Say hello ?? and wave goodbye ?? – Day 225 (16928 miles)

Not sure why it has taken so long to post a pic of a Renault 4, they are everywhere in Colombia and some are in brilliant condition.  For me this model comes in at 2nd place to the Citroen 2CV in the Most Stylish Car Ever category, just saying.

So, we are only a few hundred kilometres from the Colombia/Ecuador border, there were still a couple of places we fancied visiting before crossing the border but our thoughts were definitely turning to the border crossing, timings, money changing and the other practical stuff.

This is the St Agustin pre-Hispanic archaeological park, a nice walk from our camping spot which gave us the chance to get some walking kilometres in the bank ready for a couple of days sitting on our bums in the van.

There was a good hill up to a view point that we climbed after viewing the tombs and statues.  It is definitely raining season now, we were soaked to the skin when we arrived at the top which was so shrouded in cloud we didn’t even bother with a photo.

Nice views on the road.

A very chilled hitchhiker, hope he had sunscreen on, it was blinking hot out there.

It is now the 18th January and there are plenty of Christmas decs still around, the Colombians are definitely not worried about the 12th night bad luck thing.  Possible this old tyre tree is just too heavy for anyone to bother taking it down.

**WARNING**This section contains images of a church, you may wish to skip it.  Yes that’s for you WW?.

Las Lajas Sanctuary is just outside the town of Ipiales our last night stop before crossing the border.  Some people liken the architecture to Disneyland and we could see why.  But the setting across a narrow canyon is very pretty especially against the blue skies which we are seeing less of now the seasons are changing.

Does this vessel to dispense holy water look like a cheap electric kettle to you too?

We managed to change our money at a decent rate without being scammed by the moneychangers with the rigged calculators.  Get the free 90 day visas that some fail to secure (even though we don’t have time to stay that long) and be in Ecuador by 8.30am.

See you down the road.x

Tall trees, Tatacoa, Tierradentro – Day 213 (16303 miles)

We stayed in the grounds of a very nice hostel with lovely hot showers (very important) close to the small town of Salento.

It’s part of the coffee growing region in Colombia so said beverage is very much in evidence.  Mobile Barista, is this still your retirement plan Neil Mc?

The taxi jeeps aren’t full unless there’s at least 3 passengers hanging off the back.

A bit of Colombian street food, fried plantain with cheese and jam.  I wasn’t keen.

Arepas, corn pancakes filled with cheese, much nicer.

We did a great 15 mile walk around the Valle de Cocora, we were followed by this little fella for a few miles.  He was much more sure footed than I was.

The Valle is famous for these strangely tall and spindly palm trees.  Beautiful views in between the patches of mist.

Salenta by night was lively, by chance we happened to be there for the 175th anniversary of the town.  Mucho eating, drinking and salsa dancing.

Our next stop was the Tatacoa Desert which in itself was stunning and the scenery on the way was pretty good too.

Being a desert this area is known for spectacular starry skies, unfortunately not this night, it was pretty cloudy.

But the scenery just keeps getting better.

Lots of landslides.

And water.

After a long, slow but very pretty journey we arrived in Tierradentro, a humid jungly environment where you can visit tombs that date back between 600 and 900 AD.

We visited the town’s 2 small museums together, quite interesting but the hilight was meeting a group of about 10 Colombian ladies and children who wanted their photos taken with us.   Afterwards John went back to the van as he had hurt his foot on our 15 miles walk a couple of days ago and needed to rest.  I wanted to see some of the tombs so headed up a hill to find them.

It was a bit desolate and used to be guerilla country a few years ago.  So I strode forth purposely and tried not to get spooked by every noise in the bushes.

Now, the font of all knowledge (the Lonely Planet) states that you descend to the tombs via a spiral staircase.  That is true, except I expected to descend once and wander through multiple tombs.  The reality is you descend into a tomb (not very big) and come up again, then repeat 15 or so times.  It felt a bit like a step class!  The tombs were interesting but rather samey so just 1 pic below.

I caught up with some of the kids we had met in the museum for another photo.

It was a shame we hadn’t got photos of more of the family we had met.  Later that afternoon we met some Brits, who said they had just been shown photos of us!?!  It turned out the Colombian family were in a bar down the only road in town so we decided we would catch up with them.

A nice group photo turned into a couple of hours of salsa dancing and shots of Aguar Diente!  We had such fun, we held the babies, kissed the Great Granny and tried to learn salsa.

Chao for now.

Bogota and beyond – Day 206 (15953 miles)

We headed slowly towards Bogota, we could have avoided it completely as we had done Mexico City and as mentioned before van + big city = Unhappy husband.   However, after finding a cheapish hotel with underground car park we intended to spend a couple of days seeing the main museums and a bit of the city.  Enroute we took a couple of days to visit other places, firstly the salt cathedral at Zipaquira.  As this part of Colombia was under the sea before the Andes were formed there is a lot of mining of halite rock from which salt is extracted.

