After six months in Ecuador we enter Colombia on the 22th of June. Going out of Ecuador needs again a lot of patience which seems to be usual when dealing with authorities in
However we were surprised coming to the Colombia border. Highly professional and in 5 minutes the migration process was completed and insurance for the car was sold a few meters
after the border without problems. We felt this was a good start. We made our first overnight stop in Las Lajas. According to the legend from 1754 the virgin Maria appeared to the deaf-mute
Indian maid Juana on a rock wall during a heavy thunderstorm. After this phenomenon she could hear and speak again. On the place of this wonderful congress a chapel was erected in 1803 and
between 1916 and 1949 the todays church in neo-Gothic style. An impressive formation supported from pylons of a stone-bridge which spans the river in a height of 45 meters. Every year, especially
in the first half of September, many people from Colombia and Ecuador go on a pilgrimage to this place and ask for healing.
The next day we went on to Pasto to change money. But somewhere on the way a road charge was due from the authorities and we had only US Dollars but they took local currency
only. You may think that we did end in a lot of stress but far wrong. Unhurriedly the second toll station was opened and the cars behind us were bypassed. A very friendly woman accompanied us to
a money changer and after five minutes we could continue our journey. After we`ve finally got money from an ATM in Pasto we drove to El Puerto at the Laguna La Cocha on 2780m. With the wodden
bridges, the water channels, the flower garlands and the colored carvings the town remembers a little bit on the Netherlands. Unfortunately it`s very cold, windy and rainy. But the next morning
the sun comes up for a short while and allows some nice pictures.
However we feel it`s too cold and there is no reason to freeze when the weather report promises 30 degrees not far away. So we move on in direction to Popayan and in fact only 50 kilometers further we measure 38 degrees outside temperature. It goes steady up and down thru a breathtaking landscape. All over a strong military presence is visible because since May the FARC has terminated the armed truce and is active again with different assaults. After six hours exhausting driving we ask at a gravel-plant away from the main road whether we can stay overnight and we are friendly housed including our own security guard during the night. In Popayan we go on a nice campground a few kilometers outside of town with good public transport connection and meet Christa and Peter from Germany. They are also on the road since two years but in the other direction from North to South. Together we explore the city which is the most impressive colonial city after Cartagena. Our tourist guide book tells us that the city is still not fully under state control but tourists can feel themselves relatively secure. So we are adequately put at rest. But the wonderful old town with the amazing colonial white buildings let us quickly forget that it also can be look like different. We have lunch and cannot believe the bill. For a good tasting 3 course meal including a juice we pay $1.5 per person.
Then we go on to San Augustin and we were warned beforehand from Peter and Christa. The road doesn`t deserve the name and is a potholed earth road. Into the bargain a truck has crashed and blocks the road until late afternoon. It`s after 5pm as we are able to move on and so we must drive a few hours in the dark with heavy rain, bad road conditions and in an area where the FARC is active. At 9pm we reach a small town and park at the main plaza before we make the last kilometers to our destination on the next day.
5000 years ago two different nations lived in the region of San Augustin and produced statues made out of lava stones and basalt as well as tombs and earth walls. The
archaeological findings are Unesco world heritage and belong to the most important and mystic of the continent. Apart from three months the region is known for heavy rain all year long but we are
lucky and caught a rain break and could admire the excavations partly at best sunshine.
On our way North we make a side trip to the archaeological find spots of Tierradentro, also Unesco world heritage. Initially we wanted to avoid this area because of guerilla presence but at short notice we decided differently as the region should be pacified to a large extend. What we could visit there was in either case worth the journey. 500 to 900 a.D. people from a prior Hispanic culture have brought dead people to their last rest in shaft graves which are unique in America. Over small manholes and steep steps you vertically climb into earth`s interior. In three to five meters all shafts run down into a low cave room. The painful build death chambers scraped out of volcanic rock are 2m high and have a diameter of 2 to 7 meters as well as a dome and a couple of four-sided pillars. The walls are often colored with red or black geometrical figures. Visiting the multiple sites is very exhausting because you must overcome some hundred meters of difference in altitude and this at a temperature over 30 degrees and high humidity. However it was a rewarding side trip and an excavation which is unique on the American continent.
In direction North it gets constantly hotter and after a short stop in Rivera where the hot springs could not really inspire us we go on to the desert. Unbelievable but shortly after Neiva the landscape changes into a dry dust and rock desert and the temperature climbs to 40 degrees. The “Desierto Tatacoa” is a large dry savanna of 330 sqkm and consists out of red and grey colored land in which the erosion built up to 20m deep weird canyons. We spend a few days in the loneliness and enjoy the quietness and the clear starry sky. And actually in between all the dryness you find two nature pools for refreshment.
After a few days we have sweat enough and continue our journey to the coffee region of Colombia. But what we experience there we tell you in the next blog. Until then stay cool, enjoy reading and watching the pictures and like us on Facebook. Hasta Luego.