After being surprised for some time at how many dogs are called Venga throughout Central America and Colombia we finally realised that Venga means 'come'. however, the name has now stuck and if we ever get another dog it will be called Venga (just hope it doesn't get too confused if we take it to Spain).
After a few days rest in Villa de Layva we set off on a bit of a tour with Medallines (medagine) the first destination. The first day was very slow, on the most bizarre road so far, with stretches of perfect road with lines down the middle, then rubble and pot holes, then back on to perfect road and sometimes as little as 50 metres of each? By 5pm we were less than half way to Medallines and after passing through a very busy little town we came across a restaurant, a large pool and a kids play area with stables behind. I picked a spot tucked round behind the restauarnt and asked if we could camp there. They were unsure at first but when we explained that we sleep on the car and that we wanted to drink beer and eat food they agreed, no charge and even left the toilet lights on for us when they closed up.
From then on the road was very smooth, we made good time and the scenery in the last 50 miles was fabulous, lush green valleys with mountains behind. Then we hit Medallin! The traffic was awful and took us almost an hour and a half to do the 4 miles to the hostel we planned to camp at. Fortunately there were no other overlanders there and we just managed to fit into the small strip next to the hostel, but at least we were close to the Metro (similar to the London underground except that it does not go underground) and a couple of stops from the centre.
Everyone told us how nice Medallines was but we found it awful! Dirty streets choked with exhaust fumes and people with shops and stall selling cheap rubbish, we escaped to Bolivar Square and found every bench occupied by a sleeping homeless drunks. Time to escape to a bar and found one on a balcony in the sun, next to a hairdressers, we were both in need so at least we made something of the day and then the football on the TV finished and was followed by a replay of the whole of the Hungarian GP - result - which I watched while Chris had her hair cut. After which we found a very nice restaurant on another balcony so at least the day ended well.
To be fair, for back-packers staying in Hostels Medellines is probably good, the Hostels are cheap and central, there is lots going on at night and lots of day trips to places around Meallines.
From Medallines we went to El Penol, a huge rock sticking out of the ground overlooking a lake. We climbed the 740 steps to the top of the rock to an amazing view of the lake full of peninsulas and small islands. This is one of the popular day trips from Medallin and by co-incidence a group of young Israelis staying at our Hostel were at the top when we got there, but of course they had to get the bus back to the Hostel and we camped in the car park.
Next we took a detour north to the oldest suspension bridge in Columbia and then south again to a little town called Jardine. On the way we had an hour wait whilst ambulances took a couple of people that had come off a motorbike after hitting a car, both had broken left legs, but the rider's was badly broken. There was no room in Jardine but we found a restaurant next to a river about a mile up a rough road and walked back into town for a beer.
After a wet day in Jardine (our first rain in the day time since our return to the road) we took a rough track over the mountains and then a good road to Salento to another IOverland site, highly recommended by our American friends and every bit as good as everyone says (with amazing, hot showers and breakfast included). When we arrived there were 3 other overlanders already here, Victor and Carol from Chile (we first met in Costa Rica), Michael and Veronica from Germany (our third meeting in the last 3 weeks) and Laurent and Liz from France and Victor cooked Pasta for all of us and we had a nice evening.
We have now been in Salento for a week, we intended to stay for couple of days but the weather is perfect (sunny by day and cool by night), the location is superb and we found we could get Spanish lessons for £5 per hour and we have now had 5 days of Spanish! ('not before time' I here you cry!). can now quite happily write sentences in Spanish, but remembering all the words and speaking them is another story altogether (I cant remember the English words half the time). Chris has done better than me at remembering the words so between us we should be able to communicate and we both have little notebooks to put useful words and paragraphs in.
|The drive to Medallin|
|The view of the Lake from the top|
|Camping in the car park|
|The oldest suspension bridge in Colombia|
|Camped by the river near Jardine|
|A huge church for a small village|
|The square in Jardine|
|We squeeze in with 3 other overlanders from Chile, Germany and France|
|The view from the camp site|
|The road up to the square in Salento|
|The walk up to the view point|
|The view from the top|
|The square in Salento|