The current cathedral is the 3rd to be build since 1932 as the mine has evolved, it was initially for miners to worship, now it is also open to the public and from the amount of people there the same day as us it is a lucrative tourist attraction.  Quite a spectacular space.

Laguna Guatavita, an important sacred site for the Muisca people since pre Colombian times.  It was thought the lake may have been created by a meteor strike but it has now been proved it is a sinkhole caused by the salt in the rock underneath dissolving.

First time the waterproofs have been out for a while.

We never found out why this nativity scene had been created from gun shells!

New Year’s Eve was a quiet affair, if there were parties going on we didn’t find them.  At least we had a cosy fire in our room to warm us and the wine!

We headed into Bogota on New Year’s Day which proved to be one of the best days of the year to drive there.  Based on the experience of others we had expected gridlocked traffic and a long journey but it was fine.

Juanita seemed pretty happy next to this cool dude.

We were staying in Candelaria the historical district, which also had some  “colourful” streets and characters.

This guy is not only standing on glass but eating it as well!  Check out the expressions of some of the onlookers.

Guinea pig racing?!?! About 5 metres away were little numbered boxes and the audience bet which number a particular GP would head for.  Maybe not the best animal husbandry but perhaps a longer life than their cousins on the menu in Equador and Peru.

We were having dinner with Andres, who we had met on our flight to Cartagena and his wife Clara.  John’s footwear wardrobe consists of flip flops, Crocs and walking boots, the weather was cool so John’s walking boots were required and got the full shoeshine treatment so we didn’t look too shabby for our hosts.

With Andres and Clara looking at the bright lights of Bogota viewed from the surrounding mountains.  Clara disappeared and came back with cups of a tradition Colombian version of a hot toddy/mulled wine called Canelazo.  It is a mix of water, panela (sugar cane), cinnamon, lime, cloves and the hit comes from aguardiente a clear spirit that you see absolutely everywhere here.  The evening continued with a few shots of aguardiente (tastes of aniseed), a good dinner, nice wine and wonderful company, in fact Clara it was ASTONISHING!

The next day we headed to the Museo del Oro, a huge collection of ancient gold artefacts (the ones that the Spanish didn’t find).  It is beautifully displayed.

It’s all very nice but I’m just looking for some small silver earrings!

Our last shot of culture was the Fernando Botero gallery, certainly Colombia’s and some say South America’s favourite painter and sculptor.

Well rounded was definitely his style.

The local chess club.

The shop attached to our hotel.  Not your usual souvenirs to take home!

Heading south for the festive period – Day 200 (15550 miles)

A couple of people we had met in Cartagena asked us where we were going when we left there. “Mompos” we said, “why?” They answered, “go to the Santa Marta.”  The Caribbean coast is undoubtably beautiful and to visit Punta Gallinas which is the most northerly point in South America was tempting.  For a couple of days we mulled it over but to get to the most northerly point and back again would take an additional 2 weeks and we know we are going to get to Patagonia later than we originally planned without adding in more miles.

So, we stuck to our original plan to head south through the lush wetlands to Mompos.  It’s a small town on the Magdalena river and was built by the Spanish in the 16th century.  Beautiful town and lovely countryside to drive through.

We hadn’t really made a plan for where to spend Christmas it was just going to be wherever we ended up around the 23rd December.

We headed through the Chichamocha canyon it was a rather misty day but beautiful scenery.

We had found a campsite in a quiet spot between the small towns of San Gil and Barichara, it was run by a Brit and his Colombian wife.  We had a great Christmas Eve get together with Justin, Andrea and their family along with other campers.  Such a good night that John came to bed around 4am!

Empanadas cooked on the fire.

Danny guts a chicken much to the interest of the resident ginger puss.

A Christmas blind wine tasting!

Pics of the beautiful town of Barichara.

A nice camping spot, and a good place for John to sleep off his late night.

This little photo doesn’t do justice to the amazing Plaza Mayor in Villa de Leyva.  It’s huge!

This Gaudiesque place is the Casa Barra, built by a local artist from terracotta and wrought iron.  Looked great against the blue sky.

The areas around Cartegena and down towards Bogota  contain a huge amount of fossils as this area was covered by sea until approximately 100 million years ago.  65 million years ago an asteroid hit the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico which caused geological changes effecting Central and South America as well.

This Pliosaurus was over 9 metres long and they built this museum around the site it was originally found.  Very impressive.

Even the walls in town were full of ammonites.

We found a great Korean restaurant, lots of lovely fresh veg, raw, cooked and pickled.

Bye for now.x