Mary is the founder of Bambinos Without Borders, a family travel blog dedicated to encouraging parents to travel with their kids in order to educate them about global tolerance and citizenship. She currently lives with her family in Bogota, Colombia.
Visit Mary’s Website – Bambinos Without Borders
The view from our lodgings in Choachí over the mountain valley
I’ve never enjoyed road trips. I’ve never found adventure in the open road or seeing the sights along the way. I would much rather spend 2 hours in a plane than 10 hours in a car. I’m not really an “it’s about the journey” kind of person. At least about travel.
And my opinion of road trips never changes! I always seem to think maybe this one will be different. Maybe it’ll be completely uneventful and I’ll change my mind. But it never does.
The windy mountain roads through Colombia are rich with greenery and topped with misty clouds.
We had just moved to Bogotá and I had been sequestered in the city for two months. Albeit, it’s a wonderful city and I’ve learned a lot about it in these first few months, but I was desperately itching to get out and see more of Colombia.
Out of a spark of spontaneity, I unilaterally decided that we would get out of town for the weekend and take a road trip to the nearby town of Choachí. In just a one-hour drive over the adjacent Andes mountains, we’d be adventuring through Colombian countryside. I was thoroughly optimistic, driven by wanderlust and blind to obstacles. I made online reservations for a rental car and hotel in less than 20 minutes and before I knew it, we were off on our first Colombian adventure.
Right. I suppose the insanity all started out with arriving at the rental car counter in Bogotá. What I really mean by “rental car counter” is that it was a plywood stall, inside sat a man with a closed laptop who was clearly too busy doing… something… on his phone to look up at me. When he finally did, he simply said, su reserva ha sido cancelada. Ummm, what do you mean my reservation has been cancelled? No hay autos. Doesn’t a reservation mean anything anymore?? My entire weekend getaway depends on getting a rental car!
He pointed me in the direction of another company down the terminal which may have something available. Turns out they did and I was able to rent their last sedan in my broken Spanish. When I say broken Spanish, I mean broken Spanish. A brief translation of how I must have sounded may have been “where I go with car when return?” I’m fortunate to have rented many cars in my lifetime to know what was going on without having to understand every word.
Despite the challenges of getting the car in the first place, I was determined not to let that deter my weekend. So we were off! We slowly drove southeast over the mountains, enjoying the scenery and marveling at all the newness that we were experiencing. Everything was fine until about 40 minutes into our 60 minute drive when my four year old son got suddenly sick all over himself. After the initial freak out that all parents do when they’re driving and have no control over the vomit geyser in the back seat, we pulled off the tiny road, conveniently just near some sort of stream. We spent about 30 minutes cleaning vomit out of a rental car on top of a mountain, using every inch of my resourcefulness and being thankful I thought to throw an extra pack of baby wipes in my bag, justincase.
My wonderful husband cleaning out rental car floor mats in a drainage pipe off the side of the road.
Once we cleaned him to an acceptable level where we weren’t gagging anymore, we were off. We were coming down the other side the mountain, seeing the dramatic change of lush green vegetation, and spotted the town of Choachí in the valley. Five minutes to go to our hotel, and my one year old daughter, eager to be part of the group, suddenly gets sick all over herself as well. I don’t think any moment in my life has deserved more of a facepalm than this one. I love you more than life, baby girl, but you’re going to have to stay pukey until we get there.
Chalets Altos del Pedregal, our lodging in Choachí
After arriving at our cozy hotel-on-a-hill and stripping down and cleaning two car seats, the drama mellowed out a bit. We stayed at Chalets Altos del Pedregal, a set of three houses settled on the hillside with an incredible view of the valley. This charming little hotel is a family-run business and isn’t luxury by many standards. In my experience, it was a step above cabin camping in that our space had indoor plumbing. We quickly realized however why there was insect netting over the baby crib when we found a scorpion in the corner of our room one evening. We were definitely not in Bogotá anymore.
Colombia has serious juice culture. It’s extremely common to get fresh-squeezed juice with any meal: orange, mandarin, mora, feijoa, strawberry, lulo, maracuyá, pineapple, watermelon, mango, guanábana.. The possibilities are endless!
The main square of Choachí, Colombia
Other than my husband and I being accosted by a swarm of sandflies, the remainder of the weekend was fairly tame. We visited the thermal hot springs at Termales Santa Mónica to soak up the natural healing properties of the hot springs. We had intended to visit the nearby waterfall La Chorrera on the return trip to the city. However, we were thwarted by a minor earthquake that shook some boulders loose on the mountain road, blocking our route back. Still holding on to our last shred of optimism, we navigated an alternate, double-the-time and half-the-roads route back to Bogotá where the worst thing we encountered was city traffic.
A day in the hot springs at Termales Santa Mónica where everyone must wear a smurf-style bathing cap.
I don’t regret our mini-adventure, but road trips are still held in a dark place in my heart. It won’t keep me from exploring more of Colombia by car, but from now on I’ll make sure to keep a puke bucket in my backseat at all times.