This is part of the eighth section of our around the
Complete Trip Overview & Map
Coming from Panama
25/3/02 Avianca had us on the ground in Bogota on time, a taxi through the almost deserted streets, it being a public holiday, and into our backpacker's accommodation by 3.00 pm. Platypus Hostel seems to be where "all" the backpackers stay in Bogota. With all the hype about this country recently about highway robbery and kidnappings, we had expected almost no other travellers. The "true" travellers are here though, travelling overland by bus from Ecuador, Cartagena or Cali. People from the more usually hard travelling nationalities of Dutch, New Zealanders, British, German, Canadian and Australians. They are aware of the risks and prepare as much as they can, being cautious but not paranoid. The situation seems to bring all travellers together more closely and being newcomers we had a pleasant evening discussing other's travels.
26/3/02 The motorcycle did not arrive as promised. After a fax to Panama and a couple of phone calls to the representative in Bogota we were promised it's arrival tomorrow. In the meantime we managed a funicular train ride up Monserrate, overlooking the red roofs spreading for miles across a seemingly treeless valley of 7 million people. At 2600m Bogota is dry, crisp and we don't have the usual stamina for walking. A city of extremes with a large number of street children, alcoholics, glue sniffers begging. Many selling small items in the streets, particularly leading up to the Easter festivities.
27/3/02 We were at Girag at 8.30 am and the bike was there but the computer link with customs was down. With only today to clear the bike before a four day Semana Santa holiday we were grateful when the machine finally responded at 10.00 am. Mario (Girag) had his paperwork done by 11.00 am and we had customs check the bike by 12.15 pm. The speed mainly due to the fact we had a carnet. No payments necessary and we rode out the front steps of Girag's office as there was no ramp from the loading bay. Both Girag and Customs (Dian) incredibly efficient and helpful.
28/3/02 It's not often we write about accommodation places, and they have to be exceptional to stand out from the many we have stayed in. Platypus is one of those places. An old style Spanish building with courtyards, kitchen, common area but the real bonus is Herman, the owner. He travelled for 15 years before and has put that knowledge along with the friendliness of Colombians into the hostel. It has certainly made it a great welcoming for us. Most things closed today, but the festivities started with street closures, street food stalls, buskers and traditional foods being served as thousands of holidayers came out into the streets.
29/3/02 We left early to ensure we arrived in daylight. Just 350 km to San Gil through lovely mountain scenery shrouded periodically in fog and light drizzle. Bridges and dams along the way were heavily guarded by military, potentially guerrilla targets. Despite it being a holiday the roads were almost deserted. The toll charges, even on normal roads, probably deterring travel. Luckily motorcycles are free to drive around the toll gates. The Easter celebrations in San Gil in full swing with most of the people in the main square or at the church. Nothing specific happening, just families out with children buying balloons and ice cream, or taking older people out for a walk.
30/3/02 The beautiful colonial town of Barichara is just 20 km from San Gil, situated on a hill bordered by a steep drop into a scenic valley. The town is more Spanish than Spain. Painted stucco walls, large overhanging eaves and terracotta roofs, set right along side the stone slab roads, and a large church overlooking the town square where everything seems to happen. In the afternoon we mingled with holidaymakers at the riverside garden. A park on an island between a creek and river, with enormous trees covered in silvery epiphytes where the locals come to stroll or swim.
31/3/02 Less than 300 km to the Venezuelan border but it
takes almost six hours of riding time. The road is reasonable but it twists
and turns up and down over mountain ranges to river valleys. At times it
is alpine scenery with cold wind and 9 degrees and at others over 30 degrees.
The views expansive with houses dotted amongst small green fields cut into
the hillside. Coffee, bananas, fallowed plots and cattle grazing. A magnificent
ride. Fast paperwork and out of the country in 10 minutes with no payments
necessary. We thoroughly enjoyed Colombia and look to return in December,
perhaps the political climate will be easier.
Move with us to Venezuela
, or go to our next visit to Colombia .
Story and photos copyright ©
Peter and Kay Forwood,