November 2022

After we left Playa de Belen we drove more inland, we went off the beaten track as they say. Online we had found a nice road to drive so we did and it lead us to the small town of Cepita. A cute little town where tourists, especially foreigners, are rare so everybody immediately knew we were there. We found a really nice wild camp spot about 2 km outside of town, close to a river, but behind a dyke. After two relaxing days here we biked in to town for some shopping and some dinner. While we were having dinner at a small restaurant a man, who we didn’t know at all, came to tell us that there was going to be some heavy rain later and our campsite might not be the safest place to stay. Across from the road about 200m away was a mountain wall with lots of gravel on it. In case of heavy rain the gravel would come down and perhaps block the road out (the road was already pretty damaged) or the falling gravel might actually reach our camp. So after dinner we moved the van. So it can come in handy that the entire town knows there are a couple of strangers camping out there and also that they were having dinner in town 😉 It indeed rained heavily that night but we slept peacefully in our new safe place.

From Cepita we drove to Guadalupe, where we visited a “pozo azules” which was a swimming area with naturally formed rock pools and somewhat azul water. It was however quite crowded so not really our thing.

On I-overlander we had read about a very remote jungle campsite which was supposed to be awesome and sounded more like “our thing”. It took us all of two days of off road driving to get there. The road was difficult but beautiful and a little you can see the short movie we made of this journey. However when we finally came to the campsite, somebody had fenced it off… Most of the land in Colombia is propriedad privada which makes wild camping a lot more difficult. Anyway we found a place for the night, although no great and the next day we drove all the way back, instead of relaxing for a few days.

Driving back we did see a really nice spot (without a fence!) between the road and a lovely little river. We asked at a nearby house and they said it wouldn’t be a problem to camp there. There was a ditch between the road and the field so we first had to build a little bridge to get in to the field. But after that we enjoyed some really well deserved relaxing days. the few people that drove by honked friendly and otherwise people left us alone.

After a whole day of off road driving it is really important to us to have a nice quiet place to relax. Off road driving means being constantly shaken about, while the car can make quite some noise as well. Imaging being on a slow but bumpy carnival ride for 6 hours straight, once you get off you really appreciate the lack of movement and noise! After we had enough r&r we drove on to see a very big hole in the ground, called Hoyo del Aire near La Paz. There was also a installation that let tourists descend in the roughly 150m deep hole, but it looked very rickety and we doubt there are ever any safety inspections, so we passed.

We had a short stop in the colonial town Villa de Leyva, which apparently has the biggest square in Colombia, but much more important; a chocolate museum!

Colombia is huge, it is bigger than the whole of Central America so we had had several other days of driving and we were looking for another place to camp for a few days. It may sound like camping for a few days somewhere is all we do, but that is definitely not the case. I just doubt it is very interesting to read about another long day of driving, without seeing or doing anything special, just driving, grocery shopping, getting fuel and finding a spot to spend the night. Very often however that is the reality of vanlife although here we mostly write about the highlights, the sightseeing we do or if something unexpected happens. Anyway, on google maps I found another area with lots of natural pools in what looked like a canyon and it was definitely not a very well known tourist attraction. We really like the little, unknown but often beautiful natural attractions, so we drove there. We arrived late in the afternoon and couldn’t camp near the canyon, because the road was also fenced off 🙁 but we did find a nice place across from the entrance to the hiking path to the canyon. This field wasn’t fenced off so we figured it would be OK. Several friendly people past by. Then around midnight somebody started calling out to us in Spanish. No way were we going out there in the dark and after a few minutes he went away. But half an hour later the police showed up. These two officers stood some distance away from us as if they didn’t want to approach us. We told in our best Spanish what we were doing there. This seemed to confuse the officers who obviously had no idea what to do with these two strange tourists. After asking us if we were armed (at which we started laughing and said no) they decided it was “no problem” and therefore not their problem, and left us to get some sleep. It was actually quite funny. We had had some more police checks and although they vary in friendliness, they also never caused us any problems. The amount of police checks really depends on the area you’re in. I guess some areas are safer than others or they are more used to (overlanding) tourists. So far we have felt and been safe in Colombia. People are generally friendly and helpful, albeit a bit wary of strangers, just like in Central America. The next morning we decided not to camp there for a few days as the police had mentioned something about an owner, but we didn’t really understand everything they said. It would also be very difficult to find the owner to ask. Most of the propriedad privadas are huge and belong to a finca of hacienda. On these lands there are often several houses or small farms, that are private property within these finca’s. So after we visited the indeed beautiful natural pools we drove on. Kilian had already planned a bike ride in the area. So after we found a new spot, a plateau next to the road, he went for a bike ride. It was still only midday so if somebody came to tell us we couldn’t camp there as well, I would just move the van on to the public, but mostly deserted, road to wait for him. But it was no problem, one man came by on a scooter and said how nice it was to see tourists here and that we were welcome. This is usually the case, the problem is just that we can hardly ever find the right person to ask if it is ok to camp there. Kilian enjoyed his bike ride although it was a tough one. You can read about that ride and others here. We spend a quiet night on the mountain and the next day we packed up again. So although the area was nice, we didn’t have the few days of r&r we were looking for.

