After six weeks in Colombia, it was time for us to move on. We were more than a little hesitant to leave Colombia, so we took our time and enjoyed a few stops before making our 6th border crossing into Ecuador.
The first leg of our trip was a painful bus ride from San Agustin to Popoyan. It was an incredibly bumpy 135 km (84 mile) ride on unpaved roads that, somehow, took us over 5 hours. This route also happens to be one of the only ones in Colombia recommended not to be traveled at night, so we opted for the daytime option and, luckily, didn’t run into any problems. We had one “security” stop by the Colombian military (who looked very serious while clutching their machine guns), but, oddly enough, there wasn’t any real security check and after a brief breath of fresh air outside, we were back on the bus.
We hadn’t heard much about Popayan so we arrived without any expectations. The whitewashed colonial town quickly took us by surprise. It was an incredibly beautiful city and probably deserved more than the one night we gave it. They were preparing for Semana Santa (holy week) when we arrived and all of the buildings were being repainted in a fresh white coat in preparation for their most celebrated week. We had just enough time to try some delicious local empanadas, little fried empanaditas that you dip in peanut sauce (yum). We also tried chirimoya for the first time, a tropical custard-like fruit we’ve often purchased from street vendors since then. The fruit in Colombia was the best and I’m already missing it. We walked around the park, listened to a church band playing their hearts out to a swarm of people outside, and were glad we decided to stop over in Popayan.
Early the next morning we caught a bus to the border town of Ipiales. There’s really not much to say about or see in this town. Most people stop over here only to see the nearby Santuario de las Lajas. It’s no wonder. This place is incredible, I don’t think I’ve ever seen something so architecturally stunning. The present church was built almost one hundred years ago into the side of a river valley and as we learned from the museum attached, it’s been remodeled a few times to achieve it’s current design. Enjoy:
We spent one night in Ipiales, basically in the bus terminal so we really didn’t see much of the city. We tried to find something worthwhile while peering out of a cab window, but our efforts were fruitless. We woke up the next morning and boarded a collectivo to get a stamp out of Colombia. The immigration employees there were some of the most cheerful we’ve encountered, offering postcards as parting gifts. A few hundred meters by foot and we were in Ecuador getting our stamp in, of course without any type of security checkpoint. We took another collectivo to Tulcan and then a bus to Quito. It was a long travel day, but it brought us to Quito, our home for the next month.
Up Next: Quito