After saying goodbye to John and Betti we headed out on a long drive over the mountains. We really enjoyed meeting up with them as we can share so many stories and experiences. We had originally planned to go high up into the mountains to Los Nevados National Park but John and Betti had also tried to go there and told us it was effectively closed due to volcanic activity. So instead we decided to head over to the coffee region, for which Colombia is famous for. There are 3 large mountain ranges that go along the length of the country. Bogota is on the eastern most one of these, so to get across to the coffee region we had to go down from 2600m, then back up over 3000m and then back down to about 1500m. If this was not bad enough the roads are full of trucks which made traveling extremely slow. Going uphill you are sometimes only doing 15km an hour. With all the twists and turns, overtaking is extremely difficult. You also need to be on your guard at all times as some drivers will overtake on blind bends. This means even going downhill you have to be very careful as some times you have a lorry doing 15km an hour been overtaken by a lorry doing 20km an hour around blind corners. You have to be prepared to stop to let them in. Even though our drive was just over 200km it had taken 8 hours and as it got dark we were still a couple of hours from where we were originally headed. So we quickly looked for an alternative place to stay and came across the lovely Hacienda Venecia. Mind you to get there we had to drive 4kms down a steep narrow dirt track in the dark. That was not too bad but to get on the dirt track we needed to do almost a U Turn off the dual carriageway. To get around we needed to do a 3 point turn which meant reversing back across part of the dual carriageway. Unfortunately while doing this in the dark I took the corner a little tight and one of the back wheels dropped off the kerb and we damaged the rear locker box and rear light. Fortunately we had found a haven of peace at the Hacienda which was set in the middle of a beautiful coffee farm. First thing the next morning I was up trying to repair the damage I had done.
Whilst I made a little progress it was obvious I would need some more expert help. The manager of the hostel and the staff could not have been more helpful. They called out a mechanic who took all the bits away and came back the next morning with it all repaired. Mind you even I was surprised when he turned back up at 6.15am!
In the meantime we enjoyed our time at the hostel by swimming in the pool and taking a lovely walk around the coffee farm including seeing the lovely old farmhouse which has been converted into a boutique hotel.
We also shared our parking lot with a Dragoman overland truck which brought back memories for Gilly and I as we met on a similar overland trip 19 years ago.
Hacienda Venecia is a lovely place which we would thoroughly recommend for backpackers, overlanders or anyone wanting a slice of luxury and it is run by the friendliest and most helpful people.
From there we headed to the Valle de Cocora which is a stunning landscape filled with the worlds largest palm trees. The Wax Palm can grow up to 60m tall and makes an impressive sight along the valley. When we got there we found a restaurant car park to stay the night in. As it was lunchtime we went straight into the restaurant to have a fantastic lunch of fresh trout for which the region is famous.
The next morning we headed out for a hike up the valley. The walk followed a bubbling stream and along the way we had to navigate a number of small wooden suspension bridges. These we so bouncy we had to cross one at a time.
At the end of the path was a small house set in lovely gardens with lots of hummingbirds.
Here they served a traditional Colombian snack of hot chocolate with cheese.
The return hike involved going further up the hill before returning by walking right through the Wax palms. The girls did fantastically, walking 12 km in a morning through quite up and down terrain. This had an added bonus in that they were asleep early that evening.
As we knew we had another long drive ahead of us we decided to get started that afternoon. This meant going back over the mountains with all the other trucks. When I did manage to overtake a truck on a downhill section I was pulled over by the police for crossing a yellow line. After not understanding what he was saying and 10 minutes of back and forth with various documents he decided it was easier to just let me go.
As it was getting dark we decided to call it a day and pulled in to park at a petrol station for the night.