So, you might remember in our last blog post we had just found our back window smashed in pieces on the ground, a victim of La Guajira wind. Coming back from a spectacular hike to find your back window in pieces on the rocks just sucks. The funny thing is, we were both in such good moods, we took it really well. We both kind of laughed, cussed, had a beer and then went about the fun task of collecting all the broken pieces. What else can you do? We all spent about 45 minutes crawling around under the truck in the sand with the wind pelting us searching for tiny flakes of plastic. Some of the pieces were as small as a fingernail. Toby said he was a magician with super glue and we were going to have to put his skills to the test the next day. The good news was that we could take a pretty bad ass back window picture! There is always a silver lining.
After the window was back in place we all celebrated with a swim at the best swimming beach of the Guajira. No jelly fish, no rocks and no currents! Just pure, stunning perfection.
From Pilon de Azucur we headed further up the coast. This was the day where we started hitting the road blocks. My goodness they were a pain in the ass! We heard about these and knew they were not dangerous so we were not really stressed about them. We were told by Colombians to bring cookies, water or food to get through them, but to not give them money. The Wayuu people are not profiting from tourism, so I am assuming this is their way of trying to get a piece of the action which I totally understand. But the road blocks made travel in certain areas very tedious. The road block consisted of a piece of rope blocking the road in front of a family’s hut tied between two poles usually with tires and other items preventing you from driving around it. It was usually manned by children and women, some very nice, some very cranky. They would come over to your vehicle and the negotiations would begin.
They wanted money, and after we said we did not have money, we started the food and water negotiations which soon became very difficult. They wanted way more than we could give them considering sometimes you would see four road blocks lined up one after another within 10 feet of each other! Literally, each family had their own rope in front of their house. There were a lot of road blocks on some of the roads heading to Punta Gallinas (which we avoided entirely on the way back by total luck).
We got better at figuring out how to deal with them as the day progressed, taking turns being the first car through (where the first truck would stop over the rope and let the other one pass). We finally figured out that the best solution was not to speak a word of Spanish, speak to them in loud, friendly English and just smile stupidly until they would drop the rope. It was uncomfortable and did not make us feel great, but it was a very unique situation. As we passed through we would give them cold bags of water and cookies for the kids, but never in the quantities they wanted, more just as a good will gesture.
I wish they were organized as a community where they could charge a one time fee for travelers like the ejido system in Mexico, and then share it among the families, it would have been such a better solution. We were not opposed to contributing, but the road blocks were just not a effective solution and definitely did not create goodwill (some took 15 plus minutes to get through and got a little tense….).
So to try to leave a positive footprint we bought seafood from local fisherman and when people visited our campsites we offered them cold drinks and snacks and tried to teach them about us as we learned about them. This has been their home for centuries and we were just uninvited visitors passing through. Some people we met were wonderful, warm and funny, others begged for food and water without even saying hello. It was all part of the experience and as I said earlier, it was exotic and new to all of us. This type of adventure travel is what it is all about.
After finally getting through the road blocks, we had some epic drives along dried lake beds, over sharp lava rocks, down dried creeks and along more stunning, uninhabited coastline. It was really fun off roading. That night we drove out on a plateau and camped with the ocean all around us. It was a very dramatic campsite and unfortunately the windiest we had.
Next we head to the most northern tip of South America…..