COLOMBIA BORDER to DESIERTO de la TATACOA
After a great Christmas and New Year at Finca Sommerwind it was time to leave Ecuador. Hans mate, your reputation as one of the best overlander Christmas venues in South America stayed intact.
Many thanks to you and your staff. New years eve was no different and the view from the hill watching the fireworks was superb.
It was time to say goodbye to Ecuador and time to say, “Hello Colombia”. It is 45 years ago I went to Colombia as a young Marine based in the Caribbean, in those days pretty much lawless and wild west. 20 years ago, we visited Cartagena as part of a cruise holiday, but just for one day hence it did not leave much of an impression.
Instead of following the Pan Americana North we decided to go off the beaten track, first stop Ipiales, cheap shopping, sim card and organizing insurance. Next the church in Las Lajas, a great building lit up at night and good spot to stay overnight to visit the church again the following morning. This beautiful basilica church built in the early 1900s is in the Guaitara river canyon and is one of Colombia’s National Monuments. Pasto north of Ipiales is known for its annual Black and White festival and we were just in time. Locals paint their faces black one day and white the next. These are the two principal days of the Blacks and Whites Carnival, (Carnival de Negros y Blanco’s) which since 2009 is part of UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage.
We also visited the very touristy El Puerto (give it a miss in the weekends) located at a volcanic crater lake La Cocha Lagoon. This is the second largest inland body of water in Colombia. Lake Tota is the largest. From here we ventured further East to Sibundoy and San Francisco, great places to visit if you like and appreciate indigenous cultures and last towns before the Trampolín de la Muerte (Death’s trampoline).
According to some (and the national geographic program the world most dangerous roads) this is the fourth most dangerous road in the world! Well not in our opinion. It has very narrow stretches in which only a vehicle can travel, it has falls of more than 300 meters, landslides occur on a regular basis. Traffic accidents are a regular event, but this is many times due to driver stupidity. There have been many fatalities from cars and busses falling off the road every year. Different sources record more than 500 people dead in 2011 and in 1989 about 300 people died in a terrible collapse. So, with all this, the springboard of death is not something to be taken lightly. However, I have seen much worse in India-Pakistan and even in Peru and Bolivia. The road was built in 1930 and zigzags the Andean mountain range. We travelled West to East passing the small towns of Sibundoy and San Francisco. From San Francisco the 68 km of narrow unpaved road starts and it looks sometimes that no-one did any work on it since it was built in the 1930’s to transport soldiers during the war between Colombia and Peru, and so far has been directly responsible for ending hundreds of lives.. It reaches 2300 meters at its highest point and drops down to 600 meters when you arrive in Mocoa. See video famous video clip of the road. https://youtu.be/X2Of5iGhDE4 I have the utmost respect for those who have done this on motorbike or bicycle.
Mocoa the capital of the department of Putumayo is a great overnight stop and to have a cold beer after a long days driving. From Mocoa plenty of opportunities to visit the start of the jungle and indigenous people. Back on the bitumen we followed the rotten road north to Pitalito and San Augustin. San Augustin is best known for its Archaeological Park and the surrounding areas with many statues.
The Archaeological Park contains the largest collection of religious monuments in Latin America and is considered the world’s largest necropolis. The dates of the statues are uncertain, but they are believed to have been carved between 5–400 AD. The origin of the carvers remains a mystery, as the site is largely unexcavated. Having travelled many deserts over the years we have to admit that the Dieserto de la Tatacoa was a disappointment. the Tatacoa Desert is not really a proper desert.
And some say it is semi-desert and others say it’s a semi-arid dry tropical forest. Parts of the area is heavily eroded and has dry canyons that develop transiently but it does get you some amazing pictures. This desert area is filled with rocky canyons that form dry labyrinths in red and grey colours that are interrupted by occasional green bushes and lots of Cacti up to 5 or 6 meters high.
The Tatacoa Desert is the second largest desert area in Colombia after the Guajira Peninsula. The Tatacoa Desert has two distinctive colours: ochre (natural reddish clay) and grey moon-like terrain in the Los Hoyas area. Some of the local wildlife includes scorpions, snakes, spiders. Bush camping is great located in the middle of nowhere. it’s quiet, enjoy the amazing views and the stars. But after a day of 42 degrees we looked for a pool to cool off.
Till Next time when we are heading west towards the Pan Americana crossing the Andes again and explore the best coffee regions of Colombia.This entry was posted in Latest Update