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Old 08-27-2012, 12:46 PM #196
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Spending the week sweating our butts off in Cartagena we were excited to finally have the truck back and we hit the road the next morning. Camping was #1 on our priority list. We considered cruising along the Colombian coastline but fearing the mercury would stick near 100F we decided to head for the hills instead.

We busted out the maps and started searching for the absolute highest point we could drive and camp in northern Colombia. Lucky for us Colombia contains the first section of the longest continental mountain range in the world, the legendary Andes. The Andes are massive, with over 50 peaks over 20,000 ft high. The average height along the 4,500 mile range is over 13,000Ft. Consider that the highest mountain peaks in the continental U.S. are just over 14K and you have an idea of what we are working with.

We battled traffic out of Cartagena and eventually popped out into the flatlands of Colombia that divide the coast from the mountains. It was still incredibly hot here but at least it was beautiful and free from the insane traffic of the city.


The road snaked along through farms and fields until finally climbing up into the mountains. The temperature and humidity faded away and was soon replaced by cool breezes working their way up the forested canyons. Ahhhh it's good to be back in the mountains, my friends.


We decided to take the scenic route and ended up in Cucuta, a frontier city on the border of Venezuela. Our guidebook warned us this was a sketchy place and we didn't bother to hang around much. We did however take advantage of the contraband gas that is illegally brought over from Venezuela and sold up and down the city streets.

$1/gallon! I considered having them just strap a few barrels to the roof.


Fueled up we were soon climbing once again higher and higher into the Andes. We were way out here now and did not see much traffic, just the occasional hacienda nestled in hills.


Eventually the pavement itself ran out as we found ourselves bouncing along abandoned dirt roads of the AltoPlano (High plains).


We bounced along for hours without seeing a soul. Eventually we decided to just pull over and setup camp for the night.

Not a bad spot.


Preppin' camp that night was a challenge, even getting out to take a pee was a chore as our lungs and bodies acclimated. We felt like 2 fat kids in dodgeball huffin' and puffin' doing the most basic tasks. We were sitting at 13,000FT. A new altitude record for both us and the truck! Our poor altimeter was freakin' out and stopped working around 12K. The temperatures dropped below freezing that night. Wild to think that just a 2 days ago we were dying of heat exhaustion and now I need to tuck my water bottle into my undies to keep it from freezing up.

I had hoped it would roll over!


We got up the next morning and continued bumping down the trail, eventually dropping into a beautiful little hamlet.




As the story always goes out here, every time we think we are Billy Badasses in our rugged 4x4 way off the beaten path, some old claptrapped Taxi crammed with 8 people comes roarin' past us making us look like chumps! These guys are hardcore.


Our final destination was "El Cocuy National Park". Nestled high in the Andes, this remote and rarely visited park has been described as the "lost secret above the Colombian clouds". Thoughts of camping in cold temperatures and unlimited hiking opportunities had us drooling over the pages of our Lonely Planet guidebook. While El Cocuy appeared fairly close on the map we were now entering our third day of driving and still were not even close! The scale of South America started to settle in as we inched along day by day on our map.

We finally found ourselves trudging up a small mountain road to the quaint colonial town of El Cocuy located just outside the national park itself.


A lonely soul was slowly making his way up the mountain road, he stuck out his thumb and we offered him a ride on the sliders of the truck. He thanked us for the ride as he hung on for dear life twisting through the wild mountain roads.


While El Cocuy is just a sleepy mountain town nowadays, our research showed that as little as 10 years ago the town was at the front lines of the Colombian F.A.R.C and E.L.N. rebel movement. Nowadays farmers and town folk go about their business trying to forget the hectic past. We found the town to be friendly, the people very warm and welcoming.





We posted up in a cheap hostel for a few days as we waited for our friends Brad and Sheena from ]DriveNachoDrive to catch up. Our plans were to head into the park and do some much-needed backpacking/camping together.

Eventually they arrived, we loaded up with supplies, acquired some permits for the park, and hit the dirt road to head deep inside El Cocuy Parque Nacional.



