Into the middle of nowhere

After our stay at the eco ranch La Pacha, we had left with a set of recommendations from Jason. Ultimately our next stop was Florian for it’s spectacular waterfall but this was longer than a days drive and so we decided to to break it up with some of these recommendations. 

First off we headed towards Guadalupe, where we spent a peaceful night in a lovely free spot on the side of a river. 

We had meant to visit the other river nearby which is famous for its round swimming holes formed in the rock, but we decided to spend our morning being proactive and trying to figure out what was going on with the knock sensor. In actual fact, we didn’t manage this either. After spending some time messing around with it and not achieving anything, we decided that as much as we could have stayed another night we decided we needed to get a move on. Our first plan was to visit a local waterfall, Los Caballeros and then cut down to the more major route were we could continue on the following day. However, after making it only a few kilometres dow this road before being told we wouldn’t make it by a local, we were inclined to agree. We already smashed the underside twice on the floor and progress had been slowly than walking speed. We decided to abandon that plan, backtrack to Guadalupe and take a shortcut (famous last words) across to Contratacion From there, we would head south down a more major route to to the sink hole, Hoyo del Aire; supposedly this is still only three hour drive and we had the time. 

The road into Guadalupe had been pretty good so far, and here is the problem. According to google, the road classification is all the same in terms of how major the route is; from Oiba on the main road, through to Contratacion on the other side. We thought we’d had no problems crossing over the valley. The reality however was quite different. The tarmac road disappears as soon as you leave the town of Guadalupe and you are left with a dirt road with some questionable repairs. 

Enthusiastic pothole repairs which are a hazard themselves

While it was passable, it was slow. There was one part that while we made it down with the help of gravity, I’m not sure we would make it back up. We crept down to the river at the bottom of the valley that marked the halfway point, it had taken us over an hour to do less than 10km. 

The other side was in a better condition, but still rough. We had dropped down now and it was hot again. Ruby is not good in the heat, in first gear and so it took us another hour to creep our way back up the hill stopping regularly to keep the engine from overheating. At least the views the were pretty awesome. 

Eventually we made it onto a tarmac road and Ruby having done the difficult part decided that we no longer needed any engine power. We crawled up the final incline, who could blame her really. 

Our slow progress meant that the 17km shortcut had taken two hours and we were now in the process of grabbing a few groceries in Contratacion with only an hour or so of daylight left. If you looked at the rest of the route on google, you might have believed that we had now reached the main road. You would however, be incorrect. We knew that the dirt road continued on and we had no desire to attempt that in the dark. Lee had spotted a big pull off to the side of the road just 5 minutes back out of the town and we decided to play it safe and stay there. We watched the last of the daylight fade out over this spectacular view of the valley we had just driven through. 

After a lovely night in our free spot, we enjoyed our coffee with the view and spoke to some of the friendly locals.

Then it was time to move on and tackle the remaining dirt road to Hoyo Del Aire. We stopped off at the shop again, knowing that this was the largest town around for quite some distance. One of the local doctors came out of the Sanatorio to chat to us, as well as a local guide trying to sell us a tour. In an interesting side note, we found out that this town is quite famous for its lepers, the Sanatorio being the main treatment centre for leprosy. Having chatted for a bit, we headed onwards.

The dirt road climbs once more and soon we were back at enough of an altitude where we can happily trundle along at slow speeds without the engine overheating.

View back to Contratacion

That was good, because it was a very slow road again. Even when the condition wasn’t too bad, the sharp hairpins made it practically impossible to get out of second gear. We reached the town of El Guacamayo and passed on. The roads got smaller and rougher, we were basically the only car, still I was enjoying the drive, we were in the middle of nowhere. 

As we reached a junction, we paused to check the direction. A lady came out of the house next and asked us which route we were taking, she then told us that she had asked because one of the roads ahead was not passable and it was not possible to reach the next town. Apparently there had been a landslide. It was annoying, because once you reach the town of La Aguada, there’s another road you can take, but without being able to make it that far though we had no choice but to go back. Not just todays driving either, back to Contratacion, but yesterdays driving too, all the way back through Guadalupe. In the end, we decided to opt against the slow road we had driven yesterday, in favour of the more major route to Sorocco. This was far longer, but we hoped better. At least we would have a change of scenery. 

While it was still a dirt road, with a few small floods and some rather rough patches, this was the bus route and it definitely was in a better condition. It was still not the quickest, and after spending nearly an entire day driving, we were ready to stop for the night. Our usual go to app for camping spots had nothing in this area, and so we resorted to google satellite in the bid to find somewhere. We were hopeful for a space beside the river, but here too was a landslide. We waited some time before we were allowed through, construction traffic taking up any would be camping spot. 

In the end, we settled for a quiet back street in the next town and hoped no one would mind. Despite a lot of curious people watching us for the first hour, no one seemed to have a problem. Clearly tourists were not a regular occurrence out here. In the morning, we would head out again, through Sorocco and then back down south again on the real main road. Unfortunately, Justins’ recommendations had not gone well for us and we now decided we would just head for Florian. 

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