Sunny colonial towns and a rainy city
No more Caribbean coasts for me this trip. It is time to head south once again. The first part of the drive from Playa Los Angeles is flat and boring. There isn’t much around not even spots to camp. I don’t really feel like camping behind a gas station so I decide to push on to the next ‘actual’ camping spot. But of course now the road does turn mountainous, busy and full of construction sites. It’s already dark by the time I get to the camp at a swimming spot at a river. That was more than 500km in more than 9 hours. The longest driving day in a very long time. Let’s not do that again.
The good thing about the long driving day is that I now have plenty of time for stops. The first one is a visit to the town of Giron. A nice little colonial town in the mountains with all white walls. Pretty good for some nice photos and watching people enjoy their Sunday. After Giron it’s a mountainous drive to the Canyon Chicamocha. The canyon is more than a kilometer deep and has beautiful views. Slightly worrying for my van is that the only way to get across the canyon is to drive all the way down to the river and than back up. But it looks like I finally have the mountain driving of the van under control. Going from 500m to 1500m in less than 15km is steep but no problem. I find a campsite at the rim of the canyon with a great view and even better sunsets. After the long driving day yesterday I decide I deserve a lazy planning day here.
I’m now really in colonial town land and go visit Barichara. This town is even prettier than Giron with equally white walls, but the steep hills make it more awesome. The town is built on a cliff so loads of good views. That night I spend at one of the more ‘special’ campsites. It is an eco farm/hostel/campsite. The toilets are pit toilets in wooden shacks (the urinal is a funnel); showers are solar showers between four curtains in the middle of the field; there’s an old school bus re-purposed as movie room and there are goats everywhere. But it’s cheap, they have power and good WiFi. The next day it’s raining pretty bad so I decide to stay another day and use the WiFi to backup my photos. At some point I want to go to the toilet when I find all three of them occupied by goats that are hiding from the rain. I want to take a picture of that but then my phone screen starts flickering and just dies. My phone is dead, two drops of rain. There goes my GPS, my communication, my music, my planning, my cost tracker, my photos. No good. Time to dig up my old tablet with broken screen (not used since Canada), after some work I get that one to work for GPS so at least I can keep driving until I buy a new phone.
New phone should be easy. Every mall and every supermarket in these countries has an insane amount of phones for sale. Just not the ones I picked today. I guess I’ll improvise some more. My temporary GPS didn’t have all the right settings yet so my drive to Villa de Leyva did not avoid unpaved roads. So I got some potholled, steep, rock filled dirt roads on my way. At least it was pretty. At Villa de Leyva there’s a hostel camp just outside of town. There’s a German couple with an RV there too so time to speak some more German. The afternoon I walk down to town. More colonial, more white walls, still very very pretty.
Finally a sunny morning. That doesn’t happen very often so I walk to town again to enjoy it some more. The goal for today is 1: buy a new phone and 2: visit the salt cathedral in Zipaquira (it’s an underground cathedral in an old salt mine). The road to Zipaquira is quick and well paved until I’m almost there. Then it turns into some kind of funky dream. An extremely heavily trafficked pothole extravaganza with right next to it a weird empty theme park with an almost full scale replica of the Taj Mahal. Weird shit. After I finally manage to buy a new phone it is too late to visit the cathedral so instead I head to a camp just outside of Bogota where I’m welcomed with some nice hot fresh herbal tea.
So Bogota. Big cities are always tricky. Do I camp and take a bus to town or do I drive in and stay in a hostel. For Bogota I went for the hostel option. The drive into the city was a bit hectic because I had to drive down a steep hill into town and because it was Saturday this steep hill was filled with cyclists (they love cycling here). Once I was in the city, Bogota was actually one of the easier cities to drive on my trip. What doesn’t mean I did not have to drive around the area four times (first time I missed the hostel street, second time I found out the hostel does not have it’s own parking as advertised, the third time I found out that the parking garage I saw doesn’t let me park there because of the height (the sign said 2.20m and I’m only 2m but the guy refused to let me in), the fourth attempt I finally had a guarded parking spot. The hostel only has a small dorm with private bathroom available which is pretty expensive but I’m not going to look for another option now. I spend the morning at the hostel using the WiFi to setup my new phone. When I finally want to head into town it starts raining again. So I go to the famous Gold Museum. Loads and loads of golden pre-colombian artifacts from all over the country. Pretty cool. I walk around town some more to see the cathedral and the heavily guarded presidential palace. The roads around the palace are closed for cars but you can walk there. But don’t attempt to walk on the sidewalks because you will get yelled at by guys with big guns (I tried). Cold and rainy are not my favourites so I head to the BBC (Bogota Breweing Company) for a pizza (yeah. oven food!) and some beers that do not taste like water.
I wake up with more rain. I’m a bit skeptical about the parking lot where my van is. When I walked by last night my van was the only one there, so I decide to call Bogota done. Good thing I did so because I clearly misunderstood the parking attendant. The parking lot was not meant for overnight parking and now I need to pay almost 20 euros for less than 24 hours of parking. So my one night in the hostel and one night parking costed me more than 10 average days of camping. And on top of that Bogota was rainy, cold and gray. Time to get the hell out of here and head down the mountains for some cheap countryside sun.