Since the last post, a lot has happened, and we have completely fallen in love with Colombia. I was told it was an amazing country, many people call it their favorite on the whole trip, we still went in skeptical and came out impressed. The impressive scenery, amazingly friendly people and cool temperatures kept us entertained for almost two months. That's the reason there hasn't been a more recent blog post... just too darn much to see and do.
During our first two weeks in Colombia, we met some new adventure buddies at our Chicamocha Canyon camp spot. Meet Daniel and Stefani. He is from Germany, she is from Austria, and they are awesome.
We left the Chicamocha Canyon with full water tanks, well rested, and a fresh blog post for our friends and family. For some reason Luke Colleen and Chama were still tolerating us, so we were once again lucky to have them as travel companions for the next couple of weeks. This was great because while I was blogging, Katie was laundering, and we both were finding ways to distract ourselves, Luke and Colleen (and Chama) had been doing research on where we should go next and planning our route.
Next for us was a beautiful small town called Barichara. Given the option of taking the pavement toll road to get there or small dirt mountain roads, we chose the later.
Our day was filled with great views, friendly smiles, and in the end a wonderful, clean, small town with a safe place to camp.
We ended up spending three nights in Barichara. When we woke up on day two, we did a great hike from Barichara to a neighbor town called Guane. The trail is an old road called "Camino Real" that used to link the two towns in the time when trade was done on horse, mule, or foot. It was well established, but not an easy path by any means.
When we got to Guane, we had lunch and hiked back to Barichara. We took all day to enjoy the 6.5 mile (10km) hike, and it felt great to get some exercise.
After we were back in our camp spot in Barichara we ran into this guy.
He's from Bogota, and is taking his bike from Bogota to the northern most point in South America. We invited him for dinner, and he let us play around on his bike.
The next day after chatting with some other travelers that showed up, we left Barichara only to return for one more night because we discovered we had forgotten Katie's credit card at the local grocery store the day before. It took an employee at another store in another town to call the store where we had forgotten the card and that meant a trip back to Barichara, but in the end everything was fine, and the card was back in our hands.
From Barichara we headed to El Cocuy National Park. Well just outside of it really. The park is highly regulated and; they require that you hire a guide, buy health insurance and pay an entrance fee to actually enter. We have no problems paying to enter preserved areas, or even paying for guides, in this case it was just outside of our budget, so we took in the amazing views from a distance.
The park consists of high alpine peaks topping out at 17,400' (5,300m), Glaciers, and impressive geologic formations.
For us, our high point was a lookout just inside the park boundary. We spoke with the ranger, and he said we were fine to drive to the lookout and enjoy the view.
At this viewpoint, we were met by some other traveling friends. Flavia and Oliver are driving the white Land Rover Defender with a roof top tent, and you'll recognize Daniel and Stefani's blue Toyota Land Cruiser.
It's not rare that we cross paths with other people doing the same trip, or similar. It makes it a fun chance to catch up, compare stories, and sometimes travel together for a bit.
In the end we spent four days in the El Cocuy area exploring dirt roads and enjoying the views. I doubt we exceeded 15mph the entire time and spent many days in first gear. It was totally worth it!
During our time exploring and traveling the northeastern side of Colombia we started to hear some questionable noises from our van. We noticed they were only present while braking. At our next level camp spot, Katie and I decided we should check the brakes and find out what was causing the noise. As it turned out, our rear brake pads were almost worn completely out,
After a day taking things apart, and making a list, Luke offered to drive me to the nearest town to see if we could find some new brake pads for our van. Luke and I spent the day in Sogamoso, Colombia searching for brake pads for the van with almost no luck. After seven different shops, we found a man that was willing to attach new brake material to our old pads. Two hours and $20 later I had these in my hands.
It seemed very normal for him, and very cheap for me, the process was done by simply drilling and riveting new pad material to the old backing plate. The next day, I attached the "new" pads to the van (with tons of help from Luke) and we were off again.
We had six days to get to Medellin. It's important at this point to tell everyone that my parents had planned a visit. We would be picking my parents up from the Medellin airport, and they would be traveling with us for two weeks through Colombia's coffee region.
We made a couple stops on our way to Medellin including Villa de Leyva, to see a beautiful colonial town and an awesome fossil museum built on the site where a fully-intact Kronosaurus fossil was found.
We dipped into Bogota to visit an outdoors store, then we drove a full day to the outskirts of Medellin.
We still had some time before my parents were to arrive which gave us time to explore Lago Guatape and El Peñol. Guatape is a nice lake about an hour and a half outside of Medellin. It has many islands and peninsulas, but the most impressive part is the large monolith called El Peñol.
El Peñol has both an up and down staircase built into a crack on it's side. The view from the top is fantastic, and on a clear day it's absolutely worth it.
We wanted to make sure we had a nice camp spot for the first couple of days my parents would be in town, so we went to check out our options and get a little settled before they arrived. Luckily, we loved the first place we stopped. It's called Al Bosque Hostal and Glamping, if you go to Medellin, go there too. They had everything, beer, internet, level camp spots, a kitchen, fire pits, and even some new neighbors. Many of the rigs we were camped next to made us feel quite small. These vehicles are more popular in Europe, and are often built with the intentions of exploring Africa. Also many of their owners live full time in them, traveling the world and spending years at a time exploring other continents.
We still had some time to kill before my parents would arrive which gave me the rare chance to get the bikes out and go for a ride. Luke also happens to be a fan of the bicycle, so we lowered the seat on Katie's bike and we went out to explore some trails. It was muddy, it was technical, but most of all it was a blast. (Chama's favorite words are "bike ride!")
At this point we had been traveling with Luke, Colleen, and Chama since we arrived in Colombia, and enjoying every second. With my parents arriving, Katie and I would be slowing down quite a bit, and unfortunately Luke, Colleen and Chama had to speed up. After a couple fun relaxing days at Al Bosque together it was time to part ways. We hope to see them down the road, and share more adventures.
It was also time for a trip to the Medellin airport to greet my parents!!!