The Big Big Trip Journal! If you want to make the man (or woman) upstairs laugh, just tell him your plans!

Day 797, Thursday, November 18, 2021, Brisas to Villavieja 28 km Total KM 14095
Min meters 361, Max Meters 439
Total Climb 493 Total Descent 431
Min Temp 25 Max Temp 43 Ave Temp 34

Bouncing back to bliss Part 3

With no shade there were no places to stop and when I did stop to take a photo I was finding it hard to control the bike. Then again I hadn't eaten much in the last 36 hours.

One of my favourite shots

It was hard, hot work but very enjoyable. I was under little pressure and not a big distance to go. Had I felt better I could have done a loop through more desert to Villa Vieja but I wasn't that strong.

I didn't even mind the hills! That sun must be strong!

Villa Vieja was pleasantly small with a small Plaza and amazing trees! I found a bakery for a coffee and a cold drink but stayed inside - the sun is very powerful.

Getting close to town some of the green came back. This is looking back just before Villavieja

Quite early in the day I checked Booking and got a deal, a bit more than usual, but a step up on recent standards. A day of relaxation in a degree of comfort would be appreciated!

Close to town I lost the desert!

My room wasn't ready but I could leave the bike and take a wander around. The wandering didn't last long in the heat, morphing into a coffee under a shady tree. It was good to feel good!

Just one of several fantastic trees in the Plaza

I got to update this and generally relax and have a thoroughly different day to yesterday. The joys of life on the road!

Another fabulous tree and what I think is a bear!

Yep! Another tree and this one has magiclight!

Do I need to? Really?:laugh:

Chat? Yes Please!


Day 798, Friday, November 19, 2021, Villavieja to Wildcamp in the Tatacoa desert 25 km Total KM 14120
Min meters 406, Max Meters 603
Total Climb 467 Total Descent 312
Min Temp 25 Max Temp 41 Ave Temp 33
Revelations in the Desert

So I had a wonderfully relaxing evening. The hotel had a small pool so I even had a bit of a swim! I wandered around the small town and had a bite to eat then sat in the Plaza in the dark and just enjoyed the life all around me. A beautiful full moon shone down on everything.

As usual, my plans for an early start were thwarted - this time by a breakfast included in the price! I can't turn my nose up at free food!

Leaving Villavieja behind I was back in the greenery but the view ahead hinted at what was in store

Apparently there's a lunar eclipse tonight and that got me thinking - I'm in a desert area famed for star gazing. Coincidence? Methinks not!
I started dreaming of a night under the stars! Uncomfortable, for sure, in this heat but a rare or possibly unique experience.
Then I investigated a bit more. The eclipse was actually last night!
Ha! Dumbass!^_^^_^

Looking pretty green still but those mountains were to amaze me all day long....

So when I was packing up and one of the very pleasant ladies asked me where I was going I confounded her by telling her I wasn't really sure!^_^
I can take a paved road to a town not too far away and then rejoin the highway or I can head out into the desert for a night of camping under the stars.
Down to the Plaza to figure it all out!

Ooooh! A hint of desert! A huge cactus and those stunted trees that I like so much

As I was sipping on a coffee a young Italian couple got out of a tuk tuk. If you thought that I was travelling heavy you should have a look at their gear! They even have a guitar!
It's just not fair!
I got to wash my clothes, have multiple showers and am not long dressed but next to these two I look like a tramp! (I suppose I am!😊). I didn't know there was such chique style in backpacking gear!

The locals were bemused by me but always friendly!

Just as I was about to head off my phone pinged with a most welcome message. A good friend of mine has sent me the legendary Springsteen "No Nukes" concert! A quick return to the hotel to download it and I set off, for once my phone playing music in my pocket.

I bounced out of town and re-entered the surprisingly green desert.

Still green but look at that road and remember the soundtrack beating out of my pocket!

If I have sometimes suggested that the Touring Gods are capricious, evil, malevolent or cruel beings today taught me the folly of such thoughts.
They may be harsh taskmasters at times but I think my day proves that underneath it all they care deeply for us poor souls.

Or what about this one?

I entered a whole new world, one of stone, rock and sand, of cacti and stunted trees, of rolling hills (steep buggers!) that gave stunning views and deep hollows that stole them back.
It was amazing! Blasting hot and bright but absolutely stunning.
It was like the Touring Gods were saying "We're not finished with you yet, boy. Not by a long shot!".
Just the other day I wrote that it felt the most foreign of days and here I am, in a completely different climate about to say the same thing! I've been in deserts before but not like this.
It also needs to be understood that I've got Springsteen singing out of my pocket. That music, always more vivid live, has been the soundtrack to my dreams for decades and is filled with imagery of the open road and boundless hope. I was travelling with an old friend. A supportive old friend, one who understands the value of hope.

Bored? Not me! In just one of many examples of things just being perfect "Promised Land" was playing on this hill. That was my "Colombian song" before I arrived

The last days the barriers on the road of this Big, Big Trip were coming down and I was slowly coming to a decision on what to do. Yet here I was, on as open a road as is possible listening to such comforting messages about all the open road can give us.
I might have missed the lunar eclipse last night but there was a hell of a lot of things lining up today!!!

For the geographically challenged (me!) they even put up a sign.

I've no idea what the many motorcyclists passing must have thought what with my loon face beaming ridiculously!

The Tatacoa Desert

Damn, but I am one lucky fecker!

To be continued.....
Chat? Yes Please!


Day 798, Friday, November 19, 2021, Villavieja to Wildcamp in the Tatacoa desert 25 km Total KM 14120
Min meters 406, Max Meters 603
Total Climb 467 Total Descent 312
Min Temp 25 Max Temp 41 Ave Temp 33

Revelations in the Desert Part Two

The landscape was very interesting and incredibly varied. I started in green land, the first sign of desert being stunted trees with wide crowns offering some shade. Then the green became thinner and a reddish rock more prominent. Within a bend, it seemed, the green was banished and I was on Mars!

And still the greenery hung on, not prepared to be bullied away

The rock formations were amazing. I've no idea what forces formed them. Wind? Water? Or how long ago.


The red didn't last long, although it did make some guest appearances later and was replaced with a greyish, gold rock. My road twisted and turned through this landscape giving me lots of amazing vantage points. I used them all!

