In pursuit of el dorado… – Laguna de Guatavita

Laguna de Guatavita has a long history starting with the Muisca people at least 500 years ago.  The Muisca would throw gold offerings into the water from a perch in the hills surrounding the laguna.  Many attempts to recover the gold (el dorado) have been made (including cutting a ditch out of the side of the laguna to drain it), but reports are conflicting as to whether any one of the parties was very successful.

Guatavita is a circular lake at 3000 meters that has no water outlet.  Discovery Channel aired a a theory that a meteor formed the crater and now lake, however scientists have evidence that the crater was once a giant salt deposit.


For the entire drive to the lake, George plotted about finding gold and his plans for it (blah blah blah). I quickly forgot about this as we climbed the short path to the viewpoints atop the laguna, which offered us picturesque views of the surrounding countryside and the laguna itself. A nice little stopover and a chance to stretch your legs if you have half a day free.


The big B – Bogota and around

First some fun facts about Bogota, a city of roughly 8.5 million. Admittedly beforehand, I had no idea that Bogota sits at 2,625 meters (8,612 ft) above sea level. This high elevation clearly translates into cooler temperatures (avg 14.5 Celsius).

Anyone who listens to National Public Radio (NPR) in the states for long enough, has probably heard of Bogota and it’s failed license plate traffic scheme.  Bogota limits the days you can drive by the last digit of your license plate.  To side step this annoying limitation, many locals have purchased second cars leaving them free to drive when they like.

On our first encounter with Bogota’s notorious traffic, we found that driver’s in the city were more respectful than in the smaller towns (they didn’t honk continuously and there were some engaged blinkers, oh my). On subsequent visits however, it was a whole different ball game and so the flow of Bulgarian curses commenced.

We stayed at Charlies Place Hotel which included free breakfast, parking and wonderful service.  The hotel is in walking distance of both the Brazilian and Bolivian embassies.  For the next 3 days, we laid down a lot of shoe leather (or I guess rubber since we were in our sneaks), walking more than 200 city blocks.  But, the end result is visas and a several days in and around Bogota.

We spent Colombian independence day exploring El Museo del Oro (the Museum of Gold) and surrounding neighborhoods.


Bogota is not a beautiful city, but you can feel the undercurrent of art, music and politics as you walk the streets. The people were nothing but welcoming and helpful to us.  At the very least, El Museo del Oro demands a visit. It’s a beautifully planned gallery that gives you an idea of the tradition of metalwork in Colombia.


While waiting for our visas, we also paid a visit to Catedral de Sal de Zipaquirá (the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá).



After the detour north with our now friends Eric and Karen (, it was time to part ways.  We had to make our way down to Bogota for some visa business, so San Gil was the perfect stop over.


The drive from the north into San Gil takes you through a beautiful canyon and past Parque Nacional del Chicamocha.


Rolling into San Gil after dark, we caught up with Team Mercedes camping at a cute little hotel a little ways out of town. We made a conscious decision the following day to do nothing (coffee – movie – repeat) after 3 straights days of driving. Although, we did spend some time chatting with the locals.


San Gil is known as a sporting meca with great rafting and hiking in the area.  The town seems to be quickly turning into a city, but it does have it’s charms including a welcoming central square and Parque El Gallineral in the middle of the city which feels like a world away form the traffic outside the park boundaries.


Nearby Barichara is a wonderful little colonial offering visitors stunning views of the surrounding countryside.


The night before we were set to leave for the drive into Bogota, we had a little set back (although a big hit for morale). Our tent Taj decided to break. The G managed to wiggle his long frame into the half open tent, using his body to hold it up. He then reinforced it for the night with one of our ropes. It would be tent camping for us until we could get the spare parts needed shipped from the states. Why we didn’t think to bring spare parts for the tent is a mystery. Working tent or not, we needed to head for the big B.


The harshness and beauty of Cabo de la Vela

Cabo de la Vela is a lesson in extreme existence.  There is not a single road to get there but many crisscrossing through the desert (GPS required).  Since I believe my brain actually boiled form the heat while there and am still wondering how people manage to scratch out a living in such an extreme environment (desert meets ocean), I will rely on pictures to document our time.