Saturday, November 2, 2013

Riot Gear and Nice Colombianos

Two day drive from Minca to San Gil
After we stretched our legs and lungs in Minca, we were ready for the 2-day drive through the northeast corner of Colombia. We quickly gained an appreciation for how big Colombia is compared to the itty-bitty Central American countries to which we had become accustomed. Welcome to South America!

We had planned to stop at a town called Aguachica because it was about halfway to our destination of San Gil. We drove all day (which was only about 200 miles), and as the sun was thinking about setting, we pulled into a gas station and asked if we could park for the night. The attendant replied (in Spanish), "yes, you can park for the night, but you shouldn't". He suggested there were some "bad things" going on at the moment that made Aguachica less-than safe. He told us to drive another hour and we would find a safer situation. As we drove out of town, we saw police hanging out along the highway with full-body riot gear set up beside them.

It all started to make sense... We had read about fellow travelers who had been delayed due to the agricultural strikes in the region. We later read that farmers, truckers and health workers (about 200,000) were protesting the government and setting up roadblocks. They wanted the government to set minimum prices for their products and offer discounts on the price of fertilizers, seeds, and diesel. In addition, they were demanding greater access to land ownership and wanted better public services in rural areas. In retrospect, I can't imagine these people would've wanted anything to do with the gringos in El Tigre...

Protesters. Picture courtesy of

Another little tidbit about the drive: since we were so close to the Venezuelan border, the price of gas (diesel) dropped from around $4.30/gal to $3.70/gal. Love that smuggled Venezuelan diesel!

We drove another hour to San Martin and found a hotel/restaurant/gas station where we camped for the night. We arrived to the parking area and asked if we could park alongside the dozens of other trucks. The restaurant employees were a little confused and told us to go to the attached hotel. Finally, they started to understand that we had all we needed in the truck and just wanted to park for the night. The owner and night watchman came bounding out of the darkness with a pistol-grip shotgun, a huge grin, and a big handshake. He was incredibly kind and friendly and guided us to a spot in the back corner of the lot - all for free. In the morning, we made sure to buy breakfast at the restaurant.

Colombianos have been nothing but kind and welcoming to us. We are echoing the chorus of other travelers who have declared that Colombia has some of the friendliest people they have met.

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