I think it's safe to say that I'm now in the desert!

I was in no hurry. iOverlander had lots of camping spots shown clustered along the road. Spoilt for choice I was.

It was pretty hot!

Of particular beauty were the mountains today. They were all around but away in the distance. Those in the direct beam of the sun were more like faint blue illusions, hardly real, and requiring focus to see their margins. Those out of the glare were clearer, stronger, far more defined, imperious and real. When the sun hit its zenith all the mountains verged on transparent, then, as it sank lower and lower they became substantial again right in front of my eyes. An amazing mountain performance.

And just like that the red rock was gone..... At least for a while.

I arrived at the first place I'd noted from iOverlander and had no intention of setting up camp. It was far too early and the road today was calling out to me very loudly and insistently. "Come on", it was saying, "let me show you what I have for you". That'll sound silly but I was easily persuaded that today was a special day.

Then it came back in splashes of colour

I did stop for a cold drink though and to write up some notes. The words were filling up my head.

The greenery sometimes came back too

When a busload of French tourists showed up it was time to leave. Past noon it was searingly hot but once moving a wind eased the sun's power.

Sometimes the rich green and the dry red colours combined to create a really vibrant scene - a rich contrast to the bumpy desert road

And I got to ride right through all of it!

I liked this cloud


To be continued.....

Chat? Yes Please!
Day 798, Friday, November 19, 2021, Villavieja to Wildcamp in the Tatacoa desert 25 km Total KM 14120
Min meters 406, Max Meters 603
Total Climb 467 Total Descent 312
Min Temp 25 Max Temp 41 Ave Temp 33

Revelations in the Desert Part Three

My road! All mine!

Before I really knew it I was at another spot from iOverlander. This one had the advantage of being close to an observatory where they gave nightly lectures. It didn't look great and the road was still luring me along so I continued. Options for camping would be fewer from now on.

I really liked this cloud too! I can't think of anything I didn't like at this stage of the day. The Touring Gods could have filled the sky with floating turds and I don't think I'd have been disappointed^_^

Since the first stop my road surface had deteriorated badly but I really didn't care. Today wasn't about speed, or even comfort. Today, I felt, was the Touring Gods putting on an exhibition.

Even now looking at this picture I can still hear the road calling out to me

At first, I thought "lunar" would be an appropriate adjective to describe the roads but the landscape was so intensely other worldly that I decided the moon was too close! I came up with "Plutonic" as the most appropriate description ^_^

And every now and then the greenery fought back!

Cattle grids, more like buffalo grids, were the bane of my life. Of questionable uniformity and with wide gaps I had repeat visions of Morelian drains. Ah, a bit of spice is all part of the fun!

Roadshot! It was not the easiest road for riding but with such little traffic I could use it all

Other than a steady stream of motorbikes the road was very quiet. Locals were careful to give me lots of room, and I them, normally pulling in. Lots of waves and smiles.

Plutonic? Perhaps a bit hyperbolic but certainly strange in a beautiful and intriguing way

I came to the penultimate place to camp as the sky in front was turning ominously dark and a few rumbles from the sky suggested a craving, perhaps for a loaded bike tourist.

And great fun!^_^

I had a coffee and thought about my options.


There was one more place, quite a good sounding one another 6km up the road.

The road, the landscape, the mountains and the clouds...... They all created a fantastic visual feast.

The road was pretty rough by now so that was a long 6km. After that nothing until a town maybe 12 km further. On this road I was putting all my eggs in the basket of that one spot as I'd never make town before dark. Besides, I wanted a night in the desert! Where I was was friendly but still the road called me on.
I moved on.

Can you blame me?

To be continued.....

Chat? Yes Please!
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Day 798, Friday, November 19, 2021, Villavieja to Wildcamp in the Tatacoa desert 25 km Total KM 14120
Min meters 406, Max Meters 603
Total Climb 467 Total Descent 312
Min Temp 25 Max Temp 41 Ave Temp 33

Revelations in the Desert Part Four

Dinosaurs! Out of shot is a sign forbidding in the strictest terms any climbing on the animals. Given that this is the middle of nowhere I was sad for all the kids with nothing to do except climb a dinosaur - and that was forbidden!

Back on the bike and bouncing into some very ominous clouds I adopted my "survivalist" persona. You know, the kind of guy on the tv shows who can not just survive in the wild, but thrive, and make friends with all the wild animals? Except I have none of the skills!

That direction is pretty, pleasant and benign

I decided that the rain wouldn't fall on me and then worked backwards from there to reassure myself that I was right.

These guys are working their way up my list of pretty trees!

The wind would blow the clouds away and by keeping a slow pace any rain would miss me. Then a strange part of the clouds seemed to be heading in my direction so I had to speed up only to slow back down again. A fun game!

Believe it or not the clouds were so purply dark and the sun so bright that it messed up the phone camera's lighting sensor. That strange looking cloud was anything but harmless!

Only it wasn't quite so much fun! I was weaving between a few hills where the road was effectively a dry river bed! Any rain and I'd have more than wet feet! Then the surface changed to dried mud. Any rain here, even ahead of me, and I'd be stuck!

This one is closer to reality but nowhere near forbidding enough!

I didn't have to worry about rain, not today. The angry clouds got close but passed by.

This is a better representation

The road, though, was tough and required a few bouts of pushing for safety's sake.

Meanwhile, behind me is a picture of ...... desert

It does make a pretty scene though!

To be continued.....
Chat? Yes Please!


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Day 798, Friday, November 19, 2021, Villavieja to Wildcamp in the Tatacoa desert 25 km Total KM 14120
Min meters 406, Max Meters 603
Total Climb 467 Total Descent 312
Min Temp 25 Max Temp 41 Ave Temp 33

Revelations in the Desert Part Five

I heard the place before I saw it, a steady rhythmic beat of amplified music. A sign up at the first place I stopped had the does and don'ts of the desert, one being no music. I had been "No Nukes" free since. It wasn't the greatest first impression.

