Every morning before we head out to our next destination, we check our day's route on Google Maps. Then we corroborate it on our GPSs. We have two of them loaded with two different map providers, so we can cross-check our routes with each other when they don't match up. You'd think with all these checks and balances, we'd have very little problems with navigation. That is, if we'd bother to do any of the above...
Following our GPSs east
We've gotten very complacent with our GPSs. Cali south-east to La Plata seemed pretty straightfoward. A quick glance at Google Maps confirmed 180 kms on secondary roads. Okay, 180 kms, we can leave a bit later in the day then. Heading out of Cali was a bit hectic, but we soon shed the heat and the traffic and were out on the main highway heading south and all seemed well.
The main road eastwards starts at Popayan. Unfortunately, one of our GPS had calculated a "short-cut" before we hit Popayan and the other GPS didn't even have any roads east of the city! If we had bothered to check our route beforehand we would have noticed all these discrepancies...
Nice shortcut! Enjoying the twists and turns in the road.
The road started out great! Colombian roads have really surprised us after the very mixed bag in Central America. As a secondary road, the pavement was smooth and twisty and as far as my GPS was showing, the path wound its way around the hills like this all the way to La Plata. Sweet!
GPS doesn't actually show you what the road conditions look like...
As we rode further east, the pavement got a bit patchier. Nothing too alarming, or anything to indicate that we should turn back and seek another way. It also started raining a bit. We've discovered that our Heidenau K60 tires don't do really well on wet pavement, as Neda has had her rear tire step out a few times under acceleration. So our pace slows down to a cautious gallop.
Past the town of Totoro, the pavement disappears. It becomes a gravel road that's soaked by the constant rain coming down on our helmets. We do a little conference call in our helmets: Do we turn back? We're over 20 kms into this road, GPS is saying another 80 kms... Decisions, decisions. It's only wet gravel, so we decide to forge ahead.
Next come the potholes. Little ones at first, then they grow larger - large enough to swallow the bottom thirds of our wheels. You know when the road is so bumpy, your tits start to hurt? And I don't even have tits! We slow down even further to a crawl, picking a good line to avoid the holes in the road. We pass through areas of construction where the road is either being built or repaired. By now the rain is pelting down full bore and the potholes are becoming tiny lakes. At this point, we've ridden too far into the road to turn back. Surely there can't be anything worse ahead...
It got worse.
We must be at a fairly high elevation as the fog has become so thick we can't see 50m ahead of us. The rain has turned the road to muck and while we were riding through a fairly large construction site, RIVERS of dirty mud run sideways across what used to be the road. I watch Neda negotiate this "river crossing" and wait till she's safely on the other side to proceed. On my turn, the mud has pushed my line into a deep pothole and when I come out the other side, my front wheel hits the far edge wrong and gets deflected sideways. I lose all momentum and the bike is leaning precariously to the left, so I put a foot down to dab myself back up so I can throttle out. But all my foot touches is air.
With no momentum and the bike falling Oh. SO... SLOWLY.... past the point of no saving, all I can do is resign myself to watching the mud on my left get closer and closer. It seems to take a lifetime. I have all the time in the world to hop off the bike as it *sploooshes* down, drenching me in wet mud even though I try to distance myself from the timbered Bavarian lumber.
I tap on my communicator, "Um..."
Neda replies, "Really?! Seriously!?!?"
Thankfully, a construction guy has seen my clownish attempt at the mud river crossing and he comes over to help pick up my bike, so I call off Neda's assistance over the radio. With a mumbled "Gracias", I thank the guy as he shook his head and wondered what the hell we were both doing out here...
I called out to him and asked him how much further the mud went on for. He replied, "5 kms".
Quick calculation in my head: we can't be crawling more than 10 km/h so maybe another half-hour of this? Doable? I guess. Enjoyable? Ah... no.
Further on down the road, I come across this...
So, a couple of things about this particular off: 1) Neda is pissed. But not because the bike is down, but over the communicator I hear, "But I just washed it!!!!" She's angry because her bike is dirty. Yep. 2) She tells me that she didn't go down because of the mud, but because there was a fly on her nose and when she went to swat it off, she didn't notice the rock next to her on the right side of the picture. So while she was dealing with the fly, her right pannier hit the rock and knocked her bike around and then down.
"*$#%^&*!!! I JUST WASHED IT!!!!!"
If my bike could talk, it would be saying to Neda's bike, "LOL, you fell too..."
Now I know my Spanish is bad, but when I asked the construction guy how much further the mud went, there's absolutely no mistaking "cinco kilometres" with "quince kilometres"... But the mud did indeed stretch on for more than 5 kms. An additional 10 more, in fact. When our tires did finally hit wet gravel instead of thick, goopey mud, we stopped to survey the aftermath...
Damn you, you dirty GPS!
Might need another bath..
...and a new rear mud deflector...
Part of the reason why we stopped was that I heard a weird dragging sound underneath my seat. Thankfully we were going so slow, because when we pulled over, I found my rear mud flap had dislodged from all the mud that was collecting between it and the rear wheel, and it had ripped right off and found a new home right below the subframe.
I did some research later on and found out that this is common problem with the R1200GS and mud, and many people just go flapless. It's a good thing Neda leads most of the time, or I'd be constantly roosting her with all this bad weather we've been riding through.
It's kind of funny now that we've ridden through stretches of slippery mud, we're flying over the wet, potholed gravel roads, like it's nothing. Even my tits feel good. It's taken us over twice as long as we thought we'd needed for the day, but if the road stayed like this, we might make it to La Plata before sunset.
Or maybe not... Another obstacle.
This truck was towing a construction vehicle around a tight hairpin. The trailer was too long and couldn't make it around the turn without
touching the concrete guardrail. And by touching it, I mean absolutely destroying it! Pieces of the guardrail were falling into the valley below. And the funniest thing was the guy on the right was pouring motor oil on the guardrail to help lubricate the trailer's progress. Check out the picture above: a sledgehammer is going to help more than any lubricant will! :)
It took about 45 minutes for the truck to get far enough so our bikes could squeeze past him. As we rode by him, we noticed there was another turn just as tight right after this bend, but we didn't stick around to see how well he negotiated the next one! Too scared that guy would hit us up for our motor oil... LOiL!
Another break to check out the awesome scenery!
A bit of company on the road
We pulled into La Plata just as the sun was going down for the evening. It wasn't long before we found a cheap but nice hotel right downtown and while we were busy unloading the bikes and checking in, Andrea the receptionist really wanted to get a picture with me. Not too sure why. I was covered head to toe in mud, stinking of sweat, rain and exhaust... I'm guessing they don't see a lot of Asian people in La Plata. So when she put up the bunny ears for the photo, I followed her lead - I'm not really that kind of Asian, but I tried to do my best Kawaii imitation for her. Forgot to wink though...
Another tldr video... Special thanks to Spyhunter.