We’re still stuck in Popayan, so today a bunch of 13 of us from the hostel headed about an hour out of town to some hot springs / thermal baths to keep ourselves occupied and not going insane sitting around the hostel playing cards.
The baths were fun enough – if not a little slimy – and there was also a waterslide which the boys had a lot of fun on. Kel, Pete and I decided at one point to go down the waterslide in a group of three, which we realised about 3 seconds in as we picked up speed was a terrible idea. I’m still not walking properly.
We’ve heard mixed reports today about when we’re going to get out of here – one couple were told by a taxi driver that buses would be going tomorrow, our bus driver at the hotsprings today said it would be another 15 days, and the dude that works at the hostel here said that the last time this happened it lasted for a month….. we just want to get out and down to Ecuador as soon as possible and are praying to Buddha that it doesn’t take a month to do so.
The coffee growers of Central and South Colombia have decided to hold a strike, demanding higher subsidies for their coffee exports (I gather). This isn’t any old strike with big banners and rhyming calls… instead, they’ve decided to block the roads in the whole south of the country meaning that no cars or buses can get anywhere. Apparently a few buses have tried to get through today, which resulted in them being burned to the ground (we assume with nobody in them).
This means that we’re stuck in Popayan and not able to make it through to Ecuador. There’s a hundred and one mixed stories going around about what’s going on and when the buses will be running again, though it sounds like we’re going to be here for at least another day. We woke at 4am this morning to try and sneak through on an early bus, but ended up back in bed by 5am after soon realising we were going nowhere. We’ve thought about catching a night bus to the border, but it’s apparently not all that safe with 2 or more hijackings in the last 6 months… I’m not such a fan of those odds, especially when the roads are already blocked with mud and angry coffee growers.
We’re going to try again tomorrow- don’t stress, we’re safe and sound and won’t take any dangerous travel options (at least for the next few days). For now, we’ve resigned ourselves to the fact that our days are going to be filled with the following…
We did our bike tour of Bogota, which turned out to be just as good as our friends said (though I don’t have many photos for you as the camera battery died). We had a young local guy as our tour leader who was really friendly, funny, and knowledgeable about Bogota and its history.
We started off checking out some street art, heading into one of the main squares outside of the Palace of Justice where Pablo Escobar and the paramilitary group M-19 drove in with tanks (literally drove tanks into the building) in an attempt to kill all of the judges that had/would do wrong by him and destroy all of the documents that may lead to him being extradited to the United States.
We checked out the “informal” emerald market, which is just a bunch of guys walking around with emeralds wrapped in a little paper packet selling them on the street. From there we headed into the fruit markets and tried a bunch of exotic fruits, one which had the taste of kiwi mixed with lemon and the consistency of a tomato, and then onto the bull ring (currently an iceskating ring). We finished up at a nice little cafe where we learned about the coffee roasting process and eating empanadas.
Last night we caught the night bus from Bogota to Popayan, a little city about 6 hours from the Ecuador border. I was out of it for most of the night, but Liam couldn’t sleep and said we were lucky to make it alive with the way that the driver was going. Sounds as though he didn’t value his life as much as we did, overtaking trucks on blind corners and flying down the mountain roads at speed. I did wake up a few times to the sound of people belongings sliding all over the bus because of the speed at which we took the corners, but decided to just close my eyes again and not look.
Popayan is a cute little colonial town and our hostel is right on the main square in the historical zone, with stark white buildings and a nice park in the middle. We’re only in Popayan for one night as there’s not much to do here, so we’re leaving at 5am tomorrow morning to cross the border into Ecuador. Once we’re in Ecuador, we’ll be heading to a town called Otavalo where we’ll check out one of South Americas largest markets in search of ponchos to save us from the cold.
We made it to Bogota from Salento last night to say goodbye to / party with our friend Coco, who we met on our sailing trip from Panama to Colombia. Had a great night out and everyone tried to win the party – Jarad was in first place followed closely by Kel and Liam.
Today we managed to make it out for our tourist adventure of the day, catching another cable car up a very, very steep hill for a view over the entire city, which is absolutely massive. We’re staying in a nice, university area of the city with some great restaurants and bars around… though we haven’t explored a lot outside of breakfast and lunch places yet. Tomorrow morning we’re heading out on a bike tour of the city – some friends did one the other day and said it gives you a great history of the city and an orientation of what’s around.
It looks as though we’ll leave on Sunday night and spent one night in Popayan, closer to the Colombian / Ecuador border, before heading into Ecuador for more market, waterfall, jungle and beach adventures.
We made our way from Medellin to Salento, a town in the coffee region of Colombia about 6 hours bus ride from Medellin. After a rainy day of relaxing our first day here, yesterday a bunch of us made our way to a coffee plantation about an hours walk away yesterday…. the tour wasn’t anything too exciting, though we did learn that our Spanish may be better than we thought after being able to understand a lot of what the tour guide was saying (granted, she was talking veeerrrryyyyy slllooooowwwwlllyyyy).
Today we headed into Valle De Cocora, a valley about half an hours drive outside of Salento where the worlds tallest palm trees grow. The walk was about 4 or so hours long – fairly easy and really beautiful. The boys went for a swim in the river and, judging by the screams we heard as we were walking up the hill, the water was more than a little cold.
We took a packed lunch and ate at a spot on top of the mountain overlooking the valley. By the time we finished lunch the fog had rolled in and we were freezing, so we legged it down the hill and into the valley where all of the palm trees are. Once we got a little lower the view was pretty spectacular, with cloud surrounding the palms and the mountains in the background.
We’re chilling here for another day or so and then heading across to Bogota to party one last time with a friend who flies home on Saturday. After I’m guessing that we’ll be heading further south for a few weeks in Ecuador.
Happy birthday to you, Puppy
After a few decades of chaos, killings and bombings thanks to Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror, Medellin has turned into a really affluent, beautiful city, surrounded by mountains and packed full of good restaurants, cafes, shopping centres, museums and sights.
Yesterday we had a family day out exploring some of the sites, playing the role of proper tourists rather than our usual beach bumming or partying. We caught the metro all the way to the end of one of the lines which then turns into a cable car that takes you all the way to the top of the mountain, giving you an amazing view over the whole city – not bad for about $3 each.
After that we headed to a science museum called Parque Explorer where we all acted like little kids for a few hours playing with the games and looking at fish. Liam and I went into the Planetarium to watch a movie about space, but it was in Spanish and we didn’t understand a word so we both fell asleep.
Today it’s Josh’s birthday and he has chosen the classiest of establishments in Medellin to have lunch – Hooters. Should be a big afternoon and tomorrow we head out on a Pablo Escobar tour, then make tracks to a town called Guatape for a few days before heading further south.