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25th October 2015

25 – 30 October: Colombia Part 3... cañons and an unbelievable hospitality

After breakfast at seven I start my Tatacoa desert tour with Holman. Finally I can ride in one of this funny moto taxi's. This had long been meanwhile for a long time on my "to-do list" ;-) 
 
After a brief, bumpy ride - with numerous difficulties driving up the steep hill - Holman and I get out of the taxi and hike through the grey part of the Tatacoa desert. Holman tells me everything about fauna and flora - from which I just understand about 50%, since it is only in Spanish ;-) but impressive anyway, especially the complete silence. 
 
After an hour we reach a small finca where they have built a small and intimate swimming pool, thanks to an underground spring and with that pool for the tourists they can earn a living that.

Oh, what a luxury to cool down a bit after the already sweltering heat in the desert.

But the joy is short - on we go, this time to the red part of the Tatacoa desert. The formations remind me very much of the Bryce Canon in Utah. After returning to the village, a short walk through the (very modest) Paleontological Museum, then I get my stuff ready and ride on to Neiva.

In fact, Fredy, the Colombian biker had not promised too much and so after his "announcement" on WhatsApp I have the opportunity to stay in Neiva with Mauricio and his family. Neiva is quite big but we meet at the soccer stadium and that place even my Navi finds easily. Mauricio picks me up and we drive together to his house. Quick getting out of my clothes, in Neiva it is almost as oppressively hot as in the desert. As Mauricio's wife has to work longer than expected Mauricio can not make the planned city tour with me - somebody has to stay at home with the baby. He insists that I have to see the city and so he organises his "Pulsar" -club mates (Pulsar is a motorcycle brand!). They pick me up at his house - a bunch of young people - gather first around my bike, lots of questions as usual and then they show me with pleasure the sightseeings of Neiva (in the dark) and of course on the bikes!! 

The next day I go with Mauricio to the motorcycle area (a whole block), buy a new chain for my Suzy and while the local mechanic is working on it Mauricio shows me more of the city. When I pick up my bike again I stuck because he has so many questions; while having 2-3 of the nice Columbian coffees (they drink coffee also in this heat) we talk for more than an hour. As I will pay his work - he had agreed a price with Mauricio in advance - he insists that I do not have to pay it. He just wishes me a great trip and thanks for the interesting talk!!! Wow, it would have been cheap anyway (in my opinion) but of course that is truly a great gesture. And this in a country where people need every cent for their living. In the evening, then a new experience: I go with Mauricio and his wife to the movies. We will watch "Peter Pan" and because at the box office it was written "doble idioma" (bilingual) we automatically assumed that it is in English with Spanish subtitles. NO; it was exclusively in Spanish - except for the film songs which had been in the original language. Ooookkkkeeee ... .. another way to improve my Spanish ;-) but it was fun anyway.

On Tuesday then Mauricio leads me through the heavy traffic to the city limits and we say goodbye cordially. He has already organized my next host. In Mocoa it will be at Olivers and his wife Olgas place where I can stay. The trip to Mocoa leads me once again by small, lively villages, the landscape changes from desert similar to agriculture (rice, corn, coffee, cocoa) and then finally to dense jungle. In Mocoa Oliver is waiting at the village entrance and as I pass by - his waving and shouting is useless, I do not see him (and wouldn't know anyway how he looks). So he sends me a motorcycle colleague afterwards who catches me and leads me back to them. Oliver is waiting with his wife, his little adopted daughter and the Pinscher for me and they welcome me so warmly as if they know me already for a long time. The whole family then packed on the little scooter we drive to his apartment. I'm even able to drive up the tricky driveway into his garage and again I'm served first with coffee and pastries. Despite my opposition they insist that I will sleep in their bedroom while they are sleeping on a mattress in the living room. I feel a bit weird but for them it seems to be the most normal thing in the world. I'm their guest and the guest is king !!

 

The two planned nights turn out into three as they want to show me all the beautiful things in Mocoa. Although I have already made my travel plans I cannot resist: Oliver and Olga lead me to the cañon del Mandiyaco, in the domestic zoo and then the next day during a 6-hour, partially adventurous, leading through dense jungle hike first to the "ojo de dios" and then to "fin del mundo": 3 waterfalls with nice pools to swim, the last and highest with 70 meters! A beautiful river scenery in the middle of the jungle, no other sounds than the rippling water, the chirping of cicadas and the sounds of the many birds. In between, we have time for a swim and make a lot of pictures. An incredible experience to which I would certainly not have had the opportunity being on my own.

In both families I have been welcomed as if we know each other for years already; they took days off for me and with pride "presented" me to their friends, familes and biker colleagues. Of course, here in Columbia plays the fact that I am a woman traveling solo on a motorbike, a certain role. But all motorcyclists are welcome, it is like a code of honour and that way they make traveling possible for bikers allover South America. The costs of hotels and food would make it impossible for most of them. And the South Americans are passionate bikers!!! Such unprecedented hospitality I've never seen in my life!!

To reassure all: I will not take the famous road "devil's trampoline or trampolinedel diablo" to the Ecuadorian border tomorrow. Oliver has advised me not to take it. Thegravel road is normally in acceptable conditions but it is very curvy and extremly narrow and you have to find place between crossing trucks and buses. On one side the rock and on the other side nothing; some hundred meters further down the river. Many deadly accidents make it to one of the most famous roads in the world (look after it on YouTube). So I will drive the 180km on the normal road (2/3 paved, 1/3 bumpy gravel) toLa Hormiga and cross there the border to Ecuador.