Last edited by defrag4; 08-27-2012 at 02:35 PM.
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Old 08-27-2012, 02:24 PM #197
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Just awesome! Someday I plan on doing something like this!
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Old 08-27-2012, 03:15 PM #198
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Just awesome! Someday I plan on doing something like this!
I do too, but with a group of about 3-4 couples. I like to think of myself as somewhat aware of my soundings and I'm not sure my nerves could handle trying this with just my wife.
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Old 08-27-2012, 03:48 PM #199
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I do too, but with a group of about 3-4 couples. I like to think of myself as somewhat aware of my soundings and I'm not sure my nerves could handle trying this with just my wife.
We like traveling with other couples for a few weeks at a time, definitely gives us some time to get away and ***** about one other for a few days hahaha

but we always find after a few weeks we like to go our separate from the other couples and just hang out together.
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Old 08-28-2012, 10:57 AM #200
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Just awesome! Someday I plan on doing something like this!
Let's do it bud!
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Old 09-03-2012, 01:53 AM #201
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been following you guys for a while now on yotatech and ur blog, cant wait for a new update!
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Old 09-05-2012, 03:36 PM #202
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The 4Runner led the charge tracing through the sinewy backroads of El Cocuy National Park. Due to the consistent rainfall around this time of year, the unpaved road had transformed from nicely packed dirt to slick snotty mud. I had to use 4x4 a few times to make it up the inclines.

Traveling with our good buddy Nacho is kinda like hiking with a fat girl. Sure, sometimes you gotta stop and help her up the hills but... she always has the best snacks!


We scoped out a flat spot of land in the mountainside and excitedly setup camp. Coming off weeks of insane paperwork, expensive hotels, flights, giant cities, and a general overload of "the real world". We all needed some time to decompress, reflect, and re-align our chakras in good ol' mother nature.

I do not think we could have picked a more beautiful place to do it. I stepped out of the truck into a fairytale scene. We were parked 2000 feet above an expansive deep green valley, dotted with ancient stone corrals, and bisected by a raging river cascading over giant boulders below.




Next door to our campsite was a small mountain cabin. Brad and I went over to investigate. It was there where we found the owners insanely cute daughter, Jenny, wandering around with her dolly "Nina"


Jenny introduced us to her mother who agreed to let us camp for the whopping price of $2/per day. The family piped spring water down from the mountain for the site and even had a nice little shower if someone felt brave enough. Only the set of icicles hanging off the showerhead to deter you.

We spent the next few days camping out, exploring, acclimating ourselves to the 13,000 foot altitude, eating like kings, and generally loving life. To steal a line from my friends Life Remotely, THIS IS WHY WE OVERLAND.


Jenny was very intrigued by these milk faces in their big trucks sleeping outside her cabin and came over to talk from time to time.


My poor attempt at child interaction. I am not good at kid.


I am good at scaring them off though, Jenny sneaks off under the barb wire fence to her cabin.



Rest of the story and pics on the blog at El Cocuy Parque Nacional… the hidden secret above the clouds of Colombia Part #1 | Home on the Highway
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Old 09-05-2012, 03:36 PM #203
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The 4Runner led the charge tracing through the sinewy backroads of El Cocuy National Park. Due to the consistent rainfall around this time of year, the unpaved road had transformed from nicely packed dirt to slick snotty mud. I had to use 4x4 a few times to make it up the inclines.

Traveling with our good buddy Nacho is kinda like hiking with a fat girl. Sure, sometimes you gotta stop and help her up the hills but... she always has the best snacks!


We scoped out a flat spot of land in the mountainside and excitedly setup camp. Coming off weeks of insane paperwork, expensive hotels, flights, giant cities, and a general overload of "the real world". We all needed some time to decompress, reflect, and re-align our chakras in good ol' mother nature.

I do not think we could have picked a more beautiful place to do it. I stepped out of the truck into a fairytale scene. We were parked 2000 feet above an expansive deep green valley, dotted with ancient stone corrals, and bisected by a raging river cascading over giant boulders below.




Next door to our campsite was a small mountain cabin. Brad and I went over to investigate. It was there where we found the owners insanely cute daughter, Jenny, wandering around with her dolly "Nina"


Jenny introduced us to her mother who agreed to let us camp for the whopping price of $2/per day. The family piped spring water down from the mountain for the site and even had a nice little shower if someone felt brave enough. Only the set of icicles hanging off the showerhead to deter you.

