The drive to Tatacoa (yes I said Tatacoa!) was beautiful. There was a long dirt road section for the last 20 miles or so, and we crossed a huge river and went through a tunnel built in the rocks. The scenery changed dramatically to being very dry and dusty with lots of cacti everywhere. We were only there for one night and camped on the edge of the red desert which had stunning scenery of the red rock formations below. It was incredibly hot and we decided not to walk into the desert, relaxing on the edge instead and admiring the scenery. Because there is no light pollution at night-the sky was stunning and we saw many stars, including shooting stars. We both lay with our heads out of the roof tent at various points in the night as it was so clear and stunning to see.
The following day we set off for San Agustin, an area known for its pre Colombian archaeological sites. We had an evening and night of rain, which turned the camping area into a mud bath! I managed to slip spectacularly in the mud in front of a group of youngsters form Bogota and ended up on my bum in the mud! We went to the largest of the archaeological parks and were really impressed by the large number and quality of the stone statues we saw. The largest group of religious monuments and megalithic sculptures in South America stands in a wild, spectacular landscape. Gods and mythical animals are skilfully represented in styles ranging from abstract to realist. These works of art display the creativity and imagination of a northern Andean culture that flourished from the 1st to the 8th century.
We then decided to drive to Popayan, with a view to getting closer to the Ecuador border and crossing a few days later. The drive was again a lovely one, with a portion of it being on dirt track which was full of potholes and bumps and dips! It took us through Purace national park and though paramo. We then hit tarmac again and the journey smoothed out. But then it happened. We heard a clunking sound from underneath Ruby-which got progressively louder as we got nearer to the camp site. We checked underneath for anything obvious but saw nothing. We spent the following day trying to diagnose the problem using communication with Ben and Gav`s brother, Jamie. In the end we decided that we needed to head to a main city to get it fixed. We contacted Carlos from the Colombia landrover club, who is so helpful and he gave us a contact in both Pasto (South) and Cali(North). the deciding factor was the roads-we learnt that the road to Pasto was very hilly and that the one to Cali was pretty straightforward and fairly flat! Back up North it was to be then! We had begun to think we would never make it to Ecuador-as this was our second time heading back North! Carlos sent us the contact details of " Landrover Roy" who we had met at the big landrover meeting in Villa De Leyva and Roy said he would meet us at the garage.
To cut a long story short, Roy and his friend, Carlos were incredibly helpful. They told us which mechanic to use and we met them there. The first mechanic didn`t really seem to know what the problem was and just repeated things we had already tried eg taking off the prop shaft. Roy called the owner of the garage and he sent his son down, another mechanic. He was brilliant. Roy and Carlos also helped us to order parts from Bogota which we would have to collect from the delivery firm the following morning. Things are not straightforward here so in total we were at the garage for about 7 hours, sometimes going round in circles about which parts we needed etc!! The following day we collected the parts from the delivery company and took them to the mechanics. Again, Roy and Carlos waited with Gavin until the repairs were done and the mechanic was satisfied. I`d like to say that I dutifully also waited at the mechanics for a second day, but instead I took myself off to Cali zoo! So we had the CV joint replaced, the drive member on the rear wheel replaced and the bushes tightened up. No clunks anymore! A massive thank you to the brilliant Joaquin, the mechanic, who Gav was very impressed with and to Roy and Carlos who gave up almost 2 days to help us! The people here are wonderful. We booked into Hostel Casa Miraflores in Cali and parked Ruby outside. We met some lovely people (all a lot younger than us) and spent the night chatting, eating and drinking. We realised that we are out of touch with youth culture when Joyce from Holland, who had met her boyfriend ( Joep) on the dating app-Tinder-told us that a common line on the site was to ask whether the person wants to meet up for netflix and to chill. Well, what a lovely idea I thought-watching a lovely film together and chilling out! They all could not stop laughing as they realised I had no idea that it actually meant did people want to meet up for "intimate relations"!!!!!! Well how they laughed!
So we are now back in Popayan with a view to covering some serious miles over the next couple of days. I hope to write my next blog from Ecuador-unless Ruby has other ideas of course! So I`m signing off, I want to go and watch netflix and chill!!! (MY version!!!)