Adios Atlantico, hola montañas!

Due to the shipment time of the Bremach, we had a few days to take a look around in the old town of Cartagena: beautifully renovated old buildings, lots of plants in bloom, large city walls along the sea that can be walked on, and a relaxed atmosphere with a lot of tourists from the country itself and from abroad. When we were able to pick up our Bremach six days after shipping it, we were, however, happy to be traveling on again.

After all the shipment paperwork and waiting around involved with it, we indulged ourselves with relaxation on the beach. On the way there, we passed by a “mud volcano” you can wallow around in, but we soon discovered that this wasn’t anything for long-term travelers like us because the full price had to be paid for little children. The coconut vendor agreed with us when we decided to get back into the car without taking a bath there and then drove off.

Right next to the expensive Tayrona National Park, there is a lovely camp-site where the Atlantic coast is probably just as beautiful as in the park. After all the days spent on beaches in Central America, we didn’t feel like paying for the park and having to take hikes to the beaches. We enjoyed the company of not only a very nice Belgian family, but also lots and lots of Columbians who were taking advantage of the days off for the Mardi Gras Carnival. All along the beach, they had set up their tents and hammocks. There wasn’t any loud music, however, which was quite the contrary to what was going on along the street: gigantic loud-speakers turned outwards and set as loudly as possible to fill the entire surrounding area with sound.

We fled the hullabaloo and made a side trip to the mountain village of Minca. Nowhere else are there such high mountains directly next to the ocean, but clouds blocked our view of the snow-covered peaks. We did, however, enjoy the not-quite-so-hot mountain air and did a challenging off-road tour to a view-point where we heard the ear-deafening noise of hundreds of thousands of chicharas (amazingly big cicadas). One morning, we also took an excursion to the nearby coffee plantation of La Victoria. The highlight for Max there was very clearly the small Pelton turbine which is used for generating power and as the motor for the coffee-roasting machines. The coffee beans leave the finca packed in lovely sacks, but Max was able to see what happens just a little later at the harbor. The sacks are cut open by customs officials, and the beans are whirled through the air – drug control.

Two long days of driving later, we arrived at the plains and less impressive landscapes. We drove past a gasoline village and could hardly believe our eyes when we saw one big tank after the other – full of cheap gas smuggled out of Venezuela. Gas at dumping prices!

We finally came to the heartland of the country and the Canon de Chicamocha, where there is a national park with amusement more than nature at its core. In a modern gondola, you can go from one side of the canyon to the other and spend the rest of the day zip-lining, go-carting, sliding down gigantic slides, having fun on gigantic swings, and much more.

A few days for getting things done in and around San Gil followed the time spent relaxation and driving. I lost a filling, so I had the pleasure of seeing a Columbian dentist practice from the inside. From the technical point of view, there is hardly any difference between here and at home. What was different was that the two dental chairs were in one big room, everything was covered with plastic cling wrap like Saran, and it only cost about $15 (€12.50)! Just as professionally and without an appointment, a mechanic in a small courtyard workshop welded the brackets for the exhaust pipe onto the Bremach. After our trip, we will miss these immediate, often well improvised and inexpensive repairs! It is only laundries that don’t seem to be so prevalent in Columbia, so after a visit to the lovely little city of Barichara, we had another day for getting things done, like washing our mountains of laundry by hand. At least we have found an excellent spot for doing this on the premises of a swimming pool where the children can run around and let off steam, and we are in the company of an Irish and a German couple in expedition vehicles. We have stayed here one more day and are taking advantage of the opportunity to write this first travel report from Columbia. Next to us, the Irish couple’s Unimog is being repaired by a mechanic who came overnight from Bogotá, which is about six hours away from here, and is spending Sunday tinkering around on the vehicle and fixing it. Here, too, a lot has to be improvised, of course, since this is much quicker and cheaper than have parts flown in from Germany.

The Columbians have greeted us in a very friendly manner and are interested in us. It is difficult not to find yourself in a conversation with the locals. A police control goes very differently than expected: I am waved over and greeted with a handshake by the police officer. First of all, he wants to know how I am doing. Then he asks where we are from and where we are heading. Next, there is no checking of our papers as expected, no, instead he asks how we like Columbia and whether we are also going to drive here and there because there are this and that which we shouldn’t miss. Smiling, he wishes us a good trip and waves goodbye as we drive off.

Traffic here is sometimes very wild, and nothing works without a lot of honking. On the mountain roads, you either have to pass the Columbian way (at the smallest possibility, whether you can see anything or not, just honk and step on the gas) or learn to be patient (the variation recommended for non-locals) because the trucks can be verrrry slow. On most of the main roads, a pretty high toll has to be paid, and, in front of the toll booths, there are, once again, the annoying topes. Meanwhile, we have learned to appreciate the vendors standing there. Freshly pressed juices, CDs, various recharging cables, and, just recently, even hot coffee change hands very quickly here. In general, there are coffee vendors on every corner in Columbia waiting for customers with their thermo bottles and small plastic cups. To our delight, street stands with good food can also be found very quickly. Especially popular here is the so-called “comida corriente“, which means that soup and a carafe with a sweet drink are served immediately, followed by meat or fish, according to choice, with rice, plantains, and a little bit of vegetables. We plan to continue eating our way through the country for the next few weeks. Columbia is about five times as big as Germany, and there is a lot to see and do here!

Here is a collection of private photos.

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