We spent the next few days camping out, exploring, acclimating ourselves to the 13,000 foot altitude, eating like kings, and generally loving life. To steal a line from my friends Life Remotely, THIS IS WHY WE OVERLAND.


Jenny was very intrigued by these milk faces in their big trucks sleeping outside her cabin and came over to talk from time to time.


My poor attempt at child interaction. I am not good at kid.


I am good at scaring them off though, Jenny sneaks off under the barb wire fence to her cabin.



Rest of the story and pics on the blog at El Cocuy Parque Nacional… the hidden secret above the clouds of Colombia Part #1 | Home on the Highway
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Old 09-25-2012, 01:49 PM #204
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Not ones to stay down, the next morning we regrouped and relocated the trucks to another trailhead.

We found a nice little hacienda where we could camp and the host would cook us dinner, all for ~$5 each. Not bad!


We spent most of the day relaxing and drying out our camping/hiking gear, preparing to hit the trail the next morning.

It got pretty chilly that first night. The four of us huddled into the hacienda kitchen while the owner cooked up dinner. Soon enough our bellies were warmed with delicious sopa de avena (oatmeal soup).

While we devoured our food the old man regaled us with stories from his mountain. He had lived up there his entire life. We all poured over his logbook that went back years and years, crammed to the gills listing travelers from around the world.

A quick cup of coffee and some bread in the morning and we hit the trail. The old man told of us a cave up on the mountain that was a popular spot for people to camp. Once Brad and I learned the caves name is actually "Cueva del hombres" literally translated as "THE MAN CAVE". Our destination was set in stone.

We set off through a valley of rolling green pastures.


We were sandwiched between beautiful set of mountainsides that jutted straight up out of the lush pasture into stark jagged rock.


Our hike took us down into another "Valley of Frailejones" and we stared in awe again at the Dr. Seuss-esque (yes thats a word) plant life.




After an easy stroll through the valley, the climbing finally began.


Looking back down into the valley.


We eventually reached a false-summit and turned further into the mountain. Some fellow trekkers built this giant cairn here to indicate the pass. I took a moment to add another rock to the pile. My mark on El Cocuy.


Read the rest of the story and lots more pics on the blog at El Cocuy Parque Nacional… the hidden secret above the clouds of Colombia Part #2 | Home on the Highway
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Old 09-25-2012, 01:57 PM #205
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Leaving El Cocuy was interesting...

Our truck was secured in a nearby parking lot. I went to go pick it up one Sunday morning around 7AM, hoping the garage owner would be awake.

As I approached the garage I heard a lot of singing and revelry taking place. I figured, maybe its church?

I round the corner to the garage and find 15 guys streaming out of the bar across the street. They are singing songs and taking shots of Aguardiente (The anise-flavored Colombian liquor of choice).



The man in the middle is signing loudest of all. The crowd parts and who do I see? Why, the owner of the parking garage!

"Hello good day sir, Could I get my car please?"

"MY FRIEND, MY FRIEND, MY WONDERFUL FRIEND, YES YOU CAN HAVE YOUR CAR, BUT FIRST YOU MUST TAKE A SHOT WITH ME!"

Well... It may be 7AM on a Sunday, and I may need to drive all day through crazy mountain roads but it would be rude to refuse. Yes, I tell myself. It would be rude to refuse...

We all file back into the bar. The oldman barks at the bartender who brings him a bottle of Aguardiente, he grabs one of the random crumpled plastic shotglasses strewn about the bar and fills her up overflowing. He grabs one for himself and hands me some sort of little unpeeled fruit. (I later learned it was a "Lulo" fruit)

SALUD! He knocks it back and bites into the unpeeled fruit.

SALUD! I knock it back as well. MMMM... the taste of ether and licorice fills my throat as I bite into the fruit to dull the pain. The fruit tastes sort of like a semi-sweet miniature orange and surprisingly compliments the anise very well. That was actually pretty damn good, I think to myself.

"DO YOU LIKE IT?"
"Oh yes, very good. Thank you very much my friend. Could I get my truck please?"

"YES YOU CAN HAVE YOUR CAR BUT FIRST YOU MUST TAKE A DRINK WITH ME!"
"Haha well my friend, I have a long drive today!"

