Colombia- Dec 2012 / Jan 2013


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South America » Colombia
February 16th 2013
Published: May 5th 2014
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PamplonaPamplonaPamplona

moving the vegies around

Pamplona.





Friday 28th Dec 2012

We left Cucuta at 7.30 on a bus for Pamplona where we had planed to stay the night. The night before Bernie asked how long would it take to get from Merida to Pamplona. I did my lonely planet calculation added an hour for the border and said 9 hours. Unfortunately with the traffic, waiting in lines and an accident we took 13 1/2. We stayed at hotel Ursua for 2 nights.

Sat 29th Dec 2012.

The building hotel Ursua is over 400 years old and has been a hotel for more than a 100 years. It was built by the founder of Pamplona. His name was Captain Pedro De Ursua. The huge room we were in, was a family room and has a double bed and 4 single beds, with a balcony overlooking the town park.

Walking around town we noticed that there is a lot of churches for a population of only 70,000. We also visited the Museum of photos close to the cemetery. Imilirno an a his brother Victor have walls and walls of wonderful photos of the area and of the people. in one of
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inside the 400 year old hotel
the rooms they have made a 3D display of the central village dated back to 1875. On the way to their place you see a painted mural on a wall. This was also painted by Imilirno. The brothers age is in their 70ish and have lived in Pamplona all their lives along with their father and grandfather. So do they know history. We must have been there for 1 1/2 hours. There is also a lot of buildings now being used for colleges and schooling as they are huge. So there is a great number of students that come here to study.







San Gil



Sun 30th Dec 2012

We walked to the station to go to San Gil. We waited for an hour before boarding a bus for Bucaramanga 5 hours away. We passed over many mountains and tight bends before arriving. 3 children on the bus had bus sickness and vomited a couple of times. Burnie offered on e coule her motion sickness tablets for their boy.

We had to wait for another hour for the bus to San Gil 86 km away, taking
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Streets are very steep to climb
us another 3 hours. You don't want to be in a hurry travelling in this area. Arriving finally at 5 pm and then the search was on for a hostel. After our second attempt we managed to get the last room at Hostel El Dorado. We didn't want to try our luck searching for any others, as it was around new years, so we took it for 4 nights. The hostel is very tranquillo and quiet with no parties. It has a kitchen, free coffee all day, hot water, laundry, wifi and the best service you could ask for. Louis really tried to make your stay comfortable even booking us our next acc. and also organizing our bus tickets. He gave us a heap of info on the town and also places to see in Colombia.

Mon 31st Dec 2012.

We did a day trip to a town called Baricharra approx. 40 min from San Gil . Baricharra has a population of 7000 and is a very neat and tidy picturesque colonial village. All buildings are made of stone, mud and some brick all with terracotta tiled roofs and Whitewashed walls all dating back to more than 300
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Parragliding over canyon Chicamocha
years. There is a sandstone cathedral near the main sq. The village was like seeing something out of a movie theme. While walking the streets the scence of feeling was warm and welcoming. With every corner you turned there was amazing views of houses, streets and mountains.

As it was new years eve there was many locals and tourists drinking and eating with family and friends at restaurants and corner stores. We came across a church on top of a hill and the structure was made from stone. Each stone must have been about 4 foot L x 2 ft. H x 1 ft. W. Behind the church we found a swimming pool and next door to that is a public garden with spectacular views of the valleys and mountains. We had a nice 2 course lunch at Restaurante La Casona for only $3 each. We highly recommend this as a day trip from San Gil.

That night spending new years eve in central park. Watching locals with their stuffed scarecrows of men filled with fireworks . theese they set fire to at midnight, exploding their creations. It is their way of saying goodbye to the old year
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stone paved streets.
and welcoming in 2013.

Tues 1st Jan 2013.

Happy new year. Another day trip. This time to San Juan Curi Cascada. A privately owned waterfall in a farmers backyard.. This is about a 40 min bus trip towards Charala. The bus driver dropped us of out the front. We went in and paid $2.50 entry fee and then walk for about 20 min up a stone path until you get to the 128m waterfall. Here you can swim, absail down the waterfall and just relax. We recommend taking a picnic and a wine and just relax. We sat there just watching the Colombians enjoying the waterfall, swimming, absailing, while freezing to death as it is shaded and very cold..

