The King of Spain, Queen Elizabeth II of England, and President Obama have dined from, or received as a gift, the hand-painted pottery of the village, Carmen de Bivoral. So why shouldn't our first sag stop of the day be at the factory where it's made? We clip-clopped through the small factory in our bike shoes, enjoying a bowl of fruit and granola that Marcéla and Denise prepared for us... Denise has taken on a new role as soigneur due to a saddle-sore setback. Since she's not crushing everyone on the climbs, she's crushing it in her new support role. Denise doesn't do anything halfway. I'm lucky to have her as a travel buddy, friend and support system both here and back home. Rare bird (in a great way).
After our first rest stop and shopping excursion, we were bound for a big rock: la Piedra del Peñol, located in/near Guatapé. We rode rollers, and I worked hard to stay on the wheels of Tomás and "New York." By the time the big rock came into view, I could barely lift my head. I think I said, "Wow." Climbing the 659 stairs to the top was out of the question -- at least for today. Those views will have to wait until next time. My dogs...
Of course, the final mile-and-a-half was unpaved, very rocky, very steep, dirt road. I summoned my new favorite phrase that I've been using since last July, when, at the end of a long day in France and at the base of our third climb of the day, Col du Galibier, we looked up at what seemed an impossible feat. My friend, Ross (Denise's husband) stated in relenting resolve, partly to encourage but partly to commiserate in the acceptance of our fate, "Ain't nothin' to it but to do it."
I gripped my handlebars and sat heavy in my seat, pedaling steadily to avoid spinning out on the steeps; and I relaxed and floated through loose-cobbled, rutted madness on the descents while Denise cheered me from the support car. It began to rain and a huge gate opened signaling we were close, but not before another climb, the steepest section yet. Of course.
We made it! And received a boat ride + Colombian beer as a prize. That'll do.
On the lake, we glided by the former discotheque owned by Escobar, just a stone's throw from Escobar's lake house, now in ruins. The one-time caretaker of Escobar's lake-front property, who currently lives in the old discotheque (and now operates a bar there), is fighting with the Colombian government for ownership of the property. We were all curious to visit this bar and hear stories... although the thought of setting foot in a place such as this gave me an unsettled feeling.
Maybe the cross rising up out of the lake should have washed away the eerieness--It was beautiful against the evening sky, even if the steel structure was cold. It serves as a memorial to a town, El Peñol, that was buried by the creation of the reservoir built in the mid-1970's, held by one of the highest dams in the world, located at over 6,561 feet above sea level.
If the cross didn't do the trick, by now, food was on the brain. Lo and behold, our evening meal was being prepared for us when we arrived back at our hotel that overlooked the lake below. Comforted. For now.