The capital of Colombia, Bogota is with more than 9 millions inhabitants one of the biggest metropolis in South America. It is located 2600 meters high on a plateau on foot of the Cordillera Oriental of the Andes nearly in the center of Colombia. Bogota has a wealthy face with fancy shopping malls but on its other side poverty is still a huge problem like homeless people sleeping on its streets and begging for some money or food. For tourists it is a relative pleasant city with interesting museums and the picturesque old town Candelaria. Bogota is famous of its wall paintings which can be seen almost everywhere. Some demonstrate critics and resistance to political injustices, exploitation of people or social evils.
Before we came to Bogota we visited a coffee farm, a must to do in Colombia. Hacienda Guayabal close to Manziales was an excellent choice in a marvelous environment with lovely people. There was a little surprise when we came to the farm after struggling with a steep and narrow road.
Monika and Manfred from Munich, and Greti and Norbert from Canada were there. We had met both couples two days ago in Cocora. Together we had so much fun - Thank you very much.
Jorge from the Hacienda explained us a lot about coffee and we had to taste different kinds and various preparations. We never had drunken so much coffee in our live as we did the two days there. Behind the main building was a nice campground for our car including electricity (GPS coordinates: N4 57.422 W75 36.393) and in front was a swimming pool with refreshing cold water. On the second day we explored the farm with Lias from Brazil and Jonathan from Canada, again a joyful afternoon - Thanks a lot Lias and Jonathan.
In addition we would like to thank Jorge and Irene for their outstanding hospitality. We spent two wonderful days on their Hacianda Guayabal, see also their webpage with delicious food, some beer and too much coffee.
After the fake of Nevado del Ruiz (see previous article Nevado del Tolima and Farallones de Cali) we found a nice campground with a natural swimming pool nearby Mariquita, half the way between Maniziales and Bogota (GPS coordinates: N5 11.699 W74 56.704. The temperatures were pleasant because it this place is located close to the deepest point (867 meters sea-level), nearby of Rio Magdalena.
In Bogota we stayed in the fabulous hostel CrancyCrok, established and managed by Andy from Australia (see its website here, GPS coordinates: N4 36.001 W74 04.200). There are no campsite available in Bogota and we happy about this cozy place. It is located in Bogota's ancient quarter Candelaria, which is full of live in the evenings. Some bigger universities are nearby. The two most interesting museums of Bogota are reachable by food. The museum Museo del Oro is one of the most famous and impressive museums of South America. It shows more than 55,000 gold ornaments of the different historical cultures of Colombia like the Muisca. The other nice museum is dedicated to Fernando Botero, the actual outstanding luminary of Colombia's art. He paints and sculptures weird plump figures.
Bogota has the reasonable public transportation system TransMilenio with huge buses driving on their own lanes. Sometimes it is a little bit crowded, we got separated twice due to pushing people. But it is fast and cheap with a flat price independent how long you go or how often you change the line.
3152 meters high Cerro Monserrate with a monastery on its top is a superb hike from Candelaria of 2 to 3 hours (up) and an extraordinary viewpoint of vast Bogota. On the other side of the mountain is remote wilderness with very few people, streets or buildings.
We found other stunning wall painting on Calle 26, close to the Colombia's memorial center of the recent guerrilla and drug war. Calle 26 leads to the park Simon Bolivar, which is one of the favorite weekend destinations in the town.
Another must to do in Bogota is the visit of Zipaquira's salt cathedral, about 50 km north of the center. It is an awesome place 200 meters underground. Officially you must enter with a group and guide but we left both after we passed the entrance. The salt cathedral is surrounded by many different corridors, niches and sanctuaries which can be experienced much better if you alone.
We returned twice to Bogota because our car was several weeks under repair. The first time we spent a wonderful week in the Amazon jungle of the three border area around Leticia, see article Amazonia the second. The second time we took a plane to Santa Marta and came back two weeks late by bus, a relatively 18 hours trip but reasonable cheap, see article Santa Marta. In Bogota's trendy quarter is the cozy hostel La Pinta (GPS coordinates: N4° 38.946' W74° 03.502'), where we spent two days to explore this fancy part of Bogota before Vera and Kai came.
