Colombia Part 1 - Cartagena

My South America adventure has begun!!! I arrived safely in Cartagena after a really nice boat trip along the Darien. As for my height I wasn't locked in a container but had a "Flat Rack" premium spot at the top deck I could enjoy the nice views and a fresh sea breeze. Unfortunately I couldn't take pics of the great scenery for my drivers took the cameras with them. What a bummer!


Cartagena is a really cool city which has it all. A beautiful Old Town, a vibrant art scene with lots of great street art, beaches, music and dancing in the streets, great food&rum and an incredibly nice atmosphere. We started to read Gabriel García Marquez and learned a lot about the Spanish colonists as Cartagena was a key location for them.


One of the highlights was the "wildlife" in a park right in the city center. Somehow a few sloths and monkeys (Liszt-Affen) decided to settle down there. They're probably being feeded but we were super surprised when we saw them for the first time. After that we passed by a few more times because we liked observing them so much.


Colombia Part 2 - Highlands & Bogota & Medellin

After the Carribean heat we enjoyed the spring temperatures up in the mountains. We were there in rainy season which was actually a good thing. It only rained temporarily every day and the nature was so incredible green it sometimes bedazzled us.

 

Bogota was mainly about me. My brakes got checked (all good and ready for the Andes) and some minor things were fixed. It felt so good to drive up at a garage and read "Iveco". It was the first time since I had started the trip. It felt really good not having to explain myself about who I am and what I like. Typical expat thing meeting up with folks from your homecountry I guess ;-)

 

Medellin was extremely interesting and exciting. At least that's what my drivers told me. Again I was left behind up in the mountains while they took the Teleferico. At least they found me a nice campground to hang out. We usually try to do wildcamping far away from others. But sometimes it's nice to meet other cars and people being on similar adventures. If you want to know more about Botero, the Comuna 13 or Pablo Escobar and the narcotraffic you have to ask my drivers. They seem to know a lot about those topics now.

 

The colorful facades are what makes the town of Guatapé so special. Close to this not-to-be-missed destination is the monolith "El Peñol". The reward for climbing 650 stairs is a great view over a picturesque scenery of lakes and small islands.

 

All in all we really enjoyed our trip through this part of Colombia. The Colombian people are so lively and welcoming. The only thing that freaked us out sometimes was their way of driving. You could describe it as "kamikaze-style". On the other hand we couldn't help but smile in many occasions. For example they overtook us, slowed down quickly and made me brake heavily. They did it to take a video of driving in front of us and sent it to us.


Colombia Part III - Cocora Valley + Tatacoa Desert + a looong way out

Colombia kept delivering ;-) In the Cocora Valley, where you can see the impressive giant wax palms, my drivers had one of their best hikes on our trip so far. And I could do some off-roading again. It was muddy and steep but I didn't have any real problems. I think we are getting more and more experienced about how to handle such conditions (video indicating otherwise following soon 😄). We wildcamped between waxpalms and it was so quiet it even felt a bit weird.

 

In one day we drove from lavishly green  and spring temperatures to warm red and heat. Wax palms were replaced by cacti. The Tatacoa Desert reminded us a lot of Utah and the Bryce Canyon. We could camp right at the plateau and had one of those incredible desert nights where the stars are so bright you have to blink. It was the first time we could spot the "Crux" ("Kreuz des Südens"). This constellation will accompany us for the rest of our trip on the Southern Hemisphere.

 

After that a real Odyssey out of the country started. We wanted to cross the border to Ecuador in Ipiales but we didn't make it. We had to cross a mountain chain to get there. There are a few roads leading there and we tried everyone except for the "Trampolin de la muerte" for we wanted to conserve my shock absorbers and feathers. They face enough challenges every day. From landslides to a truck with a broken differential which blocked the road for days we had to turn around several times. In the end we decided to cross the eastern border via Lago Agrio. Travel guides recommend to avoid the area for it used to be a smuggling route. We felt a bit nervous at the beginning but everything was calm and the people were as friendly and welcoming as before. But apparently Columbia wanted to keep us in the country. Another landslide occurred and the road only opened after dark. We usually don't drive at night but sometimes you just run out of options. We haven't slept on so many gas stations than in this one week. We just couldn't foresee when we would arrive at the next location. In the end it was an adventure and we were grateful for a wonderful month in Columbia.