24.02.2013 - 25.02.2013
Colombia is a big country.
We made the 600k drive from Santa Marta to Bucamaranga yesterday, and it took 9 hours, with very few stops.
The countryside in this part of Colombia probably doesn't make any top-10 lists as places to vacation or retire. It is extraordinarily dry, and the temp did not drop below 97F until sundown. We saw a high of 107. There are many Brahma Cattle farms. It is remarkable that these beautiful creatures find enough to eat in such a harsh environment. Whenever we are in a place that might be described as an armpit, I remind myself that this is someone's home. There are folks who raise families and enjoy their lives in these places. Except border towns. Those are armpits.
Back to the journey. Douglas was a real champ. The 2-lane road was full of trucks as far as the eye could see. He viewed it as a challenge, though, and passed truck after truck in true Frogger fashion, dodging the motorcyclists who seemed to come at us from every direction. There were toll booths at least every 50 miles. There is evidence of road work, and in fact expansion to 4 lanes in some places. Maybe all those tolls will result in better roads. Gas is very expensive, especially in the cities. $4.89 at one place yesterday!
We recently had to purchase a new Garmin. Since we bought it in Colombia, it has Colombian maps, and--bonus--it warns us of the speed bumps (reductores, here)!
To keep things interesting, the highway passed through many small towns, all with the requisite reductores. They are really tough here. The speed bumps are preceded and followed by rumble strips from hell. Reverse speed bumps.
After driving for hours in the above-described conditions, as the sun was setting, we started climbing a windy mountain road. Just as I thought, "what next?" it turned to gravel. Up and down mountains, switchbacks, in the dark (our bad--gotta plan shorter days), with the trucks and swarming motorcycles, on gravel. No complaints--just bragging.
We have programmed our new Garmin with the voice of James, an Englishman. He speaks in such a storytelling voice--it sounds like we are listening to a book on tape, or commentary on a nature program. Anyway, James narrated us straight to our hotel in Bucamaranga.
Today, a stop in San Gil, a town known for its adventure sports.