interesting and beautiful place I’ve ridden, perhaps because it was unexpectedly so.

Very comfy hotel with a shower worthy of the name which still managed to induce guilt from the poverty we’ve seen. A good meal, some beers followed by rum in a bar where we were served by a transvestite known as Celia and a late night. 

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