Our next stop was really touristy, but rightfully so. The town of Raquira is a pottery town were almost all the houses are beautifully decorated. So much colour, patterns and murals, that it was hard to know were to look. After walking through town for several hours we drove on to a campsite in the area. Here we could definitely spend several undisturbed days and it was in walking distance of Raquira which definitely deserved another visit. So we relaxed, grilled some meat an even baked some bread. Colombia has some good food, but almost no decent bread. Most bread here is actually more like cake and often filled with something sweet, most panaderia’s sell cakes and this sweet bread but no “pan integral”. We often make do with factory bread which is dry, tasteless and has little nutrition in it. After 4 relaxing days in Raquira we drove on to spend the remainder of November in Bogota, the capital of Colombia.

Visiting Bogota with a car is not easy. They have something called pico y placa which means, depending on your license plate you can only drive on either the even numbered days or the uneven numbered days. Since our license plate ends in a 5, which is an uneven number, we could only drive on the even numbered days. So we timed our arriving at the booked Airbnb on an even day. Two hours before we were supposed to arrive at the apartment, we were already in Bogota, doing some shopping, we got an email saying the apartment was no longer available. There was an alternative but not what we needed and much less than what we had booked and paid for. Long story short we contacted Airbnb and after about 2 hours of them contacting the owner and a lot of nonsense, Air bnb decided to give us our money back (the reservation was non refundable) and cancel the booking. It was very difficult finding a location with outside parking. Almost everything is in a parking garage which is usually to low for our van (2.40m high) so we didn’t manage to book something else so quickly. We drove out of Bogota to wildcamp in a place nearby. Here we managed to book something else, but because of pico y placa we had to wait two days there, but it was a nice place. The new apartment had indoors parking. So before booking it, I deliberately asked the owner for the height, explaining our van was 2.40 high. The owner responded the parking had a height of 3m, so I booked it. When we arrived there it was however very obvious that the entrance was too low. We contacted the owner who said the inside was 3m high. I agreed that it was but that we first had to be able to get inside….The entrance was only 2.20m high. Fortunately, after Kilian spend half an hour of taking everything off the roof by unscrewing it, we could just drive inside and park the car. To be completely honest, Bogota wasn’t worth all this trouble. It has a terrible climate with lots of rain and cold weather. We had planned on biking and hiking a lot but with the rain pouring down, this wasn’t really an option any more. We visited Chapinero and the old town which is nice, but not nearly as nice as Cartagena.

We did visit the lovely botanical gardens and ate some great food (even good bread 🙂 in zona G(ourmet), this area also has some lovely red brick houses which make it look like you are in England! And Kilian managed to buy some parts for the car and we both bought some new clothes and stocked up on food for Binkie. We also got a lot of laundry done and watched some movies and tv shows online now that we had fast and reliable wifi. But we were glad we were able to leave this busy metropolis.

1 thought on “November 2022”

  1. Hoi Marcia jullie kunnen altijd nog aan de slag als bruggen bouwers. De bus heeft weer veel te lijden gehad en jullie ook met dat geschud. dank voor de mooie fotos en filmpje blijf gezond.


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