The only road out of Tatacoa leads back South to Neiva then from there there are few hours of drive through the hot desert at 38C at about 400 meters altitude. Only about 15 km from Ibague the road starts to rise to about 1,000 meters altitude. We arrived to ibague at around 2:30 PM, just to find a thick chain and big lock on the gates of the campground out of the town. Not a novelty in Latin America. Deep breath and we carried on towards Armenia, ‘only’ 90 kilometres away. Those were the slowest kilometres for the longest time. The drive shoots up to 3,290 metres altitude through a slow and narrow winding road with hundreds of semis pulling heavy loads at turtle speed. Lots of trucks and buses broken down on the road, the traffic stops to a complete halt in many tight turns so the trucks can actually take the turn. There is only one small town on the way, Cajamarca, with the only possibility to top up the fuel and it’s highly recommended. We topped out at 3,290 m altitude, a 2,290 m climb from Ibague in about a 45 km distance and the road started even steeper descend towards Armenia. It was a slow drag, stopping many times because of broke down trucks and passing was a pain. Dark set in soon and we were nowhere near a possible overnighting spot, in the meanwhile the gauge was showing low diesel in the tank, although we topped up on the way. It’s not funny seeing the gauge showing fuel level enough for 20 miles. Somehow we made it down to Armenia at around 7:30 PM and filled up at a Mobil gas station. The attendant showed us a spot where we could stay overnight beside a pile of excavation, but we decided to drive some more, the spot was not attractive. Soon the road turned into a civilized smooth highway and we were like ‘huh?’. It was the first civilized road in Colombia, similar to any advanced country. We found a large parking lot at a traffic support centre, with security guard and see miracle, spotless modern washrooms with tp and paper towels. All for free to stay overnight. We were some 30 minutes from Salento. Again, just as in Guatemala the arrival time estimated by the GPS was completely useless. According to the GPS the drive supposed to be 4-5 hours and ended up being 9.5 hours. We only waisted about an hour with stops, fill-ups and side-trip to the campground in Ibague. The total distance was just a bit over 300 km. Total toll paid: 35,300 COP ( $16 CAD). Colombia is so far the only country out of the 11 we drove through charging toll for an ordinary road. Add to that the high diesel fuel price at 8,000 COP per gallon in average and it makes Colombia a bit unattractive to drive a lot.
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