Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Popayan Colombia

Currency Peso - $1.00US = $1930.000 Pesos

Taxi to bus depot from downtown San Gil - $3,000.000
Bus San Gil to Bogota - $40.000 (7 hours)
Bus Bogota to Popayan - $68.000 (15 hours)
Hostel Popayan - $16.000 a night - dorm room 3 beds

I knew I was in for a long haul on this leg of the trip, it is a very long way from San Gil to Popayan. If you want to break it up you can stop in the coffee region, some fellow backpackers told me it is really nice there.

I caught the 1pm bus out of San Gil to Bogota. It is a 7 hour ride, the scenery is very pretty, mountains for most of the way, bus was a deluxe one with a bathroom, always good. I have gotten pretty good at using those while the bus does 90km down a twisty road. Not much room in there to fall over but you can get slammed into the wall pretty good.

We got into Bogota, the capital of Colombia at 8:30pm, I had decided not to stay there, I wasn't in a big city kind of mood but I hear if you like to party it's the place to go. The Bogota bus terminal is huge, more like an airport, lots of restaurants if you need to kill time before your bus leaves. The terminal is divided into sections 1, 2, 3, etc., Each section has buses that go to different parts of the country. Module 1 is for buses heading south; Cali, Popayan, San Agustin and the coffee region. It can be a little confusing but just ask at one of the ticket counters, the bus folks will point you in the right direction.

I had not had much to eat so my plan was to get my ticket and then hit one of the restaurants for some food. This was not to be, my bus was leaving asap so once I had my ticket one of the bus employees escorted me down to the bus and I was off, not even time to grab a water and a bag of chips. This part of the journey is 15 hours, the bus goes through Cali.

Just before the bus departed a representative for the bus company came on with a camcorder and filmed us all. Never had this happen and was kind of weirded out by the whole thing. As a result the film they got of me was me looking up from my pack with a "what the F*ck" look on my face. After wards I'm thinking that if anything happens to me the last pictures my family and friends will see of me is with a confused deer in headlights look. Kind of appropriate I guess but luckily no need to broadcast that footage on the evening news. I found out later that they do it because most times when buses get hijacked a passenger is usually involved. They find that the bus companies that film passengers have fewer hijackings as the culprits can be identified. All in the name of safety so good but freaky.

Yeah I have learned to sleep on buses, not much of a choice but I have a bed sheet I brought with me in case I had to sleep outside so I rolled it up, wrapped it around my neck and no crick.

The bus makes one stop during the night at a cafe/store thing so got some nutritious chips and water, could have used some real food but they had a buffet thing and I'm a little leary of eating food at 3am that has probably been sitting there a good 12 hours so decided to hold off on a meal until I reached Popayan.

I got into Popayan at 11:30am, I had reserved a hostel in Popayan, Hostel Trail. The directions on the web site said it was a 10 minute walk from the bus station, after sitting for so long I figured I could use the exercise and would give the walk a try. I actually found it first try, usually I get lost but the directions were pretty much idiot proof. The hostel is only a couple of blocks from the main square of the town so a great location. I have been using a website called hosteltrail.com to find hostels in South America, pretty much all of the ones I have stayed at I found on that web site including this one. Turns out the nice Scottish couple that own this hostel are also the creators of the web site. I recommend it if you are traveling in South America, the layout is great, the information on the listings include pretty much everything you would need to know and every listing has directions on how to reach the hostels, if you want to book online there is a link to gomio.com which does not charge booking fees. I have booked a couple on line and had no problems, the hostels received the bookings and no weird things happened with my credit card. The hostel is great, free WIFI full kitchen, a TV room and the folks that run it and work there are awesome. Ally the dog is amazing, but be warned if you toss the ball for her you are her bitch for the rest of your stay.

Popayan is a great town full of happy busy people, it is a College, University town and it is really old. The Spanish conquered it in 1537, before that there was an indigenous tribe living there. It is known as the white city because of the buildings in the town. In 1983 an earthquake destroyed a lot of the city including all but 1 church, it took them 10 years to rebuild it. There are a ton of churches and monasteries and you can't go down a street without seeing a nun. They kind of creep me out, somewhat like cops; even if I haven't done anything I feel guilty around them. Popayan is a very religious city with lots of history and culture. Strangely it is also famous for producing the most Colombian presidents, 17 of them have come from this town. Popayan is listed as a Colombia heritage site. My favorite thing about the city, there is a coffee shop on every corner including the Juan Valdez coffee house, seems there really is a Juan (aka Carlos Sanchez) and his donkey.

My time in Popayan was spent visiting coffee houses, hanging out in the town square people watching, wandering the streets, buying and eating fruit from the street vendors and studying Spanish. Still not much better at speaking it but I'm understanding a lot more. I also got the blog about San Gil done so not entirely wasted time. I did notice that the town loves a parade, I spent 2 nights there and there was a parade every night. I had arrived after Semana Santa so I wasn't sure what it was about, it was all kids as well. Turns out it was the kids Semana Santa, these folks just don't want the party to end. They were really cute all dressed up, there were kid bands and marchers in uniforms. It gave me the opportunity to have some great street food, street meat on a stick, empanadas (deep fried dough with various stuffing's) and arepa's con queso (dough stuffed with cheese and fried) all things that will kill you slowly. There are lots of things to do out of Popayan, hiking trips as well as a market in the nearby town of Silvia (1 1/2 hours away) that happens every Tuesday. I was being lazy and I arrived on a Tuesday and left before the next one so couldn't do the market.

I decided to head out of Popayan to a small town up the road called San Agustin, however I did return to Popayan for a night on my way to Ecuador as the buses from there ran more frequently to the border. On my 2nd stay there I ran into a fellow backpacker who was a dorm mate in Panama City, she had headed out on a boat to Colombia a few days before I did. The backpacker trail strikes again, we all run into each other again eventually. She was heading to San Agustin when I left for Ecuador but headed down this way in a week or so, I am sure our paths will cross again.

On that note, time for another plug for my web site Lost Trekkers a free people search web site. Looking for someone you met traveling? Someone you have lost contact with? Place a free ad to find them.

1 comment:

  1. In hostels, even for those staying in private rooms, you have little choice but to interact from time to time.

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