Highland Hijinx

Trip Start Dec 08, 2004
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Trip End Dec 07, 2005


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Flag of Colombia  ,
Wednesday, June 15, 2005

After a smog choking week in Bogota, desperate for fresh air we took a day long bus ride to Popayan in the south of the country. Short bus rides are a thing of the past.

We travelled through the Andes for the first time, no snow peaks yet, and through the majestic coffee growing valleys of southern Colombia. We spent most of the journey hanging out the windows gawping at the views. The journey was incredible, some of the best scenery we have seen so far, which is saying something. Unfortunatley taking piccies from a bumpy bus is quite a feat so our photos probably dont do the scenery the justice it deserves. Bus drivers dont take to kindly to being asked to stop on mountain passes for a gringo photo opportunity.

Popayan was a really nice place to chill out for a few days, using it as base to explore.

We visited the mountain village of Silvia for the famous Wednesday indiginous market. It is one of the biggest gatherings of indigenous people Colombia. They all still wear typical dress of bright blues and pinks and bowler hats. A fantastic sight.

We did our classic of looking at the Lonely Planet map and thinking we would take a short bus ride to visit some thermal springs near La Plata, about 100km away. The journey actually took 2 days in the end, as it took around 10 hours to reach La Plata. It was the roughest road we have been on so far, the bus was a truck with a bus compartment welded on to the back.

You can tell when you get off the beaten tourist trail when school children run away from you when you get off the bus in the small villages. We think its the beard. Latino men dont do beards its strictly moustache only.

The springs were like somewhere from another planet. Icy mountain creeks combine with hot sulphur springs to produce some spectacular landscape with multi-coloured lichens, mosses and algae, very cool.

We ate one of the best meals since we have been travelling that day in a tiny wooden hut at the side of the road, vegatable soup followed by smoked trout with coconut rice, and some root vegatables which we still dont know the name of. The trout was caught in the river nearby, and smoked over the fire in the hut. The food was so fresh and heartwarming in the cold mountains, a meal that will be remembered for a long time. We then sat in the hut waiting for the bus back to Popayan, FOR 5 HOURS!!! Punctuality isn't a priority in the highlands.

The next morning we headed out to San Agustin known as the Valley of the statues, where hundreds of rough hewn stone figures of men, animals and gods are dotted about dating back from 3300BC. They were very interesting at first, but there are just so many of them! We think we saw more statues than people in the couple of days we spent there.

The last few stops on our way south to Ecuador were a little town of Sandona, a tiny little village balanced precariously on the side of a steep active volcano where they make Panama Hats. Luckily it was a sunny day and we saw hundreds of hats lying out on the streets a lovely sight. Then on to Ipiales to see the famous gothic cathdral built on a bridge over a deep gorge, amazing.

Colombia has definately been our favourite country so far, the landscape is indescribably beautiful, the towns are really interesting and full of character, and the people are the friendliest we have ever met. Combined with the fact that not many travellers make it here, it really is a special untouched place.

We both want to return some day, and explore more of this special country.
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