After the detour north with our now friends Eric and Karen (www.trans-americas.com), 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.
View of the city
Parque El Gallineral
Parque El Gallineral
Nearby Barichara is a wonderful little colonial offering visitors stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
The streets of Barichara.
Someone get this guy a cell phone.
George doing what he does best.
Statues in a park dedicated to the arts.
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.
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.
When I could feel the sweat dripping down my legs as we hid from the mid-day heat in Taganga, I made I solemn oath to get our butts somewhere cooler. We opted to head into the hills southeast of Taganga to the village of Minca. 700 meters above sea level meant the difference between melting and comfortably swinging in a hammock looking over Colombia’s Sierra Nevada.
Hotel San Souci where we stayed has a beautiful outdoor cooking space. As we pulled in, one of the owners stood protectively in front of the brand spanking new island. Apparently someone destroyed the former island by rear-ending it. Our truck’s proximity to the island was making her nervous. We immediately vowed not to hit it. Our group congregated in the outdoor cooking space every night much as you would in your own kitchen. We grilled fish on the fire and enjoyed being disconnected from the internets. George even found time to perform some surgery on his pillow. He cut it in half length wise and sewed it back up so that he could fit in the tent fully stretched out.
Using Taganga as a jumping off point, we decided to hike into Tayrona on the caribbean coast for a day and take advantage of the beautiful beaches. Tayrona is a great place to kick back and relax away from the pull of modern life. The Tayrona hike starts off in jungle (and blessed shade), but soon turns into a beach slog (see my feelings about beach slogs in the sun). Our plan was to spend the day at Cabo San Juan, one of the further beaches from the entrance. There are plenty of camping options in the park including Cabo San Juan. The gotcha is that you need to haul in your own food and water (or pay park prices). You can hire a horse to do the hard work for you (a highly recommended option).
Before we set out, I was pleased to hear the park had a no-plastic bag policy. G and I are constantly reminded what a plague on humanity plastic bags are (and bottles for that matter). They stand out, they cling and they linger. Disappointingly, many visitors were hauling in plastic bags. The park authority does manage to keep the park clean despite this.
We were rewarded for our hiking efforts with some beautiful beaches and refreshing coconuts prepared by a indigenous woman. The coconut preparation was a funny scene. The woman prepared coconut after coconut with her machete while an indigenous man (husband? brother?) sat by and watched. In retrospect, she looked like the more capable one, and I was convinced she could crush those same coconuts with her bare hands. In any case, when you’re sunbaked, fresh coconut water is like a dream.