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Laguna de Mojanda

It was another heavy cobbled climb out of Otavalo to the lagunas. But after finding a rythem, it’s ¨not too bad¨, which was the only reply i could master when a motorcyclist stopped and mentioned that ¨this looks brutal¨.  I still felt i needed to climb higher to get a better view once i reached the big lagoon, and started the ascent of the 2fuya fuya” on foot. By then, i felt the climb in my legs as well as the altitude over 4000 meters, making progress rather slow. But everytime i looked around, i felt this walk was too good to be cut short.

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There is an area to camp directly at the waterside, but it is very close to the road and the wind wasn’t that inviting either. So i circled around the lagoon to its southern end, where i found a good spot, at least a little sheltered from the wind and with excellent views in the morning.

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The change of the light was beautiful as the sun made its way over the mountain ridge on the eastern shore.

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The road continued around the small “laguna negra” and with a short but heavy climb afterwards, which saw me pushing my bicycle for the first time since Guatemala. It was with a smile that i was cycling some part of it, while a four-wheel drive needed some assistance to continue. A last push and around another bend, the snow-capped peak of Cayambe came into view.

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After a long descent i hit asphalt again at Tabacundo and started the last fifty kilometers towards Quito.

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El Angel páramo

Stocking up on supplies in Tulcan, i was ready to hit the rather lonely road through the ecological reserve “el angel”. Well described by other touring cyclists, the turn-off from the busy main road was easy to find and after some passing trucks on the first kilometers, the traffic stopped altogether in the second half of the day and i did not see a single person. Instead, i saw frailejónes en masse. this time with a camera again, after i was travelling through similar regions in colombia without one.

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A closer look at the blossoms and furry leaves of the plants.

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It was getting foggy again and also really cold towards the evening. As, for other reasons, but like on the road from Mocoa, it was hard to find a camping spot. But in the afternoon the old refuge was reached, were two and a half men were busy restoring the building. There used to be a room for travellers, now i had to do with a windowless corner of the house and was preparing for the coldest night i had on this trip so far. I woke up during the night, probably because i was cold, and as the fog was gone, i could enjoy a look at the starry sky as well as the lights from villages far down below. Which gave me some sort of connection with the outside world again, which i deemed had vanished beyond that seeminly everlasting mist of the paramo. The next morning all that had changed back to this clouded world and i was happy to leave early and start the descent. On the way down, i met Alex from Austria, a cyclist on his way in the opposite direction coming from the very south of the continent at Ushuaya. The dirt road had given way to cobble stone, which is not my favourite surface to ride on. Once i reached the town El Angel, i was back on paved roads, and luckily so, as i really enjoyed the downhill part through Mira ending at the Choca River and its green valleys.

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Some stretches of the pan-american had to be overcome and i didn’t stop until i reached Otavalo with the last light of the day.

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The “rincon del viajero” hostal has a campground a bit outside of town, which is a good place to stay. Especially for people on their way to the Laguna de Mojanda, as it is along the road leading there.

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people travel

Mocoa to Pasto and the last days in Colombia

Starting into a rainy morning, the asphalt soon gave way to rocky gravel and though not very steep, the climb left little time to catch one’s breath.

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The road is still considered dangerous and was named “el trampolín de la muerte”. But this was before these crash barriers were put in place. The weather was getting better around midday and allowed for some views of the valley,

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as well as part of the road that leads up to the mirador.

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Coffee and some arepas were on the menu, which helped to get through that last little climb from the mirador over the first pass. The owner who prepared these refreshments recommended a place for the night not far downhill from the pass, as it was difficult to find a camping spot besides a road that offers only sheer rock walls on one side and an abyss on the other. Like in other places in Colombia, the people are friendly, curious and eager to learn about the equipment or going for a test ride on a loaded touring bike.

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Since they were out on vegetarian fare, i cooked my own meal and once more the stove was the center of attention for a while. The next morning continued with a downhill before another dirt road climb and descent brought me into the valley of Sibundoy, with more paved road and civilaziation than i had expected to find along this route. I trundled along from village to village and somehow missed to find me a place to stay and soon was in the middle of another heavy climb, first on pavement, then again on gravel and the night slowly rolled in. The best spot to camp i could find was a swampy field, but it fulfilled its purpose and the next morning saw my legs decorated with a little more mud than usual. Towards the top, the pavement reappeared for a last time and i could get a view of the road, that seemed like a river winding its way down into the valley. After that, the paramo took over with its unique vegetation and typical misty weather before i was spit out on the other side to better conditions at the “Lugana la cocha”. From there the last climb started before reaching Pasto after two and a half days of cycling. The next day was suprisingly hilly as well until i reached Ipiales, where i spent a nice night at the Hotel Belmont and had just a small distance ahead of me to get to the border with Ecuador. Waiting in the line to get my passport stamped i met Chris, who was into his last two weeks of cycling together with Carolina from Medellin.

