Night Mission in the Jungle – Quebrada Valencia, Colombia


Route Maracaibo, Venezuela – Quebrada Valencia, Colombia (6,90)
Distance 345 Km
Travel Time 11 hours (4 hours at border)
Road Conditions Good tarmac, bad near border (VEN)
Weather Hot, clear
Terrain Flat, coastal
Food and Petrol Maracaibo, Maicao
Accommodation Camping, Quebrada Valencia

Our border crossing from Venezuela completes late in the afternoon as we have to wait for the Colombian customs office to open after lunch. This means we’re running late to make it to a town like Santa Marta.


We follow the asphalt road from the border through semi arid bush-land for a while. At some point a couple of younger men get off the back of a pick-up truck and run towards the border like their lives may depend on it. Interesting…

Thereafter the road swerves through beautiful tropical jungle along the Caribbean coast-line. From up on the cliffs we get glimpses of incredible palm-lined beaches at indigo blue sea. The shore-line here is magical!

Falconita is buzzing along like a rocket! She is guzzling oil like crazy but that is not news. Something about that dodgy cheap gasoline we bought in Maicao maybe. The clutch slip that started in Venezuela, which happens when running at higher rev’s in high gear is getting worse too.


It gets dark. Thankfully the road is good. But it’s scary being in this new territory, hardly any traffic either way and the potential for trouble around any corner. We pass some small villages, people are wearing strange dress, like long white linen robes with a belt. And hats. Never heard of this before. We stop in a small vilage to get a drink, we’re pretty tired. It may have been Palomino. The vibe is nice. Little wood-built shops are selling fruits and vegetables and things. The lady who attends us is friendly too, some kids are running around, playing. So far so good.

We eventually reach Quebrada Valencia, the place Jonathan told us about in Venezuela. I remember him saying, kilometre 45 on the Santa Marta road, cross the bridge, a kind of wall or gate on the left, follow the path down, something about crossing a little stream or something, then you’re practically there. “For you with your bike it’ll be rally easy. And everyone in the area knows Gloria so just ask.” Let’s see if we can take up the invitation.

There’s the bridge, but no gate or wall on the left, on the right though. We drive on but nothing. Eventually we cross back over the bridge an head back to a couple of houses we saw further up the road, and we ask. “Gloria,” the shop owner says, “yes of course I know, but it’s a bit hard to explain…” He mentions following him on his bike but we decline – don’t know if he can be trusted, or how much he’ll want for it. Cross the bridge and into the gate on the right, down the path, that we understand, but the rest is unclear. He’s drawn an instruction on a piece of paper and it seems like we have to take a turn somewhere down the path and come back to pass under the bridge.

Of course, Jonathan had given us directions coming from Santa Marta, not Venezuela, so for us the wall and entrance would have to be AFTER the bridge and on the RIGHT! Down the dark path we see some closed down wooden stalls of some sort. There are a couple of lights in the distance but that way the path gets narrower and worse. Could it be? We turn back and check again. Beside the path there’s a steep slope going into a bed of gravel, it’s a river bed about 15 metres across. Could that be what Johnathan meant? It’s far too big and there’s no ramp going down or anything, just that dangerous drop in. Johnathan was explaining it would be really easy.

We check around for a while and decide the best bet is to move down to the lights, which must be houses, and ask there. As I attempt to mount the bike the side stand slips off its uneven surface and the bike drops on its side. Shit! There’s no way we can lift that up without unloading. This’ll cost us another hour! Shit! I quickly turn off the fuel tap to prevent leakage.

An LED light approaches from a distance. A head torch. Whoa! Where did he come from? I feel perhaps we’ll be lucky and maybe the passer-by can give us a hand lifting up the bike. I greet the person as they approach, I cannot see anything but their glaring light in the pitch black. As he is in front of me I can just about make out a face, and as I am about to speak, I catch a glimpse of other people standing right next to me. About four or five people! All carrying assault rifles and wearing camouflage!

I know this may be the moment of our worst nightmare coming true, but what can you do but play it cool? Ebru’s stunned, for sure it’s the FARC, and we’re hostages. I put on a smile and look around at them, “Ohh, hola, como esta? No puedes ayudar nos con la moto por favor? Mucho peso para nosotros…” (..can you help us lift this moto, it’s too heavy for us?)


