Warning: contains goats

Day 69 - Desierto de la Tatacoa

The road forked. One way lay the city of Cali, population: 2.5 million. The other way lay the Tatacoa Desert, population: goats. Which way to go? The town of Villa Vieja lay on the fringes of the desert's sparse expanse. It is a town were nothing much happens and nobody seems to have anything much to do or at least not with any urgency, maƱana indeed. A chicken bus replete with actual chickens dropped us in the main plaza. Shaded from the beating sun, old men ruminated in small groups while schoolgirls giggled in green gingham. A 'mototaxi', something akin to a cage welded to a moped, would take us the rest of the way. The first sign of our desiccated destination was a cactus sat incongruously among the trees. Trees that gradually turned to stunted shrubs above grass that straggled and yellowed. The landscape opened up before us as rocky dunes took the place of flat pasture. Life seemed absent save for wandering cows and the ubiquitous goats.
Estadero de Los Hoyos would be our oasis in the wilderness. We wandered lonely as the white clouds above, away from its squat concrete structures and down a dirt track winding further into the desert's interior. Unmolested by human presence save our own everything was silent and still. It was a place where a man could lose himself in solitude, could allow the din of life to quietly subside, could find a kind of peace. The sky seemed bigger and bluer out there, a deity to the two tiny dots that walked beneath it. We returned for a lunch interrupted by the voracious antics of a goat whose inquisitive hunger so typified his species. He enthusiastically supped beer from Michael's proffered cup and though my offer of hot sauce induced a sneezing fit I doubt it will curb his culinary adventures in the future. For his finale he abandoned all social decorum and surmounted the table itself in search of what lunch scraps he could find. As night fell over the Tatacoa and the horizon streaked purple and orange we set off again, this time in search of a restaurant for dinner. After 45 minutes of fruitless stumbling and having admitted to ourselves we had little (read: no) idea of the distance to our destination the inevitable retreat began. Our return was rewarded with a sumptuous dinner of rice and spaghetti flavoured with small chunks of what we feared was our four-legged friend from earlier.
With little in the way of passing traffic the desert was never going to be the easiest pace to hail a cab. Come the morning and feeling like a latter-day Livingstone and Stanley, Hillary and Norgay, Scott and Oates we resolved to escape the desert on foot. The two of us plodded a metronomic pace through undulating sandstone watched by distant peaks. A carpet of green began to spread across the land and the sky closed in to hug our perspective. Butterflies danced in the verges - black, white, red-dotted and swallow-tailed. Life returned as birds warbled to each other in the now proud trees. Everything in Villa Vieja was just as we'd left it as though time had stood still, time for another bus, time for another place.

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