Monday, May 7, 2012

Getting Away on Another Journey

Rainy season & derumbas - scary road conditions.
I barely got back to Barichara when it was time for my birthday and a trip planned to celebrate. The trip was with a small group driving south in the state of Santander to Puente Nacional for their fiesta, a visit to Vélez, and a short tour of Chiquinquirá (the city where the cathedral for the Virgin of Chiquinquira is located) then an even shorter tour - after a longer drive - to see one of the very first churches in Colombia in Ubate/Sutatausa, located in the state of Cundinamarca, making it about an hour north of Bogotá.

There is a lot of information to share and I took over 400 photos (I won't bore you with all of them here; you'll have to come for tea!) and so I think I will divide it up by location so you can enjoy it all at a slower pace than I did. This will mean several blogs in sequence instead of attempting to post it all in one. I will title the series "Getting Away" with Puente Nacional as Part One, Vélez as Part Two, Chiquinqierá as Part Three and Ubate/Sutatausa as Part Four.
Colombian girls are reputed to be very pretty...
Today I will just share some unrelated aspects of the trip which managed to get lumped together by virtue of driving in Colombia. The first aspect is that when one is traveling with a group, there is a kind of team and leadership dynamic that develops. The one who organized the trip is looked to for information, the driver of the bussetta (small van) is supposed to be responsive to the organizer and since seats are not assigned, and yelling "I get the window seat!" in Spanish has no effect whatsoever, it certainly pays to arrive on time. It was frustrating to try and get photos on the way, and the driver was not inclined to stop - ever - for something as silly as a photo op.

It's cold enough in Vélez for irises to grow well.
The second aspect is that it is important to realize that Colombia is divided up into six regions: Caribe (everything from the northernmost tip near Venezuela down to Caretgena on the Carribean Ocean), Andina (Andes - the interior portion bordered by the Rio Magdelena over to Venezuela), Cafetera (the coffee region from the other side of the Rio Magdelena over to the Pacific from Cali north), and Suroccidente, (a large region from Cali south on the Pacific to the border with Equador and over to the beginning of the flatlands at the base of the Andes on the eastern side), Llanos (plains and grass lands from the base of the Andes to the west and over to the Venezuelan border) and last, the Amazonia (that portion through which the Amazon River runs in the southernmost part of the country.)

I explored some of the Caribe region in 2009, live in the Andina region and still have four regions left to explore. The most recent trip was confined to the Andina region. This meant changes in elevation from 5,000 feet (where I live in Barichara) up to approximately 9,000 feet to Velez and back down to the valley of Laguna Fúquene (a lake shared with both the states of Boyaca and Curdinamarca) where the first church was established, which brought us down to about 2000 feet of elevation.

No way to know what happened to the driver.
Finally, the third aspect is that driving in Colombia is not like other parts of the world where two and three-lane highways are the norm. Colombian drivers make every one-lane highway into a two-lane by passing on curves and other apparently illegal conditions, depending on the truckers to let them pass and other drivers to slow down when approaching. Traffic delays are common, and so are road closures due to bridges or roads being washed out. Sometimes the travel is all good. Other times it is very bad - for someone.

We had mixed conditions of rain, sun and clouds. As the photos will show, most of the time we were able to enjoy sunshine. But this is the rainy season, so it is no surprise when the clouds become unglued and end up in our laps. I am grateful our trip was only delayed by a few events and none of them included us.

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