A great time in Bogota.

We are currently camped in the spacious garden of Santiago and Camila just outside Bogota, Colombia's capital city, population eight million. How we came to be here goes back to November 2003, when I received an e-mail from Santiago explaining that he and his (now) wife had driven from Colombia to Tierra del Fuego during 2000-2001 in a Land-Rover Defender 110 and that he was planning to convert a Unimog into a campervan and explore southern Africa and China.

During 2003 and early 2004 we exchanged e-mails about Unimog conversions and the technicalities of driving in China. In mid 2004 Santiago and Camila shipped their Unimog to Cape Town and explored some very remote areas of Namibia, Botswana and Mozambique.

When we decided to ship our vehicles from Panama to Colombia, I e-mailed Santiago to ask his advice about the best route from Cartagena to Ecuador. His reply was very encouraging, full of practical advice and a suggested route that included visiting his home near Bogota. He even offered to come to Cartagena (over 1000km) and accompany us to Bogota! (Santiago's advice was in complete contrast to "official" advice about driving in Colombia, which was usually negative, very general and unhelpful.)

Following Santiago's advice (and the main road) we took three long days (410km, 450km and 280km) to get from Cartagena to Bogota. We passed many (over 80!) police and army check points but were only stopped twice, each time for a polite inquiry to see our vehicle papers and driving licence. Most of the roads were good toll roads with a few rough sections. The scenery was stunning, particularly as we approached Bogota. Each evening we stopped well before it got dark and parked in one of the large truck parks beside many fuel stations.

Our stay with Camila and Santiago has been one of the highlights of our trip! They have let us park in their garden, taken us sight-seeing in Bogota, shared their house, wine, travel stories (they have some great ones) and photographs with us.

They are also very happy to meet any other overlanders driving thru Colombia! You can contact Santiago at s (at) santiagomontoya.com The photograph shows Camila and Santiago in front of one of Santiago's paintings (see www.santiagomontoya.com for more details) and remember, you heard about Santiago's art here first!

Stephen Stewart.

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