The Ten

The Ten

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

On the road in Colombia

Not long after leaving Bogotá; the altitude gradually drops making it noticeably warmer and easier to breath with each passing mile. As I made a late start, after liberating my bike from the customs; I didn't get too far the first day. Took a few attempts at finding a hotel (the first 3 or 4 were mysteriously full, when it was clear I couldn't speak Spanish. Fair enough, I'll need to learn the basics quickly). Ended up in the nice little town of Girardot with a decision to make: should I head west to hook up with the Pan-American highway before swinging south towards Cali, OR drop straight south towards Neiva (to see the Desierto de la Tatacoa) and on to San Agustin?

Passed several army checkpoints; I was never stopped and it seemed to be more a show of force to give a sense of security to the locals against FARC. The soldiers would be stood by the road with a gun in one hand whilst giving a thumbs up with the other. I presume this was to say "all's well in the area"; or maybe they were trying to hitch a ride?
When I set off the next day, I still wasn't sure of which way to go, but found the bike headed south on the road to San Agustin. Decision made then. This was an arrow straight road with little to see at first as it ran between two ranges of the Cordillera mountains which were just smudges on the horizon. The further south I rode, the better the scenery became as these two ranges began to converge.
I stopped briefly at the Desierto de la Tatacoa; which was good, and I should have spent the night; instead opting to try my luck instead in Neiva. Most "hotels" there seemed to charge by the hour, but it was too late to move on. I eventually found an OK truck-stop type place on the edge of town which was legit and served hot food and cold beer.

Onwards south again to see the archaeological wonders of San Agustin. The town itself wasn't very inspiring, but the ancient stone carvings and beautiful countryside were well worth the detour. I don't know why this place isn't better known. Spent a very pleasant day riding my (unladen) bike from site to site. As well as the interesting ancient statues; there was the gorge of the Rio Magdalena, which flows north to the Caribbean. At El Stretchio, it is forced into a channel only 2 metres wide. And I had the place to myself. Perfect.

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