It's a good thing it didn't rain!^_^

It was off the road and up a steep rutted road so after parking the bike I headed for what looked like a bar. A couple of friendly dogs came over, a more positive sign. Of two people behind the bar one just walked past me ignoring me while the other took his time even noticing me. I smiled and asked about camping. He looked confused. "Camping", I said, "in my tent". "You do have places?". I had passed I think, four signs for this place, all advertising camping, but still he looked confused. Then he said he had a place for 35k. 35k is a decent hotel room in my world and the going rate is 8-10k in the other places. Even maybe 15-20k since I'm solo but 35k?
"35k?", I questioned adding that I had my own tent (a lot of places supply the tent!).
When he confirmed that it was I laughed, said I wasn't crazy and walked back to my bike.

That was a scary sky! Thunder was rolling too! And the random lightning bolt!

Dramatic exit achieved, I now had a problem!
I reckoned I had an hour of daylight left. Going back to the last place would leave me completing the journey in the dark and on this road that could be a legbreaker.

Fading light means I should hurry......
Or maybe not so much

The best thing was to continue on and hope that the road improved closer to town. Maybe I'd spot a decent spot for a bit of wildcamping or come across a place not on my maps. I set off again.

Not a road for flying along.....

The light in this part of the world can be beautiful in its own right and as it lost power it allowed the mountains come to vivid life around me. Such views are really not conducive to going fast!

I never really understood what magic the sun can weave. In my defence, I'm Irish. The sun and the Irish are hardly well acquainted^_^

A lot of country was fenced off but on a bend I spied some decent space and a bit of a hill for cover. Unfortunately, I also spied a yappy dog who did what yappy dogs do. I couldn't see a house anywhere but in any case I was no longer stealthy.

I was no longer worried about rain. The sky, I felt, was putting on a show as compensation for scaring me earlier

A little later I found more space on a bend and investigated.
The Touring Gods have delivered one more time today. Close to the road but totally hidden. Lots of space and it's all for me!

Bumbling along as the sun sinks (disconcertingly fast so close to the equator) on a strange road with no place to stay I wasn't in the least bit worried. Colombia is very comfy.

I thought the scene above would be the "shot of the day" on my dash to find a place to sleep. Turns out I was wrong!^_^ Not ten minutes later I saw this.....

Out in the Colombian desert I'm home!

Mi casa

For @netman
Wild camp spot google
Thank you!😊

Chat? Yes Please!


Day 798, Friday, November 19, 2021, Villavieja to Wildcamp in the Tatacoa desert 25 km Total KM 14120
Min meters 406, Max Meters 603
Total Climb 467 Total Descent 312
Min Temp 25 Max Temp 41 Ave Temp 33


Apologies for what is now the sixth post on one day of cycling.

By way of explanation for why this was such a wonderful day at the absolutely right time I wrote the following in the Plaza of Villavieja before I set off......

I was pondering all last evening about what I'm going to do about the Ecuador situation and I think I've come to a conclusion. Not the one I would have hoped for but, on balance, I think that I have had unbelievable good fortune since Covid reared its ugly head. Best not to push it.

The Big, Big Trip will be coming to an end.
Not yet, but the Latin part of it is. More than two years on the road and I still haven't made it to the Equator! What kind of bike traveller am I?😊

At one stage I'd have had an open mind on extending it to other parts. The Pamir highway is another dream. Russia has long been a place that I'd love to get to know.
One thing that I have learned from this trip is that language enhances the experience on so many levels that any future trips will be to places that I can communicate with people. All the views, the mountains, the rivers, the deserts aren't half as impressive as chatting to people. At least for me.
Uprooting and continuing somewhere else just isn't on the agenda for now. Not philosophically and certainly not budget wise.
Stopping now leaves me with the Big, Big Trip Part Two for dreaming and inspiration.

Instead, I'm going to ask the Colombians to extend my visa (straightforward, I believe) and pass another couple of months here then head back to Europe, probably Spain. More language practice!^_^

I've had an idea of what to do with the rest of my days but I'm not sure where. I'll start looking when I get to Spain.

So, here I am sitting in the Plaza of Villa Vieja after a coffee and empanada and putting all that down on "paper".
My eyes are welling up .....

And then the Touring Gods went and gave me that day!

Lucky doesn't even begin to describe me.

The moon over my desert home

My desert home the next morning


There's always a prickly neighbour!

The moon again! It made the whole place so bright!

Mi casa en el desierto

Was I silly to think the moon was watching out for me?

Chat? Yes Please!
Day 799, Saturday, November 20, 2021, Wildcamp in the Tatacoa desert to Neiva 53 km Total KM 14173
Min meters 436, Max Meters 659
Total Climb 695 Total Descent 722
Min Temp 29 Max Temp 38 Ave Temp 32

Back to civilisation

For a wild camp in tbe desert last night was very pleasant. There was very little traffic, only one car and a few motorbikes. Once I got used to the fact they had to slow down several times within earshot I could relax as I was completely hidden.
I boiled up some water and made pasta while I got the tent up then sat down in the luxury of my camp chair and appreciated my good fortune.

What a great road to start my day!

Any chance of star gazing was blown by cloud and once slathered in insect repellent I could relax and read. I considered taking the fly off the tent in case the cloud would drift away but figured that might be pushing my luck!

It would have been! Sometime about 1:30 the rain started and pittered pattered down for most of the night.

Awake about 5 I dragged myself out and was really peed off. The floor of my tent was soaking - but only where anything pressed down - me and a bag. I hate Exped.

I didn't enjoy this one quite so much! I'd have hated to attempt this in fading light last night

I set about making coffee and figured the best thing was to relax and let it dry out. So a relaxing morning was had. A lot more traffic, all motorbikes, but I was invisible. A few cows showed up to graze and a few lizards popped up a few times.

Eventually I got itchy feet and packed up the wet tent anyways. I'd stop later and dry it out.

Now this is my kind of road!

I had about 7km to go to the next town and breakfast. I had about half a liter of water which should be enough.

I was glad I stopped where I did for two reasons. Firstly, the "road" was brutal with lots of perfectly smooth rocks and very steep sections - tricky in either direction. And secondly there were no obvious likely spots to pitch a tent. I'd have been stuck in the dark on a lethal road trying to get to town. The Touring Gods were looking out for me!

