Trails and tombs

ColombiaPosted by Malin Wed, June 15, 2011 04:38:47

From one nice colonial city to another. After visiting Barichara we drove to Villa de Leyva. Villa de Leyva was founded in 1572 and today it has become a weekend destination for people from Bogotá. It was a nice city to relax in for a few days. From this quiet town we headed to Bogotá. Because we are UN-urban we seldom go to big cities, but we had to go to Bogotá because Malin’s passport was falling apart. At the immigration into Panama the officer commented on the info page that was on its way to fall out. We figured that to tape it in was not a good idea, so the solution was to get an emergency passport at the Norwegian Embassy in Bogotá. The Embassy was helpful and after filling out some papers I had a new orange emergency passport in my hands.

With the necessities out of the way we could do some sightseeing in Bogota. The Gold Museum was our first stop, and it was amazing to see all the pre-Colombian gold work and how good artists they were.

Then we looked at some more modern art at Donación Botero Museo with art from international artists like Picasso and Dali, and 123 pieces of Botero’s own work. Beside these two museums we strolled around in the streets and ate some excellent Bogotan food.

On this travel we have tried to avoid the Pan-Am Highway as much as possible. But when it comes to roads in Colombia we realized that we had more or less traveled the whole of Highway 45 from North to South - except a few detours. One was made from the highway close to Villa Nuevo, and there we were able to cross Rio Magdalena on an old railway bridge.

Now it was a converted into a vehicle bridge, but our map still showed that it still was a railroad…… After following the “railroad” south we got to the Tataco Desert.

It was definitely different from all other landscapes we have driven through in Colombia, and it was strange to see cactus again.

From the desert we took another detour and drove up a muddy road to Tierradentro. In Tierradentro about 100 tombs that were created from the 6th to the 9th century AD have been discovered. The tombs were scooped out of the rock and they are 3-8 meters below the surface and 2 to 10 meters in diameter. They were painted in geometric patterns in black, red and white, and it is still possible to see the paintings on the walls in some of the tombs.

It was amazing to walk the stairs down into these tombs and realize all the work that it must have taken to make them to make these burial sites.

Next stop was San Agustin, another of Colombia’s Archeological Parks. San Agustin is famous for its hundreds of stone carved sculptures that were left next to the tombs at the different burial sites in the area.

The area has been populated since 3300 B.C., but San Agustin culture had its peak between the 6th and 14th century AD. It is presumed that the culture had vanished before the Spaniards arrived. All the different sculptures and tombs were really incredible, but what amazed me the most was the Fuente de Lavapatas, a monument carved in the stone bed of a stream.

We drove the last kilometers south on Highway 45 to Mocoa, and from there we took Highway 10 west. It crosses the Andes and it was not much out there except forest, hills and the road. It was a really impressive road carved into the mountain side climbing from 600 meters up to 3250 meters. Most of the time it was a one lane road, but luckily there were many places to meet other vehicles as we met many trucks on their way over the mountain.

Just before the border to Ecuador we made one last sightseeing stop at the Las Lajas Sanctuary. The church is built in the canyon of the Guáitara River which is a pretty impressive location for a church.

With this we were ready to leave Colombia. We could definitely have spent a lot more time here. Colombia has been the most positive surprise so far on this trip. One local girl was shocked to hear that people in USA and Europe still thinks Colombia is only about drugs and FARC. Our only excuse or explanation to that must be that all we read and hear about Colombia in the media is negative news. So we would like to say that we have had a great time in Colombia and have not had any problems. Along the road we have got more thumbs up and positive greetings than in all other countries we have traveled through. Together with nice colonial cities, great beaches, and incredible scenery, Colombia is a great country to travel in.


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