San Gil is the sports centre of Colombia. You can absail, parasail, white-water raft, horse ride, go caving, mountain bike, hike and hire 4x4 motorbikes or bicycles. There is a population of 50,000 but there must have been another 25,000 visitors as well. The town is built with the contour of the mountains and some of the streets have got ramps in a zig zag pattern to go up as steps would be to steep. There is a
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Parque central
river running through the centre of town where you can swim. We also had our first experience of tasting Hormiga Culona ( fat bottom ants) that are fried. Weren't to bad at all.

Wed 2nd Jan 2013.

Todays a big day. We have both decided to be brave and take one more thing from our bucket list. We are going paragliding. Big gulp. Yep they picked us up at 8.30 am and we drove up to PNN Chicamocha. There you jump from a cliff from a height of 1000m overlooking the river and depending on the wind can elevate another 2000m overlooking Chicamocha canyon.

Bernie was first. Off she went, funny didn't hear any screaming. We all watched to see where the wind took them. It wasn't up, down, down, over to the other side of the canyon, up a bit. 5 min later still watching them doing circles slowly climbing up then back lower. They were having trouble getting an air pocket. No-one else was going yet. We all sat down and watched them doing circles and trying to climb for about another 10 min. I thought to myself, I wonder how she is going. Suddenly
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things you find in someones yard
we are all standing and within 30 sec I was in the air. I guess they must of found what they were looking for. Up and up we went doing circle work. In the end Bernie must have got up to around 2000m mark. After about 20 min I landed, still Bernie was up there. After about another 5 min she landed covered in spew. Yep she had vomited, but loved every moment of it. Her comment was it was worth the chuck. Because my first turn was not long they asked if I wanted to go again. Yes please. This time we got more height and better views.

All in all, great to do and another off the bucket list. Simply breathtaking


Villa de Leyva



Thur 3rd Jan 2013.

Taking of today from San Gil to Villa de Leyva. Travelling at Christmas time in Colombia is rather busy, as tens of thousands travel by bus. We tried 3 transport companies. The first bus we could get on was at 12 pm, however the bus did not arrive for us until 1 pm. We travelled to Tunja before getting onto another bus for Villa de
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building a house
Leyva. Acc. We had got Luis from El Dorado to book our acc there as it was owned by the same people. We could only get Thur & Fri nights at Hostel Rana as a lot of Bogotans come here for their holidays and every weekend. As it is the closest country town to the city that has something to offer. If visiting try to plan to arrive on a Monday as prices for everything nearly double on the weekends and is hard to get acc.

Fri 4th Jan 2013.

First thing we did today was purchase our tickets to Bogota for the following day. Second was get Claudia from hostel Rana to organise some acc.in Bogota. After the 4th phonecall we finally hit the jackpot.

Then we visited the Fosil display about 6 km from town. We got the bus there and then walked back to town looking at Posos Azul ( Blue Lakes) on the way. Then we spent the rest of the arvo looking around town.

Villa de Leyva is a small town of only 10,000 people. It has the largest plaza in all of Colombia spanning 14,000m2. The ground is made up
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Night view from the Mirador
of medium size stones and has a small fountain in the middle with no seats, lawn or trees in it. Totally bear. It is mainly used for events and festivals. If you want to relax , then visit Narino park where you can sit under a shady tree. There is hotels and hostels everywhere. The shops are very modern and cater for the rich city folk. There is very expensive artefacts, restaurants, and cafes. You could spend some time here as the surrounding villages all have something to offer and can be done in day trips.

That night sitting in the plaza having a few drinks and a chat with 2 other Ausies and watching all the locals doing their thing.



Bogota



Sat 5th Jan 2013

We left Villa de Leyva at 12 pm, back to Tunja and then onto Bogota. Arriving there at 4pm. From the terminal we got a taxi to Hostel Candelos in the La Candelaria region of the city. Considering there is 10 mil people in Bogota there wasn't much traffic at all and especially considering it was Saturday.

That weekend marked the celebrations for the 3 wise
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Feeding the pigeons in central sq
men, and they have a 4 day holiday. They say that a lot of Bogotans go to the country to celebrate this event and holiday.



