Bajada de La Muerte

Without a doubt the most adrenaline ever pushed through my body. In just a little over 6 miles, the road bends over Loma de Coyas and drops down to the river valley a full 5,000 feet below. At least a hundred hair bend turns along a narrow ridge. Every second requires an intense amount of focus with a full grip on the handlebars. The voice inside your head fully converts into pilot captain, “Right leg down, put pressure and lean into the turn, then cycle the pedals and put the handlebars as close as you can to the inside line.”

My body became fully in tune with everything in front of me. Drop down ridge on the left with a slight glimpse of the river that lies a thousand meters directly below. But–no time to think–literally every ounce of sweat is put in to directing yourself around the bend and into the correct positioning for the next turn.

On some sections, the bumps could be devastating. A centimeter to te left means a crash. There was one steep 180-degree turn I approached rapidly. As usual, I arched toward the yellow lines in the road’s center, creating the best angle to lean into the right-hand bend. As I cut hard around the corner, the end of the turn revealed a pot hole the size of the kitchen table, smack in the middle of the right lane. With all my body weight and the seventy kilogram bicycle on an edge, heading straight toward it at 30 mph. In a split second, with adrenaline racing, I took a half rotation pedal to shift my weight. Front tire misses by a centimeter. But the time until my back tire passed was an eternity within an instant. I thought for sure my rear wheel, with a larger turning radius as a result of the weight, would directly hit the edge of the pothole. I mentally prepared myself for the possibility of the back tire snapping and to be skidding to a halt. It must have been the wind or some grace of the mountain to make it around the bend. I screamed at the top of my lungs, “Yeeewwww!!!!” to the shock of motorcyclists heading uphill.

I still had a lot more exciting turns to go! Each one a thrill combining with the one before. I put myself to the limits of each turn, having no idea whether the bend would straighten out, hug tighter into a hairpin, or bend back the other way as the road ribbons along the ridge. It takes humility to give yourself completely to the mountain. I was at the mercy of the steepness of the valley’s grade as well as the sharpness of each turn. I was propelled by the gravity of these towering mountains. I merely reacted to how it was pushing me.

It made me realize how powerful this mountain range really is. For just like the speed of a kayak is a result of the river’s force, me as a cyclist is a resulting component of the inclination, viscosity and direction of the land. My movements downhill felt like a dance; merely moving left and right, lead by the rhythmic beat of the road. A motor allows one to brake and go as they wish, merely transporting over the road, not with it. A cyclist flying down a hill creates no propulsion, and like a snowboarder or skier, uses entirely what the mountain provides. In this dance with the mountain, one must know their limits with respect to the power of the terrain. When reacting in harmony, the dance is a smooth glide over the subtle movements of the landscape. The dancer, whether it be a skier over snow or a cyclist down a hill, humbly embraces each turn and matches the force of the mountain. The road into Santa Fe, known as Bajada de la Muerte, or downhill of death, allowed me to understand this sensation. Thank you adrenaline and pure luck for giving me the chance to dance with this Colombian mountain range, and emerge humbled and stoked, with a new respect for what nature’s power can do!

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