Guess! A delightful, pleasant small town

I passed a farm after 700 meters and met the friendly farmer herding his cows along the road for the morning milking. A little bit later a friendly chap pulled up on his motorbike. Fifteen minutes to town he told me. Never trust someone on motorised transport!^_^

More than an hour later I struggled into Baraya my spirits lifted by every second or third house blasting happy Latin music!
I was charmed by the little Plaza and pulled up at a bakery for a breakfast of eggs, arepa and coffee. I do not get arepas! A round disc of pure blandness served cold. Sweet ones are available filled with a sweet filling but as a breakfast accompaniment? They may as well be cardboard!
That's the one complaint I can offer about Colombia - the food is boring. Still better than most of Central America, pleasantly cheap but bland. Oh, how I miss my Mexican food!

Back on a proper road I still hadn't fully left the desert! I love these kinds of shots!

Over in the plaza there was some kind of junior school health drive and happy kids music was playing, people in uniform were playing games with a health/nutritional focus.
I was approached by a woman to do a blood pressure test, then a diabetes test for 5000 pesos. Why not? I thought. Apparently, I'm in tip top shape!

It was a lively little town, busy and friendly and I could have stayed. Instead, I set off delighted to discover that I was now on a proper, if small, road. It was actually very pleasant, lots and lots of trees to offer shelter from the sun. Rolling hills, though. Long climbs with gentle descents. In the heat I took it easy.

Before the next town of Tello I found what I was looking for along the road - a bit of space and a bit of shade. The space was for the tent and the shade for me.
I cleared the area of thorns and laid the tent out upside down. In the time it took to assemble the poles the bottom was dry! I set it up on the side of the road and ket the sun do its job. It didn't take long! If any passing traffic thought I was strange they kept their opinions to themselves.
Then, satisfied, I packed up and hit the road again.

Drying out the tent

I stopped in Tello for a lemonade, another lovely Park/Plaza then a coffee and a pastry. Couldn't find cigarettes for love nor money! Looking online, a bike friendly hotel in Neiva had a deal so I booked it. Then hit the road again.

Where the road had previously been quite good it now went to pot! At first the potholes arrived. Then the surface disappeared. Then it was dry mud. Finally dried mud with potholes. With traffic slowing down it bunched up and the road seemed busier. Another little town afforded the chance of a cold drink and some ciggies. And a rest! It was hot and still the rolling hills.

I nearly had a Iohan moment. The white horse came to the fence and neighed at me as I went past. I pulled up, parked the bike and wandered over to make a new friend. The brown horse ambled over too. Unfortunately, klutz tripped on the uneven ground and startled the two horses. No coaxing could get them back to the fence

Neiva is a big town and I know this because I "arrived" in Neiva with 7km still to go to get to the centre! It was easy cycling though thanks to a decent cycle path and I made it easily enough to the centre and the Plaza. Stopped at traffic lights a little girl in a car was staring at me with big bug eyes. I gave her a smile and a wave and she was delighted waving back. She obviously made some noise because everyone in the car turned in my direction and copied her friendly waving.

The lovely Park/Plaza in Tello. A lot of places have that white, conical, metal frame which will be used as a Christmas tree. What I can't figure out is if they are in situ all year long

I parked up for my habitual coffee on arrival and immediately was approached by a guy who wouldn't stop bugging me. He wanted to learn English, no Irish, no English again. He kept asking me to write "English words" down despite me explaining I had no pen or paper. I had no idea what words even that he wanted me to write down. I tried explaining that I was tired having travelled a long way in the heat but that didn't work. Rightly or wrongly my spidey senses were buzzing. He finally left just as I was finishing my coffee. I contemplated getting on the bike, doing a lap and starting over but the hotel was only down the road so I checked in.

Approaching Neiva. Surprisingly stress free for such a big place

A lovely lady checked me in, gave me the choice of taking the bike up to the room or leaving it at reception. She even carried a couple of panniers upstairs! The room is big but hot and a bit noisy and it's cheap but after a cold shower I felt revived and set off out to explore.

Delicious shade!

I know I'm repeating myself but I feel very comfortable here and my routine of a shower and out to explore is now accompanied by a tingle of excitement. It's a very pleasant feeling!

Chat? Yes Please!

Edited to correct date
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Day 800, Sunday, November 21, 2021, Neiva

Neiva flatters to deceive.
It's the capital of the state or department of Huila and is another river town on the Magdalena. It seems quite prosperous but after some exploration I'm not quite so sure! It's feckin' hot, though!

The Cathedral on the main Plaza

Initially I took a wander around the Plaza then headed down a shopping street but got distracted by a potato cake topped with cheese and what could best be described as pineapple marmalade. Delicious! I mean really delicious! A cup of orange juice to wash it down and I snacked in the park. That would keep the hunger pangs at bay for a while.

A wider shot of the Plaza and the Cathedral. That's my coffee lady in front of the trees. Note the sociability. Buying a coffee can be a very pleasant experience unlike my handful of times in Starbucks

According to Google there was nothing really of interest in terms of museums and Neiva doesn't show up in my guide book so I just wandered. Fading light meant that I didn't head down to the one place I did want to visit - a park along the river. Instead I explored the shopping areas, both the "shop" ones and the "stall" ones. Busy it was on a Saturday evening.

Atop a Mirador, or viewing platform. You can see the spire of the Cathedral but I'm amazed how quickly the city ends in jungle!

Not hungry, I returned to the hotel updated this on surprisingly good WiFi for such a cheap place, did a few chores like wash up my cookset, some laundry etc. then set out for food.

The mighty Magdalena! It is incredibly powerful!

Later now there was a bit of an edge in the air and no shortage of people scrabbling in bins. It took a while to find a place and ended up having a pizza. Sitting outside as I try to do I was like a magnet for people looking for money.

Street art. There's very little about.

Walking back to the hotel every bin or pile of rubbish outside a business had a homeless person rummaging through. That's a lot of homeless people!
The Plaza was surprisingly poorly lit with some sections in total darkness. They just happened to have several people bedding down for the night.

I returned to the hotel and considered how disappointed I was after my initial excitement. I decided to stay another day. Sunday would be a better day!

A part of the riverside park. A rundown disappointment. But I did like these seats from repurposed tyres

You might think that, but it wasn't really.
The centre was very, very quiet. A lot of shops were closed and while most of the market stalls were open not many people were around.

