We found ourselves in a Colombian Convoy for twelve days. We traveled from Salento all the way down to the Ecuadorian border with Jesse and Jessica from Toronto, Canada, and Melanie and Lukas from Zurich, Switzerland. Both couples are in their late 20s/early 30s. Our “Convoy” traveled over 750 miles from the coffee region south - up and down multiple mountains chains, into the wide open spaces of the Tatacoa Desert, over to the Archeological tombs of Tierraadrento, down to the colonial town of Popoyan, and then finally over to Las Lajas where we visited a church clinging to a canyon wall. We stuck together for the border crossing into Ecuador, and then planted ourselves at a popular camp spot just over the border in Ibarra calledFinca Summerwind to rest for while.
The Convoy Vehicles
Traveling in a group is a great way to get out of your comfort zone. We had safety in our numbers, we all took roads we might not have done on our own, and we could help each other out. Melanie and Lukas took us on a beautiful back road out of Salento, through the giant wax palms and deep green Andean mountains with patchwork farms clinging to the steep hillsides. After lunch on a bridge over a rushing river, we decided to take a another dirt road up and over a volcano instead of heading for the highway. Knowing we could pull over most anywhere and circle the wagons to camp if things got dicey gave us the courage to forge ahead. It was really fun.
The landscape on our first day’s drive was so beautiful I decided to capture it on video.Then I decided I wanted to put together a video of our "convoy" time together. I shot over 165 videos and I don’t know how many photos. I managed to whittle those 12 days down to just over 5 minutes. It’s long and bumpy…and fun. Just like our time together.
Here's the video:
John and I also learned a few things about taking the trip a little slower. These guys like to stop along the way on their drives...have a meal or a smoke. They just enjoy the view and stretch out their legs. It was a stark difference to how John usually likes to “press on” to get to our next destination. John can drive for 7 or 8 hours on long days and only stop for gas and a pee break. It’s brutal when we do that on consecutive days and I have to admit…I don’t love it. Traveling in the convoy, we experienced a slower pace and spent time in random highway towns eating local meals (some good meals, some really not so good). But we learned a lesson…we had another gear we needed to downshift to in order to really slow down. So, the youngins taught us a couple of things.
One of our meal stops. Breakfast...after only about an hour of driving. Who stops for breakfast?? We did!
More photos from the Convoy days....
This little guy was about 6 or 7 years old. Wrangling that horse like a pro...
Sunnrise photos in the desert.
Tierraadrentro: the locals were amazed by our rig... a kitchen? With a refrigerator???
We camped in a hotel parking lot, no one else there but us, and had a big BBQ out back.
Reggie, our dog for those days.
We visited the tombs in the area which were interesting. But there were so many, and they all looked pretty much the same. Like this.
Lots and lots of bone holes.
And strange, unexplained statues
The views however, were amazing. We hiked the steep hillsides for over 3 hours visiting the area's archological sites and I have to say the best part was the hike.
There were a couple of nights of "horse selfies". I am not going to even try to explain these. I'll leave that to the boys - but I will say there were lots and lots of beers involved each time...
We camped in the parking lot of this church the night before we crossed the border into Ecuador. The Las Lajas Sanctuary was built in this gorge in1754 when several mircales were reported after seeing an apparition of the Virgin Mary on the rock wall.
The view south to the border. This is still some reported activity by guerrilla groups on this road so we saw lots of military but all just gave us the big thumbs up telling the roads were safe to travel.
As we were making our way to the border, John and I had one last interaction with the Colombian people. We got pulled over by the police just before a toll booth, in what looked like a routine police check point. We get pulled over all the time at check points so this didn’t feel out of the norm. Two officers came up to John’s window and started talking real fast, something about paying for gas and that we had to go back to the gas station. What?? We had stopped for gas earlier and put about 8 gallons in the tank. And we were pretty darn sure we paid for it. So, our first thought was this was some kind of a shake down. John kept saying he paid for the gas. Cops saying we had to go back. Then one officer asked for the receipt. John gave it to cop #1, who went to the front of the truck to make a call on his cell phone while John handed cop #2 HIS cell phone so he could type what the hell was going on into google translate. While cop #2 was typing away on John’s phone, cop #1 came back and handed John the receipt. It was then that John realized what was going on. Instead of charging us 64,000 pesos ($18), the gas station attendant accidentally typed in an extra 0, and charged us 640,000 ($180). When he realized his mistake, he called the police! He gave a description of our vehicle and as soon as we got close to the check point, the cops waved us down. Both cops were very worried we wouldn’t go back and get our money sorted. Now that would NEVER happen in the States. John apologized, and with big smiles and mucho gracias from everyone, we turned around. Only problem was it was about an hour and a half out of our way to go all the way back, so we called our credit card company who said to just dispute the charge once it posted in a few days. He said it was unlikely the gas station would have a problem with the dispute…we said yeah, since they had called the police to fix the mistake!
Colombia may have a bad reputation for crime and violence, but we can honestly say we never felt safer in all of our 15 months of driving than here. We'll miss you Colombia!
We sadly said goodbye to the Convoy after 4 more days hanging out together at Finca Summerwind. Jesse and Jessica were moving on to the coast to wait out the Canadian winter, and Melanie and Lukas are moving fast to stay on track to ship back to Switzerland by May.
This is JtothadoubleD & PtotheV signing off to our Swiss Watches, Ruber Ducky and KittyKat.