Curve del Esplendor

After too long, we were suddenly packed up, paid up and leaving Al Bosque. While we still wanted to head to Jardin as we had originally planned, we needed to pick up our final parcel. After many phone calls on our behalf and the use of his friend’s address in the city centre, we could finally get hold of our new gas struts. They were on the other side of the city however, and instead of retracing our steps back to the south and then hitting Jardin at the weekend, we decided to spend a couple of days in Santa Fe, to the north.

It also turned out that our bike friends from shipping, Roman and Marine were in town. We met them at a huge supermarket as we finished a killer back-on-the-road shop and headed round the corner to grab a quick drink and catch up. It was great to bump into some familiar faces again after so many months and we hoped that our paths would cross again soon. Although we could have chatted for longer, time was ticking and we still needed to get to Santa Fe. We stopped off to grab our parcel, before hitting the main road out.

While Medellin sits at 1500m, Santa Fe is 1000m lower. The road from Medellin drops steeply, so much so that it even has escape lanes, a first for Colombia. With the lower elevation came the heat. As we arrived in Santa Fe, it was just getting dark but the temperature was that familiar muggy heat which doesn’t lessen, even when the sun had gone down.

We were excited to camp somewhere free after paying for so long, but as we arrived at a potential free spot and saw the swamped and muddy road it was suddenly not so appealing. Had it not been dark then I would have probably walked down to check it out, but we wanted to settle down for the night. We drove back up the road slightly and paid, again, to camp inside a villa with a swimming pool. The night was hot and now we were back to needing a fan and worrying about mosquitoes. It can all change so quickly, but that’s what keeps it interesting after all.

We had only planned to stay a night, but the pool looked so inviting the next day that we decided to stay and enjoy it. We lazed around to pool, got sunburnt and enjoyed a few cocktails before heading into town. While it doesn’t look like much from the main road, once you get into the side streets and the village square, its a pretty colonial town.

We decided to eat some tapas, which really wasn’t tapas and enjoy a night off cooking. Turning on the cooker is not so appealing in the heat after all.

Lee gravitates to the nearest brewery

After our relaxing weekend, it was time to head back up into the mountains to Jardin. Ruby seemed as happy as us to be back on the road and we wound along by the river on a nice straightforward drive into yet another picturesque town.

This time, we finally got our free spot. It wasn’t the most beautiful but it was in a good location and pretty quiet at night for street parking, despite the neighbours.

One of the main reasons to come here is not just the pretty town, or nice hiking, but La Cuerva del Esplendor. This cave in the middle of the jungle has a huge waterfall pouring through the ceiling and looked pretty impressive. It’s on private property though, so you have to arrange a guide or so we thought. We headed down to the ticket office and reserved a tour for the following morning. With the rest of the afternoon to kill, we walked into town to see the pretty church.

There is also a garden here where you can see the Andean Cock of the Rock, a brightly coloured and slightly ridiculous looking bird. We paid it a visit to realise that we really should have brought a better camera. Fortunately it was pretty cheap, so we decided we would go back another day and take some photos that would do it justice, rather than just this scenic garden shot.

For now, we headed back to Ruby and our new neighbours.

The tour of the cave was due to leave at 9am and rather than leaving Ruby on the street all day while we weren’t around, we drove over and parked in the tour agencies car park. From the town, we’d be heading further up into the mountains in local transport. It was around half nine by the time we piled into the back of our truck with around 6 other people.

The jeep drove us onwards and upwards on a steep and muddy track into the mountains. While there wasn’t many bits of the road that would have worried me, it was nice not to worry about the drive and simply enjoy the views as we climbed higher and higher.

The ride was not smooth and not secured. If you didn’t hold on properly, you’d fall out onto the road, but the complete disregard for health and safety made for quite a fun ascent. We stopped off for a photo opportunity, before continuing onward. The road getting muddier and muddier.

The jeep was unable to take us right to the start as there was a large landslide blocking the way. They dropped us off on the landslide, where several trucks and diggers were in the process of clearly the debris, and we walked around 20 minutes further up the road to the entrance.

Here we realised that the tour is not actually obligatory, you can get here yourself and just pay for the entrance, but given the road I think the additional $10 was a worthy investment. We sat down outside where our guide brought around a try of refreshments, a cup of agua panela and an empanada.

Then it was time to head on down to the cave.

Its not a long walk, but it was a slippery downhill path and I had also managed to sleep on my neck funny which didn’t improve it. Luckily there was plenty of things to hold on to as I gingerly descended through the jungle and crossed a river at the bottom.

Then we climbed through a small rocky opening and we were at the entrance to the cave. Water poured down the wall in front and to the left the huge rocks parted and allowed access to the pool inside.

It always seems to be the wrong way around that you end up going down the waterfall and climbing back up. The time where you really want a swim after all, is after a hot sweaty climb. Still I’m not sure I would have swam in there anyway, it was pretty nippy. Lee didn’t waste any time heading in though, I was responsible for photography.

We spent an hour or so at the cave, before making our way back up.

At the top we had round two of snacks which included blackberry juice, something I’ve never tried before but which is pretty good.

Then, it was time to walk back down the road and past the landslide to the waiting cars. By now the day had warmed up a little more and we had a nice stroll back through the valley. As nice as it was, I’m glad we didn’t walk the whole way up here, it would have been a very long day.

We were back at the van by early afternoon, but asked permission to leave it in the car park until the evening. Then we headed back into town for a bit, Lee was on a mission to find a bar with the football match on before we headed back to our night spot. Now we weren’t the only campers, the German family from Al Bosque had caught up with us and now dwarfed Ruby on the street. Fortunately the locals seemed pretty tolerant of us all.

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