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Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Country 48: how to get to Colombia!

We left Quito after 2 nights staying in the Secret Garden hostel in the old town - great views from the roof top terrace:


And off we headed for Colombia - at least we thought we were... After half an hour on the wrong bus we discovered we were headed back south to Guayaquil - so back to the bus station, a refund and another ticket later we were on the correct bus and headed north. It only cost us an hour of travel....

I found that the scenery changed quite a bit on this bus ride. The rolling hills of North Ecuador separted by hedges looked very similar to the English countryside until you see the tile roofs on the houses.

We made our way to Tulcan where we hopped off the bus and grabbed a cab with another couple. Stamping out of Ecuador was easy and then a short walk across the border to the Colombia side and I was on country 48 (the 13th new one since I started travelling last year).

We then got another cab to Ipiales and unfortunately didn't have time for a side trip to see the sanctuary of Las Lajas.

This is what it looks like - hugging the ravine:

(Picture credit: thecoracle.blogspot.com)

To start with the scenery in Colombia wasn't much different - but it quickly changed to steeper hills and ravines, the obtiquitous ecucalytpus trees and pretty flowers planted up around the houses on the road.

Trying to grab a shot out of the bus window was tricky - this is the best I have!


I had more luck on the stunning sunset

After our epic journey we ended up in Pasto over night staying at the Koala Inn - pretty much the only hostel in town and a gran old house with high ceilings and very dark rooms if you got those without windows! 

Central courtyard and common area at Koala inn

Pasto is a well placed stop for those that don't want to travel overnight (not recommended in the border region) and that's about all it had going for it....

The next morning we were up and off to Popayan, which the backpacked grapevine had told us was a beautifully preserved colonial town and worth a visit.

What should have taken 6 hours ended up being a bit longer as we were in a small bus that would stop to tout for passengers in every other town and then we also had 2 police road stops where we were ignored for blantently being gringos!

When we got to Popayan we were pleasantly surprised and delighted that our hostel, Park Life, was right on the main square.


It was also next to a church - which meant we had breakfast to the lovely accompaniment of hymns!


It was another old house that was beautifully preserved and run as a hostel, with lots of charming quirks and vintage styling

Me chilling out in the covered courtyard

We ended up spending more time that we originally planned in Popayan - as we got in late we didn't see the town much and the original plan was to head to Medellin first thing in the morning - we decided to scrap that and get the direct night bus instead of having to change buses in the day and suffer unknown delays etc

This meant we got longer in bed and time to explore the town!

Looking through the square

The transport minister was in town to talk about his donations to the transport police - we got there as the locals were lining up the bikes - they did a pretty good job!

After grabbing an amazing lunch - Cat had steak on her 10,000 COP almuerzo and I had one of the local dishes Bandeja Paisa, which was a plateful, including rice, beans, fried egg, steaks, pork fat crisped up, avocado and plantain - we went for a walk to burn it off!

View over the old town

Selfie in the rain!

On the path steps up to the monument of the city's founder - situated on top of an ancient pyramid El Morro de Tulcan


Here's the guy - Sebastian de Belalcazar

View over the old town

There were lots of locals up there enjoying the view in the break from the rain - and Cat jumping!

Mountains in the background - it was a pretty sunset, but we missed it having headed to the bus station for our overnight to Medellin....

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