Colombia has been the most incredible (and welcome!) change from Panama. Flying into Cartagena with Milo was such an ordeal that I sort of didn’t expect it to actually happen, but once we saw the Cartagena skyline, I was so excited to be me again!
We spent three sweaty, exhausting days in Cartagena taking many taxis around getting the dog and van imported. During this time, we stayed at a lovely dog-friendly hotel, El Pueblito Playa, in Boca Grande, right on the beach and a pleasant walk into the old town.
After reclaiming the van, we put in two full days of driving to get to the highlands in search of some much-desired cold air. This was an exchange Juan and I had:
Juan: Did you see that photo of X and O? I’m so jealous!
Me: No, where are they?
Juan: I don’t know, but they were wearing sweaters!
In San Gil, it was still not quite cool, but we stopped sweating for the first time outdoors in a long time. There, we found a end-slot parking spot right in the main square, Parque de la Libertad, and urban-camped for the first time since Mexico. The van was quite a hit, and even when we closed our doors at night, people still came by to peek and say hi. We felt so safe that we even forgot to lock the doors when we went to sleep.
Inevitably, we attracted a VW fanatic who stopped by and we ended up following him to a big Sunday gathering at the nearby family farm. It was amazing. One moment we were sitting in the shade in the main square, and the next moment we were seated at a long, 20-top eating sancocho (traditional chicken soup served in both Panama and Colombia) with fried fish. And then the next minute we were drinking many, many bottles of whiskey…
After spending the night at the farm, we drove a short distance to Barichara, a pretty little town that I read had a nice (downhill) hike to another pretty little town.
At the end of the hike, we rode in one of the ricketiest cars ever back up the hill to Barichara, where we camped right on the main square–a much quieter main square, as Barichara is a much smaller town than San Gil.
Perhaps in maladaption to the cold weather, Juan and I promptly got sick, and have been resting at a beautiful campsite just outside Barichara. We are so sick that we can’t even use the awesome pool. But so far, we just love Colombia. Everyone has been so nice, and feeling safe enough to camp in the small villages has been wonderful. That is one thing that car-camping has over backpacking that I never really thought about before.
Now that we’ve cut so quickly across to Santander, it seems we are a little bit stuck, as our route further south has been cut off by the current agricultural protests in the area. But man! This is the best place ever to be stuck!