I headed down to a riverside park I'd spotted on Google. I had my backpack with my rainjacket (you never know!), my kindle and powerbank for my phone. Imagining a long, lazy day beside the river I set off with a spring in my step.

There are a lit of these "wavy" tiles. This was in an open area but there are also strips along footpaths. While completely flat they create the impression of uneven waves - presumably a nod to the river. I found them very disorienting in the heat

It didn't last long. The "park" didn't consist of much more than a few pieces of old, painted concrete that people could sit on close to the river. One section which seemed to contain numerous food outlets was closed off for renovations and there were a few small, random groups sitting around drinking beer. A few seperate groups of young fellas were hanging around, staring and unfriendly. I didn't hang around long.

A separate Plaza and location of the market stalls. I believe the Sculpture is in honour of the history of the city

I decided to stay with the river for a while but that didn't work out too well. Lots more homeless people along the riverbank and some clearly lived there. Desperately sad.
I walked as far as a monument to the river and then headed back to the centre.
Mid afternoon it was deader than earlier. I couldn't find a coffee for love nor money! Eventually I found an open bakery and had one before returning to the hotel to make use of the WiFi.

A monument to the river. A frankly uncomfortable walk to get there didn't put me in the right frame of mind to enjoy it

Later, I went out for food and found myself traipsing through eerie and deserted streets. Well, just me and a lot of homeless folk.

*Patronising alert!* I just love the simple things they do for kids. Pay a small fee for a picture on a horse..... Or an alpaca! These things are so common and so "old fashioned" where I come from. I love them! Some day I'm going to be a brave boy and get my photo taken on one!😊

Neiva was a strange town. It's big but one of the quietest places I've been, at least on Saturday night and Sunday. I think there's another, newer area that may have been busier. I'd given it a second chance to impress me and I'd be glad to leave tomorrow.
What a dull place to mark 800 days on the road! (Me being me I had no idea of that landmark until just now^_^

Chat? Yes Please!

Edited to correct date
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Day 801, Monday, November 22, 2021, Neiva to Yaguará 54 km Total KM 14227
Min meters 438, Max Meters 640
Total Climb 540 Total Descent 389
Min Temp 26 Max Temp 41 Ave Temp 32

Put me beside water.......

I'll tell you, sometimes there's no greater feeling than rolling into a strange town, spying the church spire (or spires as is the case today) then wandering towards them slowly, taking in all that is to be seen, heard and felt, then parking up the bike and walking around.
People smile. They talk to me. The Plaza is green, pleasant and has all kinds of people - the old folk sitting in the shade of magnificent trees, teenagers cleaning up a section, kids playing (and staring big eyed and open mouthed at the guy from the bike), parents supervising and nattering - and I just feel so incredibly comfortable.
I'm on one side of the Plaza trying to find good angles to record the impressive church and the bike is over on the far side, out of my view. Am I worried? Not in the slightest.
Small town Colombia - it's feckin' great!

Early in the day view. Hot, relatively flat and mountains way off in all distances

A thunderous downpour shattered my sleep last night just after two am leaving me very groggy, tired and slow to get up.
Today was going to be back on the main road and as good as that is I have been totally spoillt the last few weeks with small roads.
I hauled my ass off the bed and down to the Plaza for a coffee. Then back to pack everything up. Then a bite of breakfast across the road then load up the bike. Jeez! I was tired already!
Out with the phone and jazz up the route. There's a smaller road that runs along a lake - feck the highway!

Finally away from the city. Crossing the Magdalena was the gateway to the countryside. A tricky crossing though - one way only (the folks on the other side waiting patiently for their turn - no such thing as traffic lights here!), a disconcerting metal surface vibrating and shaking, lots of views down the river below to add a twist of vertigo.

Getting through the centre was fine, negotiating the outskirts much more challenging as Osmand's info for cycling was poor bringing me to a dead end instead of a bridge over the river. (Ordinarily I'll use Osmand in car mode but since Neiva seemed well served by bike paths I decided to plot a bike specific route). My improvisation got me on the wrong side of an (uncrossable) dual carriageway but I eventually got on the right road. A good two laner, moderately busy but this is Colombia - it's a bit noisier and hardly any more stressful than an empty road.

I knew I'd have this mainish road for a while but that then I'd take a smaller one. I was hoping the smaller one would have some vegetation - my late start meant that I missed any coolness and the sun was blasting down. The wind, pretty strong into my face, was keeping me cool but in strong sunshine my head is the weak point.

A slight detour

Pleasant cycling, steady progress and I was leaving Neiva behind me. I was amused at my thought process last night. Two roads, one a highway, the other smaller and going by a large body of water and I had chosen the highway! What was I thinking?😊

I stopped at a roadside mini supermarket hoping for coffee but alas no. Instead I bought cold water and ate some cookies chatting to the security guard of a gated community. Then back on the road and I soon came across my turn off from 43.

The bliss of the smaller road!

The road was smaller, narrower and it did have more vegetation! I'm getting good at this! The sun was a little high, though but that's my fault.
The relatively flat road became more rolling too, but that's no biggy these days.
Small mines appeared, some beside the road, some far off in the hills. I believe Uranium might be present in these parts.

I was feeling pretty relaxed so turned off to pass through the very pleasant and friendly village of El Juncal with one of the wildest Plaza/Parks I've come across! Lots of people smiled as I wandered through. It's amazing the power a smile has to communicate positive vibes.

Back on the road I was in great form keeping a nice steady pace. Entering the small roadside village of Betania I spied an "I❤Aruba" sign which I thought would make a good photo. Pulling up I was invited into the empty restaurant beside it, given a seat, a very welcome cold drink and engaged in conversation. Two bus drivers came along for lunch and I passed a very pleasant 90 minutes in conversation.
There was a pattern; I'd be asked a question on just about any topic and answer then the proprietor would embark on a mini lecture with intermittent input from the others while I did my best to just follow along. Once he built up a head of steam he was hard to divert! Then I'd be lobbed another question and the process would be repeated. Great fun! And I was very impressed with my ability to keep up, not with everything, but certainly the gist.
Eventually I made my excuses and headed on my ears ringing with good wishes. I seem to be in a particularly friendly area!

