21 Jul 2015

Into the Desert and back to the Beach

After the cool of Minca we fill with fuel and provisions and do a short drive to a site at a beach where we know we can fill with water and connect to electric to charge the leisure batteries before heading into the desert and who should turn up a couple of hours later but George and Janine that we shared the container with.
The following day we set off towards Punta Gallinus. The road is good for the first 100 miles, but after lunch in the large town of Riohacha the GPS sends us on a track across the beach, after a little while we take a track to the right but then come to a sign  that  prohibits entry so we turn round. On returning to the beach some guys in pick-ups point up the beach so off we set again. After only a few hundred meters one of the pickups shoots pasts us and proceeds to lead us right on the waters edge, swerving in and out to avoid the waves but stay on the hard sand. We are in low box so stay away from the water and plough through slightly softer sand.

The pick-up then leads us away from the beach and across someone’s land where we get our first experience of the local toll system, kids with ropes across the road wanting something to let us through, we see the pick-up handing out bags of crisps and not prepared for this we either stick to his bumper and go through with him or give them a piece of fruit or a few coins. Eventually the pick-up climbs up onto a road and waves us through.

The road is good for about 15 miles and then stops dead! No track going forward, just two tracks going left and right, we try the left but this turns back the way we came, the right one goes in more or less the right direction. At this point the GPS is useless as the track on the screen clearly does not exist, so we adopt a Mongolian type navigating system of turning up tracks that appear to go in the right direction and after a few dead ends and one road blocked with bushes we make our way up the coast to a small town.

At this point a sealed road heads inland to meet another road that is on the GPS that takes in the right direction. This is a wide rough road and the cruiser is in its element, floating past other vehicles bumping slowly along the track. Eventually we turn off towards our destination at Cabo, down a really rough road.

This place is famous for its kite surfing schools because of the persistent wind and we are aware that overlanders have stayed at one school called kit addicts, we could just stop on the beach but we need info on the next phase to the point. We stop on the beach looking for the right school and on attempting to re-start there is a cloud of smoke from under the bonnet! One of the battery connections has come off with the vibration and part of the terminal has melted. I push it back on for now, but next day had to cut off melted lead and use a screw to ensure it would hold.

The kite school pays dividends as there is a mix of Canadian, German, Dutch and Columbian and we get lots of info about Colombia in general, but the advice in respect of the point is to follow the tour vehicle which leaves town at 05.00 in the morning. It has been a long day so decide on a rest day before moving on.

The following day we take a walk round Cabo (very wild west) and meet up with the guy taking the tour the following morning and he is happy for us to tag on for propine (propina, a tip).

Getting up at 04.00 to get the tent packed for 05.00 is a bit of an effort, but off we set into the sunrise, crossing a mix of Serengeti like scrub lands with stunted flat topped trees and miles and miles of mud flats. After 3 hours the tour passengers disembark and take a boat across a bay, where they are picked up by another vehicle (this 15 minute boat trip saves 2 hours by road). Realising we are not going to leave the vehicle the driver finds a guide to come with us and after a bit of rearranging manage to squeeze him in the back and we set off for another 2 hour drive, he speaks no English but makes hand signals when necessary.

Eventually he stops us by a sand dune and leads us up on top from where we can see the sea and the sand dune running straight down into it. Back in the cruiser, a few more miles and we reach Punta Gallinas, the most northerly point of Colombia and South America, all we have to do now is drive to the bottom!

He then takes us on to a hostel, a combination of small rooms and shade areas for hammocks, again we could have camped wild, but the wind is amazing and they are happy for us to camp in amongst the buildings to shelter from the wind. They also have a restaurant and by now we are starving and they have lobster on the menu!

The following day we head back, following our own GPS tracks. The kids are out in force with their road blocks, going through 10 in one small village, with the kids running down the road to pick up their ropes as they here the vehicle coming. But we were ready for them this time after cracking out the orange pens (which Chris acquired when one of her former organisations changed name and they had to ditch hundreds of pens with the organisation name on them) these pens have since been given out in Morocco, Russia, Mongolia, many of the Stans and now Columbia and we are now down to our last 100.

It is too early to stay on the point and not worth staying anywhere else so we make our way back to the Kite School at Cabo in time for some amazing kite stunts in a perfect sunset.

We have to re-trace our steps as we are told that any closer to Venezuala is dangerous and find a there is a new road (not on my GPS) that is a lot quicker than finding our way back across the beach and at one cross roads we are flagged down by someone asking if we want fuel. The normal price for diesel in Colombia is about 50p per litre, this was less than 20p as it is smuggled across from Venezuala (where it is 4p per litre) and is a lot better quality than Colombian fuel and all appears to be perfectly legal in Colombia, so we take 115 litres!

We have lunch in Riohacha again and end up at the same beach site we stayed at on the way up. It is now time for a rest so this time we stay for 5 days (also because it is a holiday weekend and the roads will be a nightmare). George and Janine were still there but left the following morning to return to Cartagena to meet friends flying in.
Lunch at Riohacha

Then into the dessert

Camp at the Kite Addict School
In a real wild west town
Leave as the sun comes up
and head into the dessert

Climb a Sand Dune

for a spectacular view

and finally reach the furthest point north in South America

we camp in the Hostel to get out of the wind
With an impressive view
And prepare the orange pens for tomorrows road blocks

We make our way back across the dessert

find shelter from the sun and the wind for lunch

and have a well earned beer in the sunset, watching the kite surfers
Followed by a few days rest to celebrate our 35th Anniversary


  1. its so good to meet you all at kite addict school, hope the rest of your travels are going splendid, blessings on the journey.. life is the journey.

  2. I also met you at the KiteAddict school. You may remember that I was asking many questions about your travels and about your vehicle. You may be interested to know that I was very much inspired by your adventure, and I'm currently in the process of acquiring a vehicle and planning a Pan-Am highway overland trip!
    Thanks again for all of the great stories, and I would look forward to crossing paths again in the future. Safe travels.
    Dustin, Vancouver, Canada.