As I wrote this I am cross legged in Japan, Colombia feels like a distant memory, so I think this will be brief.
A very very easy crossing into Colombia found us in Pasto. Pasto to Popayan is one of the few unsafe bus rides, so we holed up in the koala inn for the night for our first taste of Colombia.
Everything either closes really early in Colombia, or it just isn’t that safe to go out at night. It varies from city to city which it is, but it’s a pain.
This is a beautiful town, very white, very colonial in style and very sleepy. It was a very relaxing time here, despite the full on resurrection of my running routine meaning I was plodding along every morning. We had a few days here, in a really nice hostel, with a really fat cat, right on the main plaza.
We did two day trips, one wonderful, the other a bit of an anti climax. We first went to Aguas Tibias, a hot spring boasting several pools and a slide! We meet a really sweet Colombian couple who gave us a lift up a hill and then patiently explained how our Colombia itinerary was a bit pants and we should go to lots of other places. As well intentioned as they were (and their follow up email) we just did not have the time. When we go back, promise! The setting was much more attractive than at Banos, the pools were empty and except for the watchful eyes of the Colombian military as I swished down the slide (no idea why, we think maybe it was a day out for them but they are so attached to their guns they couldn’t bear to strip off and join in) it was perfect.
The second trip was meant to be for an amble round a national park, but the first bus at 6am never showed and when we finally arrived it was closed due to disputes with the local people. You have to be accompanied by an indigenous guide to get anywhere. We were fortunate that one was there with a slightly racist American couple (“we love your lovely white princess Kate, so much nicer than Michelle “) who let us join him for a trip to the natural springs, which for us was going to be the park highlight anyway.
Without asking Pete on this I can safely say this was our favourite Colombian city (I checked, it is). Despite being told by our Colombian swim buddies that it’s a bit dull (“like Liverpool”) we loved it.
There is a large botanical garden with turtles and large iguanas and is a good spot for juggling practice, a really good planetarium, which we wouldn’t normally visit but was so interesting, a huge sports complex and a 1.1m circumference traffic island that is wonderful for running around. It is also here that I got the worst 7 minute haircut of my life (I suppose it was also the best 7 minute haircut of my life) and I’m still bitter about it. I also got to catch up with a traveling friend from way back with drinks with Miranda, who I met hitching to Morocco. This was a great treat and it was so nice to hear about her adventure too.
This was also the city that was treated to our dancing skills- we went to a salsa class and then on to a salsa club that was pretty good, sweaty, with a live band.
We took a bus out of the city to visit a large black rock called la piedra del penol that people have attached steps to, because humans like climbing things. It’s close to a colourful town called guatape famous for it’s pictures depicting local life that can be found on buildings all around the town. At one point they tried to claim the rock by painting the name of the town on it but another town, “penol”, thought of it as their rock so sent out an angry mob to stop them. Interrupted by the angry mob, they only managed to paint the G, which is still there.
We climbed just over 750 steps to reach the top and enjoy impressive views of the area and it’s watery landscape (they built a dam nearby).
We also had our one and only coffee fix in in Medellin. We thought we should try it I once seeing as we were in Colombia. One of best places for coffee is a new cafe called pergamino started by the son of a coffee bean grower. They only use their families beans and have an extensive menu of cold and hot coffee. We managed three cups of coffee and two jars of frappuccino. We know nothing abpout coffee but it seemed pretty good.
Finally we took a cable car to the outskirts (public transport in Medellin was very good, clean easy fast safe. Liked it) to see a notably well designed library. Journey was more exciting than the building.
Our final stop, and with our impeccable timing we managed to get there for a Sunday and then a public holiday so lots was closed. We wandered around the centre a lot. They shut the main Street in town for pedestrians and cyclists on Sundays and that was really cool.
There are also racing guinea pigs.
And having public free exercise or dance classes, fun to watch.
Lots of dogs in football kits too. The final day was largely wasted as I panicked about flying, (gets worse everytime I fly, getting home isn’t going to be a blast). A good flea market and lots of typical Colombian food later we bade farewell to south america and headed to New York.