Chronicle of a travel foretold II: Por la carretera

As an horrible start of the trip was the fucking long and wearing way to the bus terminal in Bogotá, almost 2 hours of pain but finally we were there ready to start, in company of my brother we took the first bus towards, Girardot, not very interesting place for this plan, but it was a mandatory stop for me to visit my aunt who lives there. Just went out of Bogotá and I saw the landscape during the whole way, the green color everywhere, the enormous mountains with their different shapes and the soo good weather was enough to forget the previous 2 hours stuck in the traffic.. those lands were full of life, peace, and energy. Every few Kilometers we were crossing a river an another, I was lost in the landscapes, looking through the window a just wanted to jump everywhere to enjoy the beauty of this lands.

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The time in Girardot was just familiar, speaking, enjoying the company, solving the problems of the world,  walking the dog around, and as usual eating a lot, drinking lots of juices and fruits. We spent a night there and I was starting to enjoy Colombia at full throttle,  far from the stress of the city this was paradise itself, what big amount of food, and variety, as some people say, this is a rich country.. lots of resources and energy sources everywhere.

Next day after lunch we continued the journey, the target was to get to the Tatacoa desert before sunset.  First a bus to Espinal and change there to another bus towards Neiva,  It was about 4 hours of  really beautiful landscapes on the valley between mountains. To arrive to the desert we had 2 ways, the long and safe arriving to Neiva and taking another bus back on the other side of the Magdalena river to Villavieja. Or the short and risky,  going out in Aipe, a small village on the way about 100km before Neiva, reach the river and find a small boat that crosses to Villavieja, the risk were first that the last cross by boat is at 6.00pm, second, that there is no exact location to know where is the river and in which part of the river is located the boat. We arrived to Aipe around 5.40pm and we decided to take the risk. We just jumped from the bus and a guy in motorcycle arrived to us offering a ride to the river and we were 3 guys with 2 backpacks on a motorcycle going down to the river on a gravel road with high slope, the motorcycle left us in a broken wood bridge and we had to follow the path to the river and to the boat. But after a couple of hundreds the path just disappear and we were in the border of the river with no idea where to go.. suddenly we hear the sound of a motor and we look at the boat crossing the river, we screamed and waved, and running between stones they came back to picked us, we crossed the Magdalena river in the last boat of the day!.

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On the other side of the river, in Villavieja, we took another motorcycle that brings us to the camping zone of the desert. After build the tend, and take some food we went to, in my opinion,  the most attractive activity in the desert, the visit to the national observatory, there we had the opportunity to watch the moon and some planets, the most impressive was to observe Saturn with its rings, majestic! A jewel in our sky! The night there was as calm as I wished, the sound of the silences under the starred sky, éxtasis! Next morning we woke up early to visit the different parts of the desert, first I should say it is not a desert at all, technically it corresponds to a tropical dry forest, it has 2 parts divided by the color, one red the other gray, there is not too much to see more than dry ground, cactus, some birds, and exotics landscapes.

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After dismount the tend we took the motorcycle to Villavieja, and there a bus to Neiva, the destination was San Agustin, In Neiva we took a walk across the city, looking for a place to have lunch, as usual a lot of food.. too much!, and also we found a street seller of “cane juice” another of the most delighting flavors, pure pleasure. The bus from Neiva to San Agustin was about 7 hours, going up, The Tatacoa desert was at 450 meters but San Agustin is at 1730 meters, so the weather got fresh, San Agustin is a small village hidden in the mountains, the principal activity is the tourism and raise the price of anything depending of from how far away are you coming, there is a lot of foreign people. What is interesting to see there? There are many things, San Agustin is famous and world recognized because of its archaeological treasures, a series of statues and tombs that were looted and from whose builders we do not know that much, however I consider the most attractive are the surrounding of the town itself,  there are some waterfalls, rivers, the stretch of the Magdalena river where it is just 2 meters width, and taking into account this is one of the longest rivers inside Colombia is quite amazing to see that big amount of water going in so few space, there are a big mountains and valleys that are really nice to see. During the days, in San agustin we met with Baptiste a nice French guy with who we had nice talks about life, politics, and society, we expect to meet again in some other destination.

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The next destination for us was the city of Pasto, we travel over the night via Mocoa, the road wasn’t the best, either the bus, we arrived safe, Pasto wasn’t really the best place to be, I didn’t like it too much,  I just asked the money back from a ticket of  a canceled concert of my favorite Colombian band Kraken.  That day my father arrived and we took a bus towards Ipiales, his hometown, a small town near the border with Ecuador. A placed located at 2960 meters over the sea, it was high and cold, but nicer than Pasto. There we met familiars I hadn’t met in ages or hadn’t met at all in my life. Between the interesting things done there was to eat Cuy, a traditional dish from the region, the Cuy is a small animal similar to a big rat, the flavor, I don’t know, not bad nut not as good as people says it is.  We also took many of the traditional “empanadas” and the potatoes “tortillas” or “lapingachos” and we visit the Sanctuary of las lajas, probably the most attractive place over there, it is a church built in the valley of the güaitara river between the two mountains, a catholic temple. We visited so many places that with the years have changed a lot but they are so alive in the memories of my father, the places where he lived his childhood and I didn’t know them. Next day we came back to Pasto and to Bogotá by plane finishing the first trip.

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To be continue …

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One Comment

  1. Thanks for the post. Very interesting to read the details of your trip as we are planning one similar next year. At the moment, I am wondering whether it is best to go the long way from Bogota to Villavieja via Neiva or to take the shorter but less certain route via Aipe. It is useful to know that the river crossing canoe-taxi ends at 6pm.

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