"YES BUT FIRST A DRINK!"
He lines up the crumpled glasses once more and fills them up, spilling 1/4 of the bottle in the process.

Welp... when in El Cocuy.



SALUD!
SALUD!
SALUD!
SALUD!

One drink quickly escalates into Ten.

Eventually we are all back in the street, signing to the hills and swapping stories of our travels. My new friends want to learn American curse words. I teach them some. They in turn teach me some curse words in the ancient mountain dialect of their people. I now know how to say "*******" in chibchan... They also asked if Mexico was safe. (Damn, the media even has Colombians scared haha!)

I have found there is a level of diminishing returns while drinking and speaking in a foreign languages. The more you drink, the easier the foreign words flow, in turn the better you communicate... However, if you keep drinking eventually you tip over the edge into rapid freefall and communication becomes impossible. Luckily by that point words are just details.

We are all friends and brothers under the glow of Aguardiente.



After an hour or so, I remember that Lauren was waiting at the hostel and probably wondering where the hell I am at, eventually I am able to convince the owner to release my truck. I stumble back to the hostel.

"Are you drunk!?"

"Maybe!"

"Its 8AM!"



"Ya well... I had to get the truck!"
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Old 09-25-2012, 03:22 PM #206
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Leaving El Cocuy was interesting...

Our truck was secured in a nearby parking lot. I went to go pick it up one Sunday morning around 7AM, hoping the garage owner would be awake.

As I approached the garage I heard a lot of singing and revelry taking place. I figured, maybe its church?

I round the corner to the garage and find 15 guys streaming out of the bar across the street. They are singing songs and taking shots of Aguardiente (The anise-flavored Colombian liquor of choice).



The man in the middle is signing loudest of all. The crowd parts and who do I see? Why, the owner of the parking garage!

"Hello good day sir, Could I get my car please?"

"MY FRIEND, MY FRIEND, MY WONDERFUL FRIEND, YES YOU CAN HAVE YOUR CAR, BUT FIRST YOU MUST TAKE A SHOT WITH ME!"

Well... It may be 7AM on a Sunday, and I may need to drive all day through crazy mountain roads but it would be rude to refuse. Yes, I tell myself. It would be rude to refuse...

We all file back into the bar. The oldman barks at the bartender who brings him a bottle of Aguardiente, he grabs one of the random crumpled plastic shotglasses strewn about the bar and fills her up overflowing. He grabs one for himself and hands me some sort of little unpeeled fruit. (I later learned it was a "Lulo" fruit)

SALUD! He knocks it back and bites into the unpeeled fruit.

SALUD! I knock it back as well. MMMM... the taste of ether and licorice fills my throat as I bite into the fruit to dull the pain. The fruit tastes sort of like a semi-sweet miniature orange and surprisingly compliments the anise very well. That was actually pretty damn good, I think to myself.

"DO YOU LIKE IT?"
"Oh yes, very good. Thank you very much my friend. Could I get my truck please?"

"YES YOU CAN HAVE YOUR CAR BUT FIRST YOU MUST TAKE A DRINK WITH ME!"
"Haha well my friend, I have a long drive today!"

"YES BUT FIRST A DRINK!"
He lines up the crumpled glasses once more and fills them up, spilling 1/4 of the bottle in the process.

Welp... when in El Cocuy.



SALUD!
SALUD!
SALUD!
SALUD!

One drink quickly escalates into Ten.

Eventually we are all back in the street, signing to the hills and swapping stories of our travels. My new friends want to learn American curse words. I teach them some. They in turn teach me some curse words in the ancient mountain dialect of their people. I now know how to say "*******" in chibchan... They also asked if Mexico was safe. (Damn, the media even has Colombians scared haha!)

I have found there is a level of diminishing returns while drinking and speaking in a foreign languages. The more you drink, the easier the foreign words flow, in turn the better you communicate... However, if you keep drinking eventually you tip over the edge into rapid freefall and communication becomes impossible. Luckily by that point words are just details.

We are all friends and brothers under the glow of Aguardiente.



After an hour or so, I remember that Lauren was waiting at the hostel and probably wondering where the hell I am at, eventually I am able to convince the owner to release my truck. I stumble back to the hostel.