Sun 6th Jan 2013.

Today we did a day trip to Zipaquira to look at the Cathedral Del Sal. We took a Transmelenio bus D95 (J95 back) from Las Aquas station until Calle19, then another B93 (H93 back) to Portal del Norte all for $0.70c. Then we walked across the bridge and took another collectivo bus to Zipaquira. Arriving there we then walked up the hill for about 15 min until you get to Catedral del sal. What an eye opener. The cues for the entry tickets were massive, there must have been a quarter of Bogota's population there.

Cathedral Del Sal ( salt cathedral). The Roman Catholics built the Cathedral underground in an old salt mine. The cathedral itself is 120 m long 22m high and 200m underneath the ground, and has a space of 5500 m2 with 6 main columns inside. It can fit over 8000 people in it. There are 14 small chapels that lead of the main tunnel before you get to the Cathedral.

See
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fruit pickings
attached website if you want more info. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salt_Cathedral_of_Zipaquir%!C(MISSING)3%!A(MISSING)1

Mon 7th Jan 2013.

Bogota is 2600m above sea level and has a cool climate. I think it is time to go shopping for some warm clothes. While in the quiet mall we relaxed and went to the movies and saw "The Impossible". A story about the Tsunami that happened in Asia in 2004.

That night we took the Teleferico up to Cerro de Monseratte which is at 3200m high mountain overlooking the whole city. Bogota has around 10 mil people and is built in a valley. You can see the whole city from the top of the mountain. There we enjoyed a lovely sunset and watched the city light up. There is a church, restaurants, hotel and a market. It was absolutely freezing and the warm clothes i had bought weren't working for me. Because it was still festive season the whole place on top of te mountain and on the way up the mountain was covered in different design of xmas lights. it was a spectacular sight at night. They were everywhere and it was well lit up. Your price includes having a choice of going up
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a new bridge under construction
and down the mountain using the cable car or the cable train.

Tues 8th Jan 2013.

Ok time to see what else Bogota has to offer. We were suppose to meet one of Bernies couch surfing friends today to show us the sights, but she cancelled this morning. So off we set on our own. First visiting Plaza de Bolivar and then Museo del Oro ( gold museum). Followed by other buildings of importance. We think. We had avery quiet time in Bogata as 50%!o(MISSING)f the shops were shut. The transport wasn't overcrowded, so for both of us that hate going to cities, it felt like we were in a country town.


Salento



Wed 9th Jan 2013.

We left Bogota heading for Amenia via bus company S26. Taking 8 hours driving around very large valleys and over many mountains filled with coffee and banana plantations. At present there is a lot of roadwork's going on, building bridges and digging tunnels through the mountains to make a more direct route. When it is finished it should cut the trip in half. The driver was a very friendly chap and kept telling us when good
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Brownie time
sights were coming up for photos. He also gave us some tips for other places to visit. Finally arriving in Amenia we switched to another bus for Salento taking another hour.

Getting dropped of at the fire station at the entrance to town, ourselves and another Swedish couple started to walk to Plantation House where we were staying. I asked if they had booked and they said yes online. I had also booked online. When we got there the other couple went first and said they had a reservation. They were told that there wasn't any rooms left and that they hadn't confirmed the booking. They were not happy, however the hostel did organise another place for them to stay at. Costing $15 more per night more than Plantation House. Next our turn. We were sweating by now. Name please. Trevor I said. Ah yes, your room is #11. Big sigh,,,, luckily I had confirmed our booking online. First time ever.

After settling in we went for a walk to check the town out. We were told that three doors down this lady sells very delicious brownies, so Bernie had to try one.

