Huila – The Kindest People in Colombia – Gigante to San Agustín

… and that’s a bold statement in a country that seems for the most part, to be full of love and friendliness.  After Javier set back towards Bogota I continued on my back road mission through the department of Huila in the southern part of Colombia where the Central Cordillera Colombian Andes joins with the Eastern Cordillera.  Until I reached San Agustín 10 days later I was offered a bed in someone’s house virtually every night.  Sometimes before they’d even spoken to me.  Most of the time I had to insist they take some money.  The trust and openness of the people were amazing.  Each day was both unpredictable and memorable. Thank you Huila, I love you.

This route also included 2 huge waterfalls (170 metres and 370 metres) and coincided with the San Pedro annual festival (a big event in Huila which is what is featured in the video.  I spent most of this Elias, a small town at the top of a hill that virtually never receives gringos, like virtually every other place away from the highway and is not called San Agustín).

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Annual celebrations of San Pedro festival coincided with a penalty shoot out with Argentina in the Copa America. Here celebrating one of the penalties, unfortunately Colombia lost in the end but everyone was over it pretty quickly and the party continued into the night…

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A finca a few kilometers out of Garzón, the owner generously kindly lent me their cabaña (below) over the looking the canyon for the night.

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Pericongo – the route I took included a short stretch on the main highway where I found myself passing this impressive canyon.

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Salto de Bordones – boasted as the second highest waterfall in Latin America (after Angel Falls); something like 400 metres high. Camping by the view point was possible on the hard cobbled floor but Doña Meiry who works nearby offered me a bed…

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Another impressive waterfall followed the next day that’s too big to fit on the blog. This one Salto de Mortiño – 170 metres. I was planning to camp but the owner of the house next to it gave me a bed. The people of Huila…

Route thoughts:

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After Gigante, I still wanted to continue on the back roads but head south reasonably quickly; I was within half a day of riding from the principle highway at any one time.  I would climb up into the mountains before heading back down to join the highway again for a couple of kilometers before heading back up again.  And repeat… Each time on the highway I would consider heading straight down to the next town but the richness of the experiences in the mountains were inevitably worth it.  The towns were as follows: Gigante, climb up to Tres Esquinas, Zuluaga, a climb up and then down Garzon, a climb up San Antonio de Pescado, rolling up and down then down to Guadalupe, Altamira, a short main highway stretch passing through Pericongo canyon which was quite scenic and reasonably quiet but had some fast traffic, climb up to Elias, down to the river, up to Guacacallo (name incorrectly on Google maps when written – an alternative route would be Salado Blanco (guerillas), I was warned not to go there but some said it would have been fine, I expect it would have been), down to the river again, up to La Laguna, up further to Bordones (Salto de Bordones: the second highest waterfall in Latin America, easy camping by the viewpoint or ask for Doña Meiry who works with the children that work as guides, immensely hospitable), rolling to Isnos, down to Salto de Mortiño (170m waterfall, good camping), down futher to Rio Magdalena and then up to San Agustín.  Also check out whileoutriding.com for alternatives…


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