Vera and Kai brought us a desperately needed spare part for our car - a new injection pump. But we had to wait several days till our car was ready. Thus we strolled in the ancient city of Bogota, climbed up Cerro Monserrate again, and went by bus to the salt cathedral in Zipaquira (see above) and to the village Guatavita on the western shore of the artificial lake Embalse de Tomine. There we hiked several hours over 3228 meters high Cerro Pena Blanca (GPS coordinates: N4° 58.315' W73° 47.099') to the mystic lake Laguna de Guatavita, which is embedded in a perfect round crater. It had been one of the holiest places of the Musica, the former indigenous tribe of this region. Some golden artifacts had been found in this lake and are now in the Museo del Oro in Bogota.
This track is included in the GPS coordinates file of Colombia.
When we got our car finally we had the idea to do some mountain climbing in the more than 5300 meters high Sierra Nevada de Cocuy but the weather forecast was everything but encouraging. Thus we changed our plan and drove to Villa de Leyva, a colonial jewel surrounded by pretty green mountains with a lot of interesting attractions. Unfortunately our car smoked heavily and even in Colombia unacceptable when we drove to Villa Leyva.
An unbelievable side story about the most shitty car repair shop in South America
We had brought a lot of spare parts for our car from our last trip to Germany. Thus we asked Andy, the owner of our hostel CrancyCrok in Bogota for a good Volkswagen workshop. He recommended Crosswagen (GPS coordinates: N4 42.783 W74 03.212) 10 km north of the hostel on Bogota's highway. When we visited this place the first time we had a good feeling - friendly people, in a clean hall with good equipment. They exchanged all new spare parts after six day.
But when we wanted to pick up our car they told us that our car has an issue with the injection pump. Indeed it had started and still started reluctantly. They told us that they have to send the pump to a special workshop. We had the same problem in Blumenau, Brazil one year ago and we knew this needs time. Consequently we flew to Leticia, the main city in the Amazon region of Colombia. But when we came back after 10 days on February 24th 2014 it turned out that we need a new injection pump and this model is not available in Colombia. But we were lucky because Vera and Kai from Germany plan to come to Bogota mid of March. We ordered the new pump in the internet and traveled in between to Colombia's Caribbean cost, to Santa Marta. When we delivered the new pump they were not able to install it properly in an appropriate time frame. The car smoked like hell. After one week they told us everything is ready, which was obviously not the case when we drove to Villa de Leyva. Unfortunately this was just the tip of the iceberg.
Thanks to the very good T4 Wikipedia Kai and Alfred were able to adjust the new injection pump on the campground in Villa de Leyva, which is an extreme complicated and time consuming task. They fixed a lot of loose screws and enhanced the vacuum tube for the brakes, which was burnt. Few days later when we headed from Villa de Leyva to Fusagasuga the engine fumed strongly and lost all its cooling liquid. We had to call wrecking-service which brought us in the late evening to workshop in Zipaquira. Its technicians did a fabulous job in the night because a hose behind the motor block was broken - an extreme delicate place with nearly impossible access. It turned out that this hose had a fresh print from a screwdriver which was open now - a nice present from Crosswagen!
Close to Fusagasuga we heart a clicking sound of the engine. We decided to check it after we had driven Vera and Kai back to the airport on the next day. But when we started the car stopped at an U-turn and it was not possible to drive it because there we no force on its wheels. Vera and Kai took the bus and we hired a technician again. Soon he found the root cause in the bloody afternoon heat and he was laughing because the screws of the motor shaft of the right side disappeared. On the left side these screws were loose, too.
The engine became unusual hot when we drove back to Ecuador. Close to the highest point between Ibague and Armenia on a small shoulder of the very busy road the cooling liquid disappeared again. Alfred checked the renewed hose and realized that the fixation was loose on the inner end. He removed the hose and tried to install it properly. Twilight came. He lost a screw into the drive belt. Darkness came. We were literally desperate and did not know how to proceed. Alfred tried and tried to catch the lost screw because it might cause full damage of the engine.
