12.05.2015 - 18.05.2015
I arrived in the evening in Salento, which is home to the Cocora Parc and it's world-tallests wax palm trees. When arriving at the hostel, which is by the way a coffee farm too, I planned to go the next day the hike through the parc. I was lucky as I directly met an italian guy who had few things he had planned to do on his evening and so I gladly joined him. We started with eating a peanut-butter brownie at an expats place, it was amazing as it was like eating a giant sneakers (omnomnom) After a full belly we went to meet some guys in the very small village of Salento in order to play TEJO. What the hell is that :-) Well it's amazong: You have a box of clay in which there's a circle made out of iron. On the circle lies four triangles full of gunpowder (yeah girls full of GUNPOWDER) and you have basically to throw stones on the triangle from a far distance. If you get one of them, whcih was sooo tough, there would be a small explosion :p It was really fun and while playing I met a kiwi guy with whom I decided to catch up in Ecuador as he was heading out of Colombia a few days before I did. So the day after I woke up pretty early as I had to catch a jeep which would bring me to the parc. The 20 minute ride was really fun as the small jeep was soo packed with people that I was standing on the side of the car holding to the metal cage on the roof in order not to fall down, and the driver was really fast During hiking you start through a kind of rainforest, with wooden bridges toping a wild river before reaching the top where you have the first climps over a stunning valley, with a bizarre mixture of a dense jungle and a few plaines containing those famous palm trees. I think I spent at least 1 hour just taking pictures and enjoying the view.
After finishing I went straight to visit a coffee farm, which was OK but I figured out as Colombia is on of the world's top coffee exporter I had to see how coffee is grown, harvested and so on I could have easily spent more days in Salento thanks to its very cosy ambiance, the people I met, but I had to keep on going as I started to be a bit on a time frame. Indeed, for my entire trip I planned to stay not more than 3 weeks in each country as I have to be the 27th of July in Santiago de Chile to pick up a very special person from the airport :-)
So in the morning I would start my bus-day trip¡ In all, 4 buses and 12h drive to get to the Desert of the Tatacoa, which lies souths of Bogota. So before I was on the west side of Colombia and now I headed back toward the south-east. I arrived fo rthe sun set, which I was very lucky to see. The bus driver had arranged my a hammocke somewhere in the middle of the Desert. I arrived, had some dinner and went with the two american guys staying at the same place to watch the stars from the observatory. You had to pay like 10000 peso entry, which is not cheap (3 bucks), but it was worth it as somebody called 'Professor' explained us I don't remember how many stars and showed us the planets Jupiter and Saturn on the telescope :-) After too many hours spent on top of the observatory I went back try to get some sleep. However during the night a rain storm broke out in the middle of the desert, which was very unusual. So after a short night, I rented a bike at 6 am and went on to discover the desert. What has striked me is that the desert lies within a very green region, so it seems that there has to be some kind of geological explanation to this curiosity. The canyons are vivid red and I enjoyed riding my bike through them before continuing my ride and find myself on the other side of the desert which border a huge forest. I wished to had had a guide with me a I would have liked to understand the different colors within the desert. At 12 it was already soo hot, over 40 degrees, that I couldn't even stay near the sun. Luckily I ahd done everything I wanted and so I packed my stuff called the bus driver from the day before and he came to pick me up with an ice cream in hand to bring me back to the bus terminal, which was 2 hours away from the desert. What is amazing in Colombia, is that the bus system is so developed that you don0t need to book any ticket in advance nor check out the time table. You go the the bus terminals, which exist in every city and are pretty modern and safe, and choose which bus company you want to have and just buy your ticket, wait not more than 20 minutes and that's it So I took a night bus from Neiva to Popayan, which is heavily not recommended in the travel guides as the bus goes through the Purace Parc which is still common ground for guerilla activity. However the police men at the bus terminal had assured me that the trip would be safe for the moment. HOWEVER what they didn't told me, was that between the entrance of the parc and Poapayan there would be no proper road, as such it took us more than 6 hours to do 120km :p It was a bumpy road through a dense and fogy forest and the bus driver in order not to fall asleep, kept his music at a very high level. Moreover, half of the passengers were throwing up as the had eaten to much before entering the bus. Luckily for them, the gringo had some meds on him, and so I was handing out some pills and the bus driver was very grateful for that :p Arriving at 3 am in Popayan I got a huge dorm for me alone and so I slept till 11-12 the next day. After a small skype session I went to visit the city in which JP had worked many yeaars ago, so I took plenty of fotos for you Very nice town, entirely made out of white colonial houses, sourrended by flashy green mountains which gives one a nice contrast. I had lunch at a place held by a Swiss women and it was soo good and soo cheap that iin the evening I returned there with people from the hostel and it was again marvellous: the best food I had in Colombia. As the day after was holiday in Colombia, everything would have been closed and so I decided to take another night bus to cross into Ecuador. While going to the bus terminal of Popayan I met a german guy who was travelling on his own through central and south america and the friendly guy was mute. I never had so much respect for a person at that moment. Unluckily he took another bus than me, cause I would have loved to spend more time with him... If people think that travelling alone is tough, just think about that guy.
So I arrived at 5 am at the boarder crossing in Ipiales and it was really cold, I had to put on a hoody and my jacket, something that had not done in my 3 weeks in Colombia :p Boarder crossing was straight forward and after 1 hour I was saying goodbye to beautiful Colombia and I was sitting on a bus to Quito.
What can I say, Colombia was just AMAZING, way better than expected. Friendly people, we have to learn a lot from them, always willing to help. I got at least accost a dozen time by Colombian asking me if I would need help, advice or just asking me how I would like their country, their food, their women and so on I regretted not to have enough time to spent more time there... Concerning security, I never felt insecure there, NEVER, and I took 2 night buses and went into the jungle known for guerilla activity. I felt a real attachment for tourist in Colombia and they are doing their very best to get rid of the bad image the have. Of course crime is still an issue there, but if you're careful and just think a little bit, nothing can happen to you I will for sure go back in the very near future to Colombia as it still has soooo much to offer. So viva Colombia y bienvenido en Ecuador