It was delightful to see the mountains come up on the horizon after the long slog across the plains from the beach, after two days I turned off the main road and left the city of Bucaramanga behind as the road climbed out of the plains and into the mountains around Zapatcoa.
The contrast between the high rise and dense traffic of the city in the plains and the unpopulated mountain was really stark, I finally felt that Nelson and I were getting off the beaten track and away from the heat as we started up the hairpins and the road turned to gravel.
Once we were over the first ridge there was very little population and no real sign of any cultivation, it was like shifting to a totally different country in a few minutes compared to the plains. The occasional view of the city in the distance could still emphasise the contrast even after the second ridge of the mountains as you can see in the photo above
The roads were a really nice mixture, in some parts like above the road is surfaced but for the most part it was a gravel and rock mixture, which really is what Nelson is built for, speeds around 20 or 30 kph were standard in second gear most of the time. But as the air cooled I was happier and happier that the adventure was really starting after the dual carriageways and tolls of the plains
I had picked out a remote farm homestay as my stopping point for the night, it was a lovely place with very friendly people including the daughter of the family Lena who spent an hour kindly improving my spanish while looking at photos of Poppy and Holly, she was very jealous of Hollys “caballo” or horse and we spend a fun time pointing at things an guessing the spanish and english words for them. I think she found it funny that a grown up could be so stupid in Spanish but I was grateful for the practice and the confidence it gave me.
My friends Debbie and Gary had recommended Gualamaro camping beside the village of Barichara as a little Oasis for Overland travellers, it was a bit of a struggle to find but it lived up to its reputation, perched on a small plateau overlooking a massive valley it felt as if I was setting up camp on a level with the clouds – and I was. As night fell, which is around 6pm here as we are close to the Equator, the clouds and the light created a shifting panaroma that I just watched for about half an hour. Still learning my way around the camera so this is a poor reflection of the scene, it was really impressive
In the morning there were more treats in store at Gualamaro camping, the hosts make fresh bread that can be ordered the night before, with fridge porridge and fresh coffee a perfect start to the morning.
Just when I thought it could not get better, the very tasteful outdoor hot shower was just bliss, in all the places I have stayed in Colombia the showers were cold (and to be fair at the coast a cold shower was a relief. They also had a washing machine I could use so all the bedding and clothes from the days in the heat were washed, and dried on the line in an hour, so the whole truck (and me) smells wonderful and a great improvement from the stale damp smell that had been growing over the last few days.
The campsite is a favourite with Overlanders so over the two days I was there I met up with quite a few people, getting tips from those heading north and making plans with a couple from US/Austraila (Kristina and Josh Wilson) who are basically on the same timetable in a Mitsubushi !
This stop has been a great refresher for me, and validates the basic plan I have to put rest days into the schedule to catch up, do my admin (including my blogs) and to mix with other overlanding folks.