Cali to Pasto

The track
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In the days leading up to my leaving Cali the unrest in Colombia had been gradually worsening. The trouble in Caucasia a few weeks ago turned out to be advance warning for what loomed ahead. There was enough talk of roads becoming unsafe that the day before I left Cali I went to talk to Mike at Motolombia about it. He gave me the number of the Policia del Turismo. The morning I left they said the road to Pasto was open and safe but beyond that, the road to the equador border was unsafe and maybe due for closure by the protestors.

If you have any interesting in following what has become the biggest crisis in Colombia in 20 years, here’s an english language daily jourrnal:

colombia report

Anyway I set off in beautiful weather.

The fast road to the border is the PanAm and for the first hour or more it’s a major highway. Being a beautiful Sunday morning, the cyclists were out. They were fast and cool looking, as peletons (if that’s the correct usage) usually are. Video to the left.

At check point things or toll roads in Colombia moto’s get a special lane and shoot through to the right with no stops. They’re quite fun in a juvenile way. A friend of mine, a good rider, actually managed to crash in one of these (you know who you are). Video to the left

An hour or so down the highway I come up behind a young couple on an 800GS. They’re Ben and Maddie from Pittsburg, headed for Ushuaia. We chat for a while and agree to meet in Pasto, all of us ignorant of what we were headed into the following day. A helmet shot, stupidly. A better picture in a following post
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The road turned rural at about the point we went through this town. It would turn epic later
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Since this is a video kind of day, to the left is a ride through a typical Colombian town in this neighbourhood. This one was particularly nice.

Another river/village shot
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Lunch stop
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Then we came to a pretty river with a horse and her foal
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I rode down to the water because it looked fresh and clean. Most of the rivers on the Pacific side of some Central American countries are completely dead since they double as garbage dumps so Colombia has been a nice change
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Down at the river’s edge there were beautiful butterflies on the mud bank. Orange
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Red
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Blue
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Yellow
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Then a man came down with his grandsons (guessing) for a swim and the butterflies lifted off the mud and flew around us. Video to the left
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The river looked perfect for a swim and if they had left I would have followed their example and jumped in. A great day for it.

Soon the landscape turned into that Colombian brand of magic
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Passed through small towns
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The mountains started to get larger
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The roads sometimes lousier
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I’m not sure how to guage the military presense on the road. It was more intense during the Caucasia blockade. Soldiers along the roads frequently, small camps of 10 or less here and there, and two small towns looked loosely occupied.  Video to the left.

The soldiers themselves varied from relaxed and chatty to focused (in the two villages). The ones I spoke to seemed to think the road would stay open, no more problems in the days ahead. That would turn out to be very wrong.

The countryside got rapidly drier. This wide river seemed to be a turning point
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Looking downstream at villagers swimming
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Then an extraordinary sight. A wave of cloud hugged the the mountain range to the west
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And one with the cloud wave and Lucinda
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Before the canyon started in earnest a gas stop. Army guys do the pose
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A half dozen of them had a small base hidden in the woods
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There had been a firewall here earlier. We would get aquainted with these a day later
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Then we were into a huge wide canyon, miles across and very high. For once my little camera struggles to convey the size of it
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A huge river valley
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The road turned into a cut
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That was spectacular riding in places
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More views
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A view of the road ahead
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Rock in the road
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Through a tunnel
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A great bridge
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A dirt road to a farm on the other side
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Then it gradually became lush and the temperature dropped as we descended slightly
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Into Pasto
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We had no idea the roads were closing aroud us. The next morning we were trapped.

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