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John and Mandi

us --> van --> overland
1,143 days a wanderin'

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Don't Drink the Water, Southern Colombia

Feb 16, 2018
by John

On the 1,006th day of our trip it finally happened, bacteria in our bellies. We always ask if the water is safe to drink, it was listed as so in iOverlander, we were told it was by the nice family running the hospedaje we camped at. 36 hours later it hit Mandi, me a day later. It's always a gamble but our thought is we have been building up our immunity, until Tierradentro. It took almost a week to shake most of it, Mandi is still not 100%. We can't blame Montezuma, we left Mexico almost two years ago. Maybe there is an unheard of pre-Colombian curse, seeking revenge for all of the grave disturbances and robberies that have happened throughout the years. Whatever it is, tread lightly, respect the local gods, and for Pete's sake...don't drink the water else you might find yourself temporarily damned.

Note - we had planned on covering all of the following in two blog entries but we changed our route, resulting in fewer places visited, so this entry contains a lot of photos. Those on high speed won't notice a thing, those on the road will probably curse our names. No matter, our penance has already been payed.

What We Did

Parque Natural Chicaque, Cundinamarca

Leaving the semi-arid environment of Villa de Leyva had us wanting a taste of the jungle, choosing the cloud forest of Chicaque just North of Bogota. Our expected camping option of Boquemonte was closed, so we ended up free camping for 2 nights outside the gates to the park. The cost to visit the park was 15,500 per person ($5.15) but the fee was collected at the entrance to the hikes. That enabled us to drive in and use the bathrooms for free on the day of our arrival and on the morning of our departure. During our one full day in the park we decided to hike down to the waterfall past the lodge, stopping at it for a nice lunch during our return ($6 per person). It was a good hike, roughly 5.5 miles with a decent slog back up to the parking lot. On top of being misty, it appeared that smog from Bogota was settled in the bordering valleys. Looking back, we would have stayed one additional night for a second day of hiking. It was quite a lovely park and a much welcomed change in scenery.

Chicaque, Cundinamarca, Colombia

Is there ever an advantage of starting at the top?

Chicaque, Cundinamarca, Colombia

Nice bush

Chicaque, Cundinamarca, Colombia

Cough, the air is great up here, cough

Chicaque, Cundinamarca, Colombia

Hun, can you hand me the mist filter?

Chicaque, Cundinamarca, Colombia

Dream big little guy, dream big

Chicaque, Cundinamarca, Colombia

You're not as crafty as you think you are

Chicaque, Cundinamarca, Colombia

Just stay out of our ears

Chicaque, Cundinamarca, Colombia

I guess we really are in South America

Chicaque, Cundinamarca, Colombia

I wouldn't exactly say enchanting, maybe redrum

Chicaque, Cundinamarca, Colombia

What a shitty view

Chicaque, Cundinamarca, Colombia

Looks kind of used

Chicaque, Cundinamarca, Colombia

Glad we left our Halloween cat in the van

Chicaque, Cundinamarca, Colombia

Water does fall

Chicaque, Cundinamarca, Colombia

So rich, so full

Chicaque, Cundinamarca, Colombia

Smog and pollen, thanks

Tatacoa, Huila

We had been told that there were much prettier deserts further south, that still didn't sway us from venturing to the Tatacoa. We knew it was going to be hot, oh so hot, ultimately reducing our time spent to a single night at the place across from the observatory for 7,000 per person ($2.30). The drive in on 45A was spectacular, the drive around the loop formed by the Tatacoa and Constellation roads was equally so. It was good mental practice for us, knowing there are some big multi-day desert drives on our way to the end of the world. We prefer forests and rivers, the Tatacoa was a good baby step.

Hwy 45A, Huila, Colombia

So far, not so bad

Hwy 45A, Huila, Colombia

This is the one you put a tunnel through?