A little bit of nostalgia

It wasn't long until I was arriving at the lake and what seemed to be a dam. Views were minimal until spying a roadside restaurant with a great view I pulled in. An old, old dog took offence to my presence and barked her head off but a couple of women made me most welcome. Yes, they had coffee and I enjoyed a delicious cup and a half, a lovely view of the lake and a very pleasant chat with two ladies of different generations. I even managed to make friends with Luna, the angry dog!

Roadside view. A harmless hill. The ones in front looked a bit more threatening!

Then back on the bike for the last 10km or so to Yaguará.
What a delightful little town as I wrote at the start. Instant comfort!

The lake! Happy times!^_^

It's an artificial lake - the land has been flooded for a hydro electric generation station

The Plaza in Yaguará

At night teenagers flirting, dogs walking, people talking and this....

Chat? Yes Please!
Some more odd'n'ends.....

Sleeping dogs will be an abiding memory of Colombia! They sleep everywhere, even right at the side of the road!

Different animal warning signs. There are just so many!

Police station. That's only half the collection of motorbikes! The other half are around the corner! Two officers per bike! They have pickups too, but a lot less. I saw one poor guy sitting on a bench running down the middle of the bed of the pickup, handcuffed from behind and at that height visible to everyone!


Colombian Speed Bumps! The most effective yet! There are a number of different kinds but these buggers are incredibly hard. Too fast? Your front wheel takes flight like ET is in the basket! In urban areas they are in pairs very close together, on the open road more spaced out. They also use inverse ones - strips removed from the road. Just as effective. Sometimes they post warnings other times it's just part of the fun!

Pigeons! The flying rats! They have no fear! While I've seen horrible, nasty, evil, black vultures the whole way since México, Colombia is the only place I'll see them in towns. Yuck!

They have a type of multi-coloured "chicken bus" here too but not too many and most seem very old and on their last legs. I've learned to be particularly careful when I see one. I don't know of its the old equipment but there's an aura of danger around them

I really, really have no idea!!

Apropos nothing - I just love how things get reused here, especially tyres. Not the greatest photo but you can see how a bit of paint, a bit of labour, a lot of care can turn something useless into something useful and pretty.

Chat? Yes Please!


Day 802, Tuesday, November 23, 2021, Yaguará to Tesalia 48 km Total KM 14275
Min meters 556, Max Meters 1160
Total Climb 1240 Total Descent 991
Min Temp 23 Max Temp 38 Ave Temp 27

Furious waters!

I was nearly propelled out of bed due to a booming noise sometime close to 2am. It was the start of a tremendous downpour that lasted several hours. Sometimes I forget the power of the rain here but Mother Nature always reminds me! So far I think I've been very lucky!

The road wasted absolutely no time in letting me know what it was going to be like!

I got up about 6:30, a tad late, got organised and stepped outside - to more rain. Just normal rain. Bugger.
I brought my gear downstairs to the bike and it seemed to have stopped so set off to get me a coffee.
Since I was on the edge of town and near the lakeshore a group of fishermen hinted at coffee. Sure enough a feisty woman had a little cart and I got my coffee. Just in time for a downpour! Stuck under a shelter for 40 minutes there was nothing to do except sip my coffee and watch the rain. Another time, another place a huge clock would be ticking loudly booming in my ears and jolting my heart. Here? Not so much. A chance to look at the muddy shoreline, the "floating" restaurant - in reality on a mudbank - the small boats the local fishermen use not that far evolved from dugout canoes and the fishermen themselves.

Today's río - fast and furious

It finally stopped so I wandered back, loaded up and headed off in spitting rain.
Hungry, I parked up beside a bank and bought a juice and empanada from a shy girl working out of her house, a display cabinet in the doorway. A woman walking down the path paused slightly at Roccado for a good look, then tapped one of the panniers affectionately, turned to me with a beaming smile and entered the bank. I don't know what my bike said to her but she liked it.

Not the brightest morning ever..... But there's clouds draping mountains so i'm pretty happy^_^

I set off again on something of a mystery day. I had an idea of where I was going based on accommodation availability but I expected to find places not on my apps. I was expecting to start off on a good road but I knew I'd be dealing with some poor roads too - I just didn't know how poor or how long. There'd be a fair whack of climbing too!

Some fertile farmland and some fertile clouds!

Well, the road situation got clarified quickly when the surface started disappearing! Slow going with a threatening sky. I promised to enjoy the road if the rain stayed off - I did and it did!

Nice views up high

Not everyone was so lucky. A pleasant young fella had been playing tag with me on his three wheeled motorbike/trailer carrying steel rods extending in front and behind. After about the third time overtaking him I stopped on a bridge to listen to the roaring water beneath and smoked a ciggie to let him build up a head of steam. A little later I caught him again, stopped on a deep rutted hill with an engine that didn't work. I offered him my phone to call for help but he didn't need it. He never did catch up with me again despite a couple of long breaks!

Sometimes there was a surface... If I looked hard enough^_^

Initially steep, the gradients became kinder but the surface was often sand and fine gravel. Difficult at the best of times but a good soaking had made them more interesting! Decent views compensated though.

The view from my lunch spot

At the top of the first hill I paused for a bite to eat and dug out my tortillas and peanut butter. The super liquid butter had dried out and was rock hard! Unspreadable! Not the tastiest of lunches!

My lunch spot. The shelter is actually a shrine (common in these parts) and notice the sign "Iquira starts here" the town is 7km away on that road! Colombian road engineers seem to suffer from a bit of a premature problem^_^

I continued on interesting roads, bouncing along avoiding puddles, potholes, and deep gouges as best I could. The village of Iquira gave me the chance of a proper bit of food although the bakery offerings were quite poor. A pretty town but the folk were reserved. A wonderful tree in the centre of the Plaza, though.

That's the revenge of the Colombian road engineers for my tasteless joke!

Just before Iquira there was a new road surface laid. Look what the ungrateful rain did to it!

To be continued.........
Chat? Yes Please!
Day 802, Tuesday, November 23, 2021, Yaguará to Tesalia 48 km Total KM 14275
Min meters 556, Max Meters 1160
Total Climb 1240 Total Descent 991
Min Temp 23 Max Temp 38 Ave Temp 27

Furious waters! Part Two

It was after Iquira that the sun came out a bit and the scenery really livened up! I was back in the mountains! And on a mountain road!

