We left the Colombian coastline and went towards and then around the mountains. The scenery and terrain looked very similar to our old, familiar home of Kino Bay, Mexico. A blend of sand, mesquite trees and desert plants. Then we started to climb into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
This area is known as the La Guajira Department and is the home to many indigenous people who live in a range of traditional lifestyles in various clans. You can read more about them at this link Link to Wayuu information Some of the clans are extremely isolated in the mountains. But during our drive, we encountered an indigenous family crossing the highway in a small town. They were easily identified by their unique attire.
It was an interesting contrast to a group we saw a little later as they were walking toward a different bus stop. This family was headed to a graduation/promotion celebration at a nearby school.
The roads were slow going through this area. Twists, turns, climbs and narrow highways made for a long day of driving. Nica spent most of the day doing this. We had settled on a riverside campsite, so we passed through a small village to get there. The roads were made of concrete and hand-laid stone. And on the side of the road was a little family of piglets. Our campsite offered shade and the sounds of the river running over huge boulders. Mike and Nica went for a long walk during which they encountered some odd symbols and some beautiful scenery.
The next day we passed through a larger city, stopped to do some laundry and grocery shopping. This city also had some traditionalists among the buses and traffic. This photo shows a horse and cart, next to a motorized cart at a street light!
When we finished our errands it was late, so we drove to a gas station on the outskirts of town and asked for permission to park for the night. The overnight security guard was thrilled to have company and led us to a concrete slab for parking. The only other thing there was an abandoned passenger bus.
The next day Mike walked the toilet tank to the bathroom for a flush, and encountered a man inside the engine bay of the bus. He had help from the parking lot dogs! It was a strange place and certainly not our most glamorous campsite, but it worked for the night.
The next day we passed through the small town of Aracataca, planning to pick up some lunch and move along. But we encountered a change of plans as we were driving down the main street Geneva spotted a dog laying on the sidewalk in blood. We found a parking spot for our huge rig in the small street, and we hustled back to check on the dog. We found a female dog in the midst of giving birth to a litter of puppies. The people passing by on the street did not even pause to notice. The veterinarian in the store nearby warned us to “be careful” and alerted us to “stay away, she will attack you” in urgent Spanish as we asked for a box and some water so we could help the dog. It was clear that he had no intention of assisting this animal in need. As you can see in the photos, she was not going to bite us. She was appreciative of the assistance in corralling the pups, keeping away the people and cleaning up the mess.
Crowds of people stopped and talked for a while, but moved on when the labor started or when they were bored. Children and women seemed concerned, but offered no help. Men asked about the sex of the puppies and discussed the size of the first-born.
Over time a couple of local girls stopped by to help. One of them offered the dog some water and a box to lay in, but the girl had to leave. The girl in the blue shirt stayed and helped. She got a larger box, and some soup for the dog. We decided to move the dog to a shady, less trafficked location. This upset the nearby homeowner. The girl in the blue shirt tried to reason with her, but the lady wanted the dog gone. After a while the lady admitted that she had a friend who operated a dog rescue group in a nearby town. They used my phone to call her friend and make arrangements for the mom and puppies to be picked up and taken to the rescue center. Mike and I went to the store and bought a bunch of dog food and cleaning supplies to be donated. But in order to make our next destination before dark, we had to leave before the mission was completed. I am hopeful that the young lady in the blue shirt stayed to see this through and that momma-dog and her five puppies made it to a safe shelter.
It was an exhausting four-hour process. Nica was stuck in the truck the whole time. But we are happy to have helped and we are hopeful this will make a difference for this dog. Dealing with our emotions as we encounter various disheartening and sad dog-situations in these countries remains one of our biggest challenges. Today felt like a tiny success. We wish more people were aware of this animal advocacy campaign (and similar programs around the country) and the opportunities for free and low-cost spay and neuter services.
More of Colombia, coming soon!