Finally leaving the main roads traveled by trucks was an absolute blessing, and a huge relief from nervous energy I didn’t even know I was holding (Look in the routes section to read more about the roads between Giron and San Gil).
After leaving Giron we dropped nearly 2000 feet into a valley. The decent was exciting, provided some amazing views, and eventually lead to a beautiful river.
It was too late to try to make the climb out to reach Zapatoca, so we decided to stay at the bridge. While at the bridge, we were having a beer, when Diana and Raul approached us. They were studying bats at a nearby cavern, and they wanted us to come join. After some deliberation we decided to go to the caverns. When we arrived they were setting up nets to catch bats. They caught 10 bats or so while we watched and many “night birds”. I got to hold the bats and the birds which was a very cool experience; I must say that I am partial to the birds.
We hung out for a few hours talking, I was getting hungry, so I went to grab the food I bought earlier in the day. Among the food was a 2 day old empenada filled with chicken. I decided to go for it…. bad decision (possibly it was the water, but I don’t think so). When my stomach started hurting, I decided to say goodbye to Diana and Raul and head back to the tent. After sleeping for only a couple of hours my stomach was feeling very strange. I tried to shake it off, no luck.
I got up out of the tent for a minute of fresh air. Quickly I knew stuff was going to come out of me, I just didn’t know which hole was going to come first. I started sweating and frantically paced between the the tent (going for toilet paper) and the nearby trees (to throw up). It turned out the vomiting would come first. After nearly 30 minutes of vomiting, I began the second part of the expunging.
Finally I was able to sleep for a few hours before more vomiting. In the morning I let Leah know what was happening. We were expected to meet Armando in Zapatoca this day; we had no way to call him, so I told Leah she should go and meet him, and I would catch up when I could.
I spent the day in the tent. Sleeping intermittently and watching 1000s of worms climb all over my tent during the times I couldn’t sleep. I made the mistake of setting up under a mango tree where hundreds of thousands of inch worms were making their way into the nearby trees, eating the leaves, and then falling from the trees to start their ascent again. It sounded like it was raining endlessly, both leaf particles and worms. Watching these worms didn’t help my stomach, especially when I started squishing some of them while rolling around in my tent.
More or less the vomiting had stopped by 4, so I decided to try, queasily, to pack my things up and make it to the bridge 3 km away. The worms climbed anything they touched; my tent, my bike, my bags, thousands and thousands of them. It was a sight to see, but incredibly frustrating while trying to pack. I was exhausted simply from trying to get up and move. I decided to pump (clean) some water in a nearby stream. Close to the stream there was a family who had arrived that morning for a huge family gathering. I was hungry, and had no food, so I asked them for some food. I asked for a little bit of soup; instead I got a huge bowl of soup filled with various meats, and two huge chicken thighs and several potatoes. There was no way I could eat this with my stomachs current condition, but I decided I needed to try. I had substituted the worms now for thousands and thousands and thousands of flys.
This did not help my appetite. I ate with the men of the family; they had been drinking all day, and decided it would be a good time to teach me about how to pick up Colombian women. The gave me plenty of graphic details that had everyone laughing. At some point I gave up on eating, though I ate nearly everything except for the potatoes. I said my goodbyes and thank yous, and headed for the bridge.
When I arrived at the bridge I was feeling queasy again, but I set up my sleeping mat, and sleeping bag and settled in. Within an hour I was throwing up everything I had ate a couple of hours eariler. During the process of throwing up, I heard a girl coming up behind me, speaking in English she asked if I was okay. This was no time to talk, but I did the best I could. Wiping my mouth, I tried not to speak in her direction, which made things a bit awkward.
Her English was great, and she wanted to practice. She heard from her mother (who I had talked to earlier) that I was sick, so she also wanted to come check on me. I let her know that I was throwing up as she arrived to talk to me, she wasn’t aware, we both laughed. She invited me to her house to sleep, but I told her that I would be okay here. She invited me to breakfast in the morning, which I accepted.
Breakfast was wonderful, I watched cartoons with my friend’s niece. I was looking and feeling better, so I made the decision to try the daunting climb. I felt really weak in the morning but got stronger with the day.
I ran into other bikers who all needed a photo with me.
..and a construction engineer who wanted to share some coffee with me for the climb.
The climb was magnificent.
I had an amazing few hours during the heat of the day with 3 construction workers, building a new bathroom for a school. They helped me buy fruit from the farmer next door, allowed me to fill my water, shared their lemonade, I shared my fruit, we played a game called bolo in the school yard, and finally I said my good byes.
By this time I was feeling fine, and I continued the slow climb with realative ease. Finally arriving to the outskirts of Zapatoca for a beautiful meal in a tranquil setting. This meal was the most refreshing and delicate I had experienced on the trip thus far, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I was happy again.