From the west coast, I now enter the northern Colombia.
7. Despite the heat, I miss just a sheet
to sleep under,
and end up using the towels. I got almost 500 kilometres to drive today, and
a town to explore. I check the beach, but it is still absent. A bit
further up, I find it: Brown water, clay-like brown sand, lots of wooden
A long stretch is more lakes and swamps than grassland.
Her are water hyacinths, and for once; they are not invasive. The rivers are
wide and brown.
The road meets the
sea in many parts. Here are hardly any
beach either, but a few places have a bit of sand. One stretch is a true
beach town with a lot of people, and it take me a hour and a half to get
I walk through the real nice, old streets with the colonial buildings and a lot of Spanish talking tourists. The hotel I had planned is full, but they find another. Unfortunately, the spot on my GPS does NOT lead me there. I try many hotels, but all are full. Finally, one have a dorm-bed, but the room is packed, steamy and defiantly "Plan C". A few hotels later, I find one with a dorm-bed for 60.000 and a private for 135.000. Dammed, I have spoiled myself.
Two hours of
daylight to explore this real charming town within the walls. Hare are
several churches, one having a wedding for some one, being someone. The
harbour have huge modern sailing ships, an old pirate ship and much more.
endless lines of souvenir shops, restaurants and alike. Several
bands are playing around on squares, and something big is going to happen in
front of a church. Several TV-companies are setting up satellite-links.
8. I skip the included breakfast to get an early start. Then I walk through the still amassing Old Cartagena, and find my car. Unfortunately, it is locked in, and it take me some time to learn; they have another lot, and I have to go there to get service. The original plan was to see the Volcan de Lodo El Totumo, which was a mud volcano. At my hotel last night, I saw a video. They have build a staircase to the top, dug a hole and build walls with ply-wood. Now, people are swimming in the mud. Not what I wanted to see! But it is only a three kilometre detour, and I get hot water for tea, and see the lake and some cacti.
Then I head straight for Riohacha by the costal road. Riohacha should be the gateway to the La Guajira desert and its dunes. It is a great road, leading through swamps, bush-land, dry yellow grass with palm trees, lagoons, green hills with forest on and from time to time; the beach. In some places, it is a perfect sandy one.
The area is richer than I had expected, the villages look
nice and here is clean. That changes drastically, when I reach the large
city of Barranquilla. Slum, trash - no reason to stop.
At dusk, I find my way back to town, and head straight to the sea promenade. As expected, here are restaurants, souvenir shops, lots of people and even a vide and perfect beach. I return way too late, and have to work till after midnight - again. And this diary suffers under time-stress; it ought to be longer. I have seen green iguanas - even kicked one out of the hotel, pelicans sitting like sparrows at the seaside, gas stations with two litre bottles at stock, so many herons, frigate birds, kites, vultures, small birds, beach birds, lizards, hills with Cereus enīmass. But I need sleep, and tomorrow, I hope to see even more... The road to Riohacha
9. A bit of office work to start the day with, then I head north by the inland road. It is a dry area, with a mix of Cereus and Acacias on the else rather barren yellowish clay-sands. Some areas are more or less covered in pink-flowering Convulvaceaes. I find a new skinny column cactus and two types of Jatrophas; one with spines, one without. Here are quite some flowering herbs, although it appears to be dry. But the artificial ponds are filled with water for the cattle. Some of the Opuntias are flowering yellow, and I hardly see any fruits on any cacti.
At a junction, I head a bit further north - just to be sure it doesn't change landscape type. Back again, I make a loop though Uribia, the capital of Indigenous Colombia - and rather poor, run down and dirty. Like nearby towns, here are gasoline vendors everywhere, with half litre to 25 litre petrol, right on the sidewalk, although here are normal gas stations as well. I do a loop around town in the car, but don't feel like exploring it by foot - too little interesting to see. The people seem smiling and friendly enough.
Then I follow the railroad line, and to judge from the
nearly endless train of identical wagons, it lead from a mine to the sea.
In one area, I find some strange pebbles, real heavy,
look like iron, but not magnetic. The closer I get to the sea, the more
barren the landscape seems. The road turn gravel fast, just after the last
pay-station - I thought.
I return to
Manaure, which somehow seem more appealing than Uribia - although I can't
explain how. I find a surprisingly nice restaurant, and they make me
scrambles eggs with onion and tomatoes, rice and fried bananas. I get a cup
of hot milk with some brownish adding. Can't say if it is coffee, tea or
something else. But it is nice anyway. She ask for 6.000, and I pay 10.000
pesos. Would gladly have paid 25.000. Both these cities have a lot of bike
The road should pass some sand
dunes, but so far, I have
seen none. I follow the coast, although here are not really a road. It is
just a mace of dirt tracks, and they apparently leads over the small
farmer's land. Their kids - or themselves, have robs or chains across. They
want 2.000 to let me through. At first, it is kind of charming, but when I
run out of coins and have to use 5.000 bills, and then 10.000, it lack some.
I then buy my way with the emergency ration of chocolate biscuits, but they
don't last long.
the beach a few more places, but the sand dunes alludes me. I see some
overgrown ones, only a few metres high; can't be them, or?
10. I get an early start, considering the long drive I have ahead. I roughly follow the Venezuelan border south for 350 kilometres. The landscape is fantastic: Mainly grass land with scatted trees, but it changes all the time. I have two big cities as way-points, else; it is only a few small towns and villages.
Many of the trees are flowering. Here, it is another
species of tree that is covered in yellow flowers. Some Acacia is flowering
white, and a vine bright pink. The sky have the typical
Caribbean deep blue, with scatted clouds. The grass is neon-green and here
are numerous cattle and quite some pigs.
The road changes from real bad clay over former sealed, potholes and brand new. Most of the time, I have it to myself, but sometimes, it is busy in-between towns. I push on, and enjoy the lack of police. A single military checkpoint want to check the trunk - which we can't open. I get violent, and it is luckily empty.
After 350 kilometres, I turn inland. A zigzag through a
town with dusty roads, and then some real bad road. After 150 kilometres, I
reach Mompox, which should be an old colonial town accordantly to my
information. It is a hole in the ground! The Mompox Botanical Garden is a
small private garden - and closed.
A surprisingly cosy truck-stop town have not only a real nice, but also cheap hotel. I do a small stroll along the highway, and find a restaurant that can make me some vegetarian: The usual rice, egg, salad and fried bananas. I will not order that in the coming days - or years. With a local Hipinto pineapple soda, they ask for 7.500 pesos. I pay 10, and ask for hot water. The road to Monpox - and back
From the northern part, I now enters the eastern Colombia in Diary 4