In this episode:
- Epic scenic winding mountain route with steep drop-offs famous amongst Colombian touring cyclists and the people of the south;
- Thoughts from the locals on the destruction of Colombia’s incredibly diverse and beautiful environment for money that I’m told only a handful of people seem to benefit from;
- A poor night’s sleep in an abandoned room with a strong odour of urine and loud trucks passing by all night within 15 feet of my head;
- Chatting with a group of boisterous but friendly policemen who were ‘popular’ with the not unattractive willing local girl (if you get my drift); I will not mention where! Amazing what you see on the road…
From Palestina (Huila) to Pasto via Mocoa, Nariño in Colombia (scroll to end of the post for route map). This section involved:
- the famous and stunning Fin del Mundo and Ojo de Dios waterfalls (Mocoa)
- the also famous Trampolin de La Muerte (Mocoa to Pasto) – a mostly dirt road that wiggles up and down, sometimes next to steep drop offs and through a number of quite high passes (3000+ metres) with a significant amount of climbing (a well ridden route by touring cyclists).
- The very scenic and 3km detour to the protected Laguna de la Cocha (great free camping and awesome views of the natural lake at Hotel Jardin del Lago).
More on the beautiful Laguna de la Cocha: I emphasise that this is a natural lake that is protected because there seem to be a lot of man-made hydroelectric lakes in Colombia, which is a shame since it causes both extensive damage to the environment and to the many people who lose their homes. A lot of these dams are allegedly owned by Spanish companies which somehow makes it worse (shafting Latin America twice, I think heard muttered a couple of times). I was told that Colombia receives very little of the profit (less than 20%). The Department of Huila seemed like a particular target for these dams with the inhabitants receiving very little additional benefit from the destruction caused to their homes and they are the ones most affected. Further threats of future constructions and flooding of valleys weigh heavily on the minds of locals. The beautiful farm (featured in the video) called El Encanto that I stayed at in Palestina (Huila) was one of the places under threat.
Obviously I’m regurgitating what I have been told passing through the country and it represents only one side of the story. However, these are the people directly impacted and their opinion should have more weight. There must be another way, Colombia and please look after your most valuable asset. At least, for now, they have it right with Laguna de La Cocha, even though there are plenty of businesses who would have it otherwise.
Other thoughts on the route from Mocoa to Pasto:
- Friendly bomberos in San Francisco for the night after the second pass (good for the second night or a looong first day).
- In Laguna de La Cocha: there is an interesting town called El Pueblo with a certain Venice-like feel (houses surrounded by water), that seemed highly prone to flooding; it’s built on a flat plane at lake height. Where I stayed was in a quieter area known as Santa Clara (I think it was called!); good camping at Jardin Del Lago.
Video and photos:
Free camping although it would possibly be impolite to not purchase a couple of their tasty meals (which are understandably on the more expensive side due to the location but if you’re saving on accommodation, it works out ok). Trucha (trout) is particularly popular in these parts; farmed in the lake. Owned by a very welcoming mother and son.