After we said Good Bye to our son Felix at the airport of Cartagena we head again to Central Colombia to catch up on missed highlights. Our first stop is Mompox.
When you come from Western direction the city is only reachable by boat and we must commit MOMO and ourselves to a completely rusted car-ferry. Thanks god we safely reach our destination after a 2 hours ride. The complete region is humid and very hot surrounded by uncounted rivers. When Alexander von Humboldt visited the city in 1801 he named it the hottest city in America. However it`s not as bad but it´s enough already. We stay a little bit outside of town on a lovely Hacienda with pool and are the only guests. The city is not visited from many tourist but provides a number of old colonial buildings and a lot of nice photos.
After two days we continue our journey. For the first 50km the road is in a very bad condition until we reach the major North-South connection. It`s a torture to drive through the completely blocked city of Bucaramanga and in between we learn about a new trick how to rip off tourists. We can only move in walking pace and all of a sudden someone on the street waves to us and points to the front of our car. He obviously tries to explain that something is wrong with the front wheel. By chance he is a mechanic and I should park so that he can repair whatever is wrong. We must say he made us a bit unsecure but we went on. Hundred meters later the same story and again and a few times more as we move on. Later we read in the South America Forum that it is a popular Bucaramanga trick. Obviously learning never ends. We stay overnight at a paraglider spot high above the city with a beautiful view. During the day we watch the paragliders who can always return to their starting point due to the differences in temperature between the city basin and the mountain.
After another day of driving we come to the mountains and the temperatures reach a tolerable level. In San Gil we stop for a few days at a nice public swimming pool and the first night since a long time we can sleep without air condition. We go on and a few kilometers later we come to Barichara a wonderful Colonial town like in a Spanish Western movie. The paved streets and the white painted houses look like it was already 300 years ago. But what impressed us most was the dead silence. We park at the ridge of the canyon with a beautiful view and at nighttime it`s as quiet as it normally is in the desert only. We stay a few days, stroll thru the streets and feast in the miscellaneous good restaurants and let the atmosphere sink in.
We move on to Villa de Leyva also a nice Colonial town and a major tourist spot in Colombia. The old city is under protection of historical monuments since 1954 and conserved as an architectural entity with their paved streets and white painted houses. The main plaza with 120m times 120m claims to be the largest in Colombia. However we could not find this very impressive. Apart from a small fountain in the middle it`s only a large nothingness. We find a nice campground in the Hostal Renacer and are pleased to meet again Petra & Stefan. They are also in South America for more than 2 years and we`ve met several times in the past and together we spent a few nice days and barbeque evenings. We don`t want to miss several highlights in this area and hire a taxi for a small round trip. Villa de Leyva is famous for a number of fossils from the Cretaceous period as the area was covered with water. So we make our first stop in the fossil museum with a 120 million years old Cronosaurus baby-fossil of 7m in length. We continue to an archeological site which is often compared with Stonehenge but apart from 115 monoliths whose shades were used to determine the best time to plant we cannot see much or we are not able to fully understand the context. There`s unequally more to see at the Terracotta house. It`s a kind of fairy –tale house from the architect Octavio Mendoza completely clay-built. We conclude our round trip with a visit of the nice monastery „Convento del Santo Ecce Homo“, which was established in 1620 from Dominican monks.
After more than one week in Villa de Leyva and a nice fare-well party with Petra & Stefan, Anders & Petra from Sweden who are on a world tour with their motorbikes and Sabine & Andy from Switzerland on the road with a Toyota Landcruiser, we continue in direction to Bogota.
In the small village Nemocon we visit a salt mine. A 2,5km long foot path leads 80m under the earth. The adit is lined with patrons saint made from salt and a heart-shaped salt crystal with a
weight of several tons
On the next day we visit the underground salt cathedral in Zipaquira. The illuminated cave church with a surface of 8500sqm is the largest of this kind world-wide. A truly impressive building visited from more than 200.000 people every year.
And then off it goes to the 8,5 million mega city of Bogoat an unbelievable Moloch where the contrast of rich and poor is visible on every corner. The more prosperous people live in the North but further South poverty, distress and violence increases. We park at a secured parking place close to the Transmilenium system, a kind of a fast bus network on dedicated lanes which supersedes the missing underground. But first of all we must extend our residence permit as we are already more than 90 days in the country. The stamp from the migration police is quite easy whereby the paper for our car turns out to get a nightmare. We`ve been sent from A to B to C just to hear that we are not at the correct location. Late afternoon and uncounted taxi kilometers later a nice gentleman from the Aduana finally points us to the right location. After we`ve filled out all papers we learn that a stamp on a piece of paper is not an easy task and may take some days. We should get the information by email in 2-3 days. Well guess what. Today more than 4 weeks later we are still waiting and may have a lot of fun when we leave the country. Let`s see what happens by then. We take some time to explore the highlights of Bogota and jump on the fully packed Milenium bus. We stroll thru the old district Candeleria and visit the Gold –and the Botero Museum.
We now have enough from Mega cities but unfortunately our cruise to Panama is not as originally planned. We must first shift to the 8th of October and some days later we get the information that the ship goes mid to end of October. We are not surprised however we try to make the best out of it and spent some days in a nice park in Facatativa close to Bogota and most of the time in Villa de Leyva together with Stefan. Beginning of October we drive up North to our favorite campground Casa Grande. We wait day after day for a final date of shipment but the communication is very poor and then we have enough from waiting and go to Cartagena to clarify the situation on-site. We rent an apartment with air condition, washing machine and sea view and wait for the things to happen or not.
We are really curious whether everything goes as planned and will certainly tell you about our adventure how we and MOMO made it to Panama. Until then and hopefully from Panama. Hasta Luego.