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Las Lajas Colombia 21.5.16

May 25, 2016

Finca Sommerwind, Near Ibarra 19.5.16

Sommerwind, the only place in South America we have found where you can flush the paper down the toilet apart from international airports. Apart from that it has become one of these places that is a meeting place for overlanders. A German couple, Hans & Patricia started it as cabanas some years ago but became a camp site only six years back. Quite an idyllic spot near the shores of Lago Yarhuarcocha spoilt only by the raceway circuit that lies between the property and the lake. The races are held on Saturdays but practises can happen at any time. Yesterday from about 10 in the morning until well after dark we were tortured by the incessant screams of the hotted up cars and motor bikes using the circuit.
Apart from that it was great meeting a range of nationalities stopping there, mainly Germans.
Incidentally Lago Yarhuarcocha means ‘Lake of Blood’ in the local Kichwa language where 30,000 Caranqui warriors were slaughtered by the Incans.

Santuario Nuestra Senora de las Lajas, Colombia 21.5.16
The church and sanctuary is the most sacred spot in all of Colombia. Impossibly built on the sides of a deep ravine its neo-gothic spires break out of the ravine confines rising above the surrounding countryside. They allow camping at one of the parking areas and is where we are for the night along with another couple, Horst and Karen who left Sommerwind the day before us. A quiet night was anticipated until a bus load of Quito pilgrims pulled up between us. It appears they are camping for the night as well.

Parcue Arceologica San Augustin. 23.5.16
It was quite surreal the other night in the big car park: the people from the bus parked between our two vehicles proceeded to light fires in the glare of the bus’s headlights and in the drizzling rain cooked large pots of food then stood around a large fire to eat it. It was like some refugee camp scene. Then, surprisingly, they all climbed back into the bus and took off leaving the camp fire for the four of us to stand around before the rain sent us in.
The next day, after viewing the church with hundreds of others, it was Sunday and a mass was being held, we headed back to the Panamericana Highway and headed north to Pasto then east to Laguna La Cocha, a large lake at 2800 metres. One of the restaurants there let Overlanders camp in the car park, free if you eat there. We did and had a lovely three course dinner including trout, washed down by a beer for $6.
Again we had another strange experience: some hour of the night I was awoken by the sound of a car continuously revving then stopping somewhere nearby. Then we heard someone knocking on our door and calling out ‘Senor’ and saying something in Spanish which we didn’t understand. ‘Don’t open the door!’ Joan whispered. ‘Don’t you dare open that door!’ After all this is Columbia and FARC guerillas still haven’t been eliminated, but I was thinking someone must be in trouble I hurriedly put on my sarong and opened the door to find the bar man from the restaurant standing there. It appears his old Renault car was missing reverse gear and he had rolled down a slight slope onto a rock and needed help. It was 3.30. I tried to find reverse but it was one of those cars that the gear lever is a long stick coming out of the dash. So it was a matter of man power to heave the car back up the slope until he was able to move forward. Blowed if I know what he was doing there at that hour of the morning. Of course Horst & Karen slept through it all in their well insulated camper.
Yesterday was going to be a challenge for us. The road further east has been mentioned in some Overlander reports as being ‘El camino de la muerte’ or the road of death. The dangerous section was only 60kms long but had a lot of single lane with passing bays, steep drop offs, river crossings and such like. I was quite concerned so asked Horst and Karen if we could do it together. After travelling on bad roads in Bolivia I was expecting the worst. But what a let down. It did have a lot of single lanes but many passing bays, there was 1000 metre drops below but most of the road had guard rails and the road surface was rough but firm gravel. The river crossings consisted of water running over the road from streams. Horst agreed it was pretty pathetic. A lot of it was driving in cloud so you couldn’t see what was below you. A European must have written that report.
We finally made it to where we are now at 6pm. It rained most of the way after getting onto seal and both of us were very tired. It would have been nice to have stopped earlier at a service station or such like but servos were non existent and there was nowhere we could pull off. It is in the beautiful grounds of a hostal. Flowers everywhere. They let us use one of the rooms for the loo and HOT showers. Today is a rest day, tomorrow we tackle the archeological site.

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