Thur 10th Jan 2013.
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one of our bridges we crossed


Hike to Valle de Cocora. This can be done via walking the 11 km or by taking a ride in a 1950 ish Willy's jeep. We opted for hanging of the back of the jeep which left at 9.30 am. Once we arrived and got over the excitement we headed for the big blue gates, that is where we were told is the start. We started walking, following and crossing the river by several scary bamboo and chainbridges for about an hour. Then we came to a tee intersection. Turning right and climbing uphill for about 1km to a Finca @ Reserva Acaime. If you go there, there is a $2 entry fee, but you do get a free drink. We chose a hot chocolate with cheese. Chocolate was good, cheese another story. From there we headed back the intersection and then went towards Finca La Montana. This was a very hard steep climb uphill for about 800mtres. being unfit we had to stop a few times to catch our breath. Once we arrived there the views are spectacular @ 2860 m above sea level, You can have lunch while admiring the view. We decided to keep walking for
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Wax palms
a bit longer. From the finca head out the gate and it is 4.5 km all downhill walk back to Cocora. We walked through a pine plantation and then going around a corner you see these massively tall and straight Wax palms. This is where we decided to have our picnic lunch. Consisting off salada biscuits, canned tuna and peanut butter. Before you ask No no-one is pregnant. After lunch we walked more and played in the lush green grass under the wax palms and took many photos. It is so green and all the grass mountains are full of kikuyu grass. There are milking cows every where you look. We were stopping and sitting every 100 mtres as the views are spectacular. Finally arriving back in Cocora at 4.30 pm and getting a jeep back to Salento.

That night we had a few beers in a bar called " Donde Mi Apa". The owner allowed Bernie to go behind his bar to admire his collection of over 9000 vinyl records that are in shelves at the back of the bar. Each one is numbered and listed in a book. He has been collecting these for 20 years and
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some of the white buildings
still plays them on an old record player. The bar also is full of old phones, radios, and lots of old memorabilia. Worth a look if in the area.


Popayan



Fri 11th Jan 2013.

Leaving Salento for hour trip back to Amenia. Waiting in the bus stop for an hour before setting of to Popayan 7 hours away. We drove past hundreds of sugarcane plantations for about 100 km. Passing trucks that were towing 4 trailers of sugarcane behind them going to the sugar factory.

Popayan is a big city and a population of around 300,000. Every building in the centre part of the city and surrounding streets are painted white. There isn't many old buildings because off a big earthquake in 1983, that flattened a lot of buildings in 18 seconds. That afternoon we walked up to the mirador to watch the sunset overlooking the city. We were only staying in Popayan overnight so we could break the long trip from Salento to San Agustin. Staying at Hosteltrail.


San Agustin



Sat 12th Jan 2013.

Leaving Popayan at 10 am for a rough 5 hour trip to San Agustin. This road
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street vendor
has a lot of gravel, some concrete, and some bitumen. They are currently improving the road by widening and concreting the gravel sections. Eventually it will be the main pass through the ranges, and again should cut the trip in half. We got dropped off 5 km from San Agustin, however they put you in a taxi @ there cost to get you there. We stayed at Hostal Diosa Lunar, which is a family home. They have a three story building with the top floor like a patio, complete with 7 hammocks for a good relax. It is very clean and very new. Beds are comfortable and you have hot water between 6- 9 am only. Yes there a dorm on the third floor. The only thing no kitchen, however, no need as restaurants do have very cheap meals. Humberto will also help with any info or tour that you require.

Sun 13th Jan 2013.

We left at 9 am for a jeep tour, visiting archaeological and cultural sights.

#1 stop was El Strecho del Magdalena. This is the where the river Magdalena cuts through a gorge only 2 mtres wide and is 1400 metres above sea
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chicken bus on road to San Agustin
level. From here it drops down and travels 140 km across Colombia to enter the Caribbean sea at Barranquilla.

#2 Visit the tombs at Obando. Here you can see 8 of the 30 tombs that have been uncovered and visit the museum.

#3 Alto de Los Idolos. This is our first archaeological park stop. Here we saw many burial mounds and statues. One of them being the tallest found at 7m.

#4 lunch at a restaurant with magnificent valley and mountain views. 2 course lunch with a drink $4 ea.

#5 Drive through some deep valleys covered in sugarcane and fruit crops till you reach Salto de Bordones. This is a waterfall that has a 350 m drop.

#6 Alto de Las Piedras. 2nd archaeological park with more statues.

#7 Driving through the town of San Jose de Isnos and out to Salto del Mortino. Another waterfall with a drop of 180m in a thin canyon.

Arriving back to town at 5.30 pm.

Mon 14th Jan 2013.

