It’s been a while that I (Rob) wrote a blog, and it’s not that I haven’t been busy. Besides our main activities like birding, birding, eating, mammal watching, more birding and some sleeping there is a lot more to do. Selecting the many photographs on the camera; another more thorough selection on the computer; giving all the files names of the species and of course editing the photos and placing them on the website. Then I have to keep up with writing the Trip Reports for other birders and mammalwatchers, as you quickly forget the important details and order of events when you visit so many places. I also write articles for Neotropical Birding magazine, and of course I want to prepare for the next places we are going to visit and make sure I get all the latest information on the best spots for the target species. Luckily I have a wife that arranges all the cooking, so that I have time to do the things above. No reason to get bored at all! But writing a blog is fun as well, so here we go :)
You might remember from Romy’s blog that we ran into a Dutch fan of our blog near Bogotá. If that wasn’t crazy enough, listen to the following story. While driving the main highway from Medellin to the northwest, Romy suddenly said she saw a picture that looked very similar to a picture I took in Argentina. Next to the highway were signs about conserving nature, and to emphasize that message they had pictures of animals on the sign. I started to pay attention, and after a few signs we finally saw a sign again with that same photo. We stopped and compared it to my photo on the laptop, and indeed, it was my picture! A picture of a Crab-eating Fox I took in the northeast of Argentina was sold via one of the stock bureaus and apparently used in Colombia! Such a coincidence that Romy saw and recognized the photo, and that we come across a photo I took during this travel in another country! Often I have no idea what happens with a picture after it is sold, but at least we know for this one. I checked on Google Maps, but it seems that the signs have been placed after June 2022. Maybe with the next Google Maps Streetview update they will be on there ;)
The drive to the northwest brought us to Turbo. There we took a boat towards the west to get to a small village along the river. Here we got off to search for a rare endemic bird species in the mangroves. At that moment we were only 35km away from Panama. We shared the boat towards here with many refugees, who continue their journey over water as far as possible, to eventually cross the Darien Gap towards Panama. It’s really humbling to realize that we have the money and freedom to go on such a boat for a bird and eventually choose to go back to the Netherlands. All these people take huge risks and invest all their money in the hope of a better future. It really puts your own journey in perspective…
After this experience we went all the way north towards and past Necoclí. Fun fact: this place is more northerly than some places we visited in Costa Rica in 2019! (yes, check a world map, it’s true). Here we observed some amazing endemic primates, like the Cotton-top Tamarin, one of the most beautiful monkeys in the world! This point was also our most northerly point during our travels through South-America. When we flew to Chile, no borders were open yet and Colombia was still a dream. Colombia was also our ‘turning point’ before heading back to Chile again. A real milestone for us, and when leaving that most northerly point we thus started our journey back. You’re right; it’s not particularly a straight drive, as it will still take us about 7 months to get back to Santiago.
We’re actually going top speed here in Colombia, and are visiting so many amazing places. Places that back home I could only dream about, and I would fantasize about seeing a special kind of bird or mammal. To actually visit all these places and have it work out perfectly is amazing. We really feel blessed on our journey! And it’s all fun and games until it’s not. After again a long drive (we were already on the road for 8 hours) we almost arrived at the destination. But it had rained like crazy the past days and the road got super slippery and we couldn’t get up anymore. This is only the second time we wished we had a 4x4, but even that wouldn’t have helped much as locals also left there motorcycles down the hill as they couldn’t get up. Luckily Romy found help and a friendly guy Christian helped us get down by giving clear instruction while I backed the car up in reverse. Letting go of the brake, braking again, slipping a bit and repeating this process it took an hour to back up 400m. Happy that we didn’t slide into some steep parts next to the road we were able to park it at some friends of Christian. As usual in Colombia he exchanged his number in case we needed help, and here saying this is not a formality; they mean it. It turned out we could actually use it this time. After being parked for a day one of the tires suddenly went flat. I changed the tire and Christian knew a repair shop which quickly fixed it (costs as low as 3€). Not much later we got a warning light from the electrical system. I parked it to take a look and after that the car wouldn’t start anymore. Christian again came to the rescue and came with a mechanic, changed the battery and we drove to the workshop. It turned out that a small piece on the alternator was not functioning well anymore. Being in a small town this part had to come from a bigger town. Paying the mechanic to order the parts by bank transfer in the big town, someone else to pick them up and another person to bring the parts back to the town we were at. As we had to spend the night, the mechanic stopped his work to bring us to the hotel.
Luckily our car is in a good condition and a common brand, so this first breakdown in 1.5 years wasn’t giving us more than 2 days delay. But unfortunately it seems that the electrical problem still persists. Driving long distances from place to place we have to find a new mechanic every time, explain the problem again and they often come with the same solution. But this turns out not to be the actual problem and thus solution every time. So let’s hope it gets fixed quickly again so we can continue our incredible journey. Amazing to see how many people are willing to help and actually mean it when they say: “call me if you need anything!” even though you’ve only known them for a short while. The kindness of Colombia; we will return here for sure one day!:) But first: let’s fix our car!