What a dream to have the van back! Having spent the night in a hotel car park it was time to get some mileage under our belt, as the whole affair at the port had taken more time than we’d anticipated. On our first day we got right back into the stride of things by driving 500km, which took us around 12 hours! We left at 6am and arrived at a balneario to camp (a natural swimming hole in a river). Unfortunately it was already dark and we were leaving early the next day so we didn’t get to experience the river, but we did meet Juan, a Colombian overlander who has his own campsite which we’d definitely be visiting going forward!
The next morning it was another early start and back on the road. This time we headed to Bucaramanga, an industrial town about an hour away in order to see a mechanic. We’d had some issues with our alignment and it was getting worse so we got them to do a full checkover of the suspension. What they found was we needed to replace quite a few parts, and they’d have to be ordered from Bogota and wouldn’t arrive until the next day! So, in what seems like a right of passage for most overlanders, we spent the night in the mechanic shop! In a stroke of good luck they even had a shower and toilet we could use all night! Free camping anyone?….
The following day we ran went in search of breakfast and had some incredible arepas de huevo – a fried egg in even more fried batter. The parts arrived by midday and after a couple of hours of installation we were all done, and the alignment was finished! As it was about 5pm we didn’t want to drive so they let us camp at the garage another night, and took a bunch of photos! Clearly the whole thing was an experience for them too.
Glad to be back on the road with shiny new parts (and new brakes to boot) we headed to Bogota, but not without stopping at Villa de Leyva – a beautiful colonial town. There, we camped up high in a lovely setting which was a welcome change from the garage! On our first day we visited a pretty clay house, casa de taracota, which was certainly interesting. Admittedly though we didn’t really get any history or why or how it was created! Then we found a brewery, which is a talent of ours, and went to grab a cheap eat before grabbing an early bed.
The following day we did a hike, which whilst was only 40 minutes absolutely destroyed us! We were about 9,000ft high and it felt like there was no oxygen to be had! But, begrudgingly, we made it up to the worlds smallest Christ statue – coupled with a stunning view of the town. We headed back down and then quickly on to our next drive to the capital city of Bogota! Annie’s second time, and Mikeys third we didn’t plan on spending much time visiting the sights. We did have one very important appointment though in seeing some old friends!
Annie had met Juan, Paula and Andres whilst travelling around South East Asia in 2016 – and spent Christmas with them all in Myanmar no less! There was no way we were turning a night with them down, and Paula and Juan kindly gave us a room and a private car park for the night! We had lasagne which was such a treat as an oven cooked dish and spent a lovely night playing cards against humanity and having some good old fashioned G&Ts!
The next morning was a bit slow, and we left a little late to the Tatacoa Desert. Who knew Colombia had a desert! The drive was a long one, and we pulled in as it was getting dark so we should have been able to see stars but in typical fashion the clouds were completely covering the sky… A little deflated, we went to bed in the hot desert with the fans on, although didn’t particularly struggle to sleep. The next morning we awoke to an absolutely stunning view, completely making up for the lack of stars the previous night. A landscape which wouldn’t look out of place in the south of the USA, peculiar sand formations gave us a lovely opportunity for a wander. Today we only had a 5 hour drive so enjoyed the morning!
Unfortunately, as could probably be expected, it took us longer than expected to drive! We made the journey to San Augustin, in the south of Colombia famous for its archeological sites. Unfortunately, we pulled in late and were pretty tired from all the driving. We decided it would be a good idea to just leave in the morning, get our driving for the next day out of the way and then enjoy some down time. So we did exactly that!
We drove to a national park called ‘Fin del Mundo’ aka the end of the world. There’s a hostel there who allow overlanders to stay for free which is a pretty good deal! The only downside were the strange bunch of tourists who were there for ayahuasca ceremonies, which are ceremonies with shamans in the woods to take hallucinogenics. To say we weren’t interested was an understatement! The park actually shut at midday so we just relaxed with a few beers that evening, and the following morning we opted to hike the Fin del Mundo park.
The hike in the morning was a lovely one, probably taking around an hour to get up but we did do it at a considerable pace. The low altitude meant the humid heat was difficult to take in but what we found at the end made it so worth it. The end of the world part was being able to look over the edge of a huge waterfall whilst lying down on top of it! Unbelievably they gave you harnesses in what was an impressive show of health and safety in Colombia, our entry money being put to good use clearly!
After the national park we had to drive the infamous ‘Trampolina del Muerte’, Trampoline of death road. But that’s a story for next time…