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 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 debris.
As I head up the coastal road, I drive through endless green fields with cows, some bananas and other plantations. Here are next to no traffic, but the major part is made up by horses, carriages and donkeys. The few towns are NOT rich! Many of the huts along the road have palm-leave roofs and no walls.

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.
A lot of trees are flowering, and in abundance. Some are especially impressive; the yellow ones. In one meadow, they are scattered around, but each more impressive than the other. Other have red, white or orange flowers.

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 through.
I reach the old, walled Cartagena - well, first, I meet the new Cartagena, which is a big, modern and busy city. I find my way to the harbour and old town, but the wall still works, and I can't get in. I have to pay 36.000 pesos to park till tomorrow.

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. The town consist of 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.
The old colonial buildings are lovely. Many are partly overgrown with flowering plants, most have balconies. I do several loops, one around the wall itself. I just wished I had a wide-angle lens: The streets are narrow.
The sun sets, and numerous LED lights are lighted up. I do a bit more walking, but then I find my hotel. End up working till after midnight - again.
The road to, and Old Cartagena

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.
I reach my hotel in Barranquilla, dump the bag and head into the nature west of town. I find a hole in the barbwire fence, and find two kind of Cereus, two Opuntia and one Mammillaria. And Acacias, Jatropha and other bushes. The soil is a strange mix of sand and clay, and on top; some interesting pebble of different marbles.

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.
As I approaches the sea, a new type of Acacia show up. It have green stems and minute leaves. Here start to be quite some farms along the road. I think they were further in on their ground earlier. The farms are tiny, the houses made up by clay and fenced in by Acacia sticks or cacti stems.

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 reach Manaure at the coast side, and drive through to the sea. A nice beach and a huge area for salt harvesting. Seawater is let into huge tanks, and the water evaporate by the sun, leaving a layer of salt.
The beach have almost clear water and fine, light brownish sand with some shells.
Fishermen use small, open boats and nets.

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 taxis.
And speaking about vegetarian: After seeing the butchers and slaughterhouse; it is defiantly the right choice.

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. 
I meet up with a young Colombian couple, going the same way. I give them 10.000, and they have a big bag of candy, and a local on a MC to lead the way.

I find 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?
Back in Riohacha, I see the beach in daylight. It is still a perfect beach, but the water is chocolate-brown. The fishermen use small, open boats and nets, and their catch is sold in the shadow, but on the beach.
I do a loop around the central square and see the church, but here are little to see, except the beach. I find dinner at an Italian, who mix something together for me. A few words of Italian bring you long - the right place.
Home to work in better time, but tomorrows marathon drive bothers me. The fastest should be a long detour back around the western coast, where I have been. The eastern road a bit "rough", it seem.
My room have not only been cleaned; the bed have new lining, and I got a new towel. The widow is spoiling me. The northern Colombia; Caribbean.

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.
Besides from the grassland, here are a few oilpalm-, gumtree and fruit plantations. A short stretch have wheat and hay. Another area is dominated by swamp and lakes, in deep contrast to a more desert-like area. I don't feel like the altitude is changing, but it must. I pass a few low mountains, but not close.
One area have rather dense forest, and other parts have huge trees along the road, offering shadow to the travellers.

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.
It have turned three o'clock, and as I don't feel like spending more time in Mompox, I set the GPS for my next hotel - 350 kilometres south - hoping to find a bed before.

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

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