We took off from Cartagena with one thing on our minds, the cool air of the mountains! We studied the map and found the quickest route to gain some elevation. Our shipping partners, in their supped up Jeep Cherokee, joined us on the road. We had a three or four day plan. We thought we would reach the mountains the first day, the second we would reach a back road trail which we would take the following few days, putting in some off-road time in the mountains. However, by day two, when we still had not reached where we thought we would make it the first day we realized we had vastly underestimated the time it would take us to travel through Colombia.
And once we did reach the curving mountain roads our distances covered diminished even more. In fact at the end of what seemed like one long day of driving I counted back over the distance we had covered and it was only a whopping 97km. Of course it probably didn’t help that the truck would sometimes just completely shut off in the middle of driving.
Bumping along slowly and spending some time in the small mountain towns trying to diagnose to the problem with the truck really ended up being a blessing in disguise. It gave us time to get to know the Colombian people, whom I have deemed the nicest people in the world. Everywhere we stopped the people we very friendly and wanted to help, but not because they wanted to make a buck off of us. They truly just wanted to make sure that we were enjoying their country and their town.
If we stopped to ask to directions, more times than not, someone would just hop on their moto and show us the way. If we asked about camping in the area we either got brought back to their own land, or to a local swimming hole on the river, or to a hilltop with a beautiful vista.
In one small town we were asking about camping at the nearby lake because we wanted to swim and one of the men hopped on his bike. We thought he was going to show us the way to the lake, but instead he took us back to his farm which had a stream running through the back yard. He pointed to the stream and asked if we wanted to swim. I was a little confused because the water barely came up to make ankles, but expressed interest in swimming anyhow. This is when I realized that he was going to build up a damn and create a swimming hole for us to swim in.
We received a lot of attention everywhere we went. I am pretty sure that a most of these towns hadn’t hosted very many gringos, if any at all. For instance when we stopped for lunch in one town, the owner of the restaurant eventually ended up having to kick out the crowd of people that had trickled in off the streets to stare at us eat. And while stopping at a mechanic in another small town I was conversing with a teenager in the crowd of people who had been called over to meet the gringos. He told me I had pretty blue eyes (I do not have blue eyes). Thinking this was funny I tried to clarify that my eyes were not blue and I compared them to Jed’s blue eyes. He looked at me confused and told me we both had blue eyes and blond hair, we were gringos!
We eventually did narrow down the problem with the truck to the fuel pump, and realizing that none of these small towns along our originally planned “off the beaten path” plan were going to have what we needed, we had to deviate to Cucuta, a city on the border with Venezuela. We were not excited about having to go in to a city and go on the typical ever-spanning scavenger hunt for car parts. Thankfully though, it seemed that this time luck was with us. Cucuta had a whole section of it’s city that was solely auto parts stores. We were able to park and search by foot, and we were quickly directed to a tienda which sold only gas pumps. We were in and out of the city within an hour or so.
We toyed with the idea of hopping back on another backroad south, but after learning in the first town that the next town located less than a quarter inch from that town on our map would take us 6 hours to reach we decided that the “main” roads were beautiful and adventurous enough. Besides Jed and I were ready to get out of the car, and after 5 months of beach time, to finally get to do some rock climbing!