Colombia 13: Jardin, Riosucio, Tulua and back to Ecuador

We had seen colourful towns in Colombia before. But Jardin stands out with its beautifully kept buildings.

Das Dorf Jardin begeisterte uns auf Grund seiner farbenfrohen Gebäude, aber auch durch die freundliche Atmosphäre und die Gelassenheit seiner Einwohner.

The hostal Selva y Café cannot really be described as a camp site. It hardly fitted our vehicle into the driveway, but it was a pleasant place to stay ( not suited for large rigs). Being out of town on the mountain road towards Riosucio, it was quiet and offered us time to enjoy the birdlife and butterflies.

The village could be reached on foot and the pleasant walk is downhill for about 30 minutes. To return there are plenty of three-wheeled motorcycle taxis.

At the time of our visit the town was getting ready for Halloween and shops and shop assistants were dressed up for the occasion. This did not distract from the beauty of the plaza, the church and the surrounding buildings.

Folk dances took place in front of the church.

Children’s theatre attracted the young and was presented with a strong educational message to preserve the natural heritage.

The gauchos came to town on horse and there was plenty to eat and drink in a relaxed atmosphere.

Typical Colombian buses ferried people to and from the village.

Inbetween we took a rest at the hostal as well as had the opportunity to visit a reserve where the exotic cock-of-the-rock (belonging to the Cotinga family) could be observed ( this bird is the national bird of Peru).

We decided to take a scenic gravel mountain road towards the town of Riosucio, as we hoped to visit a bird sanctuary on the way -but we could not gain access to it, gates were locked.

En route we came across a spot with interesting bright blue beetles as well as huge elephant ears and tree ferns.

The road took us back through the coffee growing areas, we reached Tulua and found a local who kindly showed us the correct turnoff to the botanical reserve Jardin Botanico, where we had noted that it would be possible to camp.

Sheltered from the rain we spend the night dry as we were allowed to camp under a roof of a shed. Plenty of parrots flew in at sunset to roost in the trees.

Next day we took a stroll around the gardens and visited the collection of bamboo samples which are being studied here. We learned that there are 247 species of palms in Colombia.

The route then took us to Popayan where we found our next camping opportunity at Ecoparque Rayos del Sol.

After a brief shopping spree in Popayan ( which has the oldest university in Colombia) we headed towards Pasto, the road was mountainous and busy with many trucks and busses.

At El Bordo we could camp in the gardens of the hotel Campestre de Miravalle, where we parked under a large tree -the swimmingpool was a special treat after a long day’s ride. As the PanAm passed close where we camped, the night was a bit noisy due to the trucks passing.

Ruta 25 took us down to Pasto, along a 1500m mountain range. The landscape varied continuously, we were sad to leave the area with the most beautiful trees.

We again reached Laguna la Cotcha (a crater lake) – again we had bad luck with rain and could not take a boat tour. Here we decided to take a room at Hotel Sindamanoy overlooking the lake.

Like the first time we were fascinated by Puerto with its picturesque houses, canals and boats.

Since the rain did not abate, we decided to head via Ipiales back to the Ecuadorian border to reach Finca Sommerwind near Ibarra for a second time.

Here we would have to wait for our parts to arrive from South Africa.

We took some time to get the vehicle into shape again, do maintenance and minor repairs. Since the arrival of our spares from South Africa would only be in 2-3 weeks, we decided to head for another dream destination: Galapagos.

Our biker friend, Brett Fox,departed to Patagonia before us and was not afraid to handle a most beautiful tarantula that we discovered at Sommerwind.

This post covers 28th -12th November 2016

Colombia 11: Cartagena and Boca Grande

We didn’t quite know what to expect from the northern harbour city, Cartagena. It did not disappoint us -it remained the city with the best vibe on our journey.

Cartagena war mit die schönste Stadt in Norden Südamerikas. Nicht nur ist vieles in der Altstadt gut erhalten, inklusive der Stadtmauern und des Forts, sondern die Atmosphäre in dieser Stadt ist toll und lädt ein, länger zu verweilen. Auch konnten Bernd und Marion hier die Formalitäten gut erledigen, ihren Wagen von hier aus nach Hamburg zu verschiffen.

As we arrived in Cartagena we found our way to the suburb Getsemani, got to hostal San Roque that we had selected, only to find extraordinary unfriendly reception staff and rooms that were not fit staying in (some small, no ventilation, no window etc). It prompted us to drive around and we came across the Stil Hotel – an average 3 Star hotel (South American stars, that is…) on Plazoleta Telecom. Parking we found in a parquadero just a block away, where we had the feeling that the vehicles would be safe and looked after.

Stil Hotel was a good choice -about a 15 minute walk into the old part of Cartagena, past the chic food stall of the world record holder for the largest ever Camarones cocktail (shrimps). This became the obvious choice of starter in the evenings. You select the cup size you want to have and pay accordingly.

Round the corner the very friendly Lilian runs the lavanderia Beer & Laundry where you can lots of advice of what to see and where to eat -all while you get your washing done expertly.

The old section of Cartagena lies within the old city walls built around 1615, well preserved and filled with church plazas, hotels, boutiques, restaurants, bars with live entertainment and a tiny Italian ice cream parlour worth mentioning – best ice cream in the country.

The old city wall is still intact and largely built with coral rocks.

In the evening a special atmosphere prevails and we took a tour by horse cart  -we can recommend it!

We visited the old fort Castillo San Felipe and from our hotel it was also possible on foot although there are many affordable taxis.

The door knockers on the high doors in the old city signalled what profession the inhabitant belonged to.

Cartagena has a very trendy and modern high rise section with safe beaches for swimming: Boca Grande. Here many apartments can be rented also on a day by day basis for a holiday. Our inquiries showed that out of season the rates are reasonable and some of the apartments were brand new.

Before we proceeded it was time for the Landcruiser to get a service and we tracked down Freddy’s Toyota -a small, privately owned workshop offering good service (not only for Toyotas).

This post cover 16th-20th October 2016