I had been led to believe that the journey from Quito to the Colombian border and beyond would be hazardous and the border queues would be long and hassle-filled. Now the journey was certainly not comfortable, as the bus had zero leg room and no air con and there really appear to be no rules of the road in either Ecuador or Colombia and overtaking long lorries on blind bends on mountain roads is a national pastime… but it wasn’t dangerous and the border crossing was very smooth. I even had a laugh with the border official. We weren’t searched or questioned; our passports were stamped and that was it.
First night in Colombia was spent in Pasto, where all we did was eat dinner and go to sleep – and then left for Popayan the following morning. Popayan is a very pretty colonial town and we spent some time wandering around the old buildings and churches. It’s not hugely touristy yet, which in some ways is nice, but makes it a little difficult to get a good variety of food. Our next stop was Cali, taken by yet another incredibly uncomfortable bus. I was a little nervous of this city, as it has a bit of a name for robberies, but we were staying in a lovely area and my fears were unfounded, thankfully. There is a good zoo in Cali, so we spent a morning there, before wandering around the old town again. We were actually quite tired with all the buses and so on, so quite a bit of time in both Cali and Popayan was spent just relaxing, which was quite nice. Unfortunately in Cali a mosquito got at me and I spent some of the time there in misery, as they swelled up like crazy and I had to find a pharmacist to help me out. I was worried about them for a bit, but they’ve settled down now.
Our next stop was Salento, a town in the middle of Colombia’s coffee zone. Finally a pleasant journey, as our bus was super comfortable. I was actually disappointed when we arrived in Armenia, where we had to catch a connecting bus to Salento. It was here that we had our first real taste of amazing Colombian hospitality – we weren’t sure where to find the Salento bus, and a random man saw us looking confused and took us under his wing, found our bus, chatted to the driver to make sure it was correct and deposited us safely. All this without any English and with no desire for money. So nice.
Salento was pretty awesome. We did a tour of a coffee farm and I drank black coffee for the first time in my life probably – and actually really liked it! I helped grind the beans, so I’m sure my input had something to do with it! We also did a hike into the Cocora Valley (despite me saying I would never hike again – I was seduced by the hummingbirds…) It wasn’t an easy walk but most of it was enjoyable, apart from one really steep part. And anything with hummingbirds is worth it. I love them. Transport in the town is former World War 2 jeeps, which was a cool novelty in itself. Also there was a fantastic restaurant there that does relatively authentic Indian curry! I really really really miss curry, so that was amazing to find in a tiny town.
Our next stop was Medellin, where we went on another uber-comfy bus (this time with wifi and TV screens in the seat backs!) and where I LOVED. But that’s for the next post.