Hwy 45A, Huila, Colombia

We already know not to drink that

Hwy 45A, Huila, Colombia

Rice and cacti, we're confused

Hwy 45A, Huila, Colombia

Swamp ass is way better than cactus ass

Hwy 45A, Huila, Colombia

Rocky road is supposed to refer to an ice cream

Hwy 45A, Huila, Colombia

Not a single vulture, something ain't right

Hwy 45A, Huila, Colombia

She definitely pops in the desert

Hwy 45A, Huila, Colombia

I'm still ok with this

Tatacoa, Huila, Colombia

I'm staying in the van with the A/C on, you go down there

Tatacoa, Huila, Colombia

Why is it still so hot

Tatacoa, Huila, Colombia

It would make a cool home, if it wasn't in the desert

Tatacoa, Huila, Colombia

Like nature needs help

Tatacoa, Huila, Colombia

Now we're getting somewhere

Tatacoa, Huila, Colombia

Boomshakalaka

Tatacoa, Huila, Colombia

How many roads must a man drive down

Tierradentro, Cauca

Besides the water, Tierradentro will probably make our top 20. We had heard the park closed in October due to landslides, bumming us out quite a bit since it was high on our list of places to visit, but reopened in December...making us some happy campers. The drive in is a spectacle itself, but the tombs, holy shit! We chose Hospedaje Lucerna, 6,000 per person per night ($2.10), as it was right next to the park entrance and WiFi could be purchased for 200 per hour next door ($.70 for 10 hours - used by time online not 10 consecutive hours). We ended up spending 4 nights, longer than expected, but necessary after our self-induced bacterial infiltration. Entrance to the Park was 25,000 per person ($8.75), good for two days, and included the two wonderful onsite museums. There are two loops, El Aguacate and Segovia, we chose the Segovia route as it is supposed to be easier and the tombs are in much better shape. The hike ended up being a little over 5 miles, almost completely exposed, and with a gain of 500 meters in elevation...not what we would call easy. We considered also hiking the El Aguacate loop but San Andres was closed, the tombs at El Aguacate have been vandalized repeatedly, and vomit hiking isn't a sport we are good at.

Tierradentro, Cauca, Colombia

You got rice, no pudding

Tierradentro, Cauca, Colombia

It's always down a dusty road, always

Tierradentro, Cauca, Colombia

Solarized

Tierradentro, Cauca, Colombia

Not all mountain water is pure

Tierradentro, Cauca, Colombia

Panela is not a healthy sugar, there's no such thing

Tierradentro, Cauca, Colombia

Pandimensional beings

Tierradentro, Cauca, Colombia

It has potential

Tierradentro, Cauca, Colombia

Free internment for the one that guesses where the skull is hidden

Tierradentro, Cauca, Colombia

Spotted lizzard came before spotted dick

Tierradentro, Cauca, Colombia

Flattest part of the entire trail

Tierradentro, Cauca, Colombia

It's much steeper than it appears

Tierradentro, Cauca, Colombia

Hey, those rocks are new

Tierradentro, Cauca, Colombia

Down in a hole

Tierradentro, Cauca, Colombia

Rife with anticipation

Tierradentro, Cauca, Colombia

If you're so smart why is your head shaped like a triangle

Tierradentro, Cauca, Colombia

Who doesn't want to stick their family members in little holes

Tierradentro, Cauca, Colombia

The modern day cootie shot is much simpler

Tierradentro, Cauca, Colombia

A bunch of crack pots

Tierradentro, Cauca, Colombia

Close your mouth or you'll get flies

Tierradentro, Cauca, Colombia

Dude, personal space

Tierradentro, Cauca, Colombia

The fall-yer just never caught on

Tierradentro, Cauca, Colombia

All it needs is a loveseat and a TV

Tierradentro, Cauca, Colombia

Why all the long faces?

Tierradentro, Cauca, Colombia

Gringos will do just about any damn thing

Tierradentro, Cauca, Colombia

I would have buried everyone on the other hillside

Tierradentro, Cauca, Colombia

Thanks DES, you prick

Tierradentro, Cauca, Colombia

Stone representation of an IT party

Tierradentro, Cauca, Colombia

2 hours my ass, it'll take all day to get up there

San Agustin, Huila

Still queasy and uneasy we eventually reached San Agustin after taking two days to complete a half day's drive, of course we stopped at a hotel in between. We chose Casa de Nelly as our base, 10,000 per person per day ($3.50), but after three days of being mostly in the way we moved to El Maco, 15,000 per person per day ($5.25), after visiting the park. Casa de Nelly was cheaper with a great hot shower, crappy WiFi and the world's worst coffee, El Maco was more expensive with great WiFi during the day, a decent onsite restaurant that serves rösti, but a freezing cold headless shower. Ultimately we prefer El Maco because we weren't in the way and can go without a shower, WiFi and drinkable coffee...not so much.