"Are you drunk!?"

"Maybe!"

"Its 8AM!"



"Ya well... I had to get the truck!"
Man one Day I will hopefully go on a trip like this. Keep bringing the stories & sounds like a once in a lifetime
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Old 09-28-2012, 12:36 PM #207
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I awake from a groggy nap in the back of the truck.

We hit the winding road. I honk at my bar friends still going hard. I wonder just how long they have been partying?

Nacho and crew are caravan'ng with us. We climb through hills and valleys. I keep ahead of Nacho a bit but always wait to make sure my underpowered brother is OK with these steep hills.



Eventually we are idling through a small town when Brad pulls over. He smells burning oil and is wondering if its me.

I get out to check. Nope, not me.

I hear a recognizable "Sigh"coming from Brad as he peers under his truck at a pool of unidentifiable fluid.

What is it?

Not sure, looks like motor oil. Its not leaking too bad though, you guys go ahead.

You sure?

Ya we will be fine! I have plenty of oil. We will see you in Villa De Leyva.

OK....

I reluctantly drive off. Good luck friend!

We later learned that Nacho was in fact not fine after all. What we were examining that afternoon was Nacho's transmission grenade'ing itself. You can read more about that fun-filled adventure on his blog at Drive Nacho Drive

Our day-long drive takes us way off into the countryside of Colombia. Some beautiful albeit desolate areas. I almost ran out of gas due to the lack of any towns out here. I killed the truck and coasted my way down the hills to save gas. Made it to the station with just under 1/4 of a gallon. I had my reserve 5-gallons but who wants to bother with all that.


The road eventually leads us to the colonial town of Villa De Leyva nestled up in the mountains. A place where Spanish tile roofs and cobble-stone streets are still king. In fact, the area was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site to limit modifications of the town.



Villa De Leyva is a popular spot with both foreign and local tourists. After spending a few days in the town its easy to see why. We dined at some great restaurants and explored all the little alley and side-streets full of shops of all shapes and sizes.




We camped up at Hostel Renacer. One of the nicest hostels we have stayed on the trip thusfar. They had a great common spaces, a nice kitchen, and an honor-bar. What more could you ask for?



A bonus feature of the hostel was the drop-dead stop you in your tracks sunsets that occurred every night. Free of charge.




We checked out some of the sites in the town... such as

A COMPLETE KRONOSAURUS FOSSIL. Crazy Ocean beast.


AND THE WORLDS SMALLEST CHURCH... Well I don't know if its really the worlds smallest but it was pretty small.



As you can tell from our long-list of extracurricular activities most our time was doing what we do best, eating and drinking. And this town was great for that. Lots of wonderful bakeries and international cuisine.

We hit the road for Bogota after hanging around for a 5 days or so.
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Old 10-10-2012, 11:16 AM #208
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I'm shuffling through my pictures here for some of Bogota. Looks like we didn't actually take much.

Bogota is a huge city, full of history, and culture. It is one of the largest cities in all of South America. Needless to say, driving around in it is a stressful nightmare that does not lend well to snapping photos.

We eventually settled on a hostel somewhere up in the "La Candelaria" historic district for our first night. The next morning I pulled the truck out of the micro-machine garage and caught the tail-light on the garage door. A couple minutes with some ducttape and screws and we were back in business.

Our destination for the day was Bogotas famous Museo Del Oro, home to largest collection of Pre-Hispanic gold artifacts in the WORLD. I have really been looking forward to this museum since reading about it before we even started our trip.

A boss chief and his bling


Believe it or not this was a nose-ring! You can see 4 shamans sitting om top of some sort of bird. During their rituals, the birds supposedly carried the shamans up into the heavens where they could communicate with other shamans on the happenings of the world.




This mummy was found in great condition in a sacrificial burial chamber.


Meditation or just taking a crap? You decide!


Poporo Quimbaya, A famous piece of Pre-Colombian artifact. The Poporo was used to hold lime dust, which was added to the mouth while chewing Coco leaves to enhance their effect. This particular piece jumpstarted the Museo Del Oro in Colombia and is very famous/important in Colombia.


