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THE UNKNOWN ROAD

TOTAL KM RUN TO DATE = 14,634KM / 9,093 MILES FOR 336 ROAD DAYS.

PLEASE SEE MY OVERALL ROUTE MAP ON THE ROUTE PAGE.

FOR INFORMATION ON COLOMBIA PRESS > HERE

At last I made it to my start location in Colombia! I had always known where I wanted that to be a small place called Pueblo Nuevo, just 25km north of Necocoli in northern Colombia. Pueblo Nuevo is on the Caribbean coast as can be seen on a Google map at the end of a road marked ‘ Unknown Road. ‘ The locals tell me a bus leaves town at 7am. Well it’s not really a bus, it’s a converted truck! It’s packed out, I am so excited. I am on the way to the start of continent number two! So we head east instead of north and past the cemetery as my research had told me. I scratch my head, then shake it. Everyone on the bus tells me ” Si Senor, Pueblo Nuevo ” They tell me we are indeed going there. We bump along the narrow potholed road picking up very young school children dressed in their white pristine uniforms.

BUMPING ALONG THE POTHOLED TRACK TO PUEBLO NUEVO

 They stare and smile right up to my face and laugh, pointing out the gringo. It takes over an hour to get to my destination. On the way I see some of the most bizarre sights. People on the roofs of pickup trucks with re-enforced roof racks, they are taxis..

 Paula who works as a nurse at the medical centre is horrified that I want to run from here! ” But Paula where is the playa, yes the sea? ”

“There is no coast here! Only mountains! ” She tells me. Eventually I realize there are indeed two Puebla Nuevo’s! ” But you can’t run from here Tony,” she pleads with me. ” Why Not? ” I am thinking of ‘ pulling the plug ‘ and heading for my Puebla Nuevo, which I later figured was the name of a bay or inlet that I just took off Google Maps. Besides it really doesn’t matter where I start as long as it is north of where I finished in North America, a place called Yaviza, Panama. Really I am going to far too much trouble as I could easily have started just north of Turbo two days down the road, two needless days of extra running just to say I am not advancing from North to South America by unfair mechanical means. Yes just north of Turbo would have been perfect and I would still be north of my finishing point in North America, but as usual I choose to do things the hard way, two extra hot days running for crying out loud! Paula asks what am I going to do.

 ”Run from here Paula. ” ” But it’s too dangerous, there are a lot of crazies here! ”

 ” But I have run every meter from Merrion Square North and I ain’t gonna stop now!” I protest. ” What about a police escort? ” I ask. ” We got no police here, it’s too dangerous for them! ”

” Tony whatever do you do don’t take any photos, they don’t like that! ”

 ” So what do you say? ”

 ” Oh! My Jasus! ” I said.

 ” Well you better run fast!

 ” Luis here on his motorbike can escort you, it will cost 4,000 pesos about two dollars.”

Paula, Luis on his motorbike and another Luis

 Writing this blog a few days later and having witnessed how the Colombian government have responded to crime by heavily patrolling the highways with police and military checkpoints at the beginning and exit to almost every little town, I really cannot believe they would be afraid to enter this area. . That morning I only witnessed nice people waving and giving me the usual friendly welcomes. I wonder how much of this was an exaggeration, I will never know, I have run on and like most places I tramp through, never to return.

MY OFFICIAL START LOCATION IN SOUTH AMERICA, PUEBLA NUEVO,COLOMBIA

Luis followed behind me for only about 3km stopping many times to talk to friends. Eventually we came to a bend in the road, he pointed on ahead as he stopped for another chat. That was the last I ever saw of him and he never did get those 4,000 pesos. I had been told he would stay with me for a short while, I was thinking of hiring him for the whole run to Necocoli. I made it all the way to Necocoli without any incident and even stopped at a shop along the way for a refreshment. My first impression of Colombia is that they are nice, decent people although curious just like anyone else is about my run, they don’t crowd me out.

 I chilled out in the hotel for a couple of hours and ran ten more km that day. Next day was a tough day all 33km of it. I don’t think there will be too many easy days from now on, even the short days will be tough. I can’t believe the amount of cops patrolling the roads also the military have road blocks with their armoured cars coned off at the side of roads every few km.

 I just wave and say hi and they smile. On I run through the Colombian tropics past banana trees. Thousands of them growing closely together, each with large blue plastic bags covering the bananas. I am not sure if this is to prevent them falling to the ground or to ward off insects. It seems there is only one yield per tree. The bananas are all over the side of the road I don’t bother to pick any up.

