Two people exploring the world, seeking adventure & unique experiences.
San Agustin to Mocoa – riding the rollercoaster mountain road
We left San Agustin first thing in the morning. The first mode of transport we took was a collectivo taxi (minivan) for 6,000COP / $3ea to Pitalito. The best connection to Mocoa is through Pitalito with hourly departures. The trip usually takes 45 minute, but because our taxi driver decided to drop everyone else off first and also pick up some deliveries along the way it took a little over an hour to get to the Pitalito terminal.
As our transport didn’t leave for another 15 minutes we decided to have a quick bite to eat. We chose a local restaurant in the bus station that was packed with bus drivers eating their breakfast. The thing we love about these local restaurants in Colombia is there is always a case full of deep fried items to pick from and it’s easy to choose as you just point to what you want asking “Que es” or “What is it?”. The only problem is 90% of the time we don’t understand the answer as every country has a unique name for its food. We picked a deep fried flat round pancake, and a deep fried ball thinking this was our favourite deep fried rice ball we’ve eaten now on numerous occasions. The flat round item was filled with chicken and Rodora’s favourite out of the two. The deep friend round ball on the other hand consisted of a hardboiled egg in the centre and a curry like substance, not really to our liking, but it didn’t matter as we love trying new things.
It was time to catch our bus, and to our surprise we were told to get on the back of an overloaded pickup truck. It was our fault expecting a mini bus and not checking in advance. It was cheap at 12,000COP / $6ea for a 2-3 hour ride, but it was definitely going to be interesting as we had chickens, ducks, bananas and anything else you could imagine. After about 5 minutes into our journey we made another stop at the market to pick up even more supplies, a crate of flowers. There went our foot space and just about any other spare space in the back of the truck.
This is when the fun began. The road between San Agustin and Mocoa is through the Andean mountain range on the edge of the Amazon. We weren’t driving straight for almost any of the trip. We were moving at light speed and rate this as one of the fastest vehicles we have ever been on this entire trip overtaking every single vehicle (including multiple trucks) along the way. With every sharp curve we were thrown against the edges of the pick-up and holding on for dear life. Blurry images were quickly passing by with the full force of the wind in our faces making it feel like we were on a rollercoaster. Rodora just closed her eyes, hoped nothing came in the other direction and not think about how fast we were going. The road was so curvy that even Toby who never got sick was starting to feel the effects of the ride. At one point we actually passed a mini bus that was coming from the other direction and stopped on the side of the road with two of its passengers bent over and vomiting everywhere. We also got stopped for about 10 minutes at a pretty bad accident on the way where a truck had hit a motorcycle. This also reminded us why we were advised to take the transport during the day and not the night, because if an accident happened you’d have to sleep on the bus/pick up. After around 2.5 hours we made it to Mocoa.
When we arrived we decided to check out options in town near the bus station. The reason for this is the only hostel is out of town and needed a taxi to get to and from town. As it was lunch time when we arrived a lot of the hotels saying “residencia” seemed to have no one at reception. We did find a bargain though for 20,000COP / $10 a night for a private room right by the bus station. The location was actually great as we were next to a lot of cheap restaurants offering breakfast, lunch and dinner for 3,000COP / $1.50 (the typical of soup, meat and rice which is big enough for us to share, bargain!).
We then went to a local bar to watch the final of the European Champions League Football, hoping for some atmosphere. However, the locals seemed to not be watching the game, so we decided to go back to our hotel which luckily had a TV in our room with the game on it. On the way we picked up an afternoon snack of red (sugary), and white (coconut) cakes. Mmm the coconut cake was absolutely delicious, almost like a white lamington with creamy stuff in the centre.
Fin del Mundo – Waterfall at the “end of the world”
Fin del Mundo literally translates to “end of the world” which is where this waterfall feels like it might well be. It is a popular local hike to a large waterfall located less than a 10 minute drive from Mocoa and the main reason for our visit to the area.
We didn’t rush out for an early start since it was a Sunday and we weren’t sure of the transport situation. We had a lazy breakfast at a local restaurant. We asked for the price before we ordered our simple breakfast of eggs, rice, coffee, and we were quoted 4,000 COP / $2 total. However, when it came to paying the bill, a different person collected the money and asked for 10,000 COP / $5. We weren’t happy as we knew that we could go literally next door and pay 3,000 COP / $1.50 each for so much more food. I know it’s not much but since we know the market price, and are on a budget we really hate being scammed and don’t know enough Spanish to complain.
After breakfast we got onto a collectivo pick-up truck (2,000COP / $1ea) to the trail head taking around 10 minutes. It was obvious straight away that not many foreign tourists visit Mocoa, as everyone on the jeep instantly wanted to talk to Toby. There was an old women sitting next to Rodora with no teeth and mumbled everything she said. She was really sweet but we couldn’t understand a word she said.
At the start of the trail there were already other locals joining the adventure. It was Sunday, so it was common for it to be busy on a weekend with locals. We had read other reviews online that the trail was difficult, but in our opinion, it was quite easy as we saw many children under the age of 10 still doing it as quick as us. The trail started off with a large suspension bridge that was very rickety and looked like it was going to fall apart. We’re glad it was a light breakfast, as a big breakfast may have seen us falling through some of the planks.
Then we came to the main house where there was a man collecting an entrance fee of 2,500COP / $1.25ea. The trail then headed straight up through the jungle with a path made up of mud stairs, logs or rocks. It was very muddy and slippery at certain parts so we both grabbed walking sticks on the way to prevent slips. This didn’t really work and both of us slipped a few times on the trail.
It was also very humid, so sweat was dripping from our clothes right from the very start of the trek. We both had flashbacks to the lost city all over again. After about 45 minutes we got to our first waterhole, but we decided to keep on going as there wasn’t anyone swimming in it. There are a few water crossings, but in dry season you can either jump rocks or take your shoes off to cross the river. After another 30 minutes we got to the main waterhole with many locals swimming in it, with a majestic waterfall in the background.
As it started to rain we took refuge in the restaurant in the cave (only opened on weekends). When the rain ceased, we decided to check out the main water fall- Fin del Mundo, which was only an additional 5 minute walk. The start of the trail followed the river again. From here we could see the other side of the trail on the other side of river bank again (meaning another river crossing). We then followed the path until we came to a rock bridge.
There were quite a few people having a picnic lunch at the bottom of the trail. This was where the waterfall was. Wow, what a sight! We were at the top of the waterfall, and looked like ants in comparison to the water flowing down as far as you could see. You can get up really close to the mouth of the waterfall and look down, which is nerve racking if you are scared of heights. An older lady nearly gave everyone a heart attack when she nearly fell backwards off the cliff as wasn’t watching where she was walking and tripped over a tree root.
We then decided it was time for our picnic lunch of Tuna, tomato and avocado sandwiches. The local children seemed to be fascinated by our lunch (even though they had their own) and intently watched Toby chopping up the tomato. I guess it is not common to eat sandwiches for lunch as most of the locals around us were eating rice and meat.
After lunch it was time for a swim so we headed back to the large swimming hole. Toby went in and said it was cold so Rodora decided not to go in. Another reason why Rodora didn’t go in was because she only had her bikini and no spare clothes and all the locals where wearing shorts and t shirts in the water.
The whole hike to the end of the waterfall is only about 3km one way, so more than manageable for most people. It’s just a little tricky in places that makes it more difficult than it might be otherwise. The reward at the end is certainly worth the effort.
Plenty more to explore. Keep following the blog and our Flickr account for updates. http://www.flickr.com/photos/toraadventure/