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Steve and Emma's Travel Tales

Continuing on North to Colombia

COLOMBIA | Sunday, 4 November 2012 | Views [376]

Waiting around for the 10.45pm bus in Lago Agrio got a little tedious to say the least.  Town has nothing to offer the tourist but we had a wander around anyway, killed a bit of time in an internet café and wondered what to do next.  Yep, you guessed it we were forced to have a beer doing some people watching.  The bus turned out to be the least comfortable we’d had in Ecuador and we’d been allocated seats on the back row.  So despite our cunning plan of a couple of beers knocking us we got very little sleep.  The first part of the journey cuts across country from the jungle back to the Panamericana and it is very rough.  Oh the perils of travel!

Once in Tulcan we fortified ourselves with a brew before walking over to the immigration office.  It took some time for two people to scrutinise our passports to their satisfaction and for both of them to use up an annoying amount of page space stamping us out.  We assume this is standard practise but of course it could have something to do with us coming in through the back door where technology was limited but the personnel were much more friendly and welcoming.  Maybe they were just sorry to see us go!

Anyway we walked over the bridge and tracked down immigration on the Colombian side of the river where we were promptly stamped in without the need to fill in forms.  We’d read someone’s blog that they’d walked from Colombia to Ecuador and clean forgot to go through the usual process.  They suddenly realised weeks later so had to double back to get the necessary stamps.  I think that highlights just how relaxed these land border crossing posts have been on our travels so far.  To be honest we thought they’d be much more vigilant bearing in mind how turbulent that area has been in recent years.  With all formalities completed we jumped in a collective (shared taxi) to Ipiales bus terminal at a cost of P1500 each; we’re back in the land of Pesos.  From there we were soon bundled onto a mini bus and on our way to Popayan for P30 000 each.  Not only is travel in Colombia going to be much more expensive than Ecuador but we have all those zeros to contend with too!

The journey took a little longer than we expected for various reasons.  Firstly there were major road works reducing the flow of traffic in the first town we popped into, and then an accident was blocking the road.  Finally we were stopped several times for documents and luggage to be checked by the police, immigration officials and army personnel.  The area we were travelling through was patrolled by the armed forces as this part of Colombia still sees the odd pocket of FARC activity.  We’d been advised that it was wise to travel this section through the day so we duly did and in actual fact went through some lovely scenery.

We were shattered on reaching Popayan as we’d been basically travelling for 36hrs so did the lazy thing and grabbed a taxi to take us to Hostal Trail that would be our home for the next couple of nights. http://www.hosteltrailpopayan.com/

We’d pre-booked the hostel as we knew we’d be too tired to wander around looking for a place but this proved to be just what we needed.  It wasn’t cheap at P50 000 (a tad under $30) a night but we felt we got our money’s worth and if afforded us the space we needed to catch up with ourselves.  Those muddy jungle clothes had to be slung into a machine for starters plus we had free wi-fi in the room.  In fact our room more closely resembled a student-ish self-contained flat as we had a little sitting room, loads of cupboards for stowing away our stuff and 2 huge windows making the place bright and airy.  Plus the hostel had a user friendly kitchen, an area to sit and eat those home cooked meals and a comfortable TV room with the all-important cable connection.  Check the date – it’s the weekend again!

We’d also read that there was a book exchange and we were hoping to swap our Ecuador guide for a Colombian one but no such luck.  The Colombian Lonely Planet is proving to be as elusive as that giant anaconda so it looks like we’re going to have to make it up as we go along.  Fortunately we’d written down a rough outline of our route before setting off and that all important free internet connection meant we could do some on-line research.  Plus the hostel had loads of information on the walls and of course you can’t beat talking to fellow travellers.

So, what can I tell you about Popayan?  Not a lot to be honest as we spent most of the time in our room enjoying feeling like we had a little home. Aah!!  Actually we were constantly debating whose turn it was for the computer to catch up with journal writing, sort out photos and get it all on the travel page.  We finally got round to booking flights back to the UK so we now have a definite date to work to.  Plotting the route home was fun and it turns out we’ll be back in Blighty in just over two months time via a further 10 countries.  We were also trying to get our heads around the new zero loving currency and reeling from the prices of travel and backpacker accommodation.  As for tours it quickly became apparent we’d have to limit ourselves to one must see.

To be fair to us, the weather wasn’t, and our wanderings round town turn just turned soggy so we retreated back to our comfortable digs.  We can’t be constantly doing exciting stuff just to keep you lot entertained!  However, I can tell you that our first impressions of Colombia are that it is by far the most prosperous country we’ve been in, with the obvious exception of Argentina that we just whistled through.  The white city is aptly dubbed as all the buildings are indeed painted white and it’s very pleasant and neatly maintained.  We weren’t inspired to take many photos as the buildings seemed to be camouflaged against the greyish-white clouds covering the area.  Being able to catch up with ourselves and get all the Ecuadorian travel tales finished means it is not time to see what Colombia has to offer.  With that in mind we’re jumping on the bus to Salento in the morning.


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