The Muisca raft of "El Dorado". Legend has it, the chief would cover his body with gold powder, raft out to the middle of the lake and chunk gold and emerald pieces into the water to please the Gods. Many people have dredged and scoured the lake in search of these valuable pieces but as of yet have found nothing much.


They have a trippy presentation at the end of the museum tour. You are placed in a circular room where they crank up some ancient chanting music and space out to a laser light show showcasing the gold artifacts.




The gold museum had a great audio tour (in english!) I suggest everyone check it out while they are in Bogota.

After the museum we jetted over to the Bogota Marriot. Lauren's dad had some points to share and was gracious enough to get us a room while in Bogota for my birthday! Thanks Ed!

We felt kinda like the Clampetts pulling up to this ritzy hotel in our muddy busted up truck with duct tape holding taillights together.


All our problems washed away when we got to the room and indulged in unlimited hot water showers, cable TV, and room service. Oh and a delicious pillow menu

ILL TAKE ONE OF EACH!



The next morning, we stretched that check-out time till they were breaking down the door.

Hopped in the truck and headed south.
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Old 10-11-2012, 11:30 AM #209
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We popped open our guidebook and searched for "What's Next" while we drove south from Bogota.

Lauren found a short blurb describing a strange geological area of Colombia. The Desierto Tatacoa (Tatacoa Desert) is described as one of the "most attractive natural settings" in Colombia.

The guidebook described large sand pillars painted with orange and yellow hues, 30 foot deep eroded gullies, and miles upon miles of open land. It also stated that the Tatacoa Desert is one of the best places in the world for star-gazing due to lack of light pollution and close proximity to the equator, making it possible to view both the Northern and Southern hemisphere constellations. Sounds good!

Volcanoes popping up on the horizon


I spy a thin snaking road on our map to the desert. Bored of the highway the 4Runner is happy to be back on dirtroads.


Some of the scenery along our winding dirt path





After a few hours of back-roads crossing through many small pueblos who probably wondered how the hell these gringos got out here, we finally arrived on the out-skirts of the desert.


Pushing further in, the grey and black sand gave way to some amazingly beautiful orange/yellow/red sandstone formations. It reminded me of similar formations we had seen back on the Colorado Plateau in the U.S



We also passed by an observatory out here, the stars must be pretty epic for them to build this thing out in the middle of nowhere.


We bounced along through the desert for a few hours searching for the perfect campspot. This being a desert and all it was friggin' hot and shade trees were practically non-existent. I spotted 1 lone tree way off in the distance, pulled off the road and did some 4x4 adventuring.

Read the rest of the story and more pics here!
Desierto Tatacoa, The Tatacoa Desert, Colombia | Home on the Highway
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Old 10-12-2012, 12:21 PM #210
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Water goes quick in the desert and after 4 days we had exhausted our supply. Regrettable we pulled up our roots and bounced out of the desert back onto the "highway".



We passed the Rio Magdalena, the most important river in all of Colombia. The river runs throughout Colombia. Its life-giving watershed is responsible for 86% of Colombia's GDP. Understandably, Colombians love this river.


We were headed to San Agustin. A small town in Southern Colombia, home to very important pre-Colombian artifacts. San Agustin and the surrounding areas are littered with tons of relics from various civilizations who lived in the Andes mountains from as early as 3300 B.C. all the way up to 17th century.

Not much is known about these ancient cultures. Researchers have found many large stone carvings, evidence of tool use, burial chambers, and religious artifacts. But no solid information as far as politics, social structure, trade, etc.

We found a great hostel up in the mountains who let us camp on there lawn for $5/day. Cold showers but fast internet!


And the worlds wussiest dog I have ever seen. Meet Fresa (Strawberry). Just in case your 10 gram dog was too intimidating, its a good idea to dress it in a pink apron.


The next morning we headed out to the main archeological site. Paid our entrance fee and started touring the grounds. The scientists found these large sculptures scattered all throughout the mountains and moved many of them to this site for further research/display. I like the little protective umbrellas they built for them.


With no signage or guide to tell us what these statues actually meant I went ahead and came up with my own ideas...


"The Skier"


"The Food Baby"


"Mr. Burns"


The Wanker


Ancient Valentines Day card


Read the rest of the story and tons more pics at San Agustín Archaeological Park, Colombia | Home on the Highway
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