There Are No Shortcuts

After four days of turning the pedals in the heat of the lowlands I have made it to a decision point. Which route to take? Before me were the foothills of the Andes. Mountains that offered so much needed freshness in a form of more bearable temperatures. But first I have to earn it! The hills needed to be climbed.
I was faced with two options. The main road, more direct with good tarmac but also with a very serious climb. In less than 40 kilometres you ascend from just over 100 meters above sea level to more than 2.200 metres. Just the thought of the climb was tough enough.
There is also another route. A side road that is a bit longer but the climb is gentler. It does not even pass the 2.000 metres mark and it stretches over 80 kilometres. A distance almost twice as long as the one on the main road.
Since I’m not what you would call an enthusiast for climbing, the decision was obvious. The side road was far more tempting. Despite the additional kilometres I’m make it to Medellin about a day earlier than if I was to take the main road. A kind of a shortcut one might say.
On the first day a nice tarmac road takes me to the beginning of the climb. I spend the night in a tent set up under a roof on a farm. In the local norm of daily showers an additional roof over my head is always welcomed. And that night it rained.
The next day after about 10 kilometres the road conditions changed dramatically. Good tarmac was replaced by rough gravel/rocky road. A mix of rough rocks, mud, puddles and an occasional stream crossing the road. My progress slows down, a lot. Most of the time it is completely irrelevant whether the road goes up, down or it’s flat. Uphills are slow and require effort, a lot of effort. Downhills are hard since I have to break all the time. I cannot afford to be too fast. I never know when I will while breaking at a too high speed slid, lose my balance and find myself face first in a puddle whit a bit of luck only badly scratched. Flat areas are a story all to themselves. Given the road surface I have to be maximally concentrated and in search of the most optimal route. The kind that will not drain too much of my energy (I will need it more for the inevitable climb that lays ahead) and will get me through shaken as little as possible. My average seed drops to 5 km/h.
Gravel/rocky road takes me two days to make the 80 kilometres and the “shortcut” all of a sudden ceases to be what I expected to be when I was just thinking about it. Reality is normally different from our thoughts and expectations. As if I was getting some sort of a message. A gentler climate and the ascend into the mountains has its price, its tax. And this has to be “paid” regardless of the route you take. As it is in Life, every experience has its price and the payment of it is a necessary part of the experience itself. It’s a part that gives value to the experience. It enriches it!

Currently I’m enjoying the fruits of my labour in a sanctuary for a weary cyclist. In Casa de Ciclistas Medellin. For the first time since I left Guatemala I had to unpack my jacket and my sleeping bag.

With a Smile on my face, until next time!
Simon

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