MY DIARY
Colombia | Tatacoa Desert & Gigante Wanderings
“Hence my extreme confusion when I was presented with a credit card auth slip for 1,963,500 Colombian Pesos [aka ~$514].”

Dear Diary | 

December 6, 2020 – December 8, 2020

Here’s a high-level overview of my wanderings in the Tatacoa Desert, Gigante, and Jagua

The three amigos [me, my friend, and her boyfriend] took a last-minute road trip to Huila.

We rented a car, drove 22 hours in 3 days, made a few wrong turns, almost missed my flight to Medellin, shared belly laughs, and created memories we’ll never forget. 

Huila | Tatacoa Desert

  • Car Rental | Localiza
    • A car is needed to get here.
    • There are multiple Localiza locations throughout Bogota. Since we wanted an early start we chose the one at the airport. 
    • Tip | Opt for the car wash option when picking up the car. Strange. I know. But, I learned this one the hard way. Localiza charged me a premium to wash it after the fact, because we returned it dusty from off-roading.
    • Renting a car is relatively new in Colombia. So be prepared. It’s expensive and the process isn’t straightforward. Thank god my Spanish speaking friend was with us. Localiza temporarily authorized my credit card for 5x the rental car amount or the cost of totaling the vehicle. Hence my extreme confusion when I was presented with a credit card auth slip for 1,963,500 Colombian Pesos [aka ~$514]. When the vehicle was returned safe and sound, they only charged my credit card for the original amount.
  • I don’t suggest going to the Tatacoa Desert alone.
  • Driving in Colombia is like the Wild Wild West. 
  • It’s HOT AF, and be prepared for zero hot water.
  • Definitely download the entire Google Maps region to your phone before you leave – you don’t want to use all your data on navigation. Plus, cell service can be spotty in areas.
  • One thing to note, Bogota [population: 8-9 million] traffic is insane. The last number on the license plate dictates what days of the month people can drive. It’s called Pico y Placa [aka Road Space Rationing]. For example, even license plates are allowed to drive on even days of the month and vice versa. Even still, accidents happen all the time. And, Google Maps completely re-routes you, which is usually a 2 hour detour. Because, no one knows how long it’ll take to clear the accident, and there are only 3 roads leading into the city. This isn’t ideal when you’re late for your flight. So, we had to trick Google Maps. We mapped to a location right before the accident and prayed the accident would clear up in time. My Spanish speaking friend came to the rescue again by following the Bogota Transito Twitter feed for updates.
  • The turn off from the highway to Tatacoa Desert was super tricky and unassuming. Thankfully my friend asked a guy sitting on the side of the road for clarification.
  • The last part of the drive is a very bumpy, dirt road.
    • The rental car ate up all the bumps like a champ. We named her Lil Bebita. Yes, we named our rental car.
  • Hike the Red Desert & book a planetarium tour while you’re there.
  • We saw people horseback riding as well.
  • Desert Hotel | Hospedaje Payande Tatacoa
    • I believe we booked this place through Airbnb. 
    • The staff was really nice, and the breakfasts were quite tasty.
    • This place is pretty rustic though. 
    • The mosquito nets are a must, and there’s zero hot water
    • Oh, and the goose tried to charge me at one point.
  • Desert Resort | Bethel Bio Luxury Hotel
    • We didn’t stay here, because we didn’t have time, but our other friends said it was really nice.
    • The nightly prices are pretty expensive, but you can get a day pass to hang out by the pool and the cost of the pass, $40 USD, gets applied to your food and drink order.
  • The food and restaurant selection was super limited. I didn’t love any of the places we went, so I can’t make any recommendations.

Huila | Gigante

  • Huila | Mirador la Mano del Gigante
    • Giant wicker hand hanging off the side of the mountain.
    • Definitely catch it at sunset.
    • There’s a nominal fee to hike up.
    • There’s an additional fee to be driven up in the back of a truck.
    • The hike takes ~40 minutes. I encourage you to get your sweat on.
    • After you visit the hand, make your way to the very top to chill in the weaved, colorful nets. The guy told us it was a 4 minute hike to the top. That was complete BS, but it was worth it nonetheless.
    • Grab an artisanal popsicle in the main area before you leave. I double fisted Strawberry and Tres Leches. So good!
    • It’s worth the price to ride back down in the back of a truck; especially, if it’s dark out.

Huila | Jagua

Are you adventurous enough to drive down to Tatacoa Desert, Gigante, and Jagua?
Drop a comment below.

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