It’s always great to get a chance to cross paths with internet acquaintances on the road and there are very few places like the Boyacá region of Colombia that enable that, thanks to Dean and Dang’s classic “Oh Boyacá!” route. I was heading north along the track while most are aimed southbound, which found me crossing with long and short-distance tourers on a daily basis while grinding up these infamous Colombian mountain passes. I spent some miles with two UK riders and, of course, we talked gear. Read on for a recap of our overnighter around the El Cocuy National Park and a closer look at Joe’s Mason Cycles RAW Andean Tourer.
I was just starting to get into the flow of life in Colombia. Waking up in the morning in a small village to seek out whichever local bakery had the most people flowing in and out to grab breakfast. Hitting the road while the air was still cool.
The evening before, I had rolled into the tiny old town of Toche to a chorus of agitated dogs looking to announce my arrival. Back 10+ years ago this town used to be a particularly dangerous place due to its remote location making it attractive to folks trying to avoid the law, but these days it’s mostly just home to a small number of Llaneros (cowboys) and their animals.
Early the next morning, I rode through the town’s totally empty streets. I stopped to take a photo as a friendly pup that I’d seen the evening before came running up toward me with a lot of excitement in its step, though she never came too close. Just watching what I was doing from a safe distance.
After a stop in the shop, I pedaled my way up the start of the day’s long and steep climb to “Alto de La Línea”. This was a stretch of road I’d been looking forward to for a very long time.
After almost 6 years on the road, maybe I let my guard down just a little bit too much. Maybe I’d grown too comfortable mapping out routes in any direction my heart desired and hitting the road without much concern for my safety beyond steering clear of roads with lots of traffic. I’d take notes from locals on places to avoid, wouldn’t ride at night, and I always considered myself careful, but 6 years is a long time, so there’s no doubt that I slipped just a little.
Rocks slid from above, along a loose slope, showering the dirt road in front of me with a fresh layer. While treacherous in the rain, the locals warned that even an early afternoon breeze was enough to turn this road into a nightmare of falling debris. “Keep your ears and eyes open at all times,” a man in the nearby town of Huambo said as he made a motion imitating someone frantically pedaling a bike as fast as they could spin their legs.
After a few easy days back in Arequipa, I was excited to hit the road again. Maybe not so excited for the long and familiar climb out of the traffic of the city, but it was between me and the Valle del Colca, so I tried to keep my eyes on the prize…
After some indecision over where I’d go following my tour through Southern Turkey, I landed back on familiar territory. I’d originally planned to head for Ecuador or the Western Wildlands route in the US, but once my plans got pushed later into the year, I decided that a trip back to Southern Peru would be more enjoyable than trudging through Ecuador’s rainy season or dealing with the seemingly constant fires in the western US. Plus I’d get a chance to see if the months of Duolingo to shake off my rusty Spanish would pay off in any meaningful way.