Parked at the park

Trip Start Oct 23, 2006
Trip End Apr 15, 2009

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How quickly we forgot that getting anywhere in Colombia takes time. Travel involves creeping around mountainsides behind struggling trucks. The slow pace gives opportunity to soak up the mountain and valley landscapes. Compared to wild natural Venezuela with no farmlands the Colombian countryside is like a patchwork quilt with various types of farmland mixed with dense jungles splashed with an array of color from flowering trees and shrubs.
Our first day is slow indeed with the border crossing and holdups due to slides. Our memories came rushing back and our prospect for the night seemed far away. In the dark we descended with the parade of vehicles into Pamplona, and suddenly the little town was full to bursting with the backlogged traffic. We took a side road and left with hopes of finding somewhere at the other end of town to spend the night. Nothing! we were tired after our long day and then we found ourselves climbing another mountain leaving Pamplona with no prospect in sight and not prepared to go back and battle a total town traffic jam we kept going. Finally at the top of this mountain , 3500m altitude, we spotted a restaurant/store/posada and pulled in. It was cold and raining up here but this was our spot for the night. After a quick meal we settled in for the night wearing our fleece.
Next morning, we found Bucaramanga, home of the crunchy ant candy (we bought a bag, but it's still on the dash bacause we're not quite sure...). Anyway, Bucaramanga is a newish large city sitting in a valley surrounded by mountains which we just came out of and were about to climb back into. A short stop for groceries and gas then on to Giron close by, an historical colonial town, like a museum but is a real town with very narrow streets typical of towns like this. We had a look around and would have stayed if we had spotted camping in or around town.
Back up the mountainside toward Bogota, not that Bogota is our destination but we have not seen this part of Colombia and we are on the trail of a few campgrounds. At the top of a mountain we came across Parque Chicamocha, a lovely tranquil spot with a panoramic view. It is a tourist attraction but not too busy at this time. We parked and stayed for the day and night. There is a police post on the premises and after the park closed at 7 pm were in their care. They were a friendly group and a couple of them could speak a little english and with our limited spanish we had a good time getting to know each other.
During the day they are dressed in smart uniforms with a tourist police band on their arms and at night when the park closes they wear full camouflage gear including machine guns. We could have have been afraid at this point but we weren't, although we did ask them if there could be a problem. They assured us our safety and a tranquil night.
We are tempted to spend another night and the policemen invited us to stay more nights. Even here we have become the center of attention as visitors to the park come to talk and take photos with us. We feel this is a rare opportunity for them to be with Canadians. They all know Canada and are aware of Toronto and Vancouver. They like to ask questions about us and Canada and like to see photos.
The park is also the place where the monument to Santander has been built. This is Santander province, and at the peak of the park is a huge monument of a stylized tobacco leaf.

San Gil is a mornings drive from The Parque Chicamocha which means we should be settled into a camp spot by early afternoon. We find the campground Cajasan Guarigua a short distance out of town. It is actually a sports and education center which allows camping and access to their very good facilities.
The senora manager is very helpful and makes sure we are comfortable and have everything we need. Our spot on the grassy expanse overlooking the valley is indeed a tranquil place away from the areas of activity. Two pools are the hub of entertainment, but we prefer to hibernate in the shade of our tree.
We did not realize that we are such avid bird watchers. Thinking back to our lives in and around Calgary and most recently in Powell River we were always aware of the birds in the area and even had names for some of them, such as club foot, one eye, and Lugina a blind baby crow born in the Yew in the corner of our yard and now, here on on our travels we know most of the birds by their song and particular way of walking. So! we are bird watchers. Here, little brightly colored birds capture our attention as they flit around barely sitting long enough for a photo. One day we will cross their northern limits leaving them behind and meet others that haunt the northern hemisphere.
Gillie is monitored by the staff dog; a passive dalmation who sits at a distance watching and only when we are inside for the night does she come sniffing around. Even in her old age Gillie is spunky and aware, always guarding her space. She loves to have a dog around to deal with and we think it is good for her.
We spend days catching up on chores and resting while being entertained by students, families frolicking in the pool, the soccer games, and the glorious scenery.
Busy days at this well used center quickly turned into quiet nights where we had the place to ourselves except for security.
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