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COLOMBIA    INFO & DIARY  1


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 GENERAL INFO (Jump to Diary)
The Republic of Colombia is an Unitary presidential constitutional republic, covering 1.141.748 square kilometres in-between the Northern Pacific Ocean, Caribbean Sea , Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Brazil and Venezuela. It is the home of 49.364.592 citizens, of which 92% are Christians.
The currency is Colombian Peso, worth  0,002 Danish Krone and €0,0003. The GDP is US$306 billion.

The climate varieties from tropical to polar, with everything in-between. That give room for a 32 biomers and the number of animal and plant species are enormous! Colombia is the country on the planet more characterized by a high biodiversity, with the highest rate of species by area unit worldwide, and it has the largest number of endemic species. It has 10% of the world’s mammals species, 14% of the amphibian species and 18% of the bird species. The country has between 40.000 and 45.000 plant species, and have more orchid species than any other country. Here are approximately 7.000 species of beetles and  456 reported species of mammals. I will not make any listing, nor will I try to find specific species. My main aim is the boimers - except the Polar.

DIARY
I start in Doha on the 29/12, spend 35 minutes in Istanbul on the 30., just to learn they have 5C and a fantastic sunrise. I skip the passport and transfer queues, and there is no doubt, some are still in their queue, when we take off towards Barcelona. Again, it is a packed discount plane, but the flights are short, and I can buy food.
Barcelona only offers 10C and no sunrise - only the endless, non-moving lines. Then it turns out the domestic airport is in the other end of town, and I have to get a bus. I succeed with the help of a local girl, get a boardingcard for Madrid and run to the flight.

In Madrid, it is pretty much the same, except the airport is huge, overfilled, worn-down and only a few restaurants are open, and here are a light drizzle. The restaurants have lines way too long for me, despite I get to skip the security control, and get as the first in the passport check. I eat some muesli while I stand in the now rather short lint to board.
We wait in the plane for over an hour, before we set off on the ten hour flight to Bogota. I watch some of the new Lord of the Rings-movies.

 Bogota airport is a smooth operation, till I want my car. Apparently, I have to call a number to get a shuttle. And to do that, I need money. I find a ATM, but only get to withdraw 40.000 - not the 900.000 I wanted. Then none will change into coins for the phone. End up having the Information-girl make the call. Get a car, with some new restrictions after 9. January. No-go in some areas and no-go in some towns half of the days. None speak English, and I'm to tired to argue anyway.

Here is only 12C and a light drizzle. I drive through the intense, slow-mowing traffic to my booked hotel. Only cash; 53.500 and no ATM around. They get my passport and I get to pay in the morning. Out in the party-neighbourhood to find food and water, then home and sleep at 23. I need that!

30. I get up before five, only because I would like to find an ATM, pay the hotel and get out of town before rush-hour. Well, two out of three. It is rush-hour as I head south. And I had even found a southern hotel, but the traffic is insane. The first 20 kilometres take two hours. Then the city ends, and some nice nature starts. Unfortunately, the traffic remain, and at first, I wonder why it is this intense OUT of town Then I figure: Holy days due to New Year? And here are not a single truck; they are all parked along the road.

The police is present, and the military as well. They stand along the road with thumbs-up, and wave at the kids. A great attitude! I get a bit peckish, but can't find a place to park at the few open restaurants. Then a clever guy have baked some small buns with jam in, and now he walk along the long lines of car, selling them. Bit hazard, as the many motorcycles passes on both sides of the cars, all the time. The motorcycles have their number plate numbers on their helmets too, even their passengers have. In some areas, they have jackets with number on too.

It is a toll-road I follow; 45, and I find it a bit steep: Around 10.000 each 75 kilometre. It have been changed a bit today; One lane drive on the other side of the middle, giving room for more, leaving the city.
The first part of open land is flat hills with cows on. Here are a lot of farm houses but few villages. Then the road leads over a small mountain range, covered in fog.
As it drops on the other side of the mountains, the sun break through, and the temperature start to raise considerable.

Then it change into rocky mountains. The road follow a muddy river, and passes under The Devil's Nose. I would have like to walk here, but there are no parking. Then I find a place, and I'm in luck: The view down to the river and up to the mountains are great. Here are two species of cacti and two species of Bromeliads. I stopped in a line of restaurants, and got some milk-tea (without tea) and a vegetarian sandwich (with ham). I feed the dogs the ham and sit and enjoy the view, while eating.

The road is lined with small shops in some stretches. In one area, they sell Vino de Palma, one fix flat tires.
After the mountains come a huge plane with crop and cows. Here are barley, corn and rice. Other farmers have fruits.
I reach a larger city, and park at the gas station. I need breakfast, and it would be nice with some tea for my second mug of hot milk. I got it in a village with a long line of restaurants. They all had the same on the menu, none understood "Vegetarian" or "sin carne".

