We returned to Colombia, South America with a lot of luggage and a very tired dog. She was a trooper, but was really happy to be back in the familiar city of Bogota with her dear friend, Julian and his puppy, Catira.
We took care of some business in the city before we picked up the truck. During our walks we saw a really adorable dog-pile. These dogs are being walked by two of the many dog-walkers of Bogota. And they seem to have collapsed into a furry, happy pile while they wait for their walkers to finish a sidewalk coffee. Don’t worry, their handlers are just a few feet away at a sidewalk coffee stand. And clearly, these dogs are enjoying their break.
Also while in the big city, we celebrated our 15 year wedding anniversary. A luxurious couples massage, a lovely Peruvean lunch and two decadent desserts made it a special day in the big city of Bogota!
Hanging out in a major park in Bogota we noticed these cushions and pallets sitting on the grass. When we investigated we discovered that a nearby restaurant had creatively devised a way to expand their seating and offer a picnic setting to their patrons. The guests can sit here and order off the menu. A waitress will serve them just as if they were seated in the main dining room. Very clever.
A beautiful afternoon was passed at Steel Horse Colombia (a lovely place to park, developed by former motorcycle overlanders) while Mike installed the newly smuggled alternator and Geneva (with Nica’s help) worked on this blog post. We also stopped in a university neighborhood for a few hours to do some laundry and buy restock groceries for the camper kitchen. And of course, pick up a local lunch while we were waiting for the laundry to be finished. (There are seldom do-it-yourself laundromats here. Laundry is a business and paying someone to do it for us is just a part of supporting the local economy)
When we finally got back into the truck camper we were ready to go. We quickly jumped on the PanAmerican Highway and headed South, back toward Ecuador. But we weren’t moving too quickly, as there is much to see along that route. And many people that wanted to stare at us. Giggle as we did at all these different folks staring at the brightly colored truck camper as we drove past them.
And of course, we had to negotiate through busy streets, in small villages on our route through Colombia. Yes, this is what the street looked like that we must pass through to get to the other side of this village. Just imagine the stares as our giant, lumbering camper truck parts the crowds, passes just under those power lines and growls up that hill.
We spent many hours driving along the busy, sometimes narrow and curvy, Panamerican Highway. This highway is jam packed with fuel trucks, car haulers, box trucks, cyclists, motorcycles, delivery trucks, taxi vans, SUVs and small family cars. Although it is dangerous, speedy, narrow and sometimes scary, we actually saw very few accidents. Yes, that is a motorcycle attached to the back of that chicken bus! And sacks of either coffee or potatoes on the roof.
Occasionally traffic is backed up for no apparent reason at all. But work on the power lines must continue. We watched this brave repair crew dangle above the bumper to bumper cars as they made their repairs while we were stuck there for a while. That man looks like a squirrel on a power line! We don’t always stay on the PanAmerican Highway. When we exit we are usually heading to see something awesome and explore an area. This next highway mess was on the route to the underground tombs of Tierradentro. On this day we came upon a road construction site. It is open and passable for just two hours in the early morning and two hours in the late afternoon. This is what it looks like when they open it for cars to pass.
On the other side of this construction mess we found a cute village named Inza. This is the gateway to the archeology site. We arrived on market day and things were very busy. The central plaza was full of people. They were climbing off and on the area buses as they prepared to shop or took their new purchases and unsold belongings back home.
One of the oddest things we saw at the Inza market was this pig wearing a sign. Apparently it is a raffle prize. Everyone that buys a ticket has an equal chance of winning this giant live hog. The pig seemed unaware that she was wearing a sign advertising her raffle, and tickets are about fifty cents ($.50) apiece. (She is alive and rolling around in sawdust in this photo)
Nica enjoyed walking around this town and checking out the market from a distance. But she doesn’t like to get in the middle of the crowded market.
Inza is the gateway village for the beautiful Tierradentro National Park. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that encompasses an elaborate funeral complex featuring underground rooms used as burial tombs. Each of the underground tombs were hand dug, shaped, painted and filled with urns. They are now sealed and locked and can be entered with park staff present. The day we visited we were the only people there besides staff. And we were allowed to walk Nica along the trails to the various holes. Each is covered with a heavy wooden door that is padlocked. Upon opening the doors we smelled the musty underground, and descended the stairs (unaccompanied) to the tombs. Some had been lit, others required a flashlight. The urns have been removed to the museum at the entrance and elsewhere in the world. But the structures and paintings remain preserved underground. We visited about 2 of the 5 sites. Some of them require a days hike to access.
These are a just few of the carved idols and the hundreds of burial urns that were found in the tombs. Many of the specimens have been sent around the world for analysis and display. And sadly, much of the site was pillaged by grave-robbers prior to it becoming a protected UNESCO site.
In this area is a small, little known swimming area. It requires driving a dirt road and then a short hike up a hill. But it was worth it to cool off in the comfortable temperature waters of Villa Maria. We also visited the popular Laguna Cocha. This lakefront village looks a bit like Mormon Lake, Arizona. It is an overcrowded tourist destination that once had a lake full of water. But the lake has receded and many of the cabins are in disrepair. People still arrive to eat trout and ride the boats along the canals and out to the island. We passed by several small towns along these travels. This house caught our eye, as they seem to be collecting their recycling items on the roof of the house. This takes recycling to a new height. I hope the beams are strong! But when you look at that photo, take a moment to see the views in the background! Wow. Colombia has no shortage of breathtaking beauty in every direction!
All this driving took us to the well-known Silvia Market. This market is held every Tuesday and is also known as the Blue Market in a nod to the customary attire of the hundreds of indigenous that visit the market each week. Both men and women wear the traditional skirts, ponchos, white shirts and straw hats or fedoras. The shades of blue vary from bright to dark navy. They are a beautiful but shy people. Taking photos is limited, but I tried to capture a few images to give you a feel for the marketplace.
We camped at a nearby lagoon that was clearly the source of entertainment for local youth. These kids were videotaping themselves crashing their bikes into the water. Much laughter and fun was evident! Crazy kids. Leaving Silvia and moving closer to the Ecuador border meant a stop at Tejumbina Thermal Springs. As you may know, we are a fan of good hot springs. This one is now high on our list of favorites. It was clean, uncrowded, no odor, various temperatures and offered free camping on the edge of a canyon with views of a beautiful waterfall. These movies capture some of the pools and the amazing showers. Natural hot water flowing through pipes into private stalls! Such beauty and relaxation.
But all this relaxing had to come to and end. Just as our fantastic EIGHT MONTHS in Colombia would end. We covered much of this beautiful country. We met amazing people along the way. And we will forever feel drawn to this place. As we drove closer to the Ecuadorian border we were reminded of our freedoms to travel in comfort. We were reminded of the struggles of the Venezuelans who are risking their lives to walk away from the disasters, economic crisis and emergencies of their own country. Hauling all they own as they carry their young families with them, seeking a better life elsewhere. This is a huge humanitarian crisis in these parts, and it is evident in every part of every day. We thank our lucky stars as we stand in line to enter Ecuador with all our belongings and proceed with our incredible journey. So, please take a moment today to be thankful for the freedoms that you have along your own journey. And enjoy the preciousness of those around you as you enjoy your day or evening. Life is good and we are fortunate to be enjoying it in our way, and you in your way.
Wishing happiness to all of you, and thanks for joining us as we re-enter Ecuador to continue our explorations of South America.