Suddenly an angel came - Bernd and Viola from Germany. Bernd had a long thin pole with a magnet in his equipment. Together with Alfred he mounted the hose. We dared to drive to Armenia where we arrived at 10:00PM and we were more than happy to find an open restaurant. There was a lot of Police and Military on the road to Armenia. Few days later we found out that more than 100kg dynamite had been found under a bridge between Armenia and our place where the incident had happened. Fortunately it did not explode!
On the next day Bernd and Alfred realized that the problematic hose has two different diameters on its ends which makes it impossible to mount it properly. We created a better solution with the thinner part of the original hose which we inserted into a new hose with the thicker inner diameter. Finally at 5:00PM our car was ready to go. The hands of Bernd and Alfred were scratched deeply!
But the heating of our engine continued that we had to stop several times on longer upwards slopes and to wait for cooling down. A weird clacking noise became more and more intensive but the car did it somehow to the Finca Sommerwind in Ibarra, Ecuador. Alfred checked the whole cooling system of the car: The bimetallic switch for the cooling fins and the connector for the fans were not mounted properly. The fins closed every time which means that no airflow was possible. The fan did not work at higher medium temperature. We visited the Bosch Diesel Service in Ibarra which took hell of money for adjusting the injection pump and four little test runs. They ensured us that the engine is doing very well. We had the feeling that the heating problems were improved but the bad noise was ongoing.
We dared to drive to the Cotopaxi National Park but the heating display was still very high on slopes. When we returned we went to another workshop in Ibarra. They worked half the day for less than half the money Bosch Diesel Service had charged. The fuel injectors were very dirty which had been caused by the permanent overheating of the motor. They cleaned the injectors and recommended us to exchange them after out next return from Germany. They promised us that the heating trouble is solved now but the noise can just be reduced. To stop it we need new injectors. It seems they were right!
In Villa de Levya we found the pleasant campsite San Jorge (GPS coordinates: N5° 38.893' W73° 31.120'), which is walking distance to the town. It is approximately 1 hour to the viewpoint southeast of the city which provides marvelous sights (GPS coordinates: N5° 37.499' W73° 30.822'). The environment of Villa de Leyva contains a lot of fossils like the skeleton of a Cronosaur which lived 115 millions years ago in the ocean which had covered this area.
Beautiful is the sanctuary Santuario de Iguaque with green mountains close to 4000 meters sea-level, marvelous lakes, rich flora and abundant fauna. On the beginning of the side road to the entrance of the park is the remote campground Casa de Piedra (GPS coordinates: N5° 43.061' W73° 28.401') driven by a friendly family with a little grocery. We started our hike to the Laguna de Iguaque there because we did not dare to drive the bumpy road with our car which was a good decision. It is about four hours to the Laguna and another hour to do the circle around it via 3827 meters high Cerro Mayor (GPS coordinates:N5° 41.552' W73° 26.009') and 3770 meters high Cerro Minor (GPS coordinates: N5° 41.327' W73° 25.953'). The broad trail to the Laguna de Iguaque is well marked but the circle around it is a nearly invisible path which requires same easy srambling and a barefooted crossing of the ice-cold stream which leaves the lake. This track is included in the GPS coordinates file of Colombia.
Like mentioned on top of this article vising a coffee farm is a must to do in Colombia. Thus we headed to Hacienda Coloma in Fusagasuga few kilometers southwest of Bogota. This time we had to pick the beans by ourselves from the plants - a really tough job. Hacianda Coloma is located within the town on Fusagasuga. Its focus is tourism but we got again a nice introduction of harvesting coffee with some additional information. The highlight was the wonderful garden with many exotic plants.
West of Fusagasuga is a reasonable campground (GPS coordinates: N4° 18.813' W74° 26.237') directly on the main street between Bogota and Ibagua. Thanks to trees and a big garden the noise of the street is acceptable. Thanks to its lower altitude of just 1600 meters sea-level we enjoyed its swimming pool intensively. On Vera's and Kai's last day in Colombia we drove a winding road up and down to the picturesque village San Bernardo. Its main attraction are younger mummies, just several years old. San Bernardo has an unique climate which mummifies bodies in the tombs. After detection of this speciality the village had founded a museum where the best mummies are displayed - really a macabre pleasure!
On the next morning we sadly had to say goodby to Vera and Kai in a rush (see side story above), we had such a good time together - Thank you so much.