South towards Bogota

ColombiaPosted by Malin Tue, June 07, 2011 20:31:44

We had heard about toll roads in Colombia that make travelling here a bit more expensive, but we had forgotten about them until we got on the road. From Cartagena we drove 220 km north to Taganga, and we had to pay at five toll booths and it cost us a total of $ 18,6 usd. That is pretty expensive especially since there are no alternative roads next to the toll roads like it is in Mexico. This must be the reason why we hardly see any normal cars driving on the roads outside villages and cities, but there are some buses and an incredible number of trucks.

From the Caribbean we had 935 km in front of us before we would arrive in Bogota. We realized that it would take a while, but not that long. A while before we arrived in Colombia there had been some really heavy rainfalls and we could see evidence along the road in the form of many landslides. Steep and windy roads combined with landslides and the number of trucks was not good for our average speed. One day we managed to drive only 130 km in 7 hours.

From highway 45 we took a detour up to Ocaña where we arrived late in the afternoon and we had to look for a place to camp. On our second round through town we noticed a pickup with a group of people that followed us. When we stopped they stopped too and asked us what we were looking for. After explaining that we needed a secure place to camp for three vehicles they discussed a bit back and forth, and it turned out that one of the guy’s family had a property on the countryside where we could camp. With the pickup truck in lead back through town we arrived at the place and it was nice and peaceful. They wondered how we had ended up in Ocaña, and we said that one of our maps showed a national park 20 something kilometers from Ocaña and we wanted to see it the next day. Our hosts had time because of holiday from studies or finished studies, and they wanted to take us to the Los Estoraques National Park.

In the morning the pickup was again leading us around on the mountain roads. Driving towards the National Park we drove through some really nice landscape with incredible rock formations, and with farmland in between.

To get to the Los Estoraques we had to pass through the white village of La Playa.

This is our group in the park for the first of several group photos. Our friendly, hospital hosts and guides for the day were: Louisa, Camilo, Pacho, Saul, Jorge, Oscar, Checho and Alvaro.

After visiting the Park we had a few more sightseeing stops and one of them was Santuario del Agua de la Virgin.

We had a look at the main plaza in Ocaña at night, and we talked to some more locals along the way. They were all really positive to us visiting their country and some even thanked us for coming. They also hoped we would tell positive stories from Colombia to our family and friends, and that we can definitely do because Colombia is a beautiful county with really nice people. So far on this trip it is here we have got the most positive greetings and thumbs up as we drive through towns and countryside. The perfect ending to a good day was the dinner that Pacho’s mother has cooked for the 14 of us. It was a good tasting beef in salsa meal accompanied with arepas (Colombian homemade tortillas) and goat cheese.

In Ocaña we had to fill up with diesel, but we learned the hard way that all the gas stations in the area were out of gasoline and diesel.

They all had this signs up saying NO hay A.C.P.M. (diesel) and NO hay gasolina. This is the first time we have not been able to find diesel on this journey, and because of that we have got a bit lazy with refueling before it gets too low. Driving around in Ocaña looking for diesel we got even lower on fuel and we had to buy a 6 gallon container of diesel on the street and fill it onto the car. Every ninth house (that was at least the feeling we got) in Ocaña area was selling fuel from barrels, jerry cans or bottles so there was no problem to buy fuel on the street.

We were wondering about the reason for this and our best idea was that locals drive the 200 km to the Venezuela border and buy cheap fuel there that they then sell. Since they can sell fuel cheaper than the gas stations the gas stations run out of business. We paid 33000 pesos (about 3 usd per gallon) for our 6 gallons of diesel on the street. Georg suspected later that the diesel was mixed with gasoline because he could drive up a hill in third gear where he the day before had to use the second gear. Anyway the 6 gallons got us back on the highway and on our second try along the highway we found a gas station that actually had fuel. With full tanks we continued.

We drove through some areas that had some bad landslides and many places there were road works. Quite often we had to stop for the road work, and we learned that whenever there were people walking up to the cars selling cold drinks, snack and hot coffee we had to wait for a while. Espen used the opportunity to get a cup of coffee.

One place we got to, the road had been closed for a while because the bridge had been washed away by the flood water, but we could drive on a small bypass and watch the army building the new bridge.

Highway 45A from Bucaramanga to San Gil was really scenic. The road took us along the Rio Chicamocha for a while and then climbing up to 2300 meters with amazing views over the surrounding valleys.

After managing a distance of 130 km this day we found a place to camp in San Gil and we called it a day.


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