After breakfast we walked 3 km to Parque Arqueologico. It is a 78 hectare park of statues, tombs and burial mounds. It took us
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fresh milk anyone
about 2 hours to walk around the park looking at different statues and sites.

San Agustin is a small community of about 15,000. It relies heavily on tourism and you can get hounded a bit here. The only way to visit most sights is by a jeep tour or a horse tour. The archaeological park you get to by walking uphill for about 4 km or get a bus.


Mocoa



Tue 15th Jan 2013

It took an hour to get to Pitalito from San Agustin via camioneta. After an hour wait in the terminal we headed for a 2 hour journey to Mocoa. Getting there in the back of a 4wd ute. Sometimes hanging the legs out to dangle. We were driving over many valleys and mountains past crops until finally coming to jungle. Passing fuel tanker after fuel tanker and thinking there must be an oil refinery around. Afterwards finding out that they have discovered oil close by Macoa, but they have no pipes for pumping the cruid oil, so it is carted to the refinery by trucks.

When we arrived we got a taxi to take us 3km out of town to
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One of many statuetes
Hostel Del Rio. What a place. Set right along side a river, the cabins are a small walk into the banana plantation away from everything. The reception, bar and kitchen is at the front of the property near the river. Good place for a swim and just to relax. We went for a 3km walk back into town for supplies.

Wed 16th Jan 2013

We got a camioneta and headed towards Villagarzon, another 5km past the hostel. We got dropped of at the entrance to "Fin del Mundo" ( end of the world). We crossed an old, man made bridge and started to walk into the jungle. After about 20 min we came across a farm house where you pay $1 and register before you enter private land. From here we walked up a mountain for about 1 hr until reaching the first waterfall. It has about a 6m drop and you can jump or dive off it and swim. After a cool down we kept walking for another 10 min and came across the second waterfall. This time it had about 10-12m drop ,of which you can also dive and swim. Nice tranquil place to relax, however
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looking over Fin Del Mundo
we had about a 5 min walk left until you reach "Fin del Mundo". It literally takes your breath away. It has about a 100m drop and here you cannot swim. You get on your stomach and wiggle up close to the edge and then look down. What a rush. After a foto shoot and calming the nerves back down we went back to the second fall for some lunch, swim and relax. They sell drinks and food at this site so if you don't want to bring it with you, that’s ok. Leaving there about 3pm for an hour walk back to the main road and a lift back to the hostel.

Thurs 17th Jan 2013

Just another one of those days. Today we are going to Las Lajas Via the road that they call " trampoline of death". After gettting up at 5am and having early breakfast we took a taxi into the bus station. We left Macoa at 7.15 am for the 4 hour trip. Travelling in the back of a ute again. We were about 40 min from town when we came to a holt. Peering out the side we noticed we were in
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the first bridge to cross
a traffic jam. There had been a lot of rain the night before and we were told that there was a landslide, so we had to wait for it to be cleared. As we waited 1 hour went by, then 3 hours, finally 5 hours later our driver decided it was time to return back to Macoa. After organising with them to try again at 6 am the next day we looked for a hotel room. We stayed at Hotel Macaya.


Las Lajas



Fri 18th Jan 2013

Take 2. off we go again. This time we got through. WE now know why it is called the "trampoline of death". We were bouncing around in the back of the ute like being on a trampoline. The death part was: you go through mountaines ranges with very tight corners, where you see trucks taking 3 -4 attempts to get around them. The road is very narrow and a lot of times someone has to reverse to let the other pass. There is times where you look out the side to see 800m or so drops to the base of the valley. There is many landslides and parts of
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Cathedral
roads missing. There is many stream crossings. We drove for about 3 hours of climbing up and going down numerous valleys. What a scare but also a great experience. Arriving at the bus terminal in Pasto at 11.30 and taking another bus for 2 hours to Ipialas. From here we took a taxi to Las Lajas.

Las Lajas is Colombias most visited church. It is built into the side of a canyon and down to the rivers edge. For more information visit website http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Las_Lajas_Sanctuary

Sat 19th Jan 2013

Bye bye Colombia,off to Ecuador today.


Additional photos below
Photos: 28, Displayed: 28


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waiting for the roadblock
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not much room for passing
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the mural the church was built around
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Guinea pigs for eating
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this was the wiring to our hotel


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