Here are some unfamiliar road signs. One, I guess could mean light, while the Ant-eater, and iguana is clear, and a swamp-rat? Some of the many trees lining the road are overgrown with cacti.
I pass a few flooded areas, looking like the Amazons (it is actually the Amazons upper delta) with floating plants and flowering water plants.
One of the larger rivers are real swollen with clay-rich water. Vultures are everywhere in the sky. Then the large Cereus cacti start to be common. They are in the fence and on the green grass fields.

I turn off the big 45-road, and the minor roads have pot-holes, fords and great views. The traffic finally opens up, but I still fear "my" hotel might be full. It is more or less within the sight of the day; Desierto de la Tatacoa; some clay hills, eroded by the rain. I reach it half pass three, and get a real basic room. I don't even drop the bag before I enter the area.

It is fantastic! The eroded clay hills are dotted with four species of cacti: Cereus, Turk's Hat, Opuntia and perhaps; a small Opuntia. And many other plants like Acacia, two Jatropha, Fabaceaes, Burceraceae, Cucurbitaceae and  - others. The late afternoon sun is great, and I make so many photos.
Due to the heat and high humidity, I actually need water when I return to the motel. Then I make a loop to the other side, offering some different motives.

When I try to plan tomorrow, my GPS apparently have decided to use another system, and I end up in the Indian Ocean. With internet, I could transferee my coordinates - but here are none. I get some rice with fried eggs, and do the work I can do, before I run out of battery. Then I get to bed at eight. Photos from day 1:  Desierto de la Tatacoa.

31. It is a hot and moist night. In the early morning, before the sun appears, it is 27C and 80%. I though there were a power-failure, as the fan stopped shortly after I finally remembered, I had one. It turns out it have a timer! I rap things up fast, and set out towards San Agustin - hopefully the right one with Pioneros del la Arqueologia! This area is now a real slimy clay field; glad I saw it yesterday!

The small vultures sit on the fence-poles, waiting for the heat of the sun. They get rain first. I find my way back to 45, and head south. Some parts of the road are a tunnel, well shaded by trees. I pass a few larger and very sleepy villages, until I reach Campoalegre. Here are a lively market and even a showman, mainly shouting.
The market have home-grown crops and fruits, and I stock bananas. Out in the back, the local, real colourful busses are found.

Then the landscape changes again. Green small hills with cows, vine and coffee. In many places, the hills have fallen down on the road. The amount of epiphytes on the road trees are astonishing. All from flowering orchids to huge cacti. Spanish moss covers some trees, other have other bromeliads. Some Flame-trees are flowering, and huge bamboo are found in the fields.

A few trucks have entered the road, could be milk trucks? Again today, the road follow and crosses rivers. A few waterfalls are well fed by the rain, and some rivers are real swollen, and carry huge trees.
Just before noon, I pass a little village, made up by restaurants and souvenir shops. Piggy Banks seems to be a favourite -  at least among the producers. I talk a local into serving me pretty much all she have, but dead animals.

Young people start to act strange: The spray each other - and others - with fine corn-flour. Many houses have a full size doll sitting outside, and now they start to have them on the cars as well!  In some villages, the young men are dressed up as young women.
The closer I get to San Agustin, the more intense it get. I reach the town, and it is the right one (due to GPS problems, it was a gamble). It is an old, real cosy town, with well maintained houses, and none new. I find a hotel in the middle of town, and make a few, real careful loops around. I am apparently in the middle of madness, and avoiding flour , shaving foam and water in abundance, is real challenging. 

I drive out to the Archeologically Park, mainly for the nature, but the statues are actually great too. Here have been three cultures since 6.000 years ago. The statues are around 2.000 year old. And the nature is, as expected, great as well. I find so many interesting plants, quite some in flower.

I head home a bit early, but I have two days of work, the GPS problems and a long crack in my trousers again - and no tailor around here. The restaurant at the hotel are closing down, extinguish the fire in the stove and drinking some strong alcohol. I get some hot water for tea - and a couple of shots too.

The party is on, in the entire city: Live music, loud music, firework, sirens, happy people, and at eight: Heavy rain. That probably doesn't dampen the party; I just can't hear it from the cascades of water. Well, at ten, it have quiet down considerable.
Campoalegre and Pioneros del la Arqueologia

1/1 2018. I get a real good sleep, and got a feeling; the party ended early. When I get out on the street, I see I'm wrong: It is still on! The entire city look like the party was in this street or square alone.
I head towards the white city of Popayan, but as I do a bit of a detour, I get through the national park of
Puracé. Just the road there is a great experience. It is huge, green hills or mountains with some farming. Cows, coffee, banana and much more.
The trees along the road are covered in epiphytes like cacti, peperomias, orchids, bromeliads and quite some heather. Most of the small villages I pass have still a party going on. Not that most can stand on their own two feet, but the spirit is high.

