The Troll Boys left the delightful generosity of their friends in Pasto, and headed toward the next checkpoint of their journey through Colombia, the white city of Popayan.
Thus far on our trip through Ecuador and Colombia, we have biked exclusively through the mountains. While this has hampered our progress significantly, it has been wonderful strength-training while having the additional benefit of a cool climate without insects. However, our stretch of biking from Pasto to Popayan in the south of Colombia included our initial days of lower altitude, and the curse of heat and bugs! Our earliest day of biking out of Pasto saw us passing by gigantic mountains as we flew downhill.
We even hit our first tunnels of the trip, which are always an interesting experience. Lit tunnels are always fun, but more often it seems that it is completely dark except for the light at the end of the tunnel (not in the metaphorical sense thankfully).
Bike touring tip #9: Take off your sunglasses while traveling through a dark tunnel.
The heat became unbearable in the afternoon, and we decided to stop to refill our empty water bottles as well as a wallow break in a stream under a bridge. We laid around in the cool water to bring our body temperatures back down, and then continued for another hour and a half before making camp. The campsite was so hot that we took off most of our clothes to cool down, and admired our terrible tan-lines.
We rose early to bike on the next day to avoid as much of the heat as we could, but by the afternoon, the inevitable sweltering sun hit us hard. Luckily, we discovered a poolside paradise that offered camping for very cheap, and we lounged around the rest of the day, swimming, and enjoying cold beer.
On our final day to Popayan, we appreciated a cool morning, which quickly turned into rain as we climbed once more to over 5,000 ft on extremely steep gradients.
The city of Popayan is well-known for the colonial architecture around the city center, all of which is painted the exact same shade of white. Upon our arrival, we were surprised by the beautiful downtown area, and sat for a while in the park to enjoy some people-watching.
The next day, our planned rest day, included a bit of sight-seeing and copious amounts of surfing the Internet while lying in bed.
Unfortunately, it was about at this time that our group experienced some of the first tensions of our trip. Bike touring is an activity designed to strain the bonds of friendship. Excessive exercise, a constant craving for food and sleep, and being forced to be around the same two people for over 14 hours every day can lead to exacerbation over the smallest of things. The Troll Boys ended up sitting around and diffusing all tensions through extensive discussion and affirmations of each other. Thus, a new rule was born: We would not leave a town where we were resting until we were having fun with each other all the time again. And so, we stayed another day for further rest and recovery, which included a lot of reading.
Bike touring tip #10: Strenghtening your relationships is more important than anything.
The third day, the Troll Boys were planning on leaving for Cali, but Ryson fell ill, and so one more day of rest was added to schedule. Cody was blowing through book after book, and had to shop for new ones amongst the few English-book sellers that he could find (bonus points for identifying which good-looking man is Cody).
Bike touring tip #11: Be willing to change the schedule for the occasional sickness that will rampage through your touring group.
Luckily, no one else got sick, and after a few last pictures of Popayan, the boys headed north once more for the large city of Cali.