Woke up to a bright and sunny morning – Very hot and steamy before long. In climates like this, a cold shower is not as painful as it sounds, and we have got used to them by now ! This next bit of road south through flat land was basically pretty boring – Lots of palm oil plantations (which cause havoc with animals because all their native trees and bush have been cleared to plant the palms), and bananas, and sugar cane. But there is always something to keep you amused or interested on the journey.
In this instance it was a big intercity coach that went past and had a Wifi” sign on the back. So, being me, I accelerated up to bus warp speed to sit behind him, and quickly got into Settings on my phone and, hey presto, 8 emails suddenly downloaded since he was not password protected ! Once the “refuelling” operation was completed, I dropped back to my dawdle speed of about 80 – 90 kmh, and we had a good laugh about it. Of course, every time another coach went past we tried again !! What a hoot.
Also noticed that on the road signs warning of tractors on the road, the tractor drivers in Columbia wear Panama hats, whereas on the almost identical signs in Mexico they wore sombreros with big wide rims !! I think the sign artists have a sense of humour !
After another stop for lunch at a delightful spot right beside the road with lots of enormous semi trailers rushing past all the time (there are hundreds of them on this main road south), we continued through frequent small towns. One of them seemed to just sell fuel – Bootlegged I presume. Every single shack along the road had 1 gallon, 5 gallon, 55 gallon, or even big 1000 litre tanks both outside and inside, and the owners were all waving at us as we passed to get us to stop. And people do stop, as it is about 2000 pesos ($1) cheaper per gallon than the regular gas stations ! Even big semi trailers fill up from them. And their process is amazing – they have manual pumps, with which they pump fuel into a raised can which is covered with an old cloth to filter the fuel, and then flows by gravity into the vehicle. If a cloth can filter out rubbish, imagine how much goes through !! And how they place doesn’t burn to the ground I don’t know – there is fuel on the ground everywhere, and the whole town just stinks like one big fuel spill. And of course the locals are smoking…… Unbelievable.
We continued on our way, watching big semi trailers pass us and others over double yellow lines, over blind brows, and round corners. Amazingly we only saw one accident, where two trucks had met head on. Later on a little motor trike (like a motorcycle ute !), nearly got squashed as two big trucks met at the same point he was at – Much blue smoke from locked tyres on the truck, but the rider of the trike just pottered on down the road at the same speed without a care in the world ! This is why I drive at about 80 – 90 kmh max – You have to be able to avoid all these trucks and cars that come at you on both sides of the road – Heading off onto the verge is quite common if you want to stay alive !! (It also gives me great fuel consumption !)
In contrast, on some sections of the road were beautiful treelined arches over the road for miles and miles – you could have been anywhere in Europe. As we continued south, the mountains in the east got closer, and we started to see some novel animal warning signs. Foxes, and then monkeys - We kept our eyes open, but saw nothing ! As I have said, this road is very busy, with trucks everywhere and lots of roadworks with a new dual carriageway being built. Despite my previous comments, the line markers do leave something to be desired, and you get whole long straight stretches where you can see for miles, but have a solid yellow line down the middle for no overtaking. But over here everyone does it, and when in Rome……….. So it was much to my chagrin when a policeman flags me down and accuses me of crossing a solid yellow line ! Moi ? Oh, no. sir, He is speaking Spanish and I am speaking English and handing over (fake) licences to keep him happy. I might add that there are a whole line of local cars pulled over for the same offence, and they seem to be paying fines, but my policeman just wags his finger at me and tells me not to cross the solid line again, and off I went ! Pays to be a gringo sometimes !
Down here there are an increasing number of Renaults down here. Lots of new ones, but also hundreds of older ones too, like old 1970’s ones (the 1200 TL was it ?), still wobbling along belching out blue smoke, but still going ! More on this subject tomorrow. Anyway, as we drew close to Aguachica, we knew we would not find any camping spot out here in the middle of the country, so started looking for suitable gas stations or hotels which had large parking spots where they usually let you park over night. After a few enquiries that led no where, or didn’t look too “secure”, (Hey this is the heart of Simon Bolivar revolutionary country !) we saw this little hotel sign, and a hotel tucked away off the road behind a big warehouse type building, and lots of trucks parked. So we drove in over the gravel and puddles and there was a (relatively) lovely little hotel with spotless rooms and toilets, and secure parking behind. We eventually persuaded the lady that we wanted to sleep in our car, and for 10,000 pesos (about $5) we got to park in their yard, use their toilets, AND their wifi, and cook our supper in the security of their yard. Perfect. One of nicest and friendliest little stops for a long time, even if the surroundings were a bit basic and the views a bit limited !!
Photos are here :- https://picasaweb.google.com/117739775480775657932/0117SantaMartaToAguachica?authkey=Gv1sRgCKT40bLX09zk6AE#