 Later I stop for a juice and the lady gives me four finger bananas. I run into Turbo which is a well known hub of drug activity. The drugs are shipped in and out on boats and planes from this area. There used to be a ferry service from here to Panama but the Panamanians stopped it because of the huge amount of drug activity. That is also the reason the Panamanians are opposed to the building of a road through the Darien Gap Jungle.

Turbo is where I make my connection with the ocean.

There are an incredible amount of bicycles everywhere and motor bikes. Hundreds peddling and charging up and down every road and side street. Every wall has several bikes lying against it. They are parked everywhere. It’s like the old pictures of China. Next day Wednesday and my third day on the road I decide to count the amount of cop vehicles I see. I lose count after about twenty. I have also passed about 60 or 70 soldiers. Everyone tells me the highways are safe here, I wonder why!

The humidity is really kicking in. The temperature is not so high, maybe 28C but humidity can make this seem to me to be more than 50C. About 85-90% humidity I am told.  I guess just like wind chill factor makes the cold even colder.

An elderly campesinpo called Jose Somethingorother stops his bicycle and we have a brief chat in the gravel shoulder. He fills my two water bottles, this doesn’t happen often so I enjoy the moment.

GRACIAS JOSE!

 I make it into Carepa that night but have to commute back to Turbo for my pack. The round trip takes 3 hours including a stop for a delicious burger. This means I can run straight out the door of my hotel in the morning. I can leave my bag at the hotel and return on a bus for it. This is how I now have to do it. Every day I have to modify my plans and find out what time the first bus departs, some are early others are too late and if they are too late I have to figure something else out.

 Not many banana trees now, mostly coconut and mango and a few teak trees. After about 20km I pass a ‘ finca ‘ ,or small  farm and stop to ask for water.  It’s called Finca La Esperanza.

The boss man tells me to sit down one of his hired-hands hands me a soda. There are about eight of them standing around asking me the usual questions. They are very interested in the run.

THANKS FOR THE SODA AND WATER LADS

 One of the lads even wants to see ‘ all my pictures ‘ I suggest I can return to sleep here and they agree. All I need is an outside roofed area to lay my sleeping bag on the concrete floor. I have only run 20km and want to clip out another thirty. In the afternoon I stop at a roadside shack. The lady there is called Erika, she has a five year old daughter. She is very pleasant. She tells me there is not much work, just the odd truck or local stops by for a soda or phone credit. I look at her, she is incredibly beautiful. She tells me her husband left her and his daughter five years ago for another woman, she has a glint of sadness in her eyes but a contented smile.

JULIANA AND ERIKA

That day I ran 50km. I don’t think I could have run 51, I was whacked, and out of breath. My finishing point was just 50 meters from a restaurant and yet another military checkpoint. I tried stopping a bus half an hour ago but the driver of the half empty bus didn’t want to stop. later I was told this is because of the fear of crime. I ask a soldier to stop the next bus back to Carepa. An elderly lady offers me a mint. I take it and smile. Simple and nice I thought. It’s great to be back amongst nice people after my torrid time in Panama, the less said about that place the better, I will reserve my ‘ hatchet job ‘ they deserve for the book. I can’t believe they used to tell jokes about the Colombians!! Twice I had ice creams wrapped in plastic bags! They saw me running down the road, tongue hanging out on hot days. The last I hope I ever see of that place is the airport, my favourite part after The Darien. My worst nightmare would in years to come win a trip to Panama on a game show! I am certain my eyes would go up to Heaven and I would just hand the tickets back, ‘ thanks but no thanks!`

After a 30 year wait a certain country has been dusted off and moved up one place from the bottom (least liked) of my almost seventy countries visited. Panama is rock bottom where they deserve to be. The lack of compassion I experienced through that country, especially one womans actions I will take to my death bed. Afterwards I took her photo so as I can highlight this later. She thought this was great. I feel a certain sadness making these comments having met a few nice people there. As I say, my shocking experiences there will be reserved for the book.

 Because of the uncertainty of the buses not stopping I decide it would be unwise to risk going back to Finca La Esperanza tonight as I could be stranded on the side of the road early next morning. No it’s best to stick to the main towns.  A couple of days later I met the boss man and his assistant on the road. They sounded dissapointed when I explaied my reason for not stopping. I am so sorry lads, sometimes I have tomake difficult decisions. They understood and wished me luck.