At my request for help they look at each other, then a couple of them bend down and help me put Falconita back upright. Wow, not all bad these FARC dudes, are they? I thought so… but what next?

They start asking us questions about where we’ve come from and what we’re doing here. We’re looking for a finka, we explain, but we can’t find it. Gloria…

“Gloria del Mar?” they seem to find it amusing. Sure they know Gloria. But I’ll have to cross the river bed to get there, here, and then once again further upstream. These uniformed men turn out to be Colombian soldiers on constant patrol in the area to keep it safe. (Throughout most of tourable Colombia soldiers are crawling around in the hedges like ants.) Well that’s a relief. Really nice guys too.

The men do some talking on their radio. Apparently there’s a direct access from the road on the other side but it’s locked and they’re checking if the guy with the key is around. No. Will have to cross the river bed. Darn! The dive into the bed will be a bit dangerous. I at least have to take the spare fuel tanks off. They’re kind enough to carry them across for us. I make the crossing without problems. Not “really easy” but hair-raising. Out on the other bank we move on and come back underneath the bridge we drove over in the beginning. From there they explain the onward way, it’s about a kilometre to go.

It’s a kilometre of some pretty spectacular night riding. The path is merely a walking path, the occasional mud-rut, and it leads us through an eerie landscape, a tunnel of jungle opening up ahead of us, a circle of darkness on the periphery. Occasionally we hit a clearing, the head-light beam becomes narrower and we see hundreds of little green lights flickering in the surroundings. We have to cross the river bed again, but here it is about 10cm deep under water and the rocks are bigger. REALLY EASY? Jesus Jonathan were you stoned?!?!

Finally we reach the kind of curtain-like entrance the soldiers described. Right beside the narrow path, a few wise stone steps lead up to it. We stop the engine. The whole place is pitch dark, only sounds of the jungle audible. Dogs start barking. Eventually the light of a head-torch Jonathan appears. Finally! We have to unload our luggage off the bike and then manoeuvre it up the steep slope next to the path way, into Gloria’s “yard”. Easy my arse, Jonathan!

It’s about 10 o’clock at night. The guys have some rice left over from dinner which we eat. Then we put up our tent and we all go to sleep. Ebru and I are exhausted.

The next morning we get to have a little look around. We’re right in the middle of a ravine, steep slopes on either side of a river, overgrown with jungle, a canopy of leaves blocking out most of the direct sunlight. Gloria’s finka is basically a big piece of jungle, and there is a clearing where there is some space to sit or work, a wooden, grass-roof hut which is the kitchen, with a clay stove and oven. Gloria’s house is a stone and grass-thatch building perched up on a steep hill.

For cooking, wood needs to be found and chopped. For food, fruits need to be harvested or supplies brought in. There is no electricity here and the only running water is in the river running by across the pathway, and from a hose which is connected somewhere further upstream on the mountain. Bathing is done in the river, and soap and shampoo are definitely unwanted as that would cause criminal damage to the river life and this pristine ecosystem.

A pretty rustic arrangement. But it’s breathtakingly beautiful!


NOTE: Gloria doesn’t charge money to stay at the finca, but in return for living in a jungle paradise, visitors are expected to contribute in other ways, namely by bringing food (rice, pasta, vegetables, etc) so there is something to eat for everyone, as well as helping out with jobs on the finca, such as collecting and chopping wood, cooking, cleaning, gardening, construction jobs, etc. Facilities are basic and limited so best be prepared with what you need, such as insect rep, toilet paper, tent or hammock, mozzi net, torch.

We could imagine spending some time here. But we have some other things on our minds: our bike is in serious need of mechanical attention and we need to get in touch with our friend Garret to confirm whether we have a place to stay in Barranquilla during the carnaval. We head out to the next village, which has a small internet and phone service. Garret confirms that we’ve got a place. The lady who owns it says we can stay for carnaval week for 250000COP. He recommends we get ourselves over there ASAP.

We leave Quebrada Valencia that same afternoon. We feel a bit guilty as we haven’t really contributed anything. We’d like to stay but we have to do it another time. We thank Gloria for letting us camp overnight and say we’ll probably come back in a week and help her out for a few days.