After a generally peaceful stay in Florian, it was time to face the road once again.
We decided to take a different route, in the hope that it would avoid the last horrible section and also because we wanted to head south rather than north. We would drive the first decent section until the first village, then turn left rather than head straight head on. Its always a bit of a gamble what you’ll get on the roads here, but it seemed worth a go.
While it had been dry for the last two days, which was great for the road conditions, the morning that we packed up it was pretty overcast. We were glad we had already visited the cave the day before, as today it was lost within the clouds. Hoping the rain would hold off, we set out.
The first part of the road is a pretty decent dirt road, which continued when we turned off and headed onwards down the new route. Now we drove in thick fog, as we wound our way upwards and over the mountains. It began to drizzle. Even the decent dirt road still gas the odd messy section though.
Then we reached a junction. To the left the road continued back northwards and straight on was our chosen route to the south. The road we wanted had a closed sign, apparently the bridge was under construction. The left hand route was open, but it was an enormous detour. I went to ask in the house if the sign was true. The lady was rather non committal. She said that cars could get through still, but that it was ‘very ugly’. I pointed at Ruby.
“Do you think we can pass in this?” I asked her. “We don’t have 4×4”.
She considered us. “Maybe if you go slowly…” She said.
This is always the problem with local recommendations, they may see the car but they don’t know how good it is in mud, how we drive and all these other variables. We have people tell us everything is fine and barely made it through, whilst on the other hand we’ve had people tell us we’ll never get there and it’s been easy. Still, with such an incredibly long detour as the only other option we decided to try.
We set off and the road began to wind downhill, through some muddy patches. So far nothing we couldn’t handle.
Then we got to a steep downhill section. At the bottom there were muddy water filled ruts, once we were down, we would struggle to get up. In fact we struggled to get down too. Soon we were stuck in a big muddy slushy puddle in the middle of nowhere. Maybe this would be the first time we got to use our new recovery boards. Instead of getting them filthy though, we tried rocks first. With a bit of careful positioning and some rocking, we are ourselves from the mud bath. No way we were going back through there, I hoped it didn’t get any worse. Famous last words.
Then we reached the bridge that wasn’t fully built yet. It was about halfway there. They had laid large pipes across the river and covered in the gaps with some mud. It was narrow. There were now barriers. As we tentatively went to drive across, the back wheels slipped a bit and we ended up going slightly sideways, that was pretty scary as there wasn’t really space to go sideways and god knows what the weight limit of that thing was. It’s a testament to how stressed we were that there are absolutely no photos or videos of any of this.
And we kept going through that gravelly, dirty slurry which is made by construction traffic in the rain.
Then we saw the next challenge. It may not look like much, but a very short steep hill gives us a big risk of grounding out the bottom. The mud and water before means we have to git it at a reasonable speed to avoid getting stuck, which really is the last thing you want to do. On the bank above sat a small 4×4. There wasn’t too much space either. Not much choice but to go for it. This time we did come up the back sideways, narrowly missing the other car and showering mud everywhere. Maybe he could have helped us, but his clutch was gone and in the end we were the ones giving out a tow again.
Having towed them back a bit, we asked about the road. They had just come from the town we were heading to and they assured us that there was no more bad road. We both breathed a sigh of relief knowing that we could now make it out. As we approached the town the rain because more insistent and I was glad we’d made it through before now. Hopefully from here on out it would be more straightforward.
While the roads indeed were better, but it after two dead end roads, several more hours and a lot more rain, we had reached a point where we just needed a spot for the night. The two we had marked as potential options were no good and so we kept driving until we found a small spot on the side of the road where we could crash for the night. It had been a very long day.
We fell asleep to the roaring of the river nearby and the rain pounding on the pop top. Tomorrow, more driving.
I had wondered if we should clean out all the radiator again. A quick look under it the previous evening and while the core seemed clear ish, the scoop was nearly full of stones and rocks. I poked it with a stick. The stick broke. And we decided to drive on. It was another good few hours of driving over the mountain road and through more river crossings and slurry before we hit good tarmac once again and approached the town of Puerto Boyaca. Here we had a few important things to do before we headed another hour or so out towards the next place to visit, Hacienda Napoles.
We needed to get Lizzie’s vaccine boosters, as today was the last day. We needed to stock up on groceries. And we also needed to clean the van. It took a few hours to get all that sorted, so that by the time we were headed out of town it was towards the end of the afternoon. We weren’t entirely sure where we were going to stop, so we drove to the hacienda to see what that was like.
Hacienda Napoles was the famous estate of Pablo Escobar back in the 80’s. Now, it’s a theme park and one of the main reasons to visit it today is that it is the only place in the world, outside of Africa, where you can see hippopotami in the wild. We hadn’t realised it was quite so theme parky and definitely not somewhere they were going to let you camp for the night. Luckily enough there was another option only a few kilometres away and we drove in there with the last of the light, ready to visit the hacienda the following day.