Entrance to the park was 25,000 per person ($8.75) and was good for two days. We ended up just walking around the main park and skipping all of the outlying sites. The different statues were very neat but Lavapatas was our favorite. The amount of erosion over the past 80 years is staggering, almost makes us question the authenticity of the site, hopefully more remedial steps will be taken soon.

San Agustin, Huila, Colombia

Do not stare into his eyes

San Agustin, Huila, Colombia

Someone's ready for dinner

San Agustin, Huila, Colombia

Why are your orifices square?

San Agustin, Huila, Colombia

But no cymbals

San Agustin, Huila, Colombia

Someone likes their dolly

San Agustin, Huila, Colombia

Bananas are supposed to have seeds

San Agustin, Huila, Colombia

Well, it's not the worst spot

San Agustin, Huila, Colombia

Nice penis string

San Agustin, Huila, Colombia

Crypt, much more difficult than chess

San Agustin, Huila, Colombia

Captain underpants

San Agustin, Huila, Colombia

That hole has shards

San Agustin, Huila, Colombia

Brak looks funny without his makeup

San Agustin, Huila, Colombia

Get that snake out of your mouth, you'll ruin breakfast

San Agustin, Huila, Colombia

That skull chain is way cooler than overland bumper skulls

San Agustin, Huila, Colombia

Someone needs to go on a diet

San Agustin, Huila, Colombia

Then shit got creepy

San Agustin, Huila, Colombia

The same look the van gets as we drive by

San Agustin, Huila, Colombia

Sammy Froggy Jr only had one eye

San Agustin, Huila, Colombia

Is it one gigantic angry face?

San Agustin, Huila, Colombia

I can't bathe there, he's watching

San Agustin, Huila, Colombia

Falkor, seriously?

San Agustin, Huila, Colombia

Take a left at the mishapen monkey skull rock

San Agustin, Huila, Colombia

You keep on peepin me

San Agustin, Huila, Colombia

Who looks ready to reach the top...that girl

San Agustin, Huila, Colombia

Obviously they were just trying to show off

San Agustin, Huila, Colombia

It's either a frog or a ghoulie

San Agustin, Huila, Colombia

Your hard stance doesn't make up for your tiny hands

Cha, Cha, Cha, Changes

The quality of our photos has been bothering us, mostly me, for quite some time. We use a photo hosting company and embed compressed versions into our blog entries. This keeps the sizes down which in turn makes loading our pages relatively fast, depending on the number of images in them. Even on 3G, we have always been able to access our blog entries. The downside is the clarity of the images we share. Reaching the end of my frustration, I added a toggle that will switch all of our images to a higher quality...still a compressed version but much better than the default images. The difference in size is roughly 5 times, meaning, our normal 100k images would load a 500k version...not the 15-20mb original.

In it's implementation I decided to store the setting in a cookie, not in relation to a sweet treat that is the perfect accompaniment to a glass of grass fed raw milk. This will keep your choice and will automatically load the higher quality images for all blog photos every time our site is visited from that machine. For those on high speed, this is for you. For those on the road, only toggle it on when you have decent WiFi and you really want to see better images. As of right now, it's disabled for small screens as the clarity isn't that noticeable.

I've temporarily shoe horned the toggle to the right of the blog entry title, a gray button when off, a green one when on, the corresponding title representing the current selection. Eventually I may engineer a better placement but I wanted to get it functioning and WiFi has been spotty. While not all of our photos are worthy of viewing in a higher quality, some are strictly to convey a point, many will benefit from the increased clarity (the desert shots in this post are a great example). All images on our site are stored with the image hosting company so every blog post, dating back to when we first bought the van, will load higher quality images if selected. Enjoy.


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