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16 – 17 December 2013

I knew my preferred bus company (of 2 choices) would use a minibus to Nieva, so to avoid getting stuck in San Augustin I bought my ticket the evening before – I got a 10% discount but it could have been more had I taken the chance and waited until the next morning. The bus was at 8am so I got up at 6.30 and left the hostel at 7.30 walking a kilometer to the bus office – fortunately downhill this time as I once agan had stocked up. Surprisingly we left on time despite me being the only passenger until we got to Pitalito about an hour later.. ?! (and absolutely no need to have bought the ticket in advance). After a 20 minute break we took off from Pitalito - now in a full bus. The view was pretty similar along the way so I dozed off between having to move for other passengers getting on and off. I had the seat by the door providing excess legroom but little rest; some people (always the same) just have an urge to get out of the bus even though it's only a 2 minute stop for gas or package delivery - and every time we almost left without them having to await their return from buying food, snacks, drinks, etc. (another good example of Columbian selfishness)... In a small town halfway to Nieva we spent ½ hour waiting for the bus company to figure out who had the right tickets to the bus – with only 18 people it shouldn't be so difficult, but....?! In Nieva around 1pm I had to wait 45 minutes for the collectivo to fill up before we left for Villavieja – a small town 5k from the Tatacoa Desert. I had considered camping in the desert as it should provide a beautiful view of the night skies. However, it's not the season (often overcast) and also it was too far to walk in the heat with my big load (motorbikes were ridiculously expensive). Instead I walked around town to find affordable accommodation – very overpriced for low season so I was lucky to end up in a private home getting my own room and bathroom with access to the family kitchen... The rest of the day I walked around town amongst other meeting 3 long distance bicyclists (Sara, Nia and Virgile) and in the evening I enjoyed the X-mas lights all over town and different activities/events at the square...

The next morning I walked towards the desert – named so because of the high temperatures though it's really a semi-dry tropical forest. It was about 35-40C so I was happy with the small breeze... It took about an hour to the observatory where I met the 3 bicyclists from the day before and we talked some hours in the shade before I headed into the desert. There were a couple of trails but I walked randomly amongst the red rock formations created when it was once a sea bed (hence reminding me a bit of Bryce Canyon that I visited on my bicycle trip across the USA).... . About an hour later I reached the main road and walked back to Villavieja where I relaxed the rest of the afternoon... All-in-all a mediocre experience but nice to break up the otherwise very long trip to Bogota....

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