All of a sudden it seemed, things changed! The sun came out, there were patches of blue. The road got worse, though!

I'd a hefty climb, a drop and then another hefty climb. Thankfully, gradients weren't too bad, typically 6-8% as opposed to the 12-14% earlier. On a slippery surface though it was slow going. Almost to a man the motorbikers waved, smiled and tooted supportively. Workmen on the road waved and cheered, one group flagging me down for a chat.

Hard work but the views opening up were a fair reward

I passed through "Bird Valley" - my own moniker for one stretch that was full of the sound of birds. It was fabulous to hear all the chattering and singing. Earlier I'd passed birds imitating car alarms and the alarms for trucks reversing! Very pleasant cycling.

I was especially intrigued by that peek at the valley behind

Another sound today was water. It was almost ever present whether as a raging río, a whooshing waterfall or countless roadside rapids. There was a fury to the water today, like it didn't want to be here, was angry, in fact, and in a fierce rush to get somewhere else. The water alongside the road, in particular, whether in man made canals or self made rivers was flowing at a tremendous rate. Too fast to tinkle and sing it growled instead.


Pulled up for a photo I heard a low rumble, deep, large and somewhere to my right from up high. As it continued and increased in volume my brain scrambled to put a label on it. I could see nothing, a tall, steep mountain covered in vegetation the only thing to my right. As it grew ever louder, ever more chaotic my blood chilled when the word landslide popped into my head. I looked around frantically but could see no disturbance. I tried to zero in on a location - it seemed to be in front and to the right. There was a "flight or fight" response, more of a flight response really - but which direction? Behind me seemed the logical place but that was steeply uphill - I'd be making no progress. I stood my ground.
In all, I reckon it lasted about 15 seconds, perhaps a bit more. Then the rumbling faded away. I saw nothing. No trees swaying, no signs of disturbance. Perhaps it was on the other side of the mountain? I racked my brain for any other possibilities and came up with nothing.

My "landslide" was somewhere around here

Another slightly ominous sight was Farc graffiti on roadsigns. Towns often have memorials to the victims of the violence, especially the Police and military victims, usually accompanied by exhortations not to revert to violence to solve disagreements. There's normally a reminder that the future is up to everyone to create. Unfortunately, all is not good on that subject and a mix of criminality, ideology and different interpretations on the peace agreements have lead to rising tensions.

Sweeping and bouncing down to such a sharp bend was fun!^_^ The reality is that descents are not much faster than the ascents

I continued on.

I came to the physically small roadside village of Pacarni but it struck me as having a huge heart. Simple murals on the walls depicted some of the history of the area. I found it absolutely charming!

There's no getting bored in this part of the world!

I headed on again and somewhere along the line the road became a road! And a downhill one at that! I could fly along!

Rural Colombia. It's not an easy life!

Coming to the small town of Tesalia I pulled up at the Plaza and after chatting to a couple of friendly school kids decided that this would be home for the night. The first Hospedaje I tried was full but they suggested another around the corner. I was home!

That ridge got closer and closer and I followed it all the way to Tesalia

The road to Tesalia. I could have been disappointed but it was downhill most of the way^_^

To be continued......

Chat? Yes Please!
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Day 802, Tuesday, November 23, 2021, Yaguará to Tesalia 48 km Total KM 14275
Min meters 556, Max Meters 1160
Total Climb 1240 Total Descent 991
Min Temp 23 Max Temp 38 Ave Temp 27

The Towns of the day

Something a little different.....

Tesalia became kid's town in my mind. Approached by two young fellas, maybe 10, 11 years old, in the Plaza it was easy to have a chat. Kids have a natural curiousity and few boundaries and once we've hammered out that they need to speak a little slower it was an enjoyable experience to answer their questions.

The Church in Iquira

I had a shower in one of the more compact situations I've witnessed - a narrow cubicle with a toilet against the wall and a spout from the ceiling. I had to precariously balance my dry clothes on the cistern and hope they didn't fall down - no lid! Mountain water is cold!

The AbSoLuteLy FABulous tree in the Plaza in Iquira

Sufficiently revived I went out for coffee having failed to have one at the Plaza.

A rather moralistic mural in Iquira.

It was surprisingly difficult there being no sellers in the Plaza! A place named Pizza and Coffee had no coffee! Starving, I bought a cold drink and a deepfried pastry with just about everything in it - banana, meat, chicken, pineapple, rice - and ate in the Plaza.

A delightful mural from the physically small but emotionally huge village of Pacarni

Then the rain started so I took shelter under a tree. When that abated I went awandering.


Everyone seemed to have a destination and was busy. There were few old people out and about and next to no-one in the Plaza. Other than a few streets with all the usual types of stores there was little to see - if I discounted the mountains looming over the little town.

Looming mountains, magic light and the spire of the church. The spire was the best part of a dull, dour church

Still hungry I'd been keeping my eyes open for a place to eat and could find nothing. I chanced upon a Chinese restaurant but it was so depressing, bare walls, plastic chairs, no customers I couldn't enjoy eating there. A couple of huge, outdoor restaurants with US style names and themes gave me the willies.

Tesalia street art. Bright and cheerful ..... But nothing compared to what's coming

Instead, I bought a potato cake from a street vendor and ate it while wandering up the town then had another deep fried pastry with everything.

A mural depicting a local kid done good.....

Then back to my simple hospedaje to update this on surprisingly decent, if slow, wifi. A slight embarassing situation when I couldn't remember which room was mine!

This put such a big smile on my loony head for so long I actually started to ache. Local musicians, captured in paint with their instruments and named underneath. Like the "Local Heroes" of a couple of weeks ago I think that this is so, so positive and speaks to a place with a really good and healthy mindset. I love it!