So tonight’s round trip between Carepa and Mutapa was four hours between waiting,dinner and the return on a battered potholed road. Today there was a little shoulder on the road, not much, the previous three days I have been running on a tight rope as trucks and buses whiz by leaving me little room. I need to concentrate so as not to trip. More often than not I ran on the lumpy gravel which plays havoc with my joints. The trucks passed so close I could even reach out and touch them, but the cool air as they whizzed by made it all so worthwhile.

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7 Responses to “THE UNKNOWN ROAD”

  1. kevin scanlon Says:

    tony, it’s great to hear the people are better on this side. long may it continue. it sounds like you are in good form. good luck.

  2. Larry Doherty Says:

    Really unique, fascinating and well written piece Tony. Its a pity some newpaper or magazine doesn’t sponsor you and publish the best of it, say, weekly! Best of luck Tony.

  3. Larry Doherty Says:

    Wow! Great photos Tony!

  4. Ann Says:

    Great read Tony and the photos are fab. Glad that the people are so good to you and you are enjoying it so much even though its very tough. Take care and continue to run safe :)

  5. theworldjog Says:

    Alex, my contact in Pasto near the Ecuador border tells me my huge bag of supplies, including 5 pairs of running shoes has arrived. Plan C as mentioned in the blog last week looks to be a good one, ie mail my heavy gear about 1,000km ahead and near the next border, carry it over to the next mailing office and send it on to the next contact near the next border. No messing with customs (who often take things!)
    I want to mail a pair of shoes only to Lima,Peru as its a big country. I will need two pairs and Lima is roughly half way.
    I have to plan very far ahead for several countries at a time. Anyone got a contact for Lima, Is there an Irish embassy there?
    An easy 26km day today as I need to do some work.
    thanks for your support :) I am having a ball, even if it’s tough! Tony

  6. Fergus Says:

    Tony,

    Long time follower and really enjoy reading your extraordinary life changing experiences. Such a shame that the Irish media wont highlight what you are doing.

    Anyway check this link for Lima:

    http://www.dfa.ie/home/index.aspx?id=5506

    I’m sure Michael Russell will be happy to help out.

    Fergus

  7. theworldjog Says:

    Thank you Fergus. I will. To be honest expeditions like mine only grab the imagination of the media when I am coming around the last bend, just like a trans – atlantic rower coming into harbour! Thanks for the support. I always encourage people to comment on the most recent post as people often move on from the older ones and don’t see the comments! Tony

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About Tony

I have always considered myself to be an average runner. In school, I was even bullied for I was a sports wimp. Through hard work, dedication, perseverance, self-belief and a strong mind I succeeded in not only running around the world but breaking four ultra running world records during my competitive career. Having previously cycled around the world I didn't start running until I was almost 30. Then I had a dream of running around the world. For many reasons, I waited for over 20 years. One reason was to establish my pedigree as an endurance athlete. I started and finished my world run as the current World Record-Holder for 48 Hours Indoor Track 426 kilometres (265 miles), a record I have held since 2007. I also broke and still hold the World Record for 48 hours on a Treadmill 405 kilometres (251 miles) in 2008. When I retired from competition, more pleasing than any of my world, European or Irish records I had the respect of my fellow athletes from all over the world - in my opinion, sports greatest reward - an achievement I am most proud of. Then I finally put myself out to pasture, to live my ultimate dream to run around the world! This blog was written on the road while I struggled to find places to sleep and to recover from running an average of 43.3 kilometres or 27 miles per day for 1,165 road days. There were many nights I typed this blog on a smart phone, so fatigued my eyes closed. Many journalists and endurance athletes have referred to my world run as the most difficult endurance challenge ever attempted. During my expedition I rarely had any support vehicles, running mostly with a backpack. In the more desolate areas I pushed my gear, food and water in a cart which I called Nirvana, then I sent her on ahead to run with my backpack once again over altitudes of almost 5,000 metres in the Andes. I stayed in remote villages where many people had never seen a white person before. I literally met the most wonderful people of this world in their own backyard and share many of those amazing experiences in this blog. My run around the world took 4 years. There were no short cuts, I ran every single metre on the road while seeking out the most comprehensive route across 41 countries, 5 continents, I used 50 pair of running shoes and my final footstep of the run was exactly 50,000 kilometres, (almost 31,000 miles) I eventually finished this tongue in cheek named world jog where I started, at the finish line of my city marathon. I started my global run with the Dublin Marathon on October 25th 2010 and finished with the Dublin Marathon on October 27th 2014 at 3 05pm! Thank you for your support, I hope you can share my unique way of seeing the world, the ultimate endurance challenge! Read more...

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