Tatacoa Desert

By some miracle I was able to wake up, finish packaging and get into the taxi ready to get the bus for 7am. We brought our bus tickets and had time to pop to the bakery around the corner. It was incredibly cheap and I ended u buying too much, which I’d later be disappointed to find out wasn’t particularly tasty. I really needed to lean that Panaderias in are not making things to my tastes. But it was really cheap. For the next week I was following Katha’s plan. We had decided to travel together in Popayan and were hoping to rendezvous with our Italian friends in to fly down to the south of the country.

The first part of the journey was by car. I was shattered but Katha and I squeezed in the back. The car was packed and I worried that we might be stuck in this for the entire journey. Luckily we weren’t and after about an hour or so we swapped into a normal bus. I was stupidly tired and tried to sleep. It was fairly uneventful until we stopped at some road works for what seemed like an age. I started to worry that something was really going wrong until eventually the oncoming traffic passed us. Soon it was our turn to go and everyone sped off taking up both lanes as if it were a race. I now understood why it took so long for the traffic to pass. We drove for what seemed like ages, until eventually we reached the part where a landslide had taken out some of the road and it was being repaired. I just wasn’t sure why they had stopped the traffic so far back either side.

After the roadworks we started going back up hill and I was excited to see some giant mountains in the distance. The whole area was beautiful and I decided to shoot some bus photos to capture it which I hadn’t done in a long time. It was a challenge as there was a lot of foliage along the road but I think I did it some justice.

I think the bus windows must have been tinted which is why there is a weird colour to the photos but I particularly like the one below as it just looks fake.

After a journey of around 7 hours we reached arrived in Neiva where we would need to swap into a collectivo to Villavieja. Katha did all the investigating as I was too tired and was largely still a mess, however, I should point out that at this point I was just tagging along. All I knew was that we were going to the dessert for a few days. I’d spent a lot of time in deserts but Katha hadn’t, as this trip for her was Ecuador and Colombia and she wanted to visit the only desert in Colombia. I was being lazy and hadn’t decided where to go so I was tagging along. Also excited to visit a red desert and Katha was good company.

The collectivo was more of a jeep and despite there being seats inside I wanted to jump in the back, so we did, as it was only in South America where you can get away riding in the back. This one had seats and a cover so we didn’t burn in the sun. And as soon as we had arrived in the town the heat was blistering which was different to the mountains. I’m always shocked about how you can just jump on a bus for 7 hours and not end up in completly different scenery but also the whole climate has also changed. But here we were making friends with some Colombians, driving through the heat in the middle of the desert stopping for fresh pineapple on the way. After another hour we arrived in Villavieja, which is a small town in the desert and it is possible to stay there and enjoy the desert, however, we wanted to go further and stay in the desert itself so we continued to Tatacoa in a tuktuk.

There are a few different hostels which offer various different levels of accommodation but unless you can find a room with aircon its more advisable to sleep outside. Katha had done her research and found a hostel with a pool and some hammocks. I hadn’t slept in a hammock on this trip yet so decided to give it a go despite my reservations. You do ave a locker and there is a small room inside to keep things but there is something strange about sleeping outside under a cover with no walls rather than in a dorm room. In reality there isn’t any difference except being outside and there is much more sand. The views from the hostel were beautiful and I’ve never seen such an interesting sky.

After we had “settled in” we decided to go for a walk in the fading light. We saw some people riding horses off into the desert and thought about joining them the next day but I decided I’d had enough of riding for now.

After reaching the main dirt road we crossed it and took our chances walking through the desert. There was a small hill so we decided to get a panoramic view.

Whilst we were up there Katha gave me some photography lessons and I learnt how to use the automatic mode that lets you take better close-up pictures. ITs ac

Afterwards we went back to the hostel as the sun set and then went out for dinner. I had eaten a big late lunch which is one reason why it took us a while to get out so I just had a drink but Katha had the usual pollo con arroz y pappa fritas of which I was pretty jealous. Afterwards we headed back to the hostel, stayed up chatting until the lights went out at 10pm. Then it was time to sleep in the hammock.

It was a weird nights sleep. I kept waking up and couldn’t really find the perfect place to sleep and the swinging was both relaxing and made it difficult to sleep. Although when anyone moved it seemed to affect the whole structure to which we were all attached. But it was fun and we woke up pretty early so we could explore in the heat.

After a quick breakfast we headed out into the desert at the same time everyone else does. We were told that by around 9am it would be too hot to walk. I had found some trails on maps.me pretty near the hostel and we headed off to these. There were others on the trail getting in the way of my photographs which I wasn’t pleased about but mostly I was a little grumpy as my back was starting to hurt from sleeping in the hammock. Luckily for me Katha was really understanding about this. But then the clouds started to clear and I was in awe about the beauty around me.

We saw a couple of other guys walk off the path and come back and not having seen the signs that said we would be fined if we left the path, we left the path and began to explore the desert. My advice is not to do this. Luckily we weren’t spotted, but I the rules are there to protect the ecosystem. Something I wish I’d followed more closely.

The day was becoming hotter and we had been walking to try and find the path for some time. After wondering around and over some of the hilltops we soon found it again and were back in the safe zone.

There was a surprising amount of wildlife, but then again if you look carefully, deserts are always alive. We met a fair few lizards and this little guy was our first friend.

Then it was back to walking and the day was getting really hot. We were seeing more and more tours and I honestly couldn’t believe they were just arriving to walk around the desert.

Soon it became too hot and all the shade was disappearing so we found our way back to the road. There was a giant group of people headed into the desert as we were leaving. They were laughing at how hot and sweaty we were but I thought they were about to learn what this felt like. Katha and I stopped for a refreshing snack. Its kinda juice with a lot of fruit, but it was cold and liquid and that’s what I needed as my water had run dry.

We headed back to the hostel to get out of the heat. Katha opted to chill in the hammock but with my back that wasn’t an option so I headed to the pool, jumped in to cool off and sat reading for the rest of the day. Whist there Katha joined me and we met a guy from Hong Kong, a German guy and Diana who was Colombian. I also discovered what they meant by lack of personal space as Diana sat far to close to me for my liking before we actually met. IT was really distracting but I did manage to read some more of my book. We went out for dinner and had goat, with fries as usual, and then returned to the hostel for a beer before bed. The lights went out again early but it was welcome as we had to be up around 6am again to get the bus to Bogata.

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