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During the last days towards the border i almost felt reluctant to leave Colombia. But by then i had luckily received a lot of recommendations for Ecuador from friends and other travellers, which made the goodbye easier.

 

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locations people travel

Mocoa y el fin del mundo

After arriving in Mocoa, i just cycled the little distance out of town to the “Casa del rio” hostel, which seemed like a nice spot for a rest day. But instead of resting, i set out with Jesse from Canada, who was staying in the same dormitory. Goal for the day was the ‘fin del mundo’ waterfall. We started walking along the road, but soon got a ride with one of the ‘colectivos’ to the beginning of the trek. Later while returning, we found out that we managed to stay on the ‘right’ path for only twenty steps before we went off towards some other trail up the hill. Once there, the forest was gone, no waterfalls were to be seen and we had to admit we were thoroughly lost. Luckily there was a house nearby and we could ask for directions.

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The only living soul up there was a sturdy woman, which we could win over as a guide to another waterfall, the ‘ojo de dios’, after being convinced that we were nowhere near the ‘fin del mundo’. It was an adventurous path leading back to the stream, which we rather slid than walked down, as it was steep as a ladder. Once back at the water, we waved goodbye to our guide and made our way to the eye of god.

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Not too difficult to see why it was given that name, the waterfall, after an initial step, roars through a hole in the rockwall. We had a quick swim and then continued downstream in a last attempt to reach the goal we had, when we set out in the morning. Our guide had warned us that there was no path, and not being that impressed by our sense of direction, once we showed up at her doorstep, we would certainly get lost again. So we followed the stream as our new guide instead of some path. We had to cross the stream several times and not always could we find some stones or a fallen tree that we could use as a bridge. Our shoes slowly filled with water and we had several spiderwebs and parts of plants in our face and dangling from our hair when we finally reached a path. The one we would have come along if we wouldn’t have erred earlier. And after passing other pools and waterfalls we finally reached the cliff, from which the ‘fin del mundo’ waterfall roars down over seventy meters.

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And here another one with Jesse sitting on the edge.

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Taking the long way probably helped to appreciate it even more and there were no regrets. Taking another colectivo back towards the guesthouse, we were soon busy putting together a good dinner combining what food we had. Before breakfast the next morning, we watched the monkeys in the garden getting their share of bananas and still managing to look rather grim.

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Jesse set out that day to some retreat and myself would soon enter the road to Pasto.

 

 

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locations travel

Desierto de Tatacoa

The excitement was dimmed by increasing traffic after reaching the main road at Chiquinquira and, getting closer to Bogota, i began to doubt i chose a route far enough from the capital, as it felt as if i was passing through the industrial outskirts. But after half a day of sharing the road with lorries and cycling past boring concrete blocks, the downhill part made up for that, leaving trucks and most of the traffic behind. After a small stint on the panamericana, i took the turn-off to Pueblo Nuevo, from where a rail trail leads towards Villavieja at the entrance of the Desierto de Tatacoa. Here at one of the bridges and tunnels.

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I underestimated the distance and ended up cycling through the night over rocky dirt road, which was rather annoying at first, but once i got used to it, i enjoyed cycling underneath the star sprinkled sky until i reached Villavieja. After some shopping, i cycled into the desert and camped just off the road. While searching for a camp spot, green eyes lit up in the dark and once the light of the head lamp pointed in that direction, it revealed spiders and i saw several scorpions scuttle away, besides one, which found its way into my panniers during the night.

A short ride in the morning brought me to the end of the paved road, which terminates at the observatorio and the first view point over the part of the desert called “el cuzco”.

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The vegetation played along in prickly desert style,

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Until i reached the grey coloured version at “los hoyos”.

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There was supposed to be a swimming pool nearby. But as it was just too much fun to explore, i lost my way until, after managing to make a big loop through the area, i heard the noise of the engine, which is pumping the water towards the pool, and followed the waterpipes. There was no one else around and though the pool was less than half filled, it was a perfect break at the far end of the road into the desert.