The next morning I had a long chat with the son of the house, a confident ten year old - well, confident in everything except English! Too many words according to him! ^_^

A cannibal! Yep! This area was the base for a ferocious tribe of cannibals. When the Spanish came they were eaten, again and again! It was only when they were finally subdued that the Spanish could have proper control.
It seems that the town changed its name to Tesalia to lose the connection to the cannibalism but now, in an attempt to attract tourists they're trying to revive it - they're just not quite sure how to do it!^_^


Chat? Yes Please!
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Day 803, Wednesday, November 24, 2021, Tesalia to La Plata 31 km Total KM 14306
Min meters 806, Max Meters 1019
Total Climb 439 Total Descent 263
Min Temp 22 Max Temp 35 Ave Temp 27

The Third Way

If you ever tire of the humdrum of normal life, feel that you're insignificant and that life consists of just going through a series of numbing, repetitive motions then I have a cure! Come to small town Colombia! Hop on a loaded bike and roll into town. It's important to pack one thing - a smile. People will stare curiously, some will smile back shyly, the motorbikers will wave and when you pull up at the little Plaza an old man will give you a coffee that you have to fight to pay for. For the people around you'll become the centre of their conversations. They'll speculate where you're from, where you're going - not in any way disrespectfully, just curiously. They'll comment on snippets they can glean from your conversation with another. They'll watch you wander over to the church and perhaps slyly approach the bike for a better look. In most places that's a cause for concern. Not here. Away from the bike looking up this street and down that one you'll hear "that's him, the guy on the bike". You're a celebrity! In a far off country, in a little town, in the middle of nowhere (a beautiful, mountainy nowhere). It feels pretty good!

Not the most auspicious of mornings!

It's been like that the last few days in these parts, most notable in the smaller places. Back in Yaguará the other evening a group of teenagers started chatting about me as I wandered the Plaza. They seemed to be cleaning up, a mix of boys and girls. I was a gringo, it was decided. They were bemused by my taking photos of the Plaza - to them it was normal and boring. When I finally interrupted their speculations to tell them I was Irish I got squeals of embarassment. We had a quick chat but multiple conversations are exhausting for me so I left them wanting more.

A lovely tree canopy had me forgetting about the sky!

So, there was more torrential rain last night. And again this morning. I aborted my departure three times because if the rain but had a lovely chat with the ten year old son of the house.

Coffeed up but lacking breakfast I set off in the rain. I'd given up waiting for it to stop. It wasn't too heavy. My first stop was only about 7km up the road where I planned to have breakfast. Paicol required turning off the road and going up a hill - a good thing I was hungry or I may have skipped it. I turned off and slowly climbed into the little village. And that's where the magic outlined above happened. Time after time after time in Colombia I feel so comfortable in these foreign towns. Ah, they're not really foreign any more.
I did a lap of the Plaza, ogled the church (320 years old, I was proudly told) and as I was parking the bike close to a coffee vendor he was over with a tinto in his hand for me. He didn't want any pesos - I was welcome to his town. We had a short chat but then he left me alone to my own devices. The money I left on his stand ignored. Ditto with my second coffee.

Today's río still fast, still pretty furious

The Plaza filled with trees, plants and seats called out to me so I sat and ate a couple of pastries bought from a baker on the corner. The two old boys on the seat opposite talked about me. There was a calmness in the air despite a steady stream of traffic flowing past. I could so easily have stayed.
The church doors opened so I went to explore and then leaving the bike where it was took a little wander around. Very relaxing, very pleasant. Delightful in fact!

They had a sign up with a QR code with tourist info about the town if you want to visit:

A few soft showers had me in no rush to get back on the road. In fact, the rain was bothering me. Down the road was La Plata, a biggish town and after that I had a choice - another high climbing backroad for two or three days or a better main road. My heart said backroad, my head the good one. Two nights torrential rain, more rain both mornings my head was looking like the right option.
Then I saw the third way; Down to La Plata and stop. Make up my mind tomorrow!^_^

More time in Paicol! I have only a handful of photos because it's not what's to be seen in these places that's important - it's what's to be felt.
Comfortable. Welcome.

Back on the road and it wasn't a bad one at all!

Interestingly, the way I am being addressed has changed. Up north people called out "Amigo" - friend or mate. In a shop I may be referred to as "Caballero" (Gentleman) or Señor (Sir/Mister). Of late, people reger to me as vecino (neighbour). I'm taking that to mean that I'm different, but welcome.

The sun playing with the clouds and mountains

Something else that has changed subtlely from further north is the music. I noted leaving the desert that the first town had houses pumping out music. That has continued and a few shops do too. Loud, but not too loud. And traditional - my kind of music.

Finally, the towns and villages have more trees. I've found trees in towns to be very interesting in their own right and also calming. With the music and trees I'm reminded a lot of México. That not a bad thing!

When the trees let me peek the sky still looked scary!

When I had finally soaked up all that Paicol had to offer I pulled in my roots, said goodbye to my coffee man and rolled out of town.

I had a good, quiet road and a whole lot of tree cover to keep me amused with some interesting and at times, scary, skyscapes.
I passed a fabulous channel cut out of a cliff by roaring water and struggled to get a good shot and cycled happily along up and down rolling hills.

Where's Roccado?

Like yesterday there was a lot of furious water, mainly ríos today, soon added to by more rain. Rainjacket on I sweated up the hills and was grateful for the jacket on the descents.

I like the definition of these mountains

The landscape was sometimes open with intriguing mountains or closed off behind trees. With about 7km to go the sun started to dominate and the rainjacket was ditched.

The really, really furious river at La Plata

La Plata has spread across the river so I crossed the bridge (and a very angry río!) and headed to the Plaza. A delightful place it was all action. A University seemed to be haaving a recruitment day and there were tents set up to offer people free legal advice. A bright, colourful church dominated and guys were busy in the Plaza putting up Christmas decorations. A lap of the Plaza and I stopped for my coffee. It wasn't long before I was approached for a chat. It really is great!

iOverlander had a hotel but it was out of town and I preferred to stay close. Close to the river were some cheap Hospedajes so I pulled in and got myself a cheap room. A cold (mountain water brrrrrrr!) shower and out I went to explore. It's great arriving early and not exhausted!

The town's a bit rough'n'ready but pleasant. And busy. Away from the Plaza equally sized streets are thronged with people and shops. On one street a line of horses and carts waiting to carry people or goods. The jeeps, so common in the coffee areas, have disappeared from the roads. A loss in the colour of the road.

Arriving in to La Plata. Those mountains are right behind and dominate the town. The booze ad on top of the building is blocking the view of the spire of the church

I grabbed a small bite to eat then retired to the Plaza. Just to people watch and write up some notes. Pleasantly warm and dry it's a very nice way to pass the late afternoon.

To be continued......

Chat? Yes Please!
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