As I assent to the park, the rain and fog takes over - but it is a rain- and cloud forest, so what can one expect? Well, I had not expected 75 kilometres of rock and clay road. But the views and flowers make up for it numerous times. Here are just so much diversity, I soon give up taking photo of each flowering species.
I do so many small walks, and get soaked again and again. The road is lines with pet-mosses, and they are thick!

In one area, a huge swamp plain is covered in these real special plants, found  nowhere else - and which I can't recall the name of. I must walk to them, although it is through half a meter of peat-mosses and other plants.
Soon after, I get out to the farmland, but the amassing views don't stop. The insane green grass, waterfalls, valleys, rivers, cows, humble farms and mountains in one, great blend.

I get a late lunch in a little village, where most inhabitants look like they have had better days - and they probably have. Then I find Popayan, which is a bit of a disappointment. Well, the closed shops and rain does it. I drive around the surprisingly huge colonial town, and find the old bridge. I figured I have seen it, and will use the last of the day, driving up to Cali. I spend my last 50.000 bill on gasoline, but the ATM I find, don't work. Never mind; there will be plenty in Cali.

What I forgot was the bloody road-tolls. 40 kilometre out, they want 8.000, and I only have 6.500. I have to back - which is hard with 10 cars and two busses behind. Finally I get out, and head back, as the nearest ATM apparently is in Popayan - I hope they got more than one!
As it is getting late by now, I find a real nice hotel, and then a
functional ATM. Parking is a challenge, as the old city is large, and here are no parking at all. I find some markings, in the edge of town, hoping it is parking markings?
Then I get to see quite some of the colonial Popayan town, looking for an open restaurant. And then I wait a long time for my vegetarian pizza. It get real late, and I tag the photos and write the diary way too fast, considered such a great day it have been.

The photos of the day is found in:  PN Puracé and white Popayan

2. On the good side; it is not raining, on the bad; the hotel's chef have apparently celebrated new year too long, and are not present for my breakfast. I let him sleep, as I'm the only guest, and let the girl heat some water for my tea. While I eat my usual breakfast, I stitch my trousers for a forth time. They might not make it for the next tour!

 I am (once again) heading north, this time with cash. The trucks are back, but the traffic runs smoothly - the first 50 kilometres. Then it stop, and nothing is happening for quite some time. Then we are stuck behind some slow trucks for a long time.
The first 250 kilometres is through rather flat farm country. Here are mainly cane, but also coffee, pineapples, papaya and bananas - along with those I don't recognises. Then the road reach  the low and green mountains, and the view improve.

After six hours of rather demanding driving, I reach the first sight of the day. It is the Jardin Botanica del Quindio, and considered my record of visiting botanical gardens on the Arabic peninsular (0 out of 6), I don't expect much. But not only is it open, I automatically get a two and a half hour guided tour with a biology student from the university, speaking quite good English. I have to share him with a Argentine, wanting to improve his English.

We see some of their 220 species of palms, their feeding place for numerous species of birds, most real colourful like the Blue Tangare. Here are feeding stations for hummingbirds - and loads of them. Agouties run on the ground, and we see a two-toed sloth in a tree top. Then have a large butterfly house, stuffed with butterflies. And an exercitation about their nine kilometre tunnel "opening next year".
It is a huge area, mainly quite wild, many areas are dedicated threaded locale species. It is not really what I would describe as a botanical garden, but it was worth the drive.

My next site is the amassing Vaxpalms of Velle de Cocora, which can reach 60 metres. It is further into the mountains, and the views are getting better and better. I reach the little cosy village of Salento. Considered the size of the road, here are surprisingly much traffic. Even the road which continues towards the national park is rather busy.

When I reach the end of the road, it is some vied max of a festival, carnival a fair - and well visited! The fields are temporarily parking - and real muddy. I park, and follow the stream further on. It is through the green grass fields with the Vaxpalms of Velle de Cocora. It is above 2400 metres, and it have been raining recently. Due to the crowd, it is pretty muddy, and the horsed do not help! Anyway, the nature is great, and the sun break through a few times.

The area is fitted with all kind of entertainment, and here are so many Bogota'ianians. When I fell I have see the most, I head back to Salento. As expected, it is completely congested, and finding a bed is a bit challenging. I get a nice one, but the price has tripled.
The town seems to be a tourist-trap, and they have their annual party this evening. A big fair on the central square and people everywhere. I do the square and main-street, consisting of almost only restaurants, bars and souvenir shops.

Again, I get way too late back to work, and the diary does not really justify the experiences of the day. Neither do the tagging of the photos.     Quindio BG, Valle del Cocora, Solento

From the southern part, I now head into the western in Diary 2.

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