. When we arrived in Villavieja it was reminiscent of a dusty old ghost town, with only a few people sitting around staring at us and a couple of moto-taxi drivers hanging out in the square. We decided it would be best to have something to eat before setting off into the Tatacoa Desert, and ordered some comida from a very grim looking joint around the corner from the square. Grim is not a strong enough word to describe what was hastily put in front of us less than a minute after we'd ordered...stone cold soup, stone cold rice, some kind of meat that was tougher than leather and impossible to cut through or bite...Gordon would have a field day. Dan made a good effort to eat his, I opted instead for a bottle of coke and a sulk. We made a hasty retreat from the flies, cockroaches and vile 'chef', and found a young lad and his moto-taxi willing to drive us into the desert in search of somewhere to stay for the night.
The change in scenery was so dramatic; only a few hours earlier we'd been surrounded by the lush mountains and plantations of San Agustin, and here we were now surrounded by red sand, strange rock formations and giant cacti. There was literally nothing out there, except one plot of land occupied by some friendly colombian's offering cheap cabins for the night. We were the only people staying and as ever the vivid imaginations kicked in, creating 'wolf creek' like scenarios for us to muse over
. It wasn't long until the sun began to set, and we nervously headed off up a dirt track in search of Javier the Astrologer and his observatory for a bit of star gazing. Getting used to our new found solitude, we reached the observatory to find 30 or 40 hyperactive colombian teenagers on a school trip who had also come along to take a look through Javier's telescopes...be careful what you wish for hey. Staring, giggling and music blasting from mobiles aside, it was a clear enough night to see 3 or 4 different planets, and the moon was nearly full. We managed to take some awesome pictures through the telescope. Once the teenagers had disappeared to set up their camps for the night, we started chatting to 3 older colombian guys who were on a road trip on their motorbikes from their home city of Cali. We shared a couple of beers and it emerged they were staying at the same place as us (no big surprise) so they offered us a lift back on their bikes. Back in one piece at the cabins, Juan asked if we'd like to join them for another drink, and re-appeared a minute later with a 1.5L bottle of tequila, half a kilo of salt, and 20 fresh limes. The more we drank, the better the spanglish, and we had a very funny evening. We called it a night only once the liquid refreshments had run out and we thought it best to hit the sack seeing as we'd arranged for our mate and his moto-taxi to come back and collect us at 7 in the morning...in 5 hours time.
We left San Agustin early in the morning on a bus destined for Neiva. In Neiva we found a mini-van that was heading to Villavieja "once there were 5 or more customers", and the driver reckoned on a 10 - 15 minute wait. Over 1 hour later we were still sitting on the floor outside the mini-van (that was like an oven inside), eating colombia's answer to wotsits, and still the only 2 customers around. Once the driver decided it was time to go, he packed us into the van, and drove 5 minutes around the corner to the town square. Here he got out of the van, bought himself a bottle of coke, packet of crisps and a cigarette, and had a leisurely chat with his mates for 20 minutes. Good job we're not in a rush. Thankfully a few more customers piled onto the bus whilst the driver was catching up on the local goss, and we finally hit the road for Villavieja. This bit of the journey took an hour, and really felt as if we were heading into the middle of nowhere - we didn't pass another town or settlement and the landscape was becoming surreal