The trampoline of death (Trampolina del Muerte) is an infamous road in the south of Colombia. Trampoline because it’s so bumpy it feels like your car is on a trampoline, and death because… well.. yeah it’s dangerous! Nonetheless we’d heard it wasn’t the worst road in the world and as long as we took it slowly we’d be fine. So that’s exactly what we did, leaving before midday after our hike to the Fin del Mundo waterfall.
The road started out level and not too skinny, so we naively thought “hey, maybe they repaired it!”. That was obviously not the case, and the quality suddenly deteriorated making us feel literally like we were driving around on a trampoline. The road was aptly named! The drive produced absolutely stunning views and we occasionally stopped for photos, however there were a few hair raising moments passing by big trucks and also at the end of the 4 hour slog we’d only travelled about 70 miles!
We pulled into a beautiful camp surrounding a lake at about 10,000ft completely exhausted. This was the campsite owned by the Colombian overlander we had met on our second day of driving through the country, and the caretaker was equally lovely! Still we only had time to stay a night, and wrapped up super warm as for the first time in a long time we were actually cold!
The following morning we left early for Las Lajas, a gorgeous cathedral made famous by it’s looks and the fact it’s built steep into a mountainside. There’s also a telerifico which is basically a cable car service to take you there, and we were permitted to spend the night there free of charge with wifi and toilets included! A lovely last night in Colombia, equally high and cold!
It was time for another border crossing. We’d almost forgotten how simple the land border crossings were after all the aggravation of collecting the van in Cartagena. Thankfully for us this was probably the most organised and quickest land border we’d done since Canada to the USA! It took around an hour, cost no money and the Ecuadorian border even took photos of our documents rather than asking for 100 copies of everything – a refreshing change! It was definitely a sad element to see first hand all of the Venezuelan refugees staying in a Red Cross border encampment.
Once we’d made it into Ecuador we drove for around an hour to stay at ‘Grahams Place’. Originally form Australia, Graham had moved to Ecuador due to having his driving license revoked for a third time in Aus. Clearly the rules here are a little more relaxed! unintentionally his house had turned into somewhat of an overlander haven, and he’d built a designated kitchen for travellers, a bathroom and also let us do our own laundry. We met the sweetest family from Colombia who were travelling around in their van and we were sad when we realised we’d missed their campsite. We spent a couple of nights R&Ring as a break from all the driving and border crossings we’d be doing, then we headed to a secret surprise!
It was Annie’s birthday! She didn’t know where we were going as we drove up into the mountains (but found time to stop at the Equator of course!). We were heading to Mindo, a small pretty town in the cloud forest with ample hiking opportunities and nice restaurants. Mikey had booked what he thought was quite a special room, with a wall of glass on one side and a view over the river. Also the room had a private jacuzzi! We decided to try it the first night but safe to say it was a little frustrating as it took 2 hours to fill up… This would definitely need some forward planning if we were to do it again.
Unfortunately we both had a few too many Mojitos and glasses of wine the night prior to Annie’s birthday so we woke up feeling a little worse for wear. That said, you can never waste a birthday! So we hauled out of bed, had a lovely included breakfast and headed up the mountain to see… some waterfalls! It was a little more exciting than that though, as to get to the trails you took a sort of cable car which was powered by a truck engine. Really filling us with confidence! It was about an hour hike up to the cable car so by the time we got to the top we were already quite tired.
There were 8 waterfalls to see when we got across the valley, one was an hour hike up and the other 7 were below. We hiked down and down to see some super pretty waterfalls, and it wasn’t that busy either. Still, by the 5th one we were both a bit waterfalled out and headed back up! We took the cable car back, walked an hour back down the hill and headed into town for a birthday lunch of steak on a hot stone. Absolutely gorgeous!
After lunch we had a much needed shower and enjoyed time relaxing in our spacious room, something we normally never had the privilege to do. For dinner we fancied a dip out of South American cuisine and opted for a pasta dish, both having Ravioli. It was absolutely gorgeous and such a welcome change! Then we gave up and opted for an early bed, for a good nights sleep in the huge bed we could stretch out in! In the morning we were headed for Quito…