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999 Days Around Africa: The Road Chose Me
We spend a few days in San Agustin, camping in front of Hospedaje Andino (on the corner in front of the very expensive Camping San Agustin) for $1.50 each per day. It rains continuously, so we spend a lot of time huddled under a small cabaña staying warm and dry. The main attractions here are huge stone idols, carved by a culture dating from the 6th to 14th centuries AD. We try to get into the Parque Arqueológico with our entrance bracelets from Tierradentro but we are quickly told that won’t do and have to pay another $8 – Nice try. The idols are huge and some have crazy amounts of details, so we spend a couple of hours wandering around the whole park. We finish with a wander through the on-site museum and finish up a little underwhelmed for our money after Tierradentro.
While staying in town I get two more flat tires repaired and have a great time chatting to the shop guys in Spanish. They are very interested in my Jeep and where I have driven from and are genuinely curious about other countries and want to know what it was like through Central America. It gets really hilarious when a bunch of school children show up and want me to help them with their English homework. Their English is a little below the level of my Spanish so I have a great time explaining past tense and helping them through various exercises. For an unknown reason almost every English student I’ve come across has been very shy to actually speak in English and these guys are no exception. For all my prodding and encouragement, I barely get a “Hello” in reply.
We wave goodbye to my hitchhiking backpacker and move south towards the border. We’ve been told the road through the mountains to Pasto is one of the worst in Colombia, and it doesn’t disappoint. Extremely bumpy, rutted, narrow and windy, we spend five hours driving 120 kms with more than a few close encounters with huge trucks and busses. Often we have to reverse back out of the way when we come face to face around a blind curve.
After camping another rainy night by Laguna de la Cocha we move further south to Santuario de las Lajas, where an immense church has been built in a beautiful canyon. It’s a very peaceful place and we find a huge parking lot just above to camp for the night.
Colombia has been noticeably bigger than the countries I’ve passed through recently and I’ve really enjoyed moving from North to South. The price of gas has varied quite a lot, usually between $3.20 and $3.80 a gallon and significantly cheaper near the Venezuelan and Ecuadorian borders. There have been many police and military checkpoints, which have all been friendly and gone smoothly. At one I’m asked to take every single item out of the Jeep while they search, a process that takes over an hour, but ends in friendly handshakes and wishes of good luck for the future.
Car insurance is mandatory here and the $40 I paid for two months is well worth it as I’m asked for it time and time again.
My time in Colombia has been fantastic, and nothing at all like the stereotype would have you think. I’ve constantly met the happiest, friendliest people of my entire journey in Colombia and my only regret is that I only asked for 30 days on my visa, which means it’s time to leave. I won’t make that mistake again.
Just like the marketing brochure says:
Colombia: The only danger is you’ll never want to leave