We decided to take the backroads to the little town of Salento from the city of Medellin, what we did not realise is just how much of a difference there would be between the main roads, pretty much smooth tarmac, and the backroads, mostly gravel and sometimes tricky as you can see in the examples below
In these rough sections our speed was down to 10 or 15 km/hr, so it takes a long time to get anywhere!
In many cases we could see farms which were only reachable by pack horse or mule as you can see in the photo above, so although the road was rough it was only the first step in getting supplies into these farms and the sugar cane or coffee they grow out.
As it was the rainy season we saw or bumped over landslides on a regular basis and occasionally had to wait until a digger had cleared a path for us to follow.
The main reason for taking this back road was that we had heard that the road gave wonderful views and it did not disappoint, as it ran along the ridges of the mountains sometimes we had views like the above on both sides. The picture above one way and the picture below the other
Finally the village came into view, perched on the top of a hill as is common in Colombia as this is better for a breeze and cooler temperatures
Some of the roads in the villages were incredibly steep in the wet and narrow, in this case a precautionary low range selection really paid off as we had to stop half way up to let a car past
We found a handy campsite for Nelson as you can see above, it is very close to the town as this picture was taken from the bridge in the town so we could walk in and get a very nice steak dinner at a Diner (American owned) which was a great reward for a hard few days on the road
Errol at the lookout over the Cocora valley, it is apparently rammed with backpackers and tourists
Instead of visiting the Cocora valley, we head along the river and take a fork to the village of Toche – some friends have advised us that the palms on this remote back road are just as good as in Cocora and hardly anyone goes there as it is such a tricky road – sounds perfect for us.
As we move up into the mountains we pass many downhill mountain bikers and a few packs of horse riders, these two were chatting as we went past and the clouds wafted around to create a nice atmospheric picture.
One of the main sights to see in this area are the massive palm trees growing to 30m tall they are a very odd evolution that are specific to this region. In some cases they cling to the hillside in clumps in other cases they are solitary
This is the highest we have been so far in this trip still more than a thousand meters below the heights of the Pamir highway but nice and cool compared to the heat of the lowlands
There are many roads with tricky bits in them, this waterfall from the road was quite narrow and overhung so Errol jumped out to get a video shot but a good deal of the road from Salento to Toche was great for Nelson but would have been difficult in a normal car.
The roads around here are very steep, but in many cases the houses cannot be reached by any form of four wheeled vehicle, in this case pack horses or donkeys are still used and commonly you can see the zig zag paths to the farmhouses or fincas on the other side of the valley. A few times we had to drive through a pack of mules as in the picture above.
As we head down from the hills we can see the future in the form of a massive new road bridge across the valley, so at some point ducking in and out of the lorries running from Cali to Bogota will be a thing of the past as they cruise along the new dual carriageway, this will not bother us on the steep rough mountain roads which will I think be there for some time to come.
Finally we end up the day in a nice campsite in the town of Ibague where we have a nice view over the small town and a swimming pool to play in !