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  • Writer's pictureJeremy Brown

Rainy Revelations: A Journey Through Colombian Mountains

A Journey through Colombian MountainsAuthor: Jeremy Brown Narrated: Craig Duggan

As we rumbled down the narrow dirt path toward civilization, the morning bustle of working donkeys and ambling cows greeted us, setting the stage for another day's adventure. Navigating the transition from rugged terrain to paved roads, we found ourselves at the doorstep of the local D1—a haven akin to vital fuel stops on our journey. Serendipitously, these twin oases of provision lay conveniently opposite each other, allowing us to replenish both our motorcycle's tank and our panniers with two precious bottles of VINO. This ritual, as customary as checking our toolkit and stocking extra water, underscored our understanding that, amidst the uncertainties of mountain travel, wine was a tangible marker of survival.

Leaving behind the sanctuary of our hostel, we embarked on the ascent, tracing the sinuous curves of the mountain road freshly paved in Colombian fashion. Lined with elegant homes, gated entrances, and lush gardens, the route seemed almost curated, punctuated by the occasional restaurant beckoning travelers. Yet, the ambiance was shrouded in a dense, moist cloak, the mist clinging to our visors as if reluctant to release its grip. As we climbed, the peaks of the mountains dissolved into ethereal veils of silver, while the once firm pavement yielded to the onslaught of rain, transforming into a torrential cascade.

Navigating the treacherous incline, the road morphed into a sinuous watercourse, challenging our balance and resolve. With each passing moment, the heavens unleashed their fury, the rain cascading in relentless torrents, obscuring the landscape in a veil of gray. Despite the dwindling visibility and the ever-intensifying deluge, we pressed onward, our journey unfolding in sync with the rhythm of the elements.

I found myself longing for the warmth of my coat, a prized find from Costco that conveniently folded into its own pouch. But Cartagena's sun-kissed shores had lulled Heather into forgetting hers, leaving me to surrender my own garment to shield her from the mounting chill. As the rain saturated every inch of fabric, I bore the brunt of the elements, navigating the treacherous terrain with a bone-deep dampness.

With each twist and turn of the muddy path, the warmth of the valley below dissipated, replaced by the biting cold of the mountain air descending with the rain. The mist descended like a veil, obscuring our surroundings until visibility was a mere memory. Yet, amidst the bleakness, a fleeting glimpse of azure sky emerged, offering a brief respite from the relentless downpour.

But as we descended into the embrace of the mountain valley, the sun's benevolent rays retreated, leaving us once again enveloped in a shroud of cold mist. The rain, now more insistent than ever, seemed determined to permeate every fiber, soaking us to the core. Even the resilient jungle foliage joined forces, its broad leaves unleashing torrents of water like natural super soakers, while my boots struggled for purchase on the slippery terrain beneath the weight of our laden bike.

Suddenly, as if relenting to our persistence, the rain dissipated, leaving in its wake a quagmire of mud. Undeterred, we forged ahead, navigating the undulating terrain with a mixture of trepidation and determination. Each rise and fall of the road, every twist and turn of the muddy path, presented its own set of challenges.

Whether grappling with the slippery mud or dodging rocks that threatened to send us careening off course, every moment demanded our full attention. As the road hugged the mountainside, alternating between stretches of precarious drops and solid ground, the absence of guardrails heightened our sense of vulnerability.

Despite its width, the road seemed to teeter on the edge of oblivion, a mere misstep away from a perilous plunge into the unseen depths below. With every passing mile, we treaded cautiously, acutely aware of the unforgiving consequences of a momentary lapse in focus.

Navigating the slippery terrain, we approached a descent that, under ordinary circumstances, would pose no challenge. My staunch advocacy for taking on any terrain with the classic motorcycle was put to the test, loaded down as we were with gear and navigating with the wrong tires. Yet, undeterred by the daunting incline, we geared down to first and leaned forward, our determination unwavering.

As we ascended, the motorcycle danced beneath us, slipping first to the right, then to the left, but we pressed onward. However, about a quarter of the way up, we encountered a seemingly innocuous mound—a natural obstacle that proved enough to halt our momentum. The front tire rolled over it with a jolt, followed by the rear, threatening to bring us to a standstill. Instinctively, I balanced the throttle and clutch, coaxing the bike forward.

But then, in a moment of folly, my freezing fingers failed me, causing the motorcycle to sputter and stall. Panic seized me as the bike began its descent, gravity pulling us inexorably backward. With Heather clinging to the back, I frantically tried to restart the engine, but it was too late.

In a heart-stopping sequence of events, the bike lurched backward, propelling us towards the precipice obscured by the dense jungle below. With no time to spare, I shouted for Heather to jump as I leaped clear, the motorcycle toppling gently onto its side as I tumbled down the hill, each step a desperate bid for stable ground.

When the chaos finally subsided, Heather emerged, mud-streaked and bruised, while I found myself at the bottom of the hill, shaken but thankfully unharmed. Together, we surveyed the scene—the motorcycle lying on its side, a silent testament to our ill-fated ascent.

After ensuring that we were both unharmed, our first instinct was to check on the well-being of the motorcycle. With concerted effort, we hoisted it back onto its tires, deploying the kickstand and coaxing it back to life with a reassuring purr as the engine roared to life at the push of a button. We shared a relieved laugh, momentarily buoyed by the resilience of our trusty steed.

However, our mirth was short-lived as we turned our attention to the now leaking pannier. Horror washed over us as we realized the potential damage to our precious cargo—OMG, the wine, and the laptop! Fortunately, we had the foresight to wrap the laptops in plastic bags, sparing them from the fate of the shattered bottle of white Sauvignon Blanc. Yet, the sweet aroma of the spilled wine permeated the air, a poignant reminder of our misfortune.

Here we sat, adorned with mud, our pride wounded and Heather nursing a minor knee bruise, while a pannier of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc bled its contents onto the unforgiving earth. Solitude enveloped us, the only witnesses to our misadventure the silent sentinels of the jungle.

This second attempt, though less calamitous than the first, still filled us with apprehension. Each skid sent our hearts racing, our breath held in a collective gasp until the bike regained its footing on the treacherous terrain. Yet, with careful precision, we pressed onward, navigating the perilous ascent with a newfound sense of caution.

As the rain beat down relentlessly, obscuring our vision and rendering my visor a fogged barrier to the outside world, I was forced to flip it up, exposing my face to the deluge. The raindrops, like relentless drumbeats, pounded against my skin, finding their way into every crevice of my helmet, transforming it into a sodden sponge. Yet, despite the discomfort, we persevered, driven by a singular determination to overcome the elements and emerge triumphant.

The road unfurled before us, a tapestry woven with the quaint charm of rural life. Small farmhouses nestled alongside the muddy thoroughfare, their porches serving as refuge for a menagerie of animals seeking shelter from the mountain storm. Amidst this pastoral scene, a solitary house stood perched on the mountainside—a splash of red and white against the backdrop of rusted tin roofs. Its front porch, dimly lit and sheltered by a low roof, doubled as a makeshift store, while motorcycles huddled nearby, weathering the tempest.

Drawing closer, we joined the eclectic gathering on the porch—a family of three, huddled over bowls of "soup," and another group, their motorcycles tethered to the railing, symbols of resilience in the face of adversity. Shaking off the rain, we took refuge under the eaves, the downpour cascading just inches from our shoulders. Our host, with a gesture of hospitality, offered us steaming cups of Cafe Tinto—black coffee, a welcome respite from the chill that had seeped into our bones. As I cradled the warm tin cup in my hands, its heat a balm against the cold, I savored each sip, feeling the warmth spread through me.

Curious about our progress, Heather inquired about the distance remaining in kilometers. The lady, with a shrug of her shoulders, confessed her unfamiliarity with kilometers, but with a simple gesture—her hand crossing the palm of her other hand—she conveyed the distance as "media," or half. Halfway, she proclaimed, this 2.5-hour mark into what we had presumed to be a 3-hour journey. The revelation left us stunned, our expectations upended by the harsh reality of our prolonged trek through the mountains.

We sat huddled together, seeking solace in the warmth of our cups of black coffee, yet the relentless rain showed no signs of abating. With a heavy heart, we knew we had to press on, bidding farewell to our gracious host who called out something in Spanish—a language I couldn't quite decipher, but Heather understood. In addition to offering us hot soup and more coffee, she also had a box of plastic rain suits for sale at a mere 8 mil pesos, about 2 USD. These flimsy garments, in their sheer garbage bag grey, promised a modicum of protection against the elements, with pants, a hoodie-style top, and boot covers adorned with reflective strips along the back.

Once clad in these makeshift raincoats, we felt a renewed sense of resilience as the plastic formed an impenetrable barrier against the rain, trapping the warmth of our bodies within. Though we were enveloped in a cocoon of humidity, at least we remained dry as we trudged through the muddy morass. For a fleeting moment, the plastic shields held back the deluge, and we surged forward with renewed determination, covering a distance of 3 kilometers unimpeded.

However, our triumph was short-lived as we encountered three working gentlemen amidst the muddy chaos, their efforts to grade the road further complicating our passage. With a small sign reading "alto" and a turned up fresh wet road lying ahead, our progress ground to a halt. As my boots sank into the soft mud, threatening to send me sprawling, I found refuge on a solitary rock buried beneath the surface, a precarious foothold.

With the Royal Enfield idling, we braced ourselves for the arduous journey ahead, the bike sliding and spinning in the wake of the giant yellow machine. I could only maintain its upright position by deftly balancing the throttle and clutch, allowing it to slip and slide within the tire tracks of the grader. With each precarious maneuver, we inched our way forward, the bike lurching first to the right, then to the left, a trail of mud trailing behind us.

As we crested the small hill and rounded the corner, I got sight in my side mirror of the workers pumping their fists in a gesture of encouragement spurred us on. In that moment, a rush of accomplishment washed over us, filling the void left by our earlier sense of failure. And so, with renewed determination, we continued our journey into the unknown, our spirits buoyed by the promise of redemption that lay ahead.

To be continued.....

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