On all the pictures of Trampolin de la Muerte we’ve seen , it’s misty or it’s raining. When we were leaving San Augustin, we met a group of cycle tourists who mentioned it was incredibly rainy on Trampolin de la Muerte. Well, we’ve got Goretex, at least it’s not gonna stay unused, as one member of Tom’s family says.
Which gear will you need for this kind of journey?
Trampolin de la Muerte is on route between Mocoa and Pasto. It’s about 65 km long rocky road that will lead you over two summits up to 2800 m asl. The road is peppered by many crosses and the signs warning against narrow road and landslides. At certain points there’s only room for one car and the drivers can only pray there won’t be truck coming from behind the corner. For its first section from Mocoa 270 degree switchbacks are typical. There are many streams and waterfalls around the road, that change to rivers after the rains and we were told this is how most victims die. They underestimate the power of the river and it’ll wash them down.
We started our journey towards Trampolin de la Muerte from the new Casa del Ciclista, 18 kilometres before Mocoa. Ferney and hs dog Jager have finished their 3 year journey around Colombia on bicycle and Ferney started building hostel and Casa del Ciclista. We spent here great evening and were quite sad we had to leave quickly but we’re running out of time on our visas.
How to sleep for free as a cycle tourist
In the main city of Putumayo department – Mocoa, we stop for lunch and grocery shopping for us and dogs. In the afternoon, on the way from Mocoa, we’re surprisingly hit by the rain. We were quite hot while climbing so we left our waterproofs in the panniers for some time. With the thunders not so far way we call it a day in La Suisa – settlement of 5 houses. The locals let us sleep on their veranda, classically we were treated to hot tinto and chontaduro – palm fruit that tastes like potato. It was pouring down all night. While I was cooking coffee and porridge in the morning, Tom repaired my flat on the rear wheel. Señora, about 70-year old Columbian grandma, brought us tinto and tacacho – something like mashed potatoes with onions but made from green plantains. Still raining. We gave up waiting, put on raingear and started saying goodbye. One of them didn’t want us to leave because there’s apparently a river crossing that causes problems to cars even, when it’s raining. The most common cause of death is being washed down by the river. We weren’t so brave anymore.
At the end we decided to leave. There were supposedto be restaurants on the way where we can wait in case the river is impassable. After maybe 500 metres Tom yelled the words that can’t be published here. Another flat! And on that same wheel. We returned back under the roof of La Suisa repaired it. New speed record, perfect team work. We took out a tiny wire from the tire that got there from a damaged tire of a large truck. There’s plenty of them on the highways. A toll for our few days there. Attempt number two to leave. This time the wheel lasted maybe even kilometre when it started to obviously soften.
We looked at each other. Is somebody trying to tell us something? Is somebody trying to delay us for a reason? By the road huge streams of water were flowing, there’s quite a high probability of a fresh landslide. The rain was not stopping at all. We stopped by a little tienda (shop) where they again didn’t have any food, only crap like soft drinks, crisps and sweets. We wanted to buy emergency rice as we could see we were not getting anywhere that day. They had at least a roof where we could repair the third puncture of the day. The problem with those tiny wires is that if they obviously don’t stick out of the tire, it’s quite hard to find them and they cause puncture when you put some weight on the wheel. It was around lunchtime when we finished with the third repair.
We arrived to the river. It didn’t look to dangerous, only its last part was deeper. We changed to sandals and waided through with the bikes and then carried the trailer. Following the river crossing we wanted to sit on the bikes again and continue this sad pedalling in the fog and rain when a car stopped. Luis offered us a ride. We’ve never planned to sit in the car on Trampolin de la Muerte as it’s much safer on the bike. But we lost so much time and it was so miserable that we accepted. 5 kilometres below the summit we asked him to stop. The fog started to clear, even though for some moments only. Trampolin de la Muerte is really a photogenic road. Finally we crawled up to the top where the military check point was awaiting but the boys only wanted to chat about our journey. In addition, they had arepas (Colombian corn tortillas) and tinto and about 7 dogs who initially barked at Phoebe and Lolo but then realised those aliens with orange harnesses were the same kind as themselves.
From the first summit we descended a bit and in the new valley new conditions ruled. The fog was impenetrable and it started to drizzle. Few river crossings that were easy to pass. The map was showing few restaurants on the way so we were relatively chilled about our night spot. Trampolin doesn’t come with many options where to camp as there are steep cliffs everywhere and right by the road is probably not too wise. In the first restaurant Los Cristales they came up with camping offer on their own. We gladly accepted.
At night it again rained and rained so much, we couldn’t understand it’s actually possible to have rain of this intensity for so long. In the morning it didn’t stop. We started packing when the owner of the restaurant came to tell us there were two landslides in both directions and the road is impassable. We realised at that moment we hadn’t seen any cars that morning. Suddenly we could hear an engine.
“Run, it’s a motorbike!”
Motorcyclist informed Tom that they passed on the motorbike but the cars couldn’t. We should be able to pass too.
We packed the rest and in cats and dogs type of rain we pushed our way through. May the Goretex be with us! We descended a bit more to the river and then 20 km climb started. All the time nerves on the edge when we hear rumbling sound and then the landslide happens. Really uncomfortable feeling when you can’t see properly. Around Trampolin there’s incredible amount of waterfalls, small and large, which is non-surprising taking into account the rainfall. At one of those we meet a French cyclist who was carrying an electric piano :). Never mind, we all are crazy in our own ways.
Kilometres are passing unbelievably slowly. They let the traffic pass from both directions now and we have to stop every now and then to let the trucks and buses pass as we won’t fit on the road next to each other. Fog is milk like, we can’t see anything. The glasses are covered in water drops, we have to wipe them every few minutes. Hands are numb, I can feel the jacket sticking to the wet T-shrirt. Coldness that pierces us when we stop for a bit, is chilly to the bones. In the shoes we’ve got lakes despite the neoprene shoe protectors. Teeth rattling. The restaurants promised by the map, are non-existent. The summit is in 2800 metres and then the freezing downhill to San Francisco. Most likely we’ll sacrifice our lives here today.
A pick-up is passing by. I spontaneously wave and he stops. The driver is not sure if he can fit us all in the back but there’s supposed to be unloaded truck coming. He even waited ith us to make sure we had a ride. The truck is transporting wood but we can sit on it. The craziest ride begins. We are holding onto the trailer to prevent it from dancing all around, we are holding onto each other. From time to time we jump and fall back down on the wooden planks. This is the fee for laziness and flee from the rain. Thankfully the car’s back is covered by a big sheet, otherwise this ride would have been even more scary. Alberto and his wife Aura took us into their house.
This is officially the end of Trampolin de la Muerte. If you were so “lucky” as us, fun doesn’t stop here. On the way to Pasto two landslides that closed the road made us wait for a while.
Trampolin de la Muerte is worth it but it’s not easy at all. Apart from the elevation profile the nature will challenge you. It’s not interested how many days left you’ve got on your visa. It could send you some landslides in the way, pour buckets of water on your head and freeze you with cold wind. SO just one advice. Take plenty of food, you never know how long